Event Coverage: Carnage at X Games 18 Rallycross
by June Masermsin
Those of you who have been attending and/or following X Games since 1995 will know that ESPN developed Extreme Games in 1995, but later renamed it X Games in 1996. X Games is an event that first featured the world’s best action sports athletes competing in a variety of summer-based competitions. It wasn’t until 2006 that Rally Car Racing made its first appearance on the scene. Last July at X Games 17 RallyCross and SuperRally quickly became one of the most spectacular and wildest events in the X lineup thanks to its prime location – a dusty stadium in the middle of the streets of Los Angeles! If you attended X Games 18 last weekend you know the venue at LA Live was crazy. Creating the racetrack required the closing of three main streets in downtown Los Angeles smack in the middle of the busiest week of the summer. But it's all worth it, as nothing beats the fascinating sights created by rally cars flying through the air with the Staples Center as the backdrop.
This year's X Games Los Angeles 2012 heated up right from the start! On Friday during the practice runs, Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen came up short on the gap jump and was injured suffering abdominal injuries. He crashed head-on into the metal jump ramp which then dropped the car upside-down into the gap on the RallyCross course. Needless to say, Heikkinen did not compete in Sunday’s final due to major damage to the front of his Ford Fiesta. Jump practice was canceled immediately after his crash due to extensive clean up needed after some fluids from the car caught on fire. Heikkinen was able to crawl out of his car after the crash and was immediately treated for a left ankle injury and abdominal pain. Heikkinen was then taken to the hospital for further examination of his head, abdomen, pelvis, chest and back.
Later on another crash took out two-time World Rally Champion rally driver Marcus Gronholm. After Gronholm cleared the metal jump ramp, his front suspension broke causing his car to veer into the track wall, collide into an exposed concrete light post base and spin completely around before finally coming to a complete stop. Gronholm was breathing, but losing consciousness from the impact and we could clearly hear that his his foot was still resting on the accelerator . His mechanical team rushed out to the battered rally car to try and pry him free and shut the car off, but they were unable to get the driver's door open. The EMT team and firefighters arrived shortly after and had to solicit the services of the “jaws of life” in order to cut the roof off to get to Gronholm. Soon after the two-time WRC driver was pulled from his rally car he was transported to a nearby hospital in Los Angeles for assessments of his injuries.
Qualifying resumed shortly after the incident, though the field of drivers was split in wanting safety changes to the course. Many of the drivers were hesitant to race until the course was changed, while the rest continued with their practice runs.