8:33 p.m. PST:It was a busy Thursday in rally at X Games 15. Drivers had another crack at the course in practice- a luxury not afforded on the Rally America circuit, and almost without fail managed to shave time off their laps each time around as they grew more comfortable with the speed and found the best lines in and out of turns. They'll get a little more rehearsal Friday before the real stuff begins in the form of seeding runs, the first step towards determining how things will shape up for Sunday's Final. Just as it was Thursday, tomorrow's runs will be all tarmac, all the time.
Andrew Comrie-Picard talked this afternoon about the pressure teams will be under to make all the tweaks necessary to squeeze out every available millisecond from the course, but at the same time nobody running well wants to screw with too much with what's working. Given how fast ACP was Thursday, he's certainly not going to mess around too much.
Expect the big guns- Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, Comrie-Picard, Tanner Foust- to be fast. More interesting will be the times for guys like Kenny Brack, who has limited Rally experience but is no stranger to life behind the wheel, having killed it in open wheel racing for years. Matt Johnson didn't have a particularly good day, and will need to cure what ails him if he's to avoid a bad seed for the weekend.
Andi Mancin isn't the biggest name at the HDC, but the Polish driver put up some great times in practice and could steal a high seed from the headliners.
I'll be following it all on Friday, filing frequent updates from the pits and around the course (or as close to it as I can get). Make sure to check back frequently. Refresh your page until it hurts.
6:33 p.m. PST: A few handy tidbits to keep in the back pocket this week:
On the Rally America circuit, 34 mm turbo inlet restrictors are required, which limit the speed and power of the car. At X those restrictors are larger, 40 mm, meaning drivers will be able to generate more torque and horsepower as they make their way around the course.
Even though most of the race takes place on tarmac, cars are required to run gravel tires. This means the cars won't handle quite as well, but will slide more, which looks really cool.
No co-drivers this year. Given the short length of the course and the built-in practice time, they've been deemed unnecessary.
6:01 p.m. PST: Having flipped nose-over-tea kettle on the big jump last year, Andrew Comrie-Picard arrived at X 15 with some adjustments in mind. They've changed the suspension setup and importantly (he hopes) changed the radiator mount, raising the whole deal higher on the car, giving ACP little more wiggle room to not trash his front end should he land a little long on the jump. It's only a couple of inches, but it makes a big difference.
"We think we can probably land at 45 degrees," he said. If they have to, of course. It's not the strategy. But since last year's crash was caused by going too slow into the jump (by a single mile per hour, ACP said, a tiny speed miscalculation that cost him 15 feet in the air), it'll be good to know the car will survive should he go a little long this year and hit the nose on the backside.
5:42 p.m. PST: With the HDC floor set up for moto, tarmac practice on the red and black courses wasn't on the same layout racers will see Sunday, but it's still interesting to see who ran well:
Andrew Comrie-Picard (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX) scored the fastest time on the Black course at 57.80 seconds, while Travis Pastrana's 56.73 in his Subaru Impreza STI was the gold standard on the Red.
Brian Deegan's best Red Course time was nearly four seconds off Pastrana's pace, but he did manage to shave off almost six seconds from his first run to his third. His Ford Fiesta is a much more powerful car than he's used to- to the degree Deegan is used to anything in a rally car- so the learning curve will be steep.
Keep an eye on Andi Mancin (Mitsubishi), whose times on the Black Course were right in line with the heavy hitters.
5:11 p.m. PST: He's only been driving the car since Monday, but Tanner Foust is a fan of the Ford Fiesta Rallycross he'll pilot this week at X. "I've never driving something with this much technology," he told me Thursday afternoon. Lack of giddyup certainly won't be an issue.
"For those of you who know turbo stuff, this thing is pushing 51 pounds of boost. It's an incredible amount of torque and power out of this little car, and it's tucked into a tight little track made up of concrete walls."
It'll put a premium on control. "45 is really the slowest it wants to go, and we're asking it to do Gymkhana style hairpins. It's a big, angry animal stuffed into a small cage. It doesn't really get happy until third or fourth gear." That's an issue, because with all the tight turns, it's hard to let the car go before having to hit the brake again. Lack of aggression, though, isn't really an option. "This car is very difficult to drive tentatively," Foust said.
Prepping for Sunday's big jump inside the Home Depot Center, however, is another story entirely. Like the rest of the competition, Foust and his crew won't get a chance to prep for the 70 foot gap. "A lot of guys built practice jumps in their backyards, and we didn't really get a chance to do that. You hope that the wing is going to keep the back down. You hope that having a bunch of weight will keep the back down. You hope that changing the rebound and spring rates will keep the back down. That's the biggest fear, is the nose dive. You just want it to fly flat, and you cross your fingers on that first jump."
3:43 p.m. PST: Smart money says Brian Deegan will struggle in his maiden voyage in Games rally, but that doesn't mean he won't draw a crowd. At the least, it's a snazzy race suit.
3:22 p.m. PST: The stream of action sports athletes dabbling in one form or another in four wheel sports (of the motorized variety, to be specific) has been flowing strong over the past few years. Travis Pastrana, Kenny Bartrum, Dave Mirra, and now Brian Deegan have all made their way into the Rally comp, but others from Tara Dakides on the snowboard side to skating legend Bucky Lasek have tried their hands at racing. Lasek was kicking around the pits today, tossing questions at the mechanics and getting a tour of Tanner Foust's Ford Fiesta with... Tanner Foust. Which makes sense. No question, the speed of Foust's ride- "Zero to sixty in two seconds," he was told- impressed Lasek. A lot.
While Lasek has done a couple of rally schools, full-timing it on the circuit is more pipe dream than realistic option. Beyond his extensive skateboarding obligations, hauling off into the woods in a isn't exactly a cost effective choice in a down economy. Rally racing isn't exactly for the faint of wallet.
One of Foust's crew suggested Lasek give co-driving a go. Lasek wasn't sure he could do it. "I'd have to go with somebody I trust."
2:58 p.m. PST: Former open wheel champ/rally newbie Kenny Brack got another taste of the X course in Thursday afternoon's practice run. Driving the Ford Fiesta, he seemed reasonably content with the car. As for the guy behind the wheel? "I think there's more left in the driving to figure out.
There are a few perks, though, to dabbling in rally. "with indy cars, you need to go to the gym two hours a day six days a week just to drive the car because the g forces are so strong." So what about rally? "maybe every other year," he laughs An inderstatement for sure, but Brack didn't seem to object to whatever additional veg time he's offered. -BK
Brian Kamenetsky here. I'll be your source for all things rally over the next four days. Where to begin? Well, for you, a good spot is our lead-up rally blog. Get caught up and I'll see you back here when the action starts.