LOS ANGELES -- Travis Pastrana used cunning strategy to get the best rally driver in the world, eight-time defending world champion Sébastien Loeb of France, to compete at this year's X Games. But because of a controversial crash in his first RallyCross heat Sunday, Pastrana never got to race him. Instead, Pastrana watched from the sideline, seething, as Loeb dominated the wild 10-car final and won the gold medal.
The day began with Pastrana grabbing the holeshot in his qualifying heat, but as he braked for the first turn, X Games rookie Andy Scott -- a 58-year-old commercial scallop fisherman from Scotland -- rammed him into a concrete wall. The impact all but totaled Pastrana's Dodge Dart.
"What the hell was that, dude?" Pastrana shouted while still in his car after the wreck. "We've got the fastest car on the track, and the first turn of the first race? You've got to be kidding me!"
For a while it appeared Pastrana, a two-time Rally Car Racing gold medalist, might unseat his teammate on the Dodge team, Bryce Menzies, and drive Menzies' car for the rest of the day. But unlike other sanctioning bodies, X Games rules require each driver to finish the day in the same car he started in. Menzies was promptly eliminated in his last-chance qualifier.
"This is our big event, and to have someone take it from me is devastating," said Pastrana, who T-boned the wall and lost a bronze medal in last year's RallyCross final while driving with a broken foot. "I always say create your own luck, but when you're on the inside and you get the holeshot, you brake at the point where everyone has braked all day for the corner and someone decides to come in and not brake, that's a devastating way to end what could've been a fantastic week for the team."
In the final, Loeb's Citroen car rocketed out front for the holeshot, and he drove a perfect six laps thereafter, coasting to victory ahead of silver medalist Ken Block. Block ran the last three laps with a flat rear tire that left him turning and accelerating on a bare metal rim at times. He finished more than 12 seconds after Loeb. Defending champion Brian Deegan claimed bronze, .42 of a second behind his Ford Fiesta teammate Block.
"It's great to have Seb here," Block said, "but I knew him coming here meant one thing: that he'd be near the top of the podium, which is the way it is."
Loeb's victory was the 73rd rally win of his career. The previous 72 came on the World Rally Championship circuit, which stages off-road races in 13 countries. He'd never competed in North America or raced in a RallyCross event. Only after Pastrana challenged him through their mutual sponsor, Red Bull, did Loeb agree to enter the X Games. "You're the best in the world," Pastrana told Loeb via video. "I want to race you."
Loeb responded with a clip of his own, saying, "Don't worry, I will be there, and I will do everything to try and beat you."
Pastrana was traveling at more than 60 mph when he braked into the first turn of his heat. If he'd won the heat, he would've received inside position for the final, setting him up nicely to challenge Loeb. Scott never gave him the chance.
"We were pushing hard to the first corner, and obviously I misjudged the brake," Scott, who was disqualified from Heat 4 but allowed to race in the last-chance qualifier, said later. "I came on the brakes, then backed off the brakes, and then at that point Travis came on the brakes, and I hit him from behind. There was absolutely no intention to take Travis out. I shook Travis' hand before the race and said, 'Let's have a clean one.'"
Sunday's race was missing Finnish driver Marcus Grönholm, who figured to challenge Loeb for the win but instead missed the event because of injury. The two-time world champion and current Global RallyCross Championship points leader smashed a lightpost on Saturday, knocking him unconscious. He sustained some bleeding on his brain but was alert and talking and had full limb mobility Sunday morning.
"We know it's a high level event and I'm really pleased to win," Loeb said after his victory, "but maybe my main rival, Marcus Grönholm, wasn't able to race. I'm just happy he's OK."
Keith Hamm also contributed to this report.