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GRC Insider: Nine Races In 2013

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the 2013 Global Rallycross Championship schedule will consist of nine rounds, rather than the eight previously alluded to in national broadcasts.

Four of the rounds will follow the Global X Games series as previously announced. Those events will take place in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil on April 18-21; Barcelona, Spain on May 9-12; Munich, Germany on May 27-30; and Los Angeles, California on August 1-4. The Winter X Games rounds in Aspen, Colorado and Tignes, France will not appear on the schedule.

What is currently less certain is where the series will run its five standalone events, all of which will take place in the United States. A return to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, scheduled for November 5-8, is likely given the success of that event.

Though the official list isn’t finalized, it reportedly features a return to some NASCAR tracks as well as IndyCar tracks, suggesting that there could be more city street races in the GRC’s future. While the source did not name any venues explicitly, some of the more successful events, like Texas and New Hampshire, would fit into current gaps in the schedule. Andretti Sports Marketing, which promoted the SEMA event, also runs IndyCar events at Milwaukee (set for June 15 next year) and Baltimore (September 1), and would like to stage a race in Fort Lauderdale, Florida next season as well.

—Chris Leone

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Snakebitten Pastrana Falls Out Of X Games, GRC Title Hunt

Image via TravisPastrana.com

Travis Pastrana’s X Games ended before they really had a chance to start this year, marking two straight years of frustration for one of the event’s legends.

Last year, a Moto X accident left him with a serious ankle injury, and a hand clutch in his Rally car proved challenging to learn. This year, Pastrana chose to focus on rally, but saw his medal hopes dashed in the first turn of his qualifying race after an incident involving the entire field.

There had been rumors – confirmed facts, if you believed both Pastrana’s and the Global Rallycross Championship’s Twitter accounts – that Pastrana would take over teammate Bryce Menzies’ Dodge Dart and race in the last chance qualifier in a mad dash to make the X Games final.

Then, without comment, ESPN cameras showed Pastrana standing in the paddock, sending Menzies off to the grid with wishes of good luck. Pastrana wouldn’t be racing after all.

As it turns out, competitors didn’t like the gesture, and the series decided that Pastrana’s move would have flown in the face of the rulebook and the spirit of competition. After all, no wrecked driver had been allowed to replace a less prominent teammate in a last chance qualifier in the first two races of the season, and while Pastrana practiced his team’s second car after destroying his front end in jump practice at Texas, that was on Friday, while the race took place on Saturday.

In the end, Pastrana was unable to complete his heat race, compete in his last chance qualifier, or advance to the final. To add insult to injury, he walked out of Los Angeles with a single point, dropping all the way to 14th in GRC standings.

The New Hampshire round on July 14th will thus be a major proving ground for Pastrana; while his championship hopes are all but a distant memory from the start of the season, he still has a chance to go for race victories and maybe even the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, which comes from a driver’s results at Texas, New Hampshire, and Las Vegas. In that regard, maybe this isn’t a lost season for Pastrana after all – provided his luck changes quickly.

– Chris Leone

Subaru Drivers’ Rotten Luck In GRC Continues At X Games

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

Many American rally fans recognize Subaru as the pre-eminent manufacturer of rally cars in the world, given the long-standing successes of Imprezas both home and abroad. That good fortune hasn’t translated into results in the Global Rallycross Championship this year, however, as rival manufacturer Ford has been burning up the time charts and snapping up the majority of podiums all season.

In fact, not until Sverre Isachsen’s dive-bomb into the first turn of his heat race from the outside lane at X Games had a Subaru been in position to win a heat race, which the three-time defending European Rallycross champion eventually did. But from there, everything seemingly went downhill.

The bad luck began as early as the very first heat, when contact with Ken Block helped rip off the front end of team leader Dave Mirra’s car. The damage was so deep that when Mirra went out for his last chance qualifier run, he had to pull off almost immediately, his car rendered useless. He finished a disappointing 14th, missing the final for the second round in a row.

Bucky Lasek’s learning experience continued in Los Angeles as he finished a distant third, outside of a transfer spot, in his heat, and unlike Stephan Verdier’s Hyundai, was unable to close in on Liam Doran’s Citroen in the last chance qualifier. In the end, he was listed 13th.

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

Isachsen took a front row starting spot into the final by virtue of his victory, but on the first attempted start took bumper damage that proved too much for the car to handle after the jump. Isachsen’s disabled car sat in the dirt section, blocking off the track, and for the second race in a row, he finished 10th in the final after losing his car on the first start.

Ironically, it was David Higgins, the lone participant these days in Subaru’s stage rally program, who scored the best finish overall. Higgins managed to avoid Travis Pastrana and Andy Scott’s wreck in the fourth heat, drove safely to second place to advance, and managed to come home in seventh place in the final despite throttle issues.

