X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

If Portland's going to totally rip off "Keep Austin Weird," I'm going to put a bird on things. Rally Chicken, to be exact. And by "things," I mean the entire Global Rallycross paddock at the X Games. Rally Chicken's a dirty, dirty bird.

Thursday, Ford held a media preview event to let us tinker with a few of their new production vehicles and give us a tour of the Olsbergs MSE Global Rallycross and GRC Lites paddock.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Team Principal Andreas Eriksson was a gracious host and showed us around the GRC paddock as the team was performing service after the first practice of the X Games weekend.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Carbon fiber bodies? 560 bhp and stupid amounts of torque? The ability to go sideways whenever you darn well please?

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Suspension travel that would make the chunked-out travesties the northeast calls "roads" bearable?

Yes. Yes, please. Do want.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

So, naturally, Rally Chicken sat on a few of these cars.

Blame the presence of a boyfriend whatchamacallit for the fact that my stuffed bird is "Rally Chicken." He, while teaching a NASA Rally Lab last year, noticed Fluffy Bunny as I was about to stick it in the back seat of my loaner beater for the day.

"I have a Puffalump, too! Actually, I have a few..."

This is how we met: talking about 1980s stuffed animals after I launched Brianne Corn's daily driver in the air several times. (What? I had permission.)

Moral of the story: have Puffalumps, get ladies. Or, launch cars in the air, get dudes. Whatever. Something like that.

He has the same chicken (don't call it a duck—WE DON'T LIKE THAT), so my stuffed bird of indeterminate species (never mind the webbed feet; we're not calling it a duck) is now Rally Chicken.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Everything about the Global Rallycross cars was customized for one purpose: to go around a tight mixed-surface course as quickly as possible.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

The engine was pushed back a bit for better weight distribution. Huge fans were added for better cooling. Huge turbos are there for more whee. Anything that could be made of carbon fiber was.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

The rocker panels take a bit more abuse than anything else, so these panels were a tad rougher and thicker than the other parts.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

The brakes are far from stock, too.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

The GRC Lites cars are almost cooler than the cars for the series they're supporting. While they only have 310 horsepower and are all identical, they're also mid-engined.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Huge bars underneath the front keep them from getting too damaged on the tight GRC courses.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

The course for X Games Austin is particularly tight, especially at one corner of the dirt section. I predict carnage. Sucks to be the reassembly guy, but hooray for whoever sells them all carbon fiber bits.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Every trailer for the GRC teams was impeccably organized. (I want one of these trailers for 944 parts SO MUCH.)

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

After the tour, we got to putter around the part of Circuit of the Americas that wasn't in use for the X Games in a few of Ford's new production vehicles.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

I keep whining about about needing a tow vehicle for the LeMons 944. Thus, I had to try out the F250, just to silence everyone who's been telling me to trade the Lancer in on a big ol' truck. It was hilariously floaty on the small autocross-like section on the track that Ford had set up, but significantly more stable and less utterly terrifying than my parents' '94 Explorer. Trucks have come a long way, baby.

The interior of the King Ranch F250 is far nicer than my apartment, and almost just as roomy. There's leather on everything. It's genuinely a pleasant place to sit, and a comfortable place to ride.

Still, the bit of lag time between turning the wheel and feeling the truck lean into the direction you actually want it to go means that I'd probably be pretty unhappy daily driving something that large and unwieldy, even if it meant I'd never have to beg friends with tow vehicles to take the 944 racecar anywhere ever again. The Lancer stays in the picture until I have another small, fun car to replace it.

I wish I could've given it a more relevant test to what I'd want to do with it, like driving an Autobianchi straight into the bed, but alas, we only got a handful of laps.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Confession time: I'd never driven a Mustang before. Mom almost got me a late-nineties model as a first car, but decided that a new Grand Am (complete with a warranty for stupid things a kid would break) would be a better bet. Me, though? Nope, never driven one. Time to fix that.

The Mustang was surprisingly floaty for what it was. I suppose they know their market with the 5.0: mid-life-crisis farts who want a comfortable, retro couch on wheels to pretend they're twenty-something again.

This twenty-something was a bit shocked that the Mustang had a softer suspension than my poor, abused Lancer (...that probably needs new struts again, grr). I suppose people like me are the reason there are more track-oriented versions out there, along with a healthy aftermarket of full-tracktard suspension bits.

All things considered, though, that engine sounded glorious, but there was too much insulation to really enjoy the noise. I cracked a window to remedy this and giggled a bit every time I was at wide-open throttle. Less noise insulation and stiffer suspension would make this car exponentially more awesome.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

There was one vehicle I really didn't want to give back, though: the Fiesta ST.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

I really liked the Fiesta when I got the Lancer, but the interior button layout was confusing, the seats had no lateral support to the point where they felt like glorified barstools, and the only ones available when my parents said "we're getting rid of your hooptie today or else" were in boring colors and had the hideous, hideous trunk. This is a car that is designed to be a cute little peanut. Tacking a trunk on that shape is an utter travesty.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

This car in particular was everything that I wanted four years ago. The seats on the ST were replaced with nice buckets. As much as I loathe screens in cars, having a screen in the middle of the dashboard meant that the utterly nonsensical "we heard millennials like cell phones, so we dropped some acid while doing the interior design and put some angled phone-style buttons on the dashboard" layout was gone. It was even in the green I wanted back in the day when all the available cars were black.

And dagnabbit, it was a manual, and stupidly easy to get going due to its tiny size and weight.

As long as it didn't share the same impossible to defeat traction control with the Focus SE rental I had last year (which annoyingly surprise!-turned back on when I was goofing around on a wet track), I'd say it's a winner. I didn't have enough time in the car to check for that, though, and unfortunately, they wouldn't let me steal it to go play in the dirt.

The Mustang had a nice, obvious traction control off button in the center console. If that means it's completely disabled, all things ST need that button.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Final verdict: I want one of these Fiestas. The GRC one. Haha.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

So, here, enjoy some more photos of Rally Chicken hanging out with the GRC drivers.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Chickens add horsepower: fact.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Fortunately, Rally Chicken can't drive.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Carbon fiber all the things.

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

X Games Austin Preview: Put A Bird On It

Both Global Rallycross and GRC Lites race on Saturday, June 7: GRC Lites at 10:30 a.m. CDT and Global Rallycross at 12:30 a.m., all times CDT.