Amid the photo stream of drifting and airborne cars that is Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen’s Facebook page, there is an indelible image that showcases some serious X Games hardware and this simple caption: "What a year!" As dominant as Topi has been on the track this season, it’s fitting that he would be the one to put it so well, and say it so fast.
The 2013 Global Rallycross (GRC) season has arguably been the “Year of Topi.” Touted as “the hottest driver in the sport” by ESPN, Topi has already become one of the most heavily decorated rallycross drivers in GRC and X Games history with less than two full seasons under his belt. And while he has made success look effortless, he knows winning is never easy nor is it accomplished alone. The only thing more consistent than Topi’s podium finishes this year has been an unwavering praise for his team. “The team has done good work, and that’s why I’m here,” said Topi after his latest win at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. “Without [Olsbergs MSE CEO and team manager] Andreas Eriksson, this is not possible.”
There has been plenty of drama along the way as well. At the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, just eleven days after becoming the youngest Rallycross gold medalist in X Games history, a persistent Topi was stuck in second position, chasing Tanner Foust for nine laps. In the final corner of the final lap, a mistake by Foust gifted Topi his second consecutive checkered flag – a win that perhaps turbocharged his current run of five straight victories, and counting. Good fortune was immediately followed by sweet redemption, when Topi made a triumphant return to the Summer X Games in Los Angeles and walked away with a record-setting second consecutive Rallycross gold medal one year after a devastating crash knocked him out of the X Games competition. Topi said afterwards, “I have come such a long way from last season. I am confident once again in the car and think that I have the best one out there. It is always a battle, but I am very happy to be on top right now.”
Then there are the lingering accusations of an overly aggressive driving style, which in a sport like rally racing seems akin to criticizing Michael Phelps for being too wet when he swims. This fading notoriety stems from an uneven 2012 rookie campaign, in which Topi imported a style of racing that won trophies in Finland yet garnered disqualifications in the GRC. What a difference a year makes. Since the beginning of the 2013 campaign, Topi has exhibited a consistently controlled aggression and precision that no one has been able to match. While each race has involved a chaotic start, with the entire field vying for the lead before the first turn, Topi has shown a keen eye for the line that avoids pileups and attains the holeshot. Once he gets ahead, he has been a maestro at the wheel of his 600-horsepower orchestra. Throughout this historic five-race winning streak, Topi has yet to lose when he has the lead and is also the only driver to win without ever having the lead – truly an example of pushing the limits.
Now the season’s home stretch approaches after a well-deserved break. The first of two final GRC races will be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 22. Topi will enter 43 points ahead of his next closest competition and he is one point away from clinching the championship, but there is little doubt that he won’t be racing for another win. "There's no secret," said Topi after winning X Games Los Angeles. "Sometimes you get the good start, but if you want to win, you have to make a push for it." And push for it he will, as he continues to prove to the competition that with focus, talent, and a desire to be the best, anything is possible.