They made it look like child’s play.
Tanner Foust, a three-time X Games rally car gold medalist who fancies himself as a TV personality, and Greg Tracy, a Hollywood stunt driver who, like Foust, has work in “The Bourne Ultimatum” on his resume, accepted the ultimate kid-proof challenge – the ginormous Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare, set up in a parking lot this afternoon across the street from Staples Center.
A one-and-done sidelight to the X Games’ run in AEG-ville was this six-story recreation of Mattel’s iconic loop the loop track, one originally made for three-inch-long cars for kids with small-scale thrill-seeking budgets.
About 125 tons of orange-painted plywood, held together with screws and prayers, was assembled for the 39-year-old Capistrano Beach resident Foust and the 44-year-old Long Beach native Tracy to get their tires around and, with luck, defy some gravity.
They were each assigned a customized four-cylinder Mitsubishi that, according to the specifications given by Mattel, were AD9 turbocharged with 375 horse power, six-speed manual transmission and 550 pounds of torque.
It probably means they were built not to crash.
The yellow car driven by Foust was tweaked for power. Tracy’s green machine was geared up for speed.
The spectators in the afternoon sun were geeked for something beyond gnarly. No Hollywood CGI affects allowed.
Instead of an old-school start – putting both cars atop a giant kitchen table somewhere near the Hotel Figueroa and letting them slide down a giant dual strip into the mouth of the loop – Foust and Tracy blasted out side-by-side from a standing start.
They sluggishly reached the mandatory 52 mph top speed, but almost appeared as if they were in slow motion. After navigating through the circles of life, they were then required to funnel into a single lane to leap across a gap of about 30 yards.
Foust, who didn’t get much of a jump out of the starting gate, almost didn’t make the final jump either.
About 10 minutes after Tracy was declared the winner, Foust peered over at the edge of the landing ramp and shook his head.
“See those marks?” Foust said as he motioned down. “In most races, you’d be disappointed to be second. I’m just glad to be on this side (of the gap) instead of the other side right now.”
Foust’s car had a tailpipe dragging on the ground, brake fluid leaking out the backside and a severely damaged suspension as his crew drove it away afterward.
Tracy’s car came away with only a smashed-in windshield – the result of him jumping up on the hood to celebrate the victory.
“That was absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” said Tracy.
As they walked to their cars before the event, Tracy and Foust were in a “Right Stuff” kind of strut, channeling John Glenn and Alan Shepard heading into their Mercury space capsules. (Sorry kids, ask grandpa about that reference).
After taking on the force of 7Gs later – equal to having eight fully-loaded spectators sit on their chests as they drove through the loops – they bounced hard into the dirt and dust, breaking quickly enough so that they didn’t make a surprise entrance into the side door of the Hooter’s restaurant down the street on Figueroa.
It was over in less than 20 seconds.
After celebrating the jaw-jarring feat, they were able to slowly walk a victory lap together through the Staples Center and L.A. Live complex to bring their heartbeats down, posing for anyone who whipped out their cellphones.
At one point, Foust asked a cameraman he was walking with to stop, so he could look through his viewfinder to relive what happened. He called Tracy over and they watched together.
“That’s awesome,” Tracy said with a childish laugh.
For what it was worth, the two now share in a Guinness Book of World Record moment. The 60-foot double loop run breaks the mark of 42-feet, 2.69-inches set in China back last September.
“I almost felt my chin hit my lap, I think, when I was in the loop,” said Foust. “It was weird to see him in front of me. All I saw were sparks and dust flying from behind Greg. I felt like I was in a toy.”
Foust, who returns to compete in the RallyCross on Sunday, is toying with the idea of doing again, if asked.
“I wouldn’t recommend driving upside down – it’s probably better if you stick to cars about this big,” he said, holding up his right finger and thumb a couple inches apart.
Why scale back at this point?
== More: A 2003 story about a Hot Wheels exhibit at the Petersen Museum (linked here).