Over the weekend, rally cars took over the streets of downtown Los Angeles to compete in X Games 17. The field of drivers was perhaps the most prestigious yet, with plenty of X Games veterans like Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan facing tough new challengers in the form of Marcus Grönholm, two-time World Champion of the World Rally Championship series and European RallyCross veteran Liam Doran.
The new venue, the third in three years, provided an interesting setting to watch rally cars fly by – traffic whizzed by on the 110 Freeway just a block away – and for the drivers, it was a welcome change to last year's tight and confusing course at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. The venue wasn't ideal for spectators, however, with much of the course hidden from view on the main grandstands. For members of the media such as ourselves, photographing the event was nearly impossible as well, with high fencing blocking nearly every good view.
Even so, the drives put on quite a show for those watching at home on television. With so many talented drivers in so many fast cars, entertaining matchups were inevitable. Click through the jump to read more and watch the wacky action in some X Games-provided videos.
Related GalleryX Games 17 RallyCross
Rally Car Racing, Day 1
Like last year, the two days were split into separate events - Rally Car Racing, pitting two drivers head-to-head, and RallyCross, featuring four or more drivers at the same time. Rally Car Racing kicked off day one, with the usual suspects knocking off the competition in the early rounds. Defending champion Tanner Foust cruised to the semifinals, joined by fellow Ford driver Marcus Grönholm. David Higgins of recent Mt. Washington fame and his Subaru also made it to the semifinals by beating out Rhys Millen and Dave Mirra, as did Liam Doran in his Monster Energy-clad Citroën C4.
In the semifinals Foust was paired up with Doran, while Grönholm was matched with Higgins. Many expected to see Foust move on, perhaps against teammate Grönholm, but it was Doran that claimed his place in the final two. The British driver beat Foust to the first turn and comfortably held the lead throughout, sending a strong message to the rest of the field. Grönholm moved on to the final as well, although not as easily as Doran. Higgins took an early lead, but Grönholm made up time and finished just ahead of the Subaru.
Just as with his race against Foust, Doran was undoubtedly the underdog in the best-of-three final against Grönholm. After all, the Fiestas had been consistently quick all day, especially in the hands of the always-capable Finn. Even so, Doran proved he was the one to beat, taking the lead early in both races and holding on fairly comfortable to take the victory.
"It felt amazing putting it all out there," said Doran after the race. "I went out and I started winning and when you get on a winning streak you go."
Higgins rounded out the medal winners, defeating Foust in the 3-4 race after Foust's car broke down just after the start.
You can watch highlights of the final race below.
RallyCross, Day 2
Last year X Games introduced SuperRally (renamed RallyCross for this year) and it was an instant success. Thankfully, the fender-to-fender (to-fender-to-fender) racing was brought back, and was once again the highlight of the weekend.
The big news at the start of the day was the return of Travis Pastrana to the drivers' lineup. It was initially thought that he would be absent from the race due to his broken foot and ankle that he suffered on the first day of X Games, but the Subaru team worked all weekend to transform his car to work around the injury. Come raceday, Pastrana was strapped into his Subaru, cast and all, using a hand-activated throttle. After a spin into a concrete barrier during practice, there was doubt whether he would be competitive at all, but no one could discredit the efforts of both team and driver.
Qualifying for the final race began with a series of four heats, with Foust, Deegan, Doran and Grönholm taking the top spots and claiming their places. Unlike last year, however, the additional would consist of eight cars instead of four, so another four heats were held to decide the final quartet of cars. Pastrana adapted to his hand throttle enough to earn a spot, and Dave Mirra, David Higgins and Rhys Millen filled out the rest of the field.
The final was was nearly an all-Ford front row, with Foust starting in the most desirable spot, front and inside, and Doran, Deegan and Grönholm filling out the other front positions. It seemed impossible that eight cars could make it through Turn One without incident, and that's exactly what happened. Doran got the jump on Foust at the start, with the two Citroëns edging past the Ford heading towards the initial right hander. Just before the turn, the two collided, with Foust's front end pushing Doran sideways as he entered the turn. Unfortunately for Doran, the spin landed him with a damaged car at the rear of the field, while Foust was able to fight on in the middle of the pack. Brian Deegan benefited the most, bipassing the collision ahead of him and moving into the first position.
As you might expect with eight cars on course, the chaos didn't end after the first turn. David Higgins, who landed in second place after the Doran-Foust incident, spun his Subaru in a tight spot, nearly causing a collision with Rhys Millen's Hyundai and taking them both out of contention. Shortly after, Dave Mirra spun in his Subaru, narrowly missing Travis Pastrana as he flew by. Higgins then spun again, smashing the rear of his Subaru into a wall and ending his race.
In the meantime, Deegan had somehow jetted away from the pack, with Foust and Grönholm following several seconds behind. Pastrana, who had been running at the back of the pack, benefited from the mishaps on course and somehow managed to slip into fourth place. A potential medal for the injured driver was still unlikely with Grönholm ahead of him, but on the last lap, the former WRC champ went wide, leaving the door open for Pastrana to slip into third place. It was not to be for Pastrana, however. With Grönholm on his tail, he overcooked it into one of the last corners, stuffing his Subaru's front end into a tire wall.
In the end, it was a surprisingly easy win for Deegen, who never looked back after taking the lead coming out of Turn One. "That was the highlight of my life! I've done a lot of things on a dirt bike and done a lot of things in a car, but nothing tops that moment of winning X Games in RallyCross," he said after the race. "I was thinking about beating Tanner all year, and luckily I got lucky off the start, but that's what it takes. Everything fell my way. I had to hold it together all race."
You can watch highlights of the RallyCross Finals below: