No race weekend can be considered a bad one if you’re heading home with the smell of champagne clinging to your overalls and an extra trophy gained for your cabinet.
But there’s finishing second or third, and then there’s finishing first. It’s more than just a result, it’s a feeling that all competitors chase – an irreplacable buzz it gives them. Standing up there the tallest is what they all sacrifice so much for.
“You always feel good after a P2 or P3 finish, but a win is something extra,” acknowledged Robin Larsson.
As the defending Nitrocross champion and past winner in World Rallycross, he would know. But his relentless chase for that ultimate sensation had so far eluded him this term.
Beaten to the win in Oklahoma by Fraser McConnell, the Swede had a difficult start to the double-header at Utah Motorsports Campus.
“We’ve had our struggles,” he confessed. “Friday in the final I got into some carnage which left me with a puncture. I just tried to refocus today [Saturday].”
And refocus he did. Making his way to the final via the last chance qualifier, Larsson got a good start and passed compatriot Kevin Eriksson for what he thought would be second place after the joker merge.
“It was such a relief to have a really good start in the final,” Larsson said.
“I knew [winning the final] was going to be really hard to pull off. But after that start, I felt that I had everything I needed to win, and that I could win.”
But could he? DRR JC team-mate Andreas Bakkerud was leading the way out front and looked set for his first Nitrocross win since March.
However he made the ultimate cardinal sin of rallycross – he forgot to take his joker. A 30-second penalty was the result, and Larsson won the race from Eriksson and Tanner Foust who was experiencing the FC1-X Group E car for the first time in Utah.
“This is a different sport when there are a lot of people in the stands. It energizes the whole place,” Foust said after his P3.
“Particularly with an electric class, one of the challenges was always, ‘What are you going to do without the car noise?’
“Well, when you have a big crowd like this one screaming and yelling and making the noise themselves, you don’t miss it.”
There was more US success earlier in the weekend, when Nitrocross pioneer Travis Pastrana fittingly won Friday’s event at the very birthplace of the series.
But a pair of second places in Utah, and a third place in round one, elevates Eriksson to the top of the championship table by a handy 31 points over Larsson with Bakkerud (who was third in round two) third.
However a difficult weekend for early series leader McConnell drops him to fourth. Kris Meeke currently props up the table having missed the Utah double-header.
In the NEXT class, Caspar Jansson rebounded from a penalty on Friday to win the weekend’s second event ahead of the ever-consistent Jimmy Henderson who now has two third places and two seconds to his name in 2023-24.
But arguably the star of the show was American Rally Association driver Patrick Gruszka who took a pair of third places on his rallycross debut.
Fellow rally driver Lia Block suffered her second DSQ of the season on Friday but came home fourth, just behind Gruszka, on Saturday.