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GRC Roundtable: The Prestige (And Format) of X Games

It’s safe to say that the Global Rallycross Championship wouldn’t exist without ESPN’s decision to add Rally Car Racing to X Games in 2006. Until 2009, the event featured two cars racing head-to-head in the Super Rally event, before adding a second Rallycross event with multiple cars in 2010. That year, Rally America began organizing a series of exhibition rallycross events, leading to the eventual formation of the GRC last season.

This year, X Games remains the centerpiece of the GRC schedule, but the days of two events are over. Super Rally has been eliminated from the docket, leaving only the Rallycross event on Sunday. There will only be one gold medal at this year’s X Games, further adding to the prestige of the sport’s most internationally visible event. Our panel of experts – Scott-Eklund Racing technical director Per Eklund, and drivers Andy Scott, Samuel Hubinette, and Stephan Verdier – weigh in on the event in our first of three roundtable discussions:

X Games is the crown jewel of the GRC schedule, given the most exposure of any event and set in the biggest city for action sports in America. What does it mean to bring home a good finish in Los Angeles?

PER EKLUND, Technical Director, Scott-Eklund Racing: The focus is X Games. Being there was (our team’s) first big operation – to take two cars to X Games. Now we need to try to have a top run. But this can be done.

ANDY SCOTT, Driver, #26 Scott Trawlers Saab 9-3: I liken it to the Olympic Games of motorsport. As you know, this year the Olympics are running in the UK, and you can see the buzz around the athletes and what it means. Well, to me, I’m very fortunate – I’ve got an invitation to the Olympics of motorsport. So I’m hoping to bring home a result from X Games that will be the pinnacle of my career so far.

Image via X Games Facebook

SAMUEL HUBINETTE, Driver, #77 ENEOS Saab 9-3: X Games is huge. It’s a worldwide known brand. If you get a gold medal, or even silver or bronze at X Games it means a lot of exposure and gives you a lot of momentum going to 2013, specifically if you’re negotiating with sponsors for future contracts. And even international opportunities can appear, because X Games will be shown in so many countries. It’s huge. It would be the biggest for me if I could get a gold medal there in my whole racing career.

STEPHAN VERDIER, Driver, #12 Motorcity Hyundai Veloster: Absolutely, it is the big thing. The one race you want to do is X Games. All the sponsors are there, millions of people are watching it, there’s a lot of money on the line for the podium, and it’s a one-time thing, so you definitely want to do good there. I’m going to be pushing as hard as I can, and taking more risks than I did in the first two races.

SCOTT: It’s very, very important, I think – you only have to look at the guys competing in it, and of course we’ve got Sebastien Loeb coming along, so they don’t get any bigger, do they?

Last year, there were sets of medals awarded for both rallycross and head-to-head racing, but the latter has been eliminated from this year’s competition. Does it make it easier to focus on a single event?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

VERDIER: I liked the two events because it was two chances to go race. The head-to-head, one-on-one was a lot of fun, because you just had to think about one driver. It was definitely exciting. I can see for the fan why on TV it’s not that exciting, especially when one car takes the joker and the other doesn’t, you have two cars on different sides of the track so there’s not really any exciting part to watch. As a driver, it’s awesome, but it makes it easier on everybody having just one event because now the team can just focus on one race.

EKLUND: I think it is correct to have rallycross (rather than) two cars. The problem with it – you have two races. (Originally the head to head winner) was the X Games champion, and then we have the rallycross come in. This was the problem: we only like to have one X Games champion, not two different races. At the beginning they were going to have two rallycross races, but they changed this last week and now there’s only one champion of X Games.

SCOTT: I think it’s better for the event, because I think there was confusion in having two gold medals at X Games. To have a clear discipline, that is X Games, and you only get one gold medal for rallycross. I think it’s the correct way to go. And I think the event is big enough that it doesn’t need to have two separate days. So I think the format is correct, and that’s how it should be.

VERDIER: Last year, because we had the Super Rally before the rallycross, we kind of had to be careful in the Super Rally to make sure we didn’t destroy the car for the rallycross. Those cars are so expensive and so finely tuned that you can’t take too many risks. So having just one event now, we can concentrate 100% on the rallycross, and once we do rallycross we’re 100% in it. We don’t have to save the equipment for another race the next day.

Image via X Games Facebook

HUBINETTE: For me, actually, I wasn’t even planning on doing two events. In the past, I didn’t do it in 2010 because I didn’t want to risk messing up the car the day before going into the actual rallycross competition. So I think it’s better. I think the head-to-head, two-car deal is fun to do, but not as fun for spectators. I think it’s better to just do the actual rallycross and showcase that form of motorsport because it’s so much more fun to watch ten cars battling it out at the same time.

VERDIER: So yeah, it’s a good and a bad thing. I thought it was cool because the more track time we get, the better. (laughs) The more that we drive our cars, they’re such awesome cars to drive, that the more I can drive it the happier I am. But I understand why they took it out of the game, and it makes sense.

SCOTT: (We can) have a different X Games if you want, on a different weekend in a different city, but when it’s in LA, it’s correct that it’s one main event, and that one guy comes away with the gold medal.

– Chris Leone

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