The head to head action on Friday was incredible. How could it possibly get better? Easy, just add a few more cars per round into the mix. Fender to fender rally cars, traveling at ridiculous speeds through a narrow, twisting course with big jumps thrown in for good measure. Yup…that ought to do it. And the fine talent on hand for Saturday’s action delivered.
As per usual, the Fords were flawless for most of the afternoon. Marcus Grönholm brought his ‘A’ game (does he even have a “B” game?); and Tanner and Deegan were close behind. Rhys Millen seemed to have shaken off the gremlins and his Veloster looked to be in peak form, as he moved steadily through the rounds on his way to the final. Stephan Verdier was, well…Stephan Verdier. Fast and fluid, as per usual. The more I watch Stephan, the more I understand his greatness. Drives unnervingly fast, really nice person, and oh yeah, he still works on his own car after every round. THAT, my friends, is the definition of “cool”.
Other favorites included Michael Jernberg and David Higgins. Both would fare well in the preliminary rounds and make it to the eight car final. Yes…eight car final is what I said. Pure rally car madness. Eight cars, two rows deep, throwing down for top honors and a chance to be invited to the X-Games. The action was incredible and I was on the edge of my seat for the duration. With Marcus Grönholm leaving the pack in his (considerable) dust, a grind-it-out battle ensued for second. And to the amazement of the spectators, and probably the drivers alike, it came right down to the last turn and even the last few inches.
A race so spectacular and contact laden, that the results wouldn’t be known for some time. When the dust finally settled, we still didn’t know anything. There was a celebration, changes in the final decision, a podium ceremony, and then more decision/indecision. Honestly, I didn’t know the official results until I watched the program on ESPN two and a half weeks later.
Since the crews were extremely busy, as were the drivers, I didn’t get a chance to speak with anyone Saturday. I did get a chance to play photographer, though. So please check out the gallery for my point of view of the days activities.