Five hours. That's how much seat time mega-leaper and freestyle motocross superstar Robbie Maddison has spent in a rally car. Zero. That's how many hours Maddo has behind the wheel of the actual car he will drive Friday at round three of the Global RallyCross Championship at Colorado's Pikes Peak International Raceway.
In February, Maddison announced his rally plans when he unveiled his Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai Veloster at the Chicago Auto Show. His ultimate goal is to compete in the X Games Rally Car Racing and RallyCross events but a busy schedule has kept him out of the car until this Tuesday, when he took a five-hour crash course in Washington state with Forest Duplessis at the DirtFish Rally School.
"I did a lot yesterday. I went from zero to hero by the afternoon," Maddison said. Duplessis has coached action sports stars-turned rally drivers like Travis Pastrana, Dave Mirra and, most recently, Shaun White. Maddison said he wanted more time in the car but felt DirtFish did their best accommodating his tight schedule. "They made me a circuit that had all the elements that I can expect at a rally cross event and endure at X Games. I've had a taste of it and they made it really tricky for me to give me every element they could."
Although he felt confident at the end of the day, it didn't start well. He spent the morning destroying markers on the course and nearly ran into a shed. "It was information overload and I felt like I was sinking. At lunch I was a little bit depressed and tired but later everything seemed to click and I surprised myself."
Five hours is a very short amount of time to learn trail braking, shifting techniques, left-foot braking, hairpins and other basic and advanced moves. In a phone conversation, Maddison's jargon-y descriptions of learning how to drive a rally car made him sound like a veteran, but he said the most challenging skill for him was left-foot braking and slowing down to go faster. "You watch rally and you see these guys sliding everywhere. I thought when I went to rally school I was going to be sliding everywhere but I realized the technique is to limit your sliding. It's hard to make all these things happen in the right order and get out of there smooth without missing revs or sliding out in the corner and hitting a tree."
Maddison said Duplessis was even impressed. "He said, 'We threw everything at you and threw you in the deep end.' He said he's never seen anyone in the past adapt and do it so well and so quickly."
The Pikes Peak GRC event is the last chance for athletes to prove their worthiness of an invite to X Games 17 where only 20 spots are available in each event. Maddison will face two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm, 2010 XG double gold medal winner Tanner Foust, teammate Rhys Millen and former X medalist Dave Mirra, all who have already received their nods for X Games 17. Maddison's regular gig as a long distance jumper, creative stunt innovator and FMX star requires him to constantly be on the hook for impressive feats. But in the rally car he said the best way for him to grab the attention of the X committee and the rally community is to show he has total control and can improve quickly.
"I'm not trying to be overconfident about it," Maddison said. "I really just want to be consistent first and then get speed second. I think that's a smart way to go into a rally race. I'm giving [rally] everything I've got. Even though I have a slammed schedule with the freestyle motocross and limited time for the cars, I want to get to the X Games and take a shot at the title."