Subaru Rally Team USA
The SRT USA paddock held three cars this year – #199, #40, and #1. These were piloted by regular SRT USA drivers Travis Pastrana (top) and Dave Mirra (middle) and European rallycross champion Sverre Isachsen (bottom) (invited guest to X Games Rally).
What viewers saw on ESPN's coverage of the event was the result of intense development by SRT USA. The team had spent a long day Thursday in the field grappling with engine and other issues, and the technicians worked late into the night – almost until dawn – to try to make sure the cars were ready.
The X Games Rally experience is different from stage rallies, where distance and being road legal are factors. X Games events are sprint races, not endurance events. Everything takes place in a confined space, and the technicians are nearby.
Photo: Lars Gange | rally.subaru.com
But the hazards are just as real, and the conditions still require durability. Concrete barriers and the wall around the stadium are as close and threatening as the trees and stone outcrops encountered in stage rallies. The east-side embankment, although seemingly covered with dirt, left steps uncovered underneath the huge X Games signage sheets. Those exposed steps and the drop-offs to them were red flags to us.
At one point, the course went under the big air platform that was erected at the west end of the stadium. Although it turned out to be two cars wide, it appeared barely wide enough for one.
And then there are the columns.
DRIVERS FOR X GAMES 16 RALLY
Rally Car Racing
James Keeney (alternate)
Carl Decker (alternate)
Outside the stadium, plastic barriers marked driving lanes for the more extended Rally Car Racing courses. These narrow lanes would prove more difficult to handle than they would seem.
Focus and attention to detail are just as important for X Games Rally as for any other type.
ESPN had cameras at all levels. Some were at ground level on the floor, others at varying locations up the sides, and some at the upper rim, including the ones at the top of the wall of dirt on the east side, next to the columns. Several boom cameras were set up, including one at the top of the big air stand.
The teams were scheduled to practice for four hours late Friday afternoon. Cars raced, slid, and jumped on the dirt that had been packed and prepared by the heavy equipment.
Although concrete barriers marked some of the courses, large blocks of wrapped foam marked other parts. Even so, determining what the courses were going to be from a spectator's point of view was difficult. Plus, even after the experiences of the last four years, we weren't sure how Rally Car Racing and SuperRally were going to play out.
We couldn't tell who was fastest – only who slid and jumped well. We found subtleties in the track surface – unintended holes that developed where the cars ended up jumping.
Some of the drivers seemed viciously fast from the onset, bearing down across the length of the floor, sliding hard coming out from under the big air tunnel. Pastrana, Ken Block, Kenny Brack, and Tanner Foust were among these drivers.
One of the most compelling aspects of the event was the dust. One car was enough to kick up a layer as thick as fog. Two, three, and four cars often made us close our eyes. How they saw to drive was anyone's guess. The grounds crew watered the courses regularly, which would help for a while.
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