With the months of planning, on-the-ground preparation and millions of dollars that go into an X Games RallyCross race, it's easy to forget that every event still exists at the mercy of the ultimate race director: Mother Nature.
Fans, drivers, organizers and television viewers were reminded of this the hard way last month at X Games Barcelona, when the highly anticipated RallyCross competition was canceled due to heavy rain on race day. The event will be made up in Munich as part of a rare doubleheader on the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) series calendar.
The attempt to stage the Sunday afternoon race in Spain encompassed every available resource, to no avail. Beginning at 10 p.m. local time Saturday, heavy equipment operators in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium transformed what had been a Moto X Freestyle course into a rally course. Construction ran into the next day and concluded just as the rain began.
Race director Joey Mancari monitored radar feeds high in the stadium and stayed in constant communication with GRC president Brian Gale, as well as officials from ESPN and the local organizing committee. But the rain continued for hours, limiting the antsy drivers to a few feeble practice laps on the ever-softening course.
When the downpour finally abated late in the afternoon, Mancari et al estimated it would take two to three hours to prepare the track for racing -- a task they were willing to undertake, even if it meant racing at night for a television-only audience. They began moving their equipment onto the mud to commence those efforts. Then the rain began anew.
After a demoralizing, last-ditch conversation, ESPN, the GRC and local organizers had no choice but to call off the race.
"It was raining so hard and the conditions had deteriorated so fast that we couldn't even get our Ford F-150 four-wheel-drive safety response vehicles out on the track," Gale said. "So we couldn't have a race because if someone had an accident, we couldn't respond to it."
In the wake of the cancellation, Gale said he heard grumbling that racers should have been prepared with specialized tires designed to rip through the high clay-content mud in the stadium. But that wasn't a problem, he said.
"Our tires are molded so we can cut different tread patterns into them," Gale said. "We allow teams to cut a rain pattern into the tires, and we could've even gotten more aggressive with that if it made sense. But in that stadium environment, where there was no drainage -- and that's a big problem, the water just sat there in the clay and it dumped hard, fast -- there was no chance in the end."
Loyal fans who spent hours sitting in the rain had their tickets refunded. The prize purse will be disbursed in Munich. Still, the sting of so much effort going for naught lingers.
"It's like going into a Super Bowl and losing in the third overtime," Gale said. "Just exhausting."