This year the X Games, the groundbreaking action sports competition, celebrates its 25th anniversary.
While four-wheeled motorsport isn’t presently part of the annual event, over the years there’s been many memorable moments. Here are our favorites:
Travis Pastrana wins; Colin McRae rolls
Rallying first featured at the X Games in 2006 with an event that culminated in a spectacular stage in and around what was then known as the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.
By the end of the rally, the competition had become a straight fight between the legendary Colin McRae and his American protégé Travis Pastrana.
Pastrana was victorious and McRae famously rolled mere feet from the finish line.
In-car reporters take viewers along for the ride as Indy 500 winner is victorious
A decade on from his Indianapolis 500 triumph, Kenny Bräck was invited to compete at the Rally Car Racing event at X Games 15 in 2009.
Although best known for his open-wheel exploits, Bräck was instantly on the pace in his four-wheel-drive Olsbergs MSE-prepared Ford Fiesta.
The Swede topped qualifying, then after making it all the way to the final he achieved what McRae couldn’t three years prior, beating Pastrana to become the first international invitee to win the event outright.
Bräck looked to be behind Pastrana at first, until the American tagged a wall, ending his hopes for a third gold medal in rally car.
Bräck’s win wasn’t the only landmark event in the ’09 running of the event. In a television first, both finalists’ co-drivers, Chrissie Beavis for Bräck and Jen Horsey for Pastrana, commentated in-car during the final.
“I have to thank senior producer Phil Orlins for that opportunity,” Horsey told DirtFish. “Co-drivers were dropped from the competition in 2009 – since we weren’t really necessary from a competition standpoint for giving notes on the modified short-course version of rally that X Games was featuring.
“And after watching co-drivers compete alongside the drivers since 2006, Phil had the idea to hire a couple of similarly sized co-drivers to return in 2009 as reporters.
“The idea was for us to bring fans into the cars to share our perspective. We would kind of be the audience’s co-driver.
“I had worked behind-the-scenes for the production since the start, and I was really excited to be part of this groundbreaking television first as an in-car reporter for those two X Games. We made TV history and I don’t think it’s been done since.”
“Looking back at it a decade-plus later, it seems like a crazy thing we did, to report live-to-air from the passenger seat of a race car during competition. But Chrissie and I had both competed in the event in previous years and, to us, it seemed normal.
“I remember the producer in my ear asking us both to sound ‘more excited’, which now I understand but which just made me laugh then.
“The being-in-a-race-car part was our totally normal day at the office. It was having a producer in our ear, millions of people watching us, and not being able to communicate with the drivers was the unusual part.”
Liam Doran causes an upset
Liam Doran has been one of the biggest stars in European rallycross for more than a decade and in 2011 he was invited to the X Games for the first time, where he competed in Rallycross and the head-to-head Rally Car Racing events.
The Brit was seen as something of an underdog going into the event against the likes of Marcus Grönholm and established US stars Brian Deegan and Tanner Foust, but he made it all the way to the final of the Rally Car Racing contest in his Citroën C4 rallycross supercar, beating Foust in the semi-finals.
In the final Doran lined up alongside Grönholm, already a multi-event winner in rallycross in the US, but the Finn’s experience didn’t count for much as Doran beat him off the line twice to win the best-of-three final after just two races.
Dubbed “arguably the biggest upset of X Games 17”, Doran’s win was a popular one. Manxman David Higgins beat Tanner Foust in a third-place playoff to lock up an all-European podium in Rally Car Racing.
Going into the 2011 X Games event, Travis Pastrana had an ambitious plan to compete in three radically different events in just four days.
In the trial, dubbed ‘Pastranathon’, the action sports icon planned to compete in Freestyle Motocross Best Trick on the Thursday, a NASCAR event at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on Saturday, then return to LA for the rallycross race on the Sunday.
But Pastranathon was very nearly over before it properly began. While attempting a ‘Rodeo 720’ in the MotoX event, Pastrana landed on his right leg, sustaining multiple fractures to the leg and ankle.
Naturally, that ruled him out of his NASCAR debut, but Vermont SportsCar worked tirelessly to adapt his Subaru Impreza at short notice to enable it to be driven with the assistance of hand controls.
Unbelievably the injured Pastrana won his qualifying race, and was running second in the final behind Brian Deegan when he crashed in the closing stages of the race.
Ultimately, he finished fourth which was still a remarkable result considering just a few days earlier he was lying in hospital with a shattered leg.
Sébastien Loeb came, saw, and won
In 2012 Travis Pastrana threw down the gauntlet to fellow Red Bull athlete Sébastien Loeb. The Frenchman had dominated the World Rally Championship, but now was time for him to conquer America.
Working with Hansen Motorsport, a bespoke Citroën DS3 was developed specifically for the event. But with Loeb at the height of his powers, he probably could have entered a wheelbarrow and still emerged with the same result.
The event on the streets of LA was Loeb’s rallycross debut, but his experience on the world’s rally stages and at Le Mans meant that he was far from underprepared.
