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ESPN X Games Rally car competitor Matthew Johnson languishes in poor economy – despite early invitation, he struggles to find funding to compete at ESPN’s premier action sports event, X Games 15, in Los Angeles next week, and he looks at eBay as an option.

Following an impressive 9th place finish in the prestigious international Rally of Nations in Leon, Mexico two weeks ago, American rally driver Matthew Johnson reached an impasse. With no agreements for support and having borrowed money for diesel fuel needed to get his box truck and rally car across the country from New Jersey to LA, it was time to get creative – or get on eBay. “It’s every driver’s dream to compete at X Games in Los Angeles – we’ve got a golden ticket, and we’re sitting on the east coast and can’t get there,” said Johnson.

Matthew has been rallying for years in premier Rally America Series, and placed 6th at X Games last year – good enough to be on the early invite list. “Last year we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare the car, it was very close to what we were competing in the Rally America series in. This year, RalliSpec has put a ton of work into building a car that is very specific to the X Games race, the mixture of tarmac and dirt, and the huge jump. Plus the car will have a great deal of power. Some good driving and a little luck will get us on the podium,” said Johnson.

An old rally saying is “press on regardless” and that is exactly what Matthew did when he decided to put his program up for auction on eBay. “There are a lot of crazy promotional opportunities on eBay, ‘tattoo your logo on my head’ kind of stuff – we have a real product with real exposure. And the reports to prove it.” The report Matthew Johnson mentions is Joyce Julius Source Analysis – the benchmark in exposure and valuation measurement. That report indicates that last year’s initial live telecast of the rally car contest on ABC was worth over $5,000,000. Matthew Johnson’s lightly branded car provided a value of $110,000 to Burton Snowboards, New Balance shoes, Hankook tires, and RalliSpec. RalliSpec continues to support Matthew by providing top-spec preparation of Matthew’s car.

The breadth of exposure on eBay and ease of discovery provides Matthew with new hope of finding a partner in the final stretch. “I’m really excited about running well at X Games. eBay wasn’t my first choice as an avenue to find the partners we’re seeking, but this late in the game it’s the last viable option I can think of. The result is going to be interesting regardless – let’s hope it works,” he grins.

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The Event – The X Games is the premier action sports event on the globe, featuring athletes competing for medals and prize money in sports including BMX, Moto X, Skateboard, and Rally. X Games 15 marks the 15th anniversary of the event.

Rally is the most viewed event in the annual ESPN X Games, the premier action sports event on the globe, featuring athletes competing for medals and prize money in sports including BMX Freestyle, Freestyle Motocross, Skateboard, and Rally. Matthew Johnson was among the dozen invited drivers in 2008, and he was granted an early invitation to return in 2009.

This year rally co-drivers – normally critical to complexity of a rally race – have been switched out for in-car commentators on the short X Games course. The commentators, 2008 X Games rally co-drivers Chrissie Beavis and Jen Horsey, will allow fans to get closer to the action than ever before with first-hand analysis live from the course.

ESPN, The Worldwide Leader in Action Sports, first developed its X Games franchise in 1995. Part of ESPN Original Entertainment, X Games, Winter X Games and All Access are just some of the original action sports programming currently shown on ESPN and ESPN2. In addition to the two U.S.-based events, ESPN has held X Games competitions and demonstration events around the world including Dubai, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Korea, Malaysia, China and Spain. The global franchise has also expanded its reach to ESPN Action Sports the definitive site for action sports fans, and to consumer products such as X Games bikes, protective gear, skateboards and DVDs.

The X Games Rally Car Race airs live on ABC starting at 12 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Sunday, Aug. 2, with additional broadcasts in more than 100 countries around the world.

The field for the 2009 X Games Rally Car Race is as follows:

Matthew Johnson
Travis Pastrana
Ken Block
Tanner Foust
Andrew Comrie-Picard
Dave Mirra
Brian Deegan
Andi Mancin
Piotr Wiktorczyk
Arkadiusz Gruszka
Jimmy Keeney
Kenny Brack

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Rally Car Racing – Considered the extreme sport of automobile racing, rally is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover hundreds of miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Though emerging in the US, rally is one of the most popular sports in the world and is watched on television by an audience of 816 million people worldwide.

The premier American championship, Rally America, is a nine event nationwide series running from January to late October.

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Matthew Johnson is a top competitor in the Rally America National Championship and at the ESPN X Games. As a winner of multiple Rally America Championships, Matthew has a strong background in rally and at a young age. Matthew also spends time coaching other rally drivers and privately teaching performance car control to owners of exotic cars. When not behind the wheel, Matthew is usually seen behind a laptop working to strengthen his rally program while enroute to Brooklyn, Denver, LA or North Carolina.

Matthew Johnson is the kid that came from rally. He’s pure rally at its roots, working hard to accomplish his dreams. And since Matthew started, he’s worked himself into a couple of National Championships, credibility from his peers, and great group of fans. Other top drivers came to rally with toy franchises, movie contracts, and action sports conglomerate buyouts.

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Matthew Johnson is supported in part by: Rallispec (www.rallispec.com); Rising Sun Tuning (www.risingsuntuning.com); Stickerdude Designs (www.stickerdudedesigns.com); Diebold Autosport (www.dieboldautosport.com); Performance Friction (www.performancefriction.com); Exedy (www.exedyusa.com); Flatirons Tuning (www.flatironstuning.com); and Soccer Kids of America (www.soccerkidsofamerica.org)

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The auction is listed on eBay.com (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200366550621)

Find Matthew on YouTube www.youtube.com/matthewjohnson46 or Facebook www.facebook.com/matthewjohnson46

Stay in touch via Twitter – www.twitter.com/mjons

Photos credit – Robert Mahoney (jump); others Bill Lockwood

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