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GRC Instant Reaction: X Games

Photo credit: Flavien Duhamel, Red Bull Content Pool

Another year, another wild and crazy finish to X Games, this time with the world’s greatest rally driver atop the podium. Sebastien Loeb only came to Los Angeles on a dare from fellow Red Bull driver Travis Pastrana, but like Kenny Brack in 2009, proved that years of proper race experience can overpower all comers with a little bit of luck. Sadly, we weren’t able to see Loeb and Marcus Gronholm face off head-to-head due to the latter’s injuries, but even without the series’ points leader, we were treated to an entertaining day of rallycross on Sunday. Here are some observations from the weekend that was in rallycross:

  • It seems that the steel Mega Ramp may have worn out its welcome in rallycross, as injuries to Toomas Heikkinen and Marcus Gronholm cast a pall over the weekend. In Friday practice, Heikkinen hit the base of the jump head on upon landing, breaking his ankle; on Saturday, Gronholm broke his suspension upon landing and slammed into an exposed light pole while trying to take the next turn, knocking him unconscious. It may be time for the series to look for a different direction in the future, whether that means returning to softer dirt jumps, lowering the steel jump to make it less stressful on cars, or removing it entirely.
  • Dave Mirra’s string of rotten luck continued in the first heat. While Samuel Hubinette ran away from the field, Mirra rear-ended polesitter Ken Block, destroying his front bumper, and eventually fell out of the heat. The team couldn’t get the car completely repaired for the last chance qualifier, either, and Mirra’s hopes of another X Games medal were toast.
  • Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    Block may have been the fastest driver in seeding, but that doesn’t mean his discipline was there come race time. Besides falling behind Hubinette at the start, Block spun while in second place completely on his own, allowing Mirra to temporarily get by him. But he redeemed himself with a masterful drive in the final, bringing the car home in second place on just three tires.

  • Sebastien Loeb only qualified fourth, but showed from the first turn of the second heat that he meant business in Los Angeles. While Tanner Foust got the jump on the start, Loeb used his polesitter’s advantage to force his way into the inside line, causing Foust to yield. That was the closest anybody got to Loeb all day.
  • If Loeb’s heat start was aggressive, Sverre Isachsen’s start in the third heat was a kamikaze move. Starting last of four, he got a faster start than even polesitter Brian Deegan, squeezed Bryce Menzies into Rhys Millen, and managed to pass all three into the first corner. Deegan tailed him intensely throughout the heat, but the controlled aggression of the three-time defending European rallycross champion was rewarded with a front row entry into the final, and surprisingly, Subaru’s first heat win all season.
  • Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    Ironically, the most aggressive start of all came from a driver who clearly set himself up not to be aggressive. At the outset of the fourth heat, Andy Scott had the worst start of all four drivers. While Travis Pastrana and David Binks set up to enter the corner side-by-side, Scott tucked in behind Pastrana to try and get the angle on Binks in the corner. Scott didn’t brake hard enough, however, sending all three into the wall while David Higgins spun behind them on his own. Pastrana’s car was unable to compete in the restart, while Scott was disqualified from that race. Scott would be the first driver to fail to transfer in the last chance qualifier, ending his streak of two final appearances in a row.

  • Liam Doran won the first last chance qualifier, redeeming himself for a turbo issue on Saturday, holding off a hard-charging Stephan Verdier to advance. Doran swung the car heavily in the dirt hairpin on the second of three laps, nearly opening a door for Verdier, but managed to accelerate well off the corner; meanwhile, Verdier overdrove his car with just a few corners to go in his final push, bouncing off the barriers and falling back.
  • Pastrana was rumored to take over for teammate Menzies in the second last chance qualifier, pleasing the fans on hand who have come to expect him to appear in X Games finals just about every year. But reports by both Pastrana and the series were later contradicted, as the move would have gone against series rules; therefore, Menzies ran in the event. After two false starts by Scott and Menzies, Millen strolled away to an easy victory with Scott far behind as Menzies crashed due to a flat tire. A frustrated Pastrana was listed in last place.
  • Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    Hubinette, Loeb, Isachsen, and Binks started on the front row, with Block, Foust, Deegan, and Higgins on row two and Doran and Millen on row three. Somehow, both first corners were relatively clean, though we required two restarts: one for Isachsen losing his front bumper, one for Deegan jumping on the grid. The third time was a charm, though, although nobody had anything for Loeb.

Yesterday’s full X Games results are as follows:

  1. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 20+1 points
  2. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 17 points
  3. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 15 points
  4. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 13 points
  5. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 12 points
  6. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 11 points
  7. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 10 points
  8. David Binks, #17 Ford, 9+1 points
  9. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 8+1 points
  10. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 7+1 points
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 6 points
  12. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 5 points
  13. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 4 points
  14. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 3 points
  15. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 2 points
  16. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 1 point

The series standings are now as follows:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 48 points
  2. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43 points
  3. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 37 points
  4. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 33 points
  5. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 33 points
  6. David Binks, #17 Ford, 32 points
  7. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 31 points
  8. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 28 points
  9. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 27 points
  10. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 21 points
  11. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 19 points
  12. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 17 points
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 16 points
  14. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 13 points
  15. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 13 points
  16. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 10 points
  17. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 8 points
  18. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 7 points
  19. Tim Rooney, #47 Subaru, 4 points
  20. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 2 points
  21. Felipe Albuquerque, #99 Dodge, 1 point
  22. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 0 points
  23. Jimmy Keeney, #481 Subaru, 0 points

– Chris Leone

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