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New SuperRally promises chaos for X Games drivers

July 30, 2010 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — No one knows what the first X Games SuperRally auto race will look like, but everyone agrees there will be chaos before any medals are handed out.

“It’s going to be a mess,” driver Tanner Foust said, more with relish than dread.

The X Games is doubling down in its attempt to promote European-style rally car racing in the United States with the new event Saturday inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

It features a dozen teams in heats that pit four small stock cars at a time racing head-to-head over dirt, gravel and huge jumps instead of the two-at-a-time, race-against-the-clock format of most rally car racing.

“What rally has always lacked is the head-to-head, the kind of thing that makes NASCAR so great,” said Travis Pastrana, who won his 10th X Games gold Thursday night in Moto X Freestyle and is competing in four events at the games.

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Foust said the SuperRally racing style would not be foreign to Europeans.

“It’s very similar, almost identical, to a type of racing that’s been going on since the 60s in Europe, called the European Rallycross Championship,” Foust said.

This year Foust has been driving on that European Rallycross circuit — where 600-horsepower cars go from zero-to-60 in two seconds — in preparation for the new X Games.

“They’re freaking insane over there,” Faust said. “The European guys that drive them are always pissed off all the time, because there’s just so much crashing and there’s jumping and sliding.”

But despite his experience with the format, Foust said he thinks the advantage may go to his Rockstar etnies teammate Brian Deegan and Pastrana, former motocross racers who are used to vying for position and tangling with other vehicles.

Pastrana agrees.

“I’ve always said rally car is motocross with roll bars,” Pastrana said. “But this is motocross with roll bars.”

Deegan, the freestyle motocross star who finished fourth last year in his rally racing debut and rarely drives the cars, thinks he’ll feel right at home at the Coliseum.

“This fits more of what I’m used to, going out there and bashing,” said Deegan.

Deegan, 35, is a pioneer in freestyle motocross and founder of the Metal Mulisha motocross team and culture and merchandise empire.

He has history at the Coliseum. He won his first supercross race there in the 1990s and ghost-rode his bike across the finish line, a moment he likes to call “the birth of freestyle motocross.”

He has recently moved from two to four-wheeled vehicles, racing trucks in the Lucas Oil off-road series.

Deegan said he’s a little worried that regular rally car drivers accustomed to running against the clock will be rattled by the head-to-head competition.

“Hopefully they don’t panic where everyone just ends up not finishing,” Deegan said.

Foust said he has no doubt that several cars won’t finish.

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“It gets to a video-game mentality pretty quick. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of carnage.”

Even the standard X Games Rally Car Racing, which is in its fifth year and will feature most of the same drivers in the same cars as SuperRally, will have a new look as it moves from the part-pavement part-dirt course at the Home Depot Center to a dirt-and-gravel course entirely within the Coliseum.

Foust, 37, of Steamboat, Colo., won gold at the X Games in 2007. He is a racing aficionado and history buff who has drives stunt cars for movies and teaches members of the military how to drive over ice.

He said the Coliseum course will mean very tight lanes and difficult terrain, with a constant struggle against dirt and gravel with no concrete relief like in previous years.

But he said he’s happy to see the stadium returning to its auto racing past.

“Mickey Thompson trucks used to run there,” Foust said. “I should probably be looking at tapes from 1985.”

Pastrana won silver in the regular rally race last year after he crashed into a wall in the final heat. He had won rally car gold in two of the previous three X Games.

He had been slated to compete in a record five events at these X Games, but took off Friday night’s Moto X Best Trick event because of the lingering effects of a broken collarbone, one of countless bones he’s broken through the years.

He also said he wanted to save his strength for the two Saturday races.

“We’ve been working so hard toward this, I wanted to give it all I had,” he said.

The unique and daunting 70-foot gap that drivers will face at the Coliseum should be no huge hassle for Pastrana.

In January he jumped his rally car 269 feet from a pier to a barge in the Long Beach Harbor.

The leap shattered the world record but left all his bones intact.