X Games Rally Racing Hits the Dirt at the LA Coliseum
Rally racing at X Games has only been picking up more steam. The exposure for rally racing at the X Games has only helped grow the sport, and in recent years it has drawn a number of well known crossover athletes from other sports, such as Travis Pastrana, Brian Deegan, Dave Mirra and others. The rally portion of the X Games would include two events in Rally Car, a head-to-head competition, and this year’s new addition SuperRally, which pitted four drivers battling on the same course for the win.
Earlier in the day the drivers took to the course to qualify for seeding times for the first rally event, Rally Car. Of the 12 racers competing, the top four fastest qualifiers would skip the first round and jump into the quarterfinals, while the remaining eight drivers would battle in elimination heats to get through to the next round. Tanner Foust led the group with the fast lap of 47.049 seconds, with Pastrana coming in just behind him at 47.397. Travis Hanson was third fastest at 48.659 seconds, while Chris Duplessis finished as fourth fastest with a time of 48.695 seconds.
The story of the day in Rally Car Racing, unfortunately, was the course, and not so much the skill of the drivers and fact that they allowed the vehicles to almost double their horsepower output after rule changes. Just before the start of racing, the X Games crew was making revisions to the course. A few of the turns were causing drivers trouble in the practice sessions so the course layout was altered, but the racers were never able to run the new course. The first heats would be the first time the racers were on that specific course configuration.
The end result is there were a number of races where both vehicles did not finish the race. The move from Home Depot Center to the Coliseum course was touted as a good move since it would feature most of the racing on dirt and not such a large tarmac section that was featured at Home Depot (and not visible to the crowd in attendance). The most troubling part of the layout was when drivers had to criss-cross through the arches of the Coliseum, with there being a few different lines running through different arches. This clearly confused a number of the drivers, and if they got confused and took the wrong line the race was red-flagged and stopped to avoid an accident. This was the reason a number of races were stopped.
The opening round of heats exemplified this issue with the track, as Dave Mirra advanced to the quarters after X Games rookie Duplessis took a wrong line. Ken Block was quickly eliminated in the first round by Brian Deegan, who took control of the race after Block dug his nose on the jump landing. In the third heat, Antoine L’Estage advanced after Bill Bacon got off course. Andrew Comrie-Picard (ACP), who we had the chance to take a ride in his car earlier in the week, took down Pat Moro in the final elimination heat.
Once into the quarterfinals, Mirra was up against Foust. Mirra struggled with mechanical issues and was unable to finish the race, as Foust moved onto the semifinals. L’Estange also advanced and would face Foust in the final. ACP took down Hansen to move into the semis.
What looked to be a rough quarterfinal draw for Deegan against last year’s silver medalist Travis Pastrana proved to be an exciting race. Deegan jumped out to an early lead after Pastrana struggled on the first turn with some engine issues.
Deegan was definitely ahead on time, and Pastrana tried his best to make up time but came up the hill heading into the Coliseum arches too hot and ended up crashing.
In the semifinals, Foust made quick work of L’Estage to move into the final. ACP and Deegan squared off for the last spot in the finals, with Deegan again jumping out to a great start. ACP tried to make up the ground, but Deegan ran a solid race with no major mistakes, earning his first X Game Rally finals appearance.
In what proved to a fitting conclusion to some disorganized racing, Deegan and Foust battled for the win but the race was cut short about halfway through when Deegan took the wrong line. Unfortunately, the confusing course played too large a role and really took away from the racing.
"It was a tricky course, but to be honest, I am ready to go again," said Foust, who was presenting the idea that the two racers give it another go. "You make your own dust cloud and get lost so you need to find your way. Like the Moto X Freestyle guys, I visualize the course. It does get confusing, but today, it seems I had a clear vision."
Deegan was happy he competed in the rally events at the weekend despite considering pulling out.
"I was almost going to scratch Rally off of my list," Deegan said. "I'm glad I didn't because I definitely did better than I thought I would. I wanted to win so badly but I am still getting used to this racing event."
1. Tanner Foust
2. Brian Deegan
3. Andrew Comrie-Picard/Antoine L’Estage
The big buzz for rally racing at X Games 16 was the addition of the SuperRally event, which kicked off just as the sun was starting to set over the Coliseum. This event is based more on the European style of rally racing, and it was quite different from the earlier Rally Car event (and much easier for racers and fans to understand). Four vehicles lined up door to door, fired off the starting line and raced to the checkered flag. The one catch is that racers had to complete one “joker lap” in which the driver has to break from the pack and take the jump one time before crossing the finish line.
The action was intense, as 12 racers competed in three different four-man heats. Unfortunately, Travis Pastrana was unable to get his car back in order for the race and was forced to pull out. The format for the races saw the winners from the first three heats advancing to the final, while the second-place drivers from each heat along with the next fastest driver moved into a last-chance qualifier (LCQ).
Brian Deegan followed up his silver-medal performance by winning the first heat, sending Tim Rooney to the LCQ. Stephan Verdier earned the victory in the second heat, sending Ken Block to the LCQ. In heat three, Tanner Foust followed up his gold medal in Rally Car with the win, with Samuel Hubinette (competing in his first X Games) moved into the LC. Andrew Comrie-Picard filled the last LCQ spot because he had the fastest time out of the remaining drivers.
With the LCQ lineup set, Block jumped out to an early lead ahead of ACP, with Hubinette and Rooney in third and fourth, respectively. It looked like Block was going to hold off ACP, but he took a corner turn tight, had engine power issues that forced him to stop, with ACP having nowhere to go behind him and forced to slow as well. Hubinette gave ACP a small tap on the rear corner of his car though it didn’t look intentional, and he jumped ahead of the two stopped drivers and earned the final spot in the final.
When the final started, it was clear that Foust and Deegan were looking to earn some more hardware, as they again earned gold and silver medals, respectively. Hubinette finished in third to earn a bronze medal in his first X Games. Verdier held the second-place spot for a good chunk of the race, but on the last lap Deegan was able to overtake him for second, and Hubinette also got past him to put Verdier at the back of the pack when all was said and done.
"The track was perfect and had so much grip," Foust said. "Door-to-door, I like racing the four cars, but even when you say you don't have a favorite kid, you always do. And Super Rally is definitely my favorite."
After their medal wins in the rally discipline of X Games, Foust now has five X Games medals and Deegan owns 12.
1. Tanner Foust
2. Brian Deegan
3. Samuel Hubinette