Loeb started the six-lap, 10-car final from the front row of the grid and dominated from start to finish, leading home a three-wheeled Ken Block as well as Brian Deegan.
You can read more on Loeb’s dominating X Games win later this week.
X Games goes Global
After nearly 20 years of US-only events, X Games went global in 2013. Naturally, its rallycross competition followed.
Events in Brazil, Barcelona (above) and Germany were all part of X Games’ global expansion, and each featured rallycross competitions that formed part of that year’s Global Rallycross season. Well, almost.
After a successful season opener in Brazil, heavy rain in Barcelona forced that to be abandoned and the Munich event to become a double-header.
In Brazil, discipline debutante Scott Speed won the rallycross event, while in Munich Liam Doran and eventual ’13 GRC champion Topi Heikkinen shared the spoils.
The races in Brazil and Munich formed three of four X Games rallycross races in ’13, with a traditional LA event in the summer being won again by Heikkinen. It was the Finn’s fourth of five consecutive wins that year – a run that started in Munich and it set a US series record that still stands to this day.
You can read more about X Games Brazil and Speed’s rallycross debut next week.
Gymkhana joins the bill
Also in 2013 X Games added a Gymkhana Grid event to the competition for the first time.
The brainchild of competitor Ken Block, the event took place at Irwindale Speedway the day before the now-traditional rallycross competition and utilized the very same cars.
Then two-time US rallycross champion and Hollywood stunt driving royalty Tanner Foust was the winner of the event, beating Patrik Sandell twice in the best-of three final. Block meanwhile could only get as far as the quarter-finals.
X Games moves to Austin
In 2014 the main X Games event left Los Angeles for the first time since 2002 and for the first time since it added four-wheeled motorsport. The new venue was Circuit of the Americas at Austin, a Formula 1 track that in the years since has hosted both World and Americas Rallycross.
Again, the rallycross competition formed part of that year’s Global Rallycross series, which had begun the month previously with an event in Barbados as part of a Top Gear Live festival event.
At Bushy Park Scott Speed won on his debut with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, and he carried that form to X Games to take back-to-back wins as well as claim his second gold medal in as many years.
The American dominated, winning both his quarter-final and semi-final as well as the final that had to be red flagged after an incident involving Patrik Sandell and Austin Dyne.
Joining Speed on the podium was Bucky Lasek, who added a rallycross silver medal to his haul of skateboarding accolades, and Nelson Piquet Jr who passed Liam Doran after the Briton spun on the final lap of the 10-lap contest.
Rallycross Lites also featured, with Mitchell DeJong winning the non-championship event, kicking off what would be a dominant year in the category for the youngster.
Stadium Super Trucks puts the ‘action’ in Action Sports
As well as rallycross Supercars and Lites, Stadium Super Trucks joined the X Games bill in 2014, marking the first time off-road trucks had ever been part of the competition.
The final was a mega 16-car, 24-lap affair using the same course elements as the rallycross competition. Sometime NASCAR competitor and off-road regular Justin Lofton led early on, as Sheldon Creed and Apdaly Lopez fought over second place.
A red flag for a rolling Bobby Runyan Jr bunched the field right up though and a lock up on the restart for Lofton handed the lead to Creed. Lofton was then spun out by Lopez who went on to take the lead outright before the competition caution bunched the field together at the halfway point.
The Mexican held on in the second half of the race to take the gold medal ahead of Creed and Stadium Super Trucks series boss Robby Gordon, who survived a dramatic collision with Burt Jenner on his way to third.
The trucks returned in 2015 where Creed made up for his ’14 disappointment to dominate the entire event from qualifying to the final. Gordon got his second consecutive medal with second, while Arie Luyendyk Jr wrapped up the bronze.
Rallycross features for the final time
X Games returned to Austin in 2015 for what would be the last time (to date) that four-wheel motorsport featured at the event.
Again, Rallycross Supercars were on the bill and again Scott Speed was the victor, taking his third gold medal in as many years, and giving the Volkswagen Beetle its first rallycross win.
Unlike in previous years, the 2015 X Games Rallycross competition didn’t form part of that year’s GRC season, allowing for a modified race format with six cars in the final rather than the then-regular 10.
The heats claimed a number of big names like Ken Block and Travis Pastrana, but the final was still brimmed with big names with Brian Deegan, Andreas Bakkerud, Sebastian Eriksson, Steve Arpin and Tanner Foust all lining up alongside Speed.
Deegan forced his way past Speed into turn one as Eriksson swung round the outside of both to lead early on in the 10-lap contest.
Speed had to fend off pressure from Deegan and Bakkerud – who lost a wheel in a botched passing attempt – which allowed Eriksson to build a comfortable lead out in front.
Eriksson taking an early joker handed Speed the lead. Speed was yet to take the alternate route, but the clear air at the front allowed him to make up the time. Meanwhile Eriksson continued to fall back after sustaining a puncture.
That puncture all but guaranteed Speed the last X Games rallycross gold medal ahead of Arpin who, despite closing in on Speed, ultimately didn’t have enough time to get by. Eriksson, despite racing for four of the 10 laps with just three tires, held on for the bronze medal.