Multi-talented thrill-seekers: Global Rallycross drivers tear it up at 2015 X Games

Last year, Subaru invited Digital Trends to get an up-close look at Global Rallycross (GRC) at the X Games as well as meet one of its sponsored drivers, Travis Pastrana.

While in the paddock, we tracked down some other stars of Rally Team USA who were competing in Austin to ask about what pieces of technology they use in their daily lives.

We were lucky enough to return this year, and I came prepared with a new set of questions to ask the pilots of these 550-plus horsepower, all-wheel drive, drift-tastic machines…and no, it wasn’t, “can I get a ride?”

Instead, my interest lay in how drivers felt about the future of Rallycross and what got them most fired up about their current racecars. One could argue a big factor in the appeal of the GRC is flame-spitting, gas-powered engines, so I first asked whether the series would still be fun if it went electric. Not to overlook the amazing engineering that goes into current GRC cars, I followed up by asking what thrills drivers most when they strap in for a race. As a bonus, I sought the drivers’ creativity: “If you were invincible for one day, what would you do?”

Here’s what they had to say:

Bucky Lasek (Team USA – Subaru Rally Team):

Bucky has had an incredible career as a professional skateboarder, pioneering some of the world’s best tricks and taking big risks for high rewards. Even at 43, he is pushing his body to the extremes in skating, and now in Rallycross. While other drivers may have more racing experience, Bucky has consistently proved how talented he is behind the wheel of a 2015 Subaru WRX STI sedan. Most importantly, Bucky has made it clear that he’ll endure necessary sacrifices to make racing a priority.

Just before he jumped into his car for the first heat of the GRC race, I grabbed Bucky for my rapid-fire questions. He expressed how he’d be open to electric racing, as long as the battery power lasted the whole race. As for his current setup, the Ohlins suspension was his favorite feature, soaking up even the harshest parts of the track. Knowing Bucky had little fear, if any, of extreme sports, I can’t say I’m surprised that he wanted gold in all events if given a day of invincibility. Bucky had a great day of racing in Austin, advancing to the last chance qualifier heat, finishing just one position away from the finals.

Travis Pastrana (Team USA – Subaru Rally Team):

Travis seems to embody joy and positivity; it’s impossible to be anything but happy around him. And that means extreme sports fans can’t help but love him. The Nitro Circus star has done some phenomenal things on a dirt bike, and his skill at the helm of a 2014 Subaru WRX STI hatch GRC car is nothing but thrilling to watch. Keeping with the theme of multi-talented athletes, Travis competed in the new Offroad Truck Racing series the very next day.

As Travis babysat his two little girls post-race, I posed my questions. Travis was probably the most apprehensive about electric-powered Rallycross racing; he said he’d miss the sounds and smells of a petrol engine. However, he’s a big fan of electric bikes, where quiet motors mean competing or just having fun on two wheels can happen anywhere without upsetting the neighborhood.

As for his current car, Travis loves the competent all-wheel drive system in his WRX STI. Finally, an invincible Pastrana would live life like he was in a video game, trying things without consequences (which if you’ve ever watched him compete, isn’t far off reality). His caveat to that wish, though, is that he wouldn’t want to stay invincible permanently, because that would diminish the thrill of a risky move.

Tanner Foust (Team USA – Volkswagen/Andretti):

Tanner is easily one of the most experienced Rallycross drivers, having won three championships and four X-Games gold medals. His 2015 Volkswagen Beetle GRC has been tuned to perfection and his skills behind the wheel are hard to match.

I caught up with Tanner after his race, where he earned a spot in the finals, and though he was moved to the back of the pack after a penalty, he had a phenomenal showing in Austin. Tanner shared Bucky’s willingness to experiment with electric cars, admitting that the insane amounts of torque from electric motors would easily best current gas-powered vehicles. As for his present vehicle, Tanner praised the Beetle’s brakes, but it was the surging acceleration during launches that impressed him most. I also loved his answer to the final question; driving off a cliff and skydiving halfway down seems like the best possible use of a day’s dose of invincibility.

At weekend’s end, I was impressed by athletes like Bucky, Tanner, and Travis who not only have mastered Rallycross racing, but who additionally juggle entirely different sports, motorsport series’, and entertainment careers successfully. It’s no wonder each driver is excited about their future in Global Rallycross; GRC offers a platform for talented athletes of all backgrounds to trade paint, drift every corner, and exercise the limits of motorsport engineering, ten minutes at a time.

A big thank you to Subaru and Subaru Rally Team USA for letting me soak up its drivers’s passion and for providing some stunning images from the X Games GRC event.