Saturday, June 30, 2012


Video of Heikkinen's crash by Formula Photographic

Los Angeles, California.  Crashing out in spectacular style during jump practice yesterday, Toomas Heikkinen came up short on the gap jump and ended up going head on into the the massive metal structure that has replaced the dirt jump of years past at X Games.

There were several tense moments directly after the impact as the car lay on its roof after falling in the the gap and flames broke out in the engine compartment of Heikkinen's Fiesta. Toomas managed to free himself from his belts and was crawling from his car as the X Games medical crew and LAFD came to his rescue.

After a full examination and CT Scan it was determined that the biggest extent if his injurys was confined to his ankle. "They are doing the surgery for my left ankle because it is in 15 pieces...Nothing in my neck,back or stomach so nothing that serious. Thanks for supporting everyone!!!!!" Heikkinen told his fans via Facebook.

Watching the hard impact, it truly is a testament to the safety equipment and build of his Olsbergs Ford Fiesta.  We don't expect to see Toomas pull a Travis Pastrana and return to action on Sunday with hand controls; the young Finn should be very thankful to limp away from this one.

The question now becomes how much will Heikkinen's accident affect the confidence of the other drivers, if at all? Ken Block, Tanner Foust and most of the other competing drivers with the notable exception of Sebastien Loeb had all taken several passes on the gap jump prior to Heikkinen's big moment.

Will the danger element of the jump have Citroen and Loeb rethinking his appearance in X Games?

For the most part, the RallyCross layout at X Games 18 is very similar to last year with two major differences. As mentioned, the all dirt gap jump has now been replaced with the monster metal structure that caught out Hekkinen.  Also, to mix things up a bit, the course will be run in the opposite direction this year.

This will also be the first time that drivers competing in the 2012 Global RallyCross Championship will be faced with a dirt/gravel section in the course, an element that is a staple of true RallyCross competition, but was just to difficult to put in place at the NASCAR tracks the GRC is using in 2012.

With such an impressive showing this season from Marcus Gronholm and Tanner Foust they are clearly the favorites for gold heading into Sunday's compitition. But, it will not be the cake walk they "mostly" enjoyed to date in the first two rounds of the 2012 GRC.

The X Games RallyCross course configuration will take some of the straight line speed advantage away from the Olsbergs Fiesta which seemed impossible to catch on the long straights in Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways.

Rally fans from around the world will tune in via ESPN, or witness live the much anticipated debut of 8-time, World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb in this his first appearance at X Games RallyCross. Well, that is if the Citroen bosses don't deem the metal jump to much of a risk for their star driver.

Sebastien will pilot a specially built Citroën Racing DS3, a much different animal from what he contestests in on the WRC. The car was developed by Hansen MotorSport in conjunction with Citroen Racing. This will be the first time that a Citroen DS3 has raced in the USA.

From what we know this will be the first time that Loeb has tried his hand at RallyCross. Although Sebastien has dominated in the WRC, this is an all new game to the French ace. Loeb will be without his trusty sidekick Daniel Elena calling the notes and, despite taking many, many massive jumps on the stages of the WRC, after yesterday's incident the metal gap jump will surly be on his mind.

Much like Marcus, Loeb is almost surgicial in his driving.  He rarely ever puts a tire wrong.  We fully expect he will qualify in the top three and if he can get that much needed jump off the line in the heats, he will be hard to track down. But, if he can't get the jump on the field, it will be interesting to see how he handles the bumping and grinding door-to-door action we fully expect to see on Sunday.

The Citroen brand will also be represented by British driver Liam Doran. Liam will contest the same Monster Energy Citroën C4 SuperCar that he drove to X Games gold in 2011. But Loeb should not be expecting any love from his fellow Citroen driver.  Liam is a take no prisoners kind of guy, he would happily apply the front bumper to Loeb should he gets in his way.

Ken Block, in the Monster World Rally Team For Fiesta, will be hoping to get the monkey off his back and get his 2012 RallyCross program on track. Block had very disappointing outings in both Charlotte and Texas. Ken, who has competed in X Games Rally since its inclusion in 2006 has collected a few medals along the way, but that exclusive X Games Gold has eluded Block to date.  Will this be his year? As always expect a balls-to-the-wall effort from Mr.Block come Sunday.

Travis, Travis, Travis.  For a driver who is a 4-time Rally America Champion and collected X Games Rally gold medals in 2006 and 2008, Pastrana is currently struggling of late in the Global RallyCross Championship. Granted, the 2013 Dodge Dart is an all out beast for Pastrana, but he has yet to find that finesse he showed in the Subaru as he mastered stage rally. But, as we all know, X Games is "the house that Travis Pastrana built" and we have seen on more than one occasion that Travis seems event more determined and steps up his game at X ever year. Need we mention a the hand controls of 2011 again? Let's hope that Travis can find his form this weekend, otherwise his drive with Dodge for RallyCross could very well be in question.

Travis will be joined in a second Red Bull Dodge Dart by Bryce Menzies. Although Bryce is excelling in off road truck racing, as far as we can tell, he has never driven a RallyCross car prior to these X Games. The selection of Bryce to drive the second Redbull /Dodge was somewhat of a surprise considering the available talent pool of drivers with solid RallyCross experience that Dodge had to choose from.

The RallyCross cars competing at X Games are a breed  unto themselves in American motor sports.  With anywhere between 400-600 horsepower they are a handful to master. It will be interesting to see how Bryce rises to the challenge.

We will see both of the Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai's compete this weekend on the streets of Los Angeles. Team principle Rhys Millen has yet to get himself on the RallyCross podium but his new driver for 2012, Stephen Verdier, has already grabbed a podium spot in Charlotte and is currently siting in the top three in points.

Much like Block and Pastrana, the PUMA/Subaru RallyCross Team is also struggling to match the speed of the Ford Fiestas in the opening rounds of the Championship. They are fielding three cars at X Games where we expect to see the strongest push for Subaru coming from the "Viking Warrior" Sverre Isachsen.

Last but not least, the underdogs of Scott Eklund racing.  We would not be at all shocked to see either Andy Scott or Samuel Hubinette with X Games hardware around their necks on Sunday evening. Both Andy and Sam have been very competitive in the past two rounds. But for some mechanical issues with their Saabs, they were on track for a top three finish. The X Games RallyCross competition will air from 3 to 5 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPN.