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X Games 15 Rally Blog - Sunday

8/2/2009

7:55 p.m. PT: I heard it as often as engines firing or those ewok-y chirps of the Ford Fiesta. "Anything can happen in rally." Fair to say on Sunday, it did. Unfortunately.

An intriguing battle of factory rides set up between Ford and Subaru looked ready to happen, but all sorts of weirdness prevented any substantive showdown. In fact, the medals were handed out without requiring a full race. When Brian Deegan skipped the big jump in his matchup against Travis Pastrana, he was DQ'd, handing the bronze to Tanner Foust without requiring the two of them to actually face off head-to-head. In the Final, Kenny Brack and Pastrana were tied up in a great looking race until Pastrana fishtailed on his first re-entry into the Home Depot Center, raising the red flag and giving Brack the gold for running half (a very, very well run half) a race.

The best race of the event? Brack vs. Foust for the right to get to the Final. Two great drivers running neck and neck until Foust's bobble late in the race gave Brack the room he needed.

Other big themes:

-Kudos to Deegan, who showed very well in his first X Games rally competition. His entry into the semis was a Ken Block provided gift (ironically, it was Block's failure to take the big jump that got him DQ'd- apparently Deegan thought that was a great idea), but overall he was pleased with the effort, and rightly so.

-How about those Fords? Many wondered how the challenger to Subaru would fare at X 15, and the answer was... really damn well. The Fiestas were consistently fast, handled all aspects of the course with aplomb. All three entries made the semi-finals. Hard to do better.

-For all of Brack's success, don't look for more. "It's a one off," explained Brack of his Rally Car entry. "'I'm not looking to get into this full time again. I'm 43 years old. It's a lot easier standing on the sidelines telling someone how to do it than to do it yourself."

All in all, it was a fun week, one in which it seems like the depth of driver field and of technology (though in fairness it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the former from the latter) improved. It's a shame the Final ended as it did, but as Pastrana said after the race, the only reason he was pushing so hard was because Brack was so fast.

Thanks to everyone for following the blog and sending the emails. I had a great time, and hope you enjoyed it, too.


1:47 p.m. PT: The Final is on, and after two super-clean runs, Brack is struggling here. He was wide coming around the first wide turn on the dirt, then put too much gas on the car and flew the jump. Now his back bumper is dragging behind him. Looks ugly, but he's running well, just a third of a second behind Pastrana as they come back into the stadium.

Pastrana is out! He spins just a little wide coming back into the HDC and can't continue. Fish tail, bashes the back left end, and the red flag comes out. No need for Lap 2.

Disappointing for fans who wanted to see a full race, but that's how it goes, you know? Travis smiles in the car and taps his head a few times in frustration. Brack gets out, and is hoisted in the air by his crew before jumping up on top of his Fiesta in celebration. He's a great driver for sure, but the win has to be a little bit of an upset, given the strength of the field.

Lots of buildup for a somewhat underwhelming pair of final races, but as people have been saying all week, you never know what is going to happen in rally. Sometimes that's good; other times it's not. Here it was the latter. Red flag comes out on Block, then Deegan, and finally on Pastrana. So none of the medals was actually determined by someone crossing the finish line.

Still, congratulations to Kenny Brack and Ford. There's certainly a solid chance he'd have won the thing even if forced to complete the race. His car was strong all week, and Brack proved to be a great driver in this format. Pastrana wins silver, Foust bronze.

We'll have more later!


1:42 p.m. PT: Deegan vs. Pastrana is over before it starts, as Deegan gets in tough with his inner Ken Block and has to bypass the jump. Not sure what happened, but he didn't have much speed coming around the turn, and skipped it.

Pastrana gets his car around the black course with about as much speed as I would (in his ear, I'm sure they were telling him he already won, so lay off). Looks like Travis gets through to the Finals, where he'll face Kenny Brack.


1:36 p.m. PT: The first semifinal pits Tanner Foust vs. Kenny Brack, two very strong drivers in strong cars. I'm giving the edge to Foust, though, because of his rally experience.

