It may not be as popular as Formula 1 and you may not have even heard of Rallycross before, but it’s a crazy, high-octane and chaotic motorsport that’s getting more and more popular each year.
Why should you be interested? Well, the sport takes all of the thrills of rallying (the jumps, the drifts, the off-road surfaces) and implements it onto a track circuit and although that may not sound all that exciting on paper, trust me, it’s a sight to be seen.
Rallycross is like Formula 1’s younger sugar-fuelled, hyperactive sibling who climbs up the walls and runs around the house. It’s messy, it’s hectic and most importantly, it’s fun to watch.
The Joker Lap
We’ll talk about the cars, the format and other rules of the sport in a second because this just cannot wait. The joker lap is a slight curveball thrown into the already-hectic sport, just to make things even harder. On each rallycross circuit, there will be a corner that has two routes, one of which is about 2-3 seconds longer than the other. Each driver must take this longer route at least once per race to complete their “joker lap” and if timed just right and done correctly, they may not even lose their current position in the race.
No other motorsport has introduced such an interesting dynamic and it’s just one of the many things that make Rallycross stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Another fantastic thing about rallycross are the tracks themselves. Unlike most other tracks in motorsport, Rallycross drivers race on a circuit which has two different surfaces. Asphalt and dirt. This requires drivers to be able to adjust their driving style several times each lap to account for the change in surface, making it all the more challenging. Along with the mixture of track surfaces, there’s also a large hump somewhere on the circuit which is where the cars almost always get some pretty huge air with all 4 wheels a couple feet from the ground.
The circuits themselves are not very long at all usually being 1-1.4km long which is great for spectators. Races are short as well with only 4 laps and 6 laps in semis and finals. With the battering the cars take, I don’t think they’d last much longer than 6 laps anyway…
According to FIA World Rallycross, the cars in Rallycross are actually faster than F1 cars at accelerating, with a 0-60mph time of 1.9 seconds. That’s pretty damn impressive. They have around 600 horsepower, 900Nm of torque, AWD and strictly manual transmissions with no traction control.
Just like rally cars, you’ll be seeing souped-up Audi A1s, Peugeot 208s and Ford Fiestas with huge spoilers and various energy drink logos plastered over the body. The cars mentioned would often be used in Rallycross’s “RX2” or “Lite” category which features cars with virtually half of the power of the “Supercar” category. Lite cars are limited to 310bhp produced by a 2.4L NA engine and have around 300 Nm of torque.
The second category, “Supercar”, consists of the same cars but they’ll be a bit heavier, and you’ll see slightly larger cars in use such as the VW Beetle, Ford Focus, Saab 93 and Volvo C30. This category will feature the full-fat 600 bhp, “quicker than F1 cars” beasts that we know and love but that’s not to say the lite cars are any less entertaining to watch.
Watching a Rallycross race, you’d struggle to count to 10 before one car touches another. It’s often very busy and tightly packed as the drivers drift around the dirt track which makes cars spinning each other out commonplace compared to other motorsports. The cars usually miss the tyre walls by a few inches as they drift around corners, leaving no room for the slightest mistake.When mistakes are made, it can bring the whole race to a standstill thanks to the pileup that ensues.
There’s a lot of contact in Rallycross, often leaving bumpers and other parts missing, damaged or hanging off by a thread while being trailed behind. Bumps, pileups, tyre walls being brought onto the track, rolls and fires, there’s never a dull moment in Rallycross.
It’s a new and untamed motorsport
As motorsports age, all of the various safety and fairness rules accumulate and build up until the sport itself becomes a much less entertaining version of its former self. Rallycross is still in its infancy. Although the sport can be traced back many decades, the first FIA World Rallycross Championship was only in 2014.
Popularity is on the rise and Rallycross is beginning to get the recognition it deserves, so let’s enjoy it before the rules make it boring!