Coming into this week’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, no Subarus are in the top ten in points. Isachsen’s 19 points are good for 11th through three rounds, a de facto 10th place as Sebastien Loeb is unlikely to compete again this season, but Mirra ranks 13th with 16 and Lasek ranks 15th with 13. For a team that came into the season with such high expectations and fanfare, 2012 has been a rough year for the Vermont SportsCar-prepared organization, and Loudon represents one of minimal opportunities to turn the season around.

– Chris Leone

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

GRC Pre-Race Notes: X Games

Ken Block may have been the fastest driver in Global Rallycross Championship seeding yesterday, but the moment was overshadowed by the second major accident in two days for an Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta.

This time, the incident involved GRC points leader and two-time WRC champion Marcus Gronholm, who was knocked unconscious when his car hit a light pole after landing the Mega Ramp. Reportedly, the suspension on the car broke, causing Gronholm’s car to miss its intended line; the incident left him unconscious, and he spent the night in a nearby hospital, thankfully awake and alert. (Apologies for the low-quality video of the crash; it’s all that is currently available.)

Of the rest of the field, only defending Super Rally gold medalist Liam Doran pulled out of practice for safety reasons. Doran will race today, while Gronholm will be examined before today’s events.

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA Twitter

One driver will still be out of today’s event, however: Toomas Heikkinen, whose Friday accident on the Mega Ramp led to an enclosure of the gap, turning it into a large tabletop. Heikkinen’s spot in the event has been taken by David Higgins, who will join the Subaru Puma Rallycross Team for his first event of the GRC season.

Higgins is the only Subaru driver to compete full-time in Rally America this year, where he has a commanding lead in the championship. He will drive the car that Bucky Lasek raced at both Charlotte and Texas, while Lasek will drive a brand new Impreza in today’s events. (For those following, Lasek also scored a silver medal last night in the Skateboard Vert finals.)

The series has not released seeding as of right now, but here are some of the earlier practice times listed. Keep in mind that both Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan have claimed faster times than these in qualifying. These times come from a photo posted by Block, and if anything, are at least a representation of how fast we should expect the cars to navigate the short course today:

  1. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 40.404 seconds
  2. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 40.810
  3. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 40.951
  4. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 41.081
  5. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 41.093
  6. David Binks, #17 Ford, 41.665
  7. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 41.729
  8. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 41.825
  9. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 41.974
  10. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 42.246
  11. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 42.253

More information will follow throughout the day on Twitter. Be sure to follow both @christopherlion and @usracereport for live race updates and expertise.

UPDATE: We now have today’s seeding. Note that Marcus Gronholm and Toomas Heikkinen will both officially miss today’s events:

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

– Chris Leone

Heikkinen’s X Games Jump Crash Represents Growing Concern For GRC

The steel-plated “Mega Ramp” that marks the defining feature of the Global Rallycross Championship hasn’t exactly been the easiest challenge to overcome for the sport’s drivers, as experienced and talented as they are. Adding extra length – that is, moving the sweet spot of the jump from 70 feet at Texas Motor Speedway to 79 feet at X Games – has certainly multiplied the challenge, and Toomas Heikkinen’s medal hopes became the first casualty of it on Friday. Heikkinen undershot the jump, hitting steel head-on and flipping his car, suffering a broken left ankle and abdominal injuries in the process.

But for the other 17 drivers taking part in Sunday’s marquee event, it was just another day in the office. (A short day, as Heikkinen’s flaming Ford Fiesta forced the cancellation of subsequent jump practice, but a day nonetheless.) And while Heikkinen’s incident is sure to be a concern that the series will have to address, these drivers aren’t likely to be unnerved by the monstrosity put in front of them. As long as they have the faith that the GRC will alter the jump to make it safer from here on out, and that their concerns will influence the decisions of the series moving forward, the race weekend – and sport – will have a chance to move forward.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

To start, the extension of nine feet may simply be too much for these cars to take. The GRC is looking to bring rallycross into America with as much buzz surrounding it as they can muster, but doing so by pushing the cars’ limits this far comes at great risk. Heikkinen’s impact was effectively head-on with a wall at about 40 miles per hour, and not with the SAFER barrier that dominates most American race tracks these days. The blunt edge of the jump is, clearly, something that needs to be reinforced in the case of future impacts.

The dirt jump (and its softer landing edge) that defined X Games in the past is gone, and would be impossible to build on such short notice. In fact, the steel ramp appears to be here to stay for this GRC season, with layouts in New Hampshire and Las Vegas both reliant on its presence. Any fan looking for major change may have to look to next season, when the series’ contract with Speedway Motorsports Inc. tracks is up; the steel jump is mostly in use because of the inability to quickly clean up dirt on the tracks during a NASCAR or IndyCar weekend.

