In most forms of motorsport, getting into a fender bender and continuing the race is considered a bold act of perseverance. Oh, your F1 car bwoke its wittle wingy-wingy and you kept wacing? You're so tough! In rallies, you're expected to keep driving even if you don't have the correct number of wheels remaining on your car. On day two, for instance, Solberg overcooked a corner and smacked the passenger-side rear wheel on a rock, snapping his brake rotor and locking the wheel. Undaunted, he kept driving, his three active wheels dragging the crippled corner along in a cloud of blue smoke. Back in the Subaru pits, I ask a mechanic how long Solberg drove in this condition, and he casually replies, "About five kilometers." The magnesium BBS wheel in question sits nearby--or at least, about 75 percent of it does. The rest has been converted into a three-mile skid mark on a Spanish B road. Do I even need to say how awesome that is?
Solberg's teammate, former F1 driver Stephane Sarrazin, one-ups him by going off into a field, which is promptly ignited by the hot exhaust, creating a special Impreza WRC Cajun Style. As Solberg later dryly observed, "He did a burnout properly--there was nothing left."
I've always considered the World Rally Championship a quintessentially European pursuit, like soccer or not showering, but now I'm of a different mind. Think about it: Be-neath the veneer of foreignness (What's a Citron Xsara? Who the hell is Sven Smeet?) lie qualities that are near and dear to the American heart. Rallying involves camping, drinking beer in the woods, and watching four-wheel-drive vehicles rip past wicked fast. As sophisticated as a rally car is, the rally experience is brilliantly basic. At the end of the last stage of the Catalunya rally, someone asked me what I did that day, and I replied, truthfully, "I sat on a rock and watched cars drive past at high speed."
I'll be keenly interested in how rallying is received at the X-Games, because I'd love to see this work here, with a Yankee twist. Imagine muscle cars set up for rallying--Ford Mustangs, Pontiac GTOs, and Dodge Chargers, looking mostly stock, pitching sideways on dirt roads while the roar of barely muffled V-8s echoes throughout the forest, twin cascades of gravel shooting from beneath locked differentials, gloriously executed power oversteer ratcheting the crowd into a frenzy. I'd like to thank Maya Angelou for writing that last sentence. And I'd like to thank the Dukes of Hazzard franchise for proving the business case for rear-wheel-drive V-8 dirt-road hooliganism.
Even if you're really wearing a Thomas Pink shirt underneath your Carhartt jacket, the au courant thing to be is a hick. Every Bubba wants to be a more gooder old boy than the next, and what's more down-home than driving real fast on public dirt roads? Not only that, but rally cars clearly are related to ones you can buy at the actual dealership. NASCAR, with its fancy-pants tube-frame racing cars and insistence on "pavement" and "tracks," looks like a bourgeois sport for the liberal elite by comparison. I dream of a United States where, instead of packing into grandstands and parking lots, fans of America's most popular motorsport pack their tents in their pickups and drive out to their favorite hollers to watch the real best drivers in the world do their thing.