• Jul 31, 2009

2009 X Games Rally Car ride along – Click above for high-res image gallery

If you've never been given a "hot lap" by a professional driver, let me try and convey what the experience is like. You're usually dehydrated and have been standing on a heat-soaked paddock for far too long. There's a track rat (or two) whose job it is to get a helmet and HANS device fastened on you and their default thinking is that you've never even seen a track before, much less driven on one. You're wearing your street clothes, and items like your wallet and cell phone make it even harder for them to get you shoehorned and belted into the seat. The passenger seats are typically much narrower than the driver's seat and you're typically much fatter than the driver. It can be pretty embarrassing. Once you're secured, the driver sticks his hand out, you shake it and then you're off.

Follow the jump to find out what happens next.



Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonny Lieberman / Weblogs, Inc.

Before we continue, I have to say a word about the drivers. They are the best in the world at what they do. Imagine being thrown on a tandem bicycle with Lance Armstrong, or lining up behind Peyton Manning. These guys are that pro, and you're that amateur. With that in mind, you rocket out of the pits and are almost always shocked by the way-faster-than-you've-ever-gone-before acceleration. But it's fun, right up until they brake for the first corner. That's when you are hurled against the five-point harness with at least one g of force. And there are no fancy-pants grab handles for you to clutch onto; your arms are folded against your chest. Before you have time to process what just happened, the driver is back on the throttle and you're rocketing off to the next braking zone.

Take all of the above, and then add in the controlled chaos of full throttle oversteer inherent to rally cars and you have but a taste of what I went through yesterday afternoon at the 2009 X Games journalist ride-alongs. Subaru invited us out to sample their three hottest STIs piloted by their best drivers. How do the names Pastrana, Block and Mirra strike you? When my number was called, I found myself tied up next to Dave Mirra in his Open Class WRX STI. Like a bullet we're off, the car's 425+ lb-ft of torque easily overcoming the Subaru's 3,000-pound curb weight. Then he's on the brakes, and we're sideways into turn one. Thing is, Mirra is such an outstanding driver (he's medaled in every X Games since 1995) and the '09 STI is such a great machine that it was almost relaxing. I sat there giggling like a baby and waving to the cameras. Before I was halfway done laughing, the ride was over.

I ran into none other than Tanner Foust before my ride. This year Tanner is driving Ford Racing's new Fiesta rally car. "How's the car," I asked the X Games XIII gold medalist? Tanner shook his head and said, "It's like a pissed off little animal." I knew I had to hitch a ride. Ford was nice enough to accommodate me and once again I found all 235 pounds of my blogger's physique sardined inside Kenny Brack's car and shaking hands with the 1999 Indy 500 winner. Immediately following the handshake and a few pleasantries, we were off. This was much different. The decades of refinement that accompanied the Subaru were nowhere to be found in the Ford. The best way I can describe the experience is "hard core." Violent would be the second best way. There was no giggling from me as Kenny ripped through the gears in rapid fire succession. This time I was scared, and much too preoccupied with not dying to do anything as pretentious as wave. Foust was correct. The scrappy little Fiesta was exactly like an angry badger running around a linoleum floor.


I'm not going to make any predictions about the outcome of Sunday's race. Mostly because I'm not qualified to do so, but also because both Ford and Subaru are fielding serious machines and exceptional drivers. To draw a parallel with other series, Subaru has emerged as the Ferrari of X Games rallying. They simply win. Ford however, is well positioned to imitate themselves. Let's never forget what upstart Ford racing did to Ferrari at Le Mans in the mid-1960s. Tune into ESPN on Sunday to see for yourself.



Photos Copyright ©2009 Jonny Lieberman / Weblogs, Inc.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Jonny,
      I gotta say, I've been there! After a few hot laps in a NASCAR at The Monster mile in Dover, I was scared to death.
      Great article.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone else annoyed how this is not a real rally? I'm more concerned about this weekend WRC event in Finland and the IRC's in Madeira.

      To those confused....This in no way is a real rally. More of a Rallycross event with just two cars.

      A real rally consists of 3 days of driving, 15-20 special stages, and the winning driver would have covered over 200+ miles and accounted close to ten hours worth of driving time.

      With that said, because Rally America gets hardly any coverage whatsoever, this is the closest thing we get to an actual rally competition. (Until Discovery HD finally gives us the WRC since SpeedTV = Nascar TV.)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, cheers for the upcomming WRC highlights in HD!!!
        I am drooling now, ...wait that wasn't drool...ohhh man!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've watched every single WRC race for the last 3 years straight. It's great fun. So is this. It's good drivers in badass cars going really fast.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's like a super special stage.... and televised on mainstream channels, which is very cool. I'll take that for now...hopefully rally takes off more in the US and we can watch (and attend) more events!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Damn it I want to do this!!!!

      I would love to learn rally!!!! Need to be more on tv also. I never seem to catch any good rally racing on the boob tube....
        • 5 Years Ago
        I have one word for you... wrctorrents.com
        • 5 Years Ago
        Cool, I will check it out first thing after work...haha Thanks
      • 5 Years Ago
      I hate you Jonny.

      In the best way, of course.
      • 5 Years Ago
      guess i missed the rally because when i changed it to x games all i saw was skateboards and bikes
      • 5 Years Ago
      Videos or it didn't happen...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Isn't the final on ABC on Sunday and the lead ups on ESPN Thurs, Fri, and Sat?
      HotRodzNKustoms
      • 5 Years Ago
      As much as I like the drivers of the Subarus. A part of me will be rooting for the Ford because greater diversity in the event would be great!
        • 5 Years Ago
        @HotRodzNKustoms
        Amen - it would be a nice little boost to Ford in the 16-20 crowd as well which would be excellent.
      • 5 Years Ago
      coool... they've got a previous gen fiesta in there too!
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The scrappy little Fiesta was exactly like an angry badger running around a linoleum floor."

      And that's why I like to read what Flip-Flop boy has to say. Well done :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        For the record, I absolutely wore flip flops.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Do I need to organize a benefit concert to buy you some real shoes? I put in a call to book "The Sandals".
        • 5 Years Ago
        FLIP FLOPS PWN U NEWBS
        • 5 Years Ago
        Flipy Flopies
        • 5 Years Ago
        Flipflops>*
        HotRodzNKustoms
        • 5 Years Ago
        yeah... I wonder if he wore flip-flops...

        (I love flip-flops just wouldn't wear them in a picture that serves as your intro to a flip-flop hating blog community)
    • Load More Comments