Coming off of a second place finish in New Hampshire, Samuel Hubinette ranks second in Global Rallycross Championship points heading into Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Though he’ll be competing in the same No. 77 ENEOS Motor Oil Saab 9-3 that he has all season, it will no longer be under the banner of Scott-Eklund Racing.
“What’s different now is that I’m running with Per Eklund only, not Scott-Eklund anymore,” Hubinette said via phone interview on Thursday. “It’s only Per Eklund with me. So there have been some changes due to, I guess, some internal issues. But I’m still in the same car, same sponsor, same mechanics, so I’m very excited about this upcoming weekend.
“It’s been great having Per working with me. We’ve been communicating really well. He’s been really helpful.”
Per Eklund Motorsport campaigned Toomas Heikkinen in the 2011 European Rallycross Championship, while Eklund himself won a Swedish national event last September in the 9-3 as well. Owing to the split, Eklund will only campaign a single car for the final two races of the season. Despite the disadvantage of losing a teammate, Hubinette admits that there are definite positives to the downsizing.
“You know, the reality is now all focus is going to be on my car, and actually the second car is now spare parts for me,” Hubinette added. “Now I have more parts and the crew is only focused on my car. It turns out to be not a bad deal for me.”
With the team unrest settled, Hubinette can focus on closing the gap between him and points leader Tanner Foust. He currently has 50 points, while Foust leads the championship with 62, but his focus is single-minded: taking victories.
“I’m going out to win, that’s always what I’m doing, and then we’ll see what happens with the rest. It’s a tight battle for the championship now, and we get to drop one event too, which mixes it up a little bit. As of now, I’m second, which is cool, and we’re very proud of that achievement knowing that we shook hands on the Thursday before the Charlotte event, the night before, and went out there and had no experience in the car.”
With that in mind, however, Hubinette won’t dodge the possibility of bad luck, which took away two potential podium finishes at Texas and X Games. He suffered part failure in Texas, while Sverre Isachsen’s incident in the X Games final reset the field while Hubinette ran second; on the restart, contact dropped him to a ninth place finish. The 17 points that he theoretically lost in those events would put him in the championship lead.
“Staying away from bad luck is a lottery,” Hubinette admits. “I’m just thinking positive and doing my best to stay away from contact with other cars. But we’re talking about Global Rallycross. It’s six laps and everybody wants to get into the first corner first, so anything can happen. I’m going to do my best to get a good start and have a good qualifying lap so I can be up on the front row.
“I’m confident, but bad luck can happen to anyone. You don’t know the future—it can happen to all of us. You can’t predict an engine failure or gearbox or tires or someone running into you from behind, like happened to me at X Games when Ken Block ran into me from behind. You just have to stay positive and do your best, and hope for some luck too. If you have the combination and do some flawless runs, then you can be on the podium.”
Hubinette also admits that overcoming the other Swedish-based team—Olsbergs MSE, which fields Ford Fiestas for Foust and the other three drivers in the top five in points—will be a great challenge.
“I think I have some tough competition—the Ford Fiestas have been running good, they were developed for years with Andreas Eriksson and they’re much lighter cars than the other cars in the field, including my car. The weight disadvantage that I have doesn’t help me in small hairpin corners when you’re coming out real slow in first gear, that’s when they basically leave you and you have to make it up in some other place. So it’s a challenge having a much heavier and bigger car. I’m just going to have to drive smart and try to make it up where I can.
“(But) I’m definitely fired up, it’s really cool to have the ENEOS Motor Oil rally car up in second place in the championship chase.”
- Chris Leone