For now, the job is to make do with what’s present, something that the sport’s drivers and teams alike understand. From day one, this was destined to be a learning year for the organizers of the Global Rallycross Championship, as they sought to bring rallycross to major American markets while still adding something fresh and new to the sport. The steel jump requires significant alterations for Sunday’s event, and it may need to disappear after only one year in use. But Heikkinen’s shunt doesn’t need to mean an end for jumps in rallycross entirely – just, perhaps, for that one.

– Chris Leone

X Games Preview: Team Red Bull

Image via Chrysler Group

The name “Team Red Bull” may be sort of an anomaly here, as one of these three cars will be prepared independently from the others. Travis Pastrana’s Pastrana199 Racing will maintain cars for Pastrana and newcomer Bryce Menzies, but X Games debutant and stage rally legend Sebastien Loeb will be attempting to conquer yet another form of racing when he and his Citroen World Rally Team debut a purpose-built DS3 in Sunday’s event.

Here’s what to expect from the three Red Bull-backed vehicles this weekend:

#199 Travis Pastrana (11th in points, 12; best finish 8th, 1 heat win): Two accidents at Charlotte plus two accidents at Texas led to Pastrana earning a guaranteed berth at X Games by the skin of his teeth. It seems like a lot of things this year simply haven’t been destined to go the way of the four-time Rally America champion and two-time X Games head-to-head gold medalist. Pastrana is happy with his Dodge Dart and confident in his own abilities, but luck is an equally important part of the game, and he hasn’t had it yet this year. But a shot of extra mojo, in the competition where Pastrana made himself a household name, could change all that.

Photo credit: Flavien Duhamel, Red Bull Content Pool

#1 Sebastien Loeb (making series debut): When Travis Pastrana initially called out fellow Red Bull driver Loeb to compete at X Games, it was merely a publicity stunt. But Loeb, winner of the past eight World Rally Championships, isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and his factory Citroen team will be equipping him with a new car for the event. As with two-time WRC winner Marcus Gronholm, Loeb’s professionalism in a rally car is bound to make him one of the event’s top drivers, if not Citroen’s second consecutive gold medal in America (remember, Liam Doran took top honors last year).

#99 Bryce Menzies (making series debut): Pastrana entered a second Dodge Dart for Felipe Albuquerque at Texas with disappointing results, but off-road truck driver Menzies will make his rallycross debut in the car in Los Angeles. Coming off of his second Baja 500 victory earlier this month, Menzies was the 2011 Dirt Sports Driver of the Year and just came off of a visit to DirtFish Rally School in Snoqualmie, Washington.

– Chris Leone

X Games Preview: Olsbergs MSE

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Olsbergs MSE has been the hottest team on the Global Rallycross circuit all season, primarily behind the strength of drivers Marcus Gronholm and Tanner Foust. Gronholm has paced the field in every single session he’s run, from qualifying to heat races to both main events, while Foust has been right behind him in every instance. Add Brian Deegan’s third place run at Hoon Kaboom at Texas Motor Speedway, and bursts of speed from both David Binks and Toomas Heikkinen, and the five Olsbergs Ford Fiestas should be up front for the majority of X Games.

Here’s what to expect from the Swedish-backed team in Los Angeles:

#3 Marcus Gronholm (1st in points, 43; 2 wins, 3 heat wins): “If you want to win, employ a Finn,” or so the old adage goes. That’s been the case thus far this year with Gronholm, who has won in each of his five starts this season (three heats and two finals). He couldn’t pull off any victories in last year’s X Games, scoring silver in the head-to-head event and bronze in rallycross, but after dominating this year thus far, there’s no reason to expect the unexpected.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

#34 Tanner Foust (2nd in points, 37; best finish 2nd, 3 heat wins): It’s a good thing that Foust had a chance to win last year’s GRC title by virtue of Gronholm skipping an event, because it looks like the fellow Ford driver won’t have much of a chance at this year’s championship. The three-time X Games gold medalist will need to find something else in Los Angeles if he wants to do any better than silver this time around.

#17 David Binks (6th in points, 22; best finish 5th): The British import has proven consistently solid in his first year racing in the United States, earning his way into both finals and scoring seventh and fifth place finishes, respectively. His background is in multi-surface rallycross, meaning that the adjustment to X Games shouldn’t take very long. Like countryman Liam Doran did last year, Binks could pull out a surprise finish at X Games.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

#38 Brian Deegan (8th in points, 18; best finish 3rd, 2 heat wins): The General of the Metal Mulisha may have had his season championship hopes compromised at Charlotte, but a podium finish at Texas has him in the competition for the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup and built up some good momentum for Los Angeles. It’s a good thing, too, because Deegan loves the X Games: he scored silver medals in both head-to-head and rallycross in 2010, and won gold in rallycross last year.