They're neck-and-neck coming out of the HDC, and once again the photographers get a killer pic of the criss-cross/over-under jump. Foust starts on the Black, Brack on the red, and once again Brack is running incredibly well on the tarmac. Brack slips a little on a turn right before re-entering the HDC, and they drop in almost tied. Foust maybe a half-second ahead at the most.

Another picture perfect (I mean that literally) criss cross, this time with Foust landing all cushy soft. Brack now on the black course, Foust on the red, neck-and-neck.

UNTIL FOUST SPINS OUT! That's probably going to do it, barring a mistake from Brack. And he doesn't make one. Brack advances in 3:20.92.

Great race. One bobble is all it took for Foust to lose this race.


1:32 p.m. PT: Fair to say the maiden voyage for the Ford Fiesta at X Games has been a major success. Four cars in the semis, three are team Ford. Deegan, Brack and Foust are all through. The jump that was, at least earlier in the week a concern (or at least an unknown) hasn't been an issue. The little fella is flying straight and true.

The lone Subaru to make it through belongs to Travis Pastrana.


1:26 p.m. PT: Another Subaru vs. Ford matchup, with Brian Deegan taking on Ken Block. If Deegan can pull this one off, it'll be a big upset.

Block whipped around the first turn with his door open. Driver's side, thankfully, or that thing would still be flapping around. Riding on the black course, Block still can't keep the door closed. That could be related to his roll this morning in practice.

Block enters about four ticks ahead of Deegan but hits the wall coming around the turn. That takes a little time off.

But then he goes around the jump! Block doesn't take the jump, perhaps because of the issues with the door or speed coming off the turn after bumping the wall on the HDC floor. That will disqualify Block. Deegan moves on, regardless of what order they cross the finish line in.

Which is good for Deegan, because Block crossed first. Overall, a very strange race from the get-go. Generally speaking, you know things are a little off when a dude can't keep his door closed.


1:20 p.m. PT: This is a good one, and the crowd is certainly psyched to see Travis Pastrana. They'd be psyched to see Pastrana do just about anything, though.

He's facing off with ACP, and is far smoother on the dirt in the first couple turns, building up about a three-second lead before they even get out onto the tarmac. ACP did manage to hit the jump without wrecking any of his ride. ACP is shaving off some of the deficit, though, on the red course, while Pastrana starts on the black.

Pastrana is back into the HDC about two and a half seconds ahead of ACP. Again, he's super smooth on the dirt, and hits the jump with a pillow soft landing. That gives him about a four second lead coming out of the stadium ... and it may not matter, as ACP hits the water barriers. That hurts. Assuming Pastrana doesn't wrap himself around a telephone pole (which really shouldn't be on the course anyway), he'll walk away with this one.

Pastrana throws a crowd-pleasing donut to the fans.


1:07 p.m. PT: This is the first run in competition for the Subarus, with Dave Mirra leading off. He'll face Kenny Brack, who had the fastest qualifying time in Friday's seeding session (though the format left him in the fifth position). Interesting matchup of drivers, but lots of people are excited to see the two factory teams go head to head.

Brack is clean off the jump, but Mirra exits HDC first. On the black course, he holds about a two-second lead on Brack, but KB's experience on tarmac has helped him out here (remember, the dude had great success in open wheel). Brack pulls ahead slightly as they come back into the HDC. It's almost dead even, but given how Brack made up ground on the first lap, you feel like Mirra needs to exit ahead.

They crisscross under the jump, and Mirra lands it rock solid. Brack's down by two-tenths of a second...

Brack drops in slightly ahead of Mirra, and finishes ahead. Mirra slides out of his final turn, but it didn't make a difference. Brack had already crossed. Mirra was just trying to make the miracle move.

Ford 1, Subaru 0. The best race of the day.


12:59 p.m. PT: First matchup of the quarterfinals, and Tanner Foust is red hot off the line and around the first few turns on the dirt. He's building up a good lead on Mancin, who took the jump first, hitting it a little hard on the front end.

