X Games 17 will see new, top-level European competitors in the Rally Car mix this month in LA. These event rookies are sure to give defending double-gold medalist Tanner Foust and 2010's double-silver medalist Brian Deegan a run for their money.
New to the field from the top of the European Rallycross ranks are Liam Doran, a young and talented British driver who has been fighting Foust tooth and nail in Europe this year, and Michael Jernberg, a veteran who turned up in the U.S. and has repeatedly shown the younger drivers how it's done.
Jernberg picked up and left European competition after losing his factory backing and has been running his powerful and nimble ex-factory Skoda in the U.S. Global RallyCross Championship in 2011. The Skoda Fabia, almost comically small in a sport replete with small cars, is fast and handles exceptionally well.
Doran is expected to compete in a class-of-the-field Citroen C4 that's recently been given a Monster livery refresh, due to a new sponsorship from the energy drink. Loud, brash and the consummate showman, the 24-year-old Doran has a win-or-go-home attitude with a flat-out, aggressive style. (Check out his insane driving tactics here).
The Englishman will take any competitive advantage he can and isn't shy about bashing doors. He and Foust have developed a rivalry in Europe that is verging on unfriendly, and any match-up between the two will produce sparks.
As far as pure driving goes, though, it's another European who is the biggest threat for the X Games podium. Two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm will be driving a Ford Fiesta, and he will be competitive. He won three of the four events he's contested in the United States so far this year. His lone loss came against Foust in head-to-head competition. The last World Rally Champion in the X Games field was the late, great Colin McRae, who considered Grönholm a major rival when they were both at the top of their game.