#57 Toomas Heikkinen (14th in points, 7; best finish 10th, 1 heat win): Already the man they call Topi has become the most divisive young figure in a series that is pretty young itself. He’s gotten on the nerves of both Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra with his aggressive driving, and earned black flags at both Charlotte and Texas. For that reason, he didn’t earn his way into an automatic berth at X Games. Heikkinen won’t be in the title hunt, but the aggressive young driver could live up to his reputation in Los Angeles with a win.

– Chris Leone

X Games Preview: Subaru Puma Rallycross Team

Image via Subaru Rally Team

For years, Subaru represented the dominant manufacturer in rally racing, and such was the case as the sport began to catch on in America. Behind four-time Rally America champion Travis Pastrana, gymkhana expert Ken Block, BMX legend Dave Mirra, and 2011 Rally America champion David Higgins, Imprezas dominated the sport, leading to increased interest from rival manufacturers. Only Mirra made the transition to rallycross with the brand, but he joins two formidable drivers – three-time defending European rallycross champion Sverre Isachsen and skateboarding expert Bucky Lasek – as the brand attempts to take its first win of the season at X Games.

Here’s what to expect from the Puma-backed factory effort in Los Angeles:

#40 Dave Mirra (9th in points, 13; best finish 9th): From 1995 to 2009, Mirra scored a total of 24 medals at X Games, primarily in BMX; he scored a bronze in head-to-head rally in 2008, marking his only racing medal. This season has been a tough one for the Miracle Boy, who saw his Charlotte final end at the hands of Toomas Heikkinen and failed to make the Texas final after a poor jump landing in practice threw off his entire race day. The face of Subaru’s rallycross team doesn’t take too kindly to struggling, however, and won’t be looking to stay low in the running order in Los Angeles.

Image via Subaru Rally Team

#11 Sverre Isachsen (10th in points, 12; best finish 10th): If anybody expected the transition from European to American rallycross to be an easy one for that continent’s three-time defending champion, especially against a lot of former ERC competition, they’ve been proven very wrong. Isachsen missed the final at Charlotte when he inexplicably slowed in the last chance qualifier, and crashed out in the first of three attempts at the Texas final. Adjusting to the Subaru hasn’t been easy for the longtime Ford driver, but perhaps X Games will provide an opportunity to get back on track.

#81 Bucky Lasek (13th in points, 9; best finish 11th): One of the sport’s true rookies (remember, skateboarding was his first trade), Lasek has been adapting respectably to four much larger wheels than he’s used to. He hasn’t made it to a final yet, but his failed attempt at skipping the jump at Texas was one of the series’ most exciting moments this year, and adapting to this sport took time for the other action sports athletes who made the transition, too. Expect more from Lasek in the future, but for now, it would be a surprise if his love for X Games led to game-changing gains in his skill behind the wheel.

– Chris Leone

X Games Preview: Single-Car Teams

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Though the majority of the entries in this year’s X Games are part of multi-car operations, a good portion of entries will come from independent camps. Of course, the four names involved are some of the biggest in the sport. Ken Block helped create the rally craze in America over the past few years with his series of Gymkhana videos, while Liam Doran took an impressive win in last year’s Super Rally event over Marcus Gronholm, and Pat Moro is one of the most active pure independents in the sport.

Here’s what to expect from these drivers come Sunday’s event:

#43 Ken Block (12th in points, 11; best finish 8th): As one of the drivers whose exploits in a rally car built up the young fanbase that made the GRC possible, Block is the kind of figure that is beloved at X Games. But only twice, in 2006 and 2008, has he ever medaled at the series’ signature event, and even then he only scored bronze both times. Block has been beating the daylights out of his poor Ford Fiestas all season, leaving some to wonder if the gymkhana pioneer has the discipline to keep his car together long enough to make it to the finish in Los Angeles.

#59 Pat Moro (15th in points, 7; best finish 13th): Moro runs an older model Subaru Impreza and was added to ESPN’s entry list as a late invitee. He’s appeared in both events thus far, but failed to advance past the last chance qualifier in either event. Moro is a strong competitor in Rally America, having won the Production class championship in 2010, but in four X Games attempts thus far, has never placed better than 10th. He’s got one advantage, though: the jump is supposed to be bigger for Sunday’s event, and Moro was the only driver to clear the original jump at Texas (according to a Block tweet).

#33 Liam Doran (16th in points, 5; best finish 12th): Electing to compete in a European event rather than the season-opening Charlotte race likely ended Doran’s hopes at an automatic X Games bid before they even started, but last year’s head-to-head winner would love nothing more than to add a second gold medal in this year’s event. He showed plenty of speed at Texas, qualifying third, but had car troubles that kept him from the final.

– Chris Leone