Foust is very clean through his run on the black course on his way back into the stadium. He's in first, well ahead of Mancin, and hits the jump probably more smoothly than anyone has hit it all day. He's four seconds ahead, now on the red course.

Foust's Ford has so much power, and he's built up the lead to nearly seven seconds over Mancin, who has been strong over the course of the week. Foust looks ready to cruise to the win. He re-enters HDC for the final time about four-plus seconds ahead of Mancin, and that's how they finish. Good clean run for Foust, and he goes to the semifinals.


12:59 p.m. PT:The quarterfinal matchups are set:

—1A: Foust vs. Mancin
—1B: Mirra vs. Brack

—1C: Pastrana vs. Comrie-Picard
—1D: Block vs. Deegan

Two big Ford vs. Subaru head-to-head matchups that should be fun to watch. Pastrana vs. ACP is a great battle, too. And Mancin has run well this week and poses a threat to Foust, though he'll likely need to be faster than he was in his first race.

Obviously the format is vastly different from a normal rally, but the head-to-head thing does create some interesting moments for sure.


12:54 p.m. PT: In the closest race of the four opening round runs, Andi Mancin just squeaked out a win over Piotr Wiktorczyk. Mancin built out a big lead coming off the first lap but nearly lost it coming back around the course a second time and turned the thing into a nail-biter at the end. The good news, though, is I no longer have to write Wiktorczyk.

Not fair, really and kind of hypocritical considering how often people butcher "Kamenetzky," but I'm willing to take the hit.


12:44 p.m. PT: Question from Jason in Salt Lake:

"My question is about the Ford Fiesta in today's rally. First, is the Fiesta an All Wheel Drive car? And second, will it be able to compete with the three rally tuned Subarus?"

Thanks for the note, Jason. Yeah, the Fiesta is all wheel. (All of the cars are.) Thus far, it's not just competing with the Subarus, but doing very well. They have a lot of experience running the Fiestas in Europe (as a rallycross car). In Friday's seeding, three of the fastest four times were put in by Fords, and in the eliminations, the two Fords that ran in the first round (Kenny Brack, Brian Deegan) were both incredibly fast, smooth and strong. Both guys advanced easily. Tanner Foust received a bye into the quarterfinals, but he's expected to run well, too.

It's a great car. Overheard one of the Subaru drivers saying as much today.


12:36 p.m. PT: Brian Deegan just gave an in-stadium interview at the HDC and sounded pretty stoked about how he's running right now. When he first got into the comp, his goal seemed less about winning, more about not making an ass of himself. Now? Given the speed of his car and what seems like a pretty strong learning curve, he's moving into medal contention, at least as a dark horse.

As he told the crowd, "The only reason I come to X Games is to win medals. Personally, I come for the free T-shirts I get in the production trailer."


12:30 p.m. PT: Gruszka vs. Comrie-Picard. The Polish driver (you guess which one that is) had a bad start, stalling at the go. ACP, meanwhile, seems to have solved whatever engine issues he had in practice. He's easily first out of the stadium.

ACP is back into the HDC first, well ahead of Gruszka. He overshoots the jump in a big way, losing some material off the front end but is still moving along nicely. Has about a nine-second lead on Gruszka on the second lap. He continues to shed parts on his way around the tarmac.

Back into the stadium, ACP has a huge lead (even more after Gruszka misses his quick left turn off the ramp), and while he gave his mechanical crew plenty of work to do before the next heat, he's the winner.


12:24 p.m. PT: Deegan nosed the jump and lost his bumper, but got lucky as Matt Johnson missed his exit turn on the black course and had to reverse just to get out of the HDC ...

Deegan enters the HDC after Lap 1 well ahead of Johnson, and if he's clean on the second go-round, he'll win. Johnson really seems to be struggling. His trunk popped over the jump, and coming up the ramp was banging on his steering wheel ...

Deegan running clean around his second lap, and as he comes back in, he gets a big ovation. The car doesn't have a front fender, but he eliminates Johnson easily.


