X Games 17: Rally Car Racing
Rally car racing has a foothold in the X Games. A number of high caliber X Games athletes who excelled in other sports have joined the ranks, such as Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan. This year, they even managed to shut down Figueroa and a few other streets in front of the Staples Center for the races.
On Saturday, Rally Car Racing took the streets. Drivers began the competition with a field of 16 racers each going head to head with the fastest moving forward. The first round saw some early exits of some big name drivers in the sport. Ken Block was unable to make the starting line, and mechanical issues that plagued him prior to the race were not resolved. Brian Deegan also was having car issues and he pulled up short before the jump, knowing he might not have the power to even clear it.
Moving on from the round of 16 was Team Subaru USA drivers David Higgins and Dave Mirra, Stephen Verdier, Fin Marcus Grönholm in his Ford, Georgian Joseph Burke in his Mitsubishi, Monster Energy rookie Liam Doran of Great Britain, Jimmy Keeney in his Subaru and Rockstar Energy’s Tanner Foust in his Ford.
One of the unique aspects about the X Games version of rally racing is the addition of a dirt jump. The jump always add a little excitement to the mix, and with each driver taking two full laps, on one of the two they would have to take the jump once. This played into driver strategy, as the leaders after the start of the race would try to get it out of the way so the final lap they could have the faster line.
With the field down to eight drivers, the competition was even tighter. In the first race, Foust was able to beat out Coloradan Keeney to move to the semis. Doran advanced after defeating Burke in the second quarters matchup. In the third race, Grönholm was able to get by Verdier, and in the final quarterfinal matchup, teammates Higgins and Mirra had to do battle, with Higgins winning was a close race for the first lap until Mirra ran into some trouble.
In the semis, Doran was able to defeat Foust to move into the finals, and Gronholm took his baby blue and yellow Ford to the finals after defeating Higgins.
Before the finals, Higgins and Foust had one final race to determine the bronze medal winner. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a race, as Foust had trouble right off the starting line and was unable to get going. Higgins still drove like a madman on his way to third place.
“Words cannot describe it,” Higgins said. “The atmosphere, the whole thing. There is no room for error anywhere with the brick walls and cars and everything. It is probably the most wild thing you can do in a car, but it is brilliant.”
For the finals, the format was switched up a bit into a “best two out of three” format. Doran and Gronholm had a tight battle in the first race but Doran took the win. For the second race, again the racing was tight off the start but Doran was able to maintain the lead and earn X Games gold with back-to-back race wins in the final round.
“It felt amazing putting it all out there,” Doran said. “I went out and I started winning and when you get on a winning streak you go. My team is the best team in the world. The car was the same from the first run to the last run.”
“It was fun,” Grönholm said of his performance. “But the whole day I have not been happy with my driving so that was not so enjoyable.”
Also making news today before the racing was the appearance of Travis Pastrana in a rally car. Pastrana, who broke his foot and ankle during a failed 720 attempt during Moto X Best Trick on Thursday, stayed in town after it was clear he would not be able to compete in his first NASCAR race today. Although he was not entered into Rally Car, his original plan before the injury was to return on Sunday for Rally Cross. With the addition of hand controls and an altered pedal setup that allowed him to put his casted foot in the car, Pastrana was on the course taking practice laps this morning. Don’t be surprised if he is in the field tomorrow.
Check out Pastrana crash video here.
Be sure to check back with Off-Road.com for more X Games 17 action throughout the weekend.