X-Games Rally: Watch It, Bub, Or Else

If you're a resident of the US into car racing even a little, I hope you'll do us a favor. Please Watch X-Games Rally this weekend. It's airing this Sunday on ABC, wedged into a three-hour block that'll be dominated by skateboarding. Normally we'd recommend waiting for the YouTube clips of Travis Pastrana doing whatever he'll end up doing in a Subaru (not to mention on a dirt bike), but not this time. Rally needs you, and you only get one a one-hour shot each year to tell big media you want more of it.

Over in Europe, they love their rallying, which — lest you thought it had something to do with ex-basketball stars fishtailing through East Texas in leased Lamborghinis — is the chosen sport for some of the most well-turned drivers in the motoring universe. Each season, in far-off lands with names like Jyväskylä and Porto Cervo and Lagoa Azul, drivers head out on challenging courses along country lanes, tamped down over a hard, angst-ridden millennium by firewood carts. Fans line up along 14th century stone walls, or form micro-crowds scant feet from dusty paths on which high-powered cars scream by at astounding speeds. There's no understating these fans' commitment to the sport. As happens when cars top 100 miles per hour on gravel, matters can go a bit pear-shaped without warning. There are no barriers, beer vendors or infields packed with RVs and barbecue grills to keep critical injuries from extending beyond those inside the cars.


If this is news to you, you'll likely be unaware that we have rallying here in the land of the oval track. Rallies happen in Washington and Pennsylvania and Maine, and other such places were trees outnumber people millions to one. Since the SCCA pulled out of stage rallying, the best hope for the sport in the US is Rally America, whose events ESPN2 deigned to air. There's little participation from manufacturers other than sponsor Subaru, compared to larger racing events. Mostly, it's the domain of hard-working, independent teams dragging their cars from town to town. Including rally in the X-Games was particularly clever of ESPN; a media-synergy trick to attract new eyeballs for its Rally America coverage.

So let the cart lead the horse, if that's what it takes. Check out the logos plastered across Los Angeles's Home Depot Center, and patronize the businesses they signify. Watch Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom go for the gold again. See international champ Colin McRae try to win the crowd with another of his cunning stunts. See fortysomething Nascar fill-in Boris Said lend his well-earned cred to the still-lightweight event. Don't blink, or you may miss it all.


The only hope for rallying in the US is to shoehorn it into the existing extreme-sports paradigm. If you watch this year, good things may happen. If not, the American rally scene will be stillborn as a media draw, and ultimately won't survive outside online file sharing. Don't watch for the sake of ESPN (or ABC or Disney), do it for car racing. We need more of it.

Skateboard Vert, Skateboard Street Men's, Rally
Sunday, August 5, 3:00-6:00 PM (ET) on ABC

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I've seen one of the earlier Rally America highlight shows on ESPN2. Well worth Tivo-ing.

Incidentally, I traded emails with the Director of Motor Sports Programming at ESPN, Frantz R. Cayo, regarding WRC coverage this year. Basically, ESPN isn't sure if there is enough audiance for rallying to pay the price for North American WRC broadcast rights. So if any of you have a Neilson box in your house, make sure it's tuned to your local ABC affiliate.

Polite, constructive emails supporting Rally American and WRC broadcasts should be directed to Franz R Cayo at espn dot com (make sure you put . between the parts of Mr. Cayo's name)