12:15 p.m. PT: Johnson vs. Deegan in what is probably the most intriguing elimination battle of any. Deegan is a rally newbie, but is in a killer car (Ford Fiesta) and has steadily improved his practice times all week. Johnson (in the Nitro Circus Subaru) has more seat time but wrecked his car bad and had to have it rebuilt into this morning.


12:13 p.m. PT: Assuming Kenny Brack is clean around the second lap, he'll advance over Jimmy Keeney. The car is so much faster. Brack was clean on his first in-comp attempt at the jump, and ... is back into the HDC after his second lap, crossing the finish line before Keeney even gets back into the stadium.

Brack wins in a good first showing for the Fiestas.


12:05 p.m. PT: They just showed that semi-iconic footage of Kenny Brack's open-wheel crash a few years back on the jumbotron. Got an ooh from the crowd.


11:55 a.m. PT: Lots of work going on in the pits for Andrew Comrie-Picard, but he's on his way back down to the HDC floor.

Had to sit on the horn to get foot traffic out of his way.


11:55 a.m. PT: Crew was working on the car from about eight last night until seven this morning, but the good news? After his practice run, Matthew Johnson described his car as "brilliant." Nobody likes to pull an all-for-naught all-nighter.

11:05 a.m. PT: Because I should have to type and spell "Wiktorczyk" correctly at least once this week.


10:58 a.m. PT: Jimmy Keeney, who crashed in practice Friday and wasn't able to take a seeding run, is all whole and back in the car. He's now the 12th seed, but based on practice speeds to that point may have been there anyway.


10:39 a.m. PT: Cars are lining up for the final practice session. First chance to ride on the dirt, last chance to fix what ails ...


10:39 a.m. PT: Just saw Pastrana in the Subaru pits. He's moving reasonably well after his crash in Moto X Best Trick, but holy crap, is his right arm and elbow swollen.

The little Band-Aid he's wearing doesn't exactly mask the carnage.


10:29 a.m. PT: Talking to Dave Mirra before practice, he said a look at the ramp (eyeball test) makes him believe the setup will be a little more forgiving than last year, thanks in part to a longer landing area.

If that's how it lays out, that'll give drivers more wiggle room with their speed coming over, making it harder to totally overshoot the landing.


10:21 a.m. PT: Walking past the pits this morning, I can confirm Matt Johnson has a car and that it can turn on and move in low first gear. Can it run the X course at speed? Too much to diagnose.


10:15 a.m. PT: Here's the view inside the HDC. You can see the moto courses are down and the rally jump is built, but there's still a lot to do.

Gives you an idea of how fast the crews have to work to get set up from event to event at X.


10 a.m. PT: Mornin', folks.

Much has happened since you went to sleep (assuming you haven't been up for, say, the last 40 hours). The dirt inside the Home Depot Center, formerly at the disposal of two-wheel sports, has been torn down, resurrected like a billion 12-ounce aluminum cans into one really, really big aluminum can, in the form of a nifty little rally course to go along with the tarmac they've been running on all week.

Sunday will see another practice run, in which drivers will get their first look at the monster 70-foot jump, and then the start of competition. A few big questions:

• Will Travis Pastrana, who crashed hard in Friday's Moto X Best Trick comp, race? Thus far, all indications are yes. Will he be limited? Harder to say, but it's fair to say the guy has a history of playing in pain.

• How will Kenny Brack respond to the dirt? He found the zone Friday afternoon in qualifying, posting the fastest time (57.00) in the seeding session. Not all that surprising given his open wheel roots. But what happens when the terrain changes?

• For that matter, how will the Ford Fiestas handle the jump? The three Subarus -- Pastrana, Ken Block and Dave Mirra -- have the benefit of data and experience from past X Games and other testing, but the Fords are new to HDC. They think they've got it calibrated … but won't know for sure until they try.

• Will Matt Johnson have a car? To say MJ tore up his ride when he crashed Friday afternoon during seeding is a mild understatement. That thing was torched, forcing him to skip four hours of off-site testing he'd reserved for Saturday. Instead, they were just trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, so to speak. If his setup is up to snuff, it'll be a major achievement. He might just want to skip the practice jump, and risk hitting it cold when it counts.