Keyes Reflects on Successful Memphis Weekend Despite Missing Victory
The GRC Lites podium at Memphis International Raceway was a reflection of some of the best young talent that the sport of rallycross has to offer. On top, DirtFish Motorsports’ Conner Martell celebrated his third career victory; to either side of him, Olsbergs MSE X Forces’ Cyril Raymond and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Christian Brooks sprayed the champagne with their first podiums in the series.
But that podium was missing at least one big name: Brooks’ DRR teammate, Alex Keyes, who not only won the pole, but also won his semifinal from the outside and led the first half of the main event.
“It seems like this year is a little bit more competitive,” said Keyes, who now enters his third season in the class. “Honestly, the top four or five guys were all within a tenth of a second, which, on a 1:06 lap, is really, really close. So it seems to be pretty competitive this year, and everybody seems to be doing testing and getting faster. I think that the level for this year is probably the highest that it’s been.”
Raymond won the first-round heat over Keyes, which meant that, under the new race format, Keyes would have to face all three heat winners from the outside of the grid in round two. At fifth in points through the heats, he’d be on the outside once again for the semifinal—but this time, he wouldn’t be denied a victory.
“After I got stuck on the outside in the heat, I realized that there’s no way you can really make it happen on the outside,” he continued. “So in the semis, I just focused on getting a perfect start, and that was the best start I think I’ve ever gotten in that car. I cleared both the inside cars, and I talked to them afterward and they both said they got pretty good starts. So it was definitely a really good start—I was just determined to get around them and get back to where I belonged after qualifying on pole.”
While the semifinal win gave Keyes the inside line for the final, it was no guarantee of victory. And, much like last year’s finale in Los Angeles where a wheel came off, bad luck struck in the second half of the main, when a heavy bounce in a rut took Keyes’ left rear tire off the wheel and dashed his hopes of victory.
“It was honestly just (bad) luck,” he admitted. “I didn’t change anything from the previous laps, and pretty much all the top guys were running similar lines in the dirt. I just caught a rut the wrong way, and in the car, I actually thought it was going to roll over, it hit so hard! With that kind of impact, it de-beaded the tire—it wasn’t an issue with the tire, it was kind of just luck. It seems to be that, sometimes when we’re in a position to win the race, we don’t always have the best luck.
“At least we showed everyone what we’re capable of and we did everything we could. At the end of the day it didn’t work out, but there are going to be a lot more races. We just need to keep calm and keep going for it.”
Photo credit: Louis Yio