In arguably the biggest upset of X Games 17, British driver Liam Doran dominated heavy favorite Marcus Grönholm of Finland to win the Rally Racing gold medal Saturday. Doran swept the best-of-three final with ease, snatching the holeshot both times and driving a surprisingly precise race given his reputation as one of the world's most physical drivers.
"I didn't even leave him a chance, I did him in two," Doran said moments after the final. "I can't say it was easy, it definitely wasn't easy. These guys are the best guys in the world and this has to be one of the toughest rally competitions ever. I still can't believe it, to be honest."
David Higgins of the Isle of Man beat defending champ Tanner Foust in the bronze-medal race, making it an all-European podium. This was the first year Europe's top drivers had made the trip to Los Angeles to compete in the X Games -- all three podium finishers were X rookies -- marking a coup for the sport, which is wildly popular in Europe.
The final featured two drivers with vastly different styles and backgrounds: the 43-year-old Grönholm, a two-time world champion, is known for taking perfect lines and rarely allowing his competition room to pass, while Doran, a brash 24-year-old who comes from a rally racing family, is the sport's equivalent of a bruising fullback. In the end, he never needed room to pass because his Citroen rocketed past Grönholm's Ford off the start line both times. When Higgins' Subaru topped Foust's Ford for bronze, it put three different manufacturers on the podium.
"It should have been gold," Grönholm said after the final. "I'm not so happy with my driving and setup today. I was missing a good start. I couldn't do so much more. The Citroen just pulled away and then it's difficult to pass, quite difficult. We need to find something in the car."
This year marked the debut of a new course through the streets of downtown L.A., a tight-cornered venue that promises to challenge Sunday's RallyCross drivers even more. On Saturday, car troubles plagued a number of drivers, as Pat Moro, Ken Block and Michael Jernberg failed to make their starts in round one. Brian Deegan, last year's double silver medalist in Rally, broke down moments after getting off the line.
"The car just basically broke," Deegan said. "It's too much power going through these engines."