For the rallycross community every off-season is met with a strange combination of optimism and trepidation.
There’s the positivity of a new season, fresh title fights, and new tracks, but the apprehension of a winter’s-worth of speculation and disillusionment with the state of the sport among its rather vocal fan community.
No matter which side of that fence you’re on, though, there’s no denying that it’s a very exciting time for rallycross at the moment.
The World Championship has already proved that it doesn’t need big name manufacturers to thrive, then there’s the likes of newer series in TitansRX and Projekt E providing wildly different looks at what the future of RX could entail.
Looking ahead to the 2020 season, here are the big questions from the world of rallycross that everyone will be asking.
Will fans resist the electric revolution?
Will it go electric? Won’t it? The electric rallycross soap opera seems to have been going on forever, but finally in 2020 we’ll see the debut of the world’s first all-electric rallycross series.
Projekt E will support World RX at selected rounds this season. The series will be a semi-spec series with a control powertrain being provided by STARD of Austria, which can be retrofitted to an existing Supercar set-up or put into a new car body.
Power, and performance, will be on-par with current Supercars, ensuring that the racing should be broadly similar to what we’re used to. More importantly, costs will be considerably cheaper than current top-level competition.
Drivers are suitably impressed so far, but fans are up in arms about the loss of the noise they’ve been used to with the ear-splitting Supercars.
And herein lies the intrigue: Projekt E has all the ingredients to be a viable racing series but even if it produces a good on-track product, will it win over the fans?
New title contenders in World RX?
Following World RX’s manufacturer exodus at the end of 2018 there were huge question marks over whether the 2019 season would produce the goods.
As it turned out, the 2019 World RX season was probably the best one since the series’ inception, and featured a titanic title fight between Timmy and Kevin Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud.
Timmy Hansen emerged out on top, but in 2020 will he stay out in front? Will brother Kevin – who won both Nitro Rallycross and TitansRX last year – or fan favourite Bakkerud move to the fore?
Or will it be someone else?
Two-time event winner Niclas Gronholm likely would’ve been more of a factor in the 2019 title chase had he not missed two events with appedicitis, so he certainly can’t be discounted in the rapid Hyundai i20 this year.
Then there’s his GRX team-mate. Veteran double European champion Timur Timerzyanov also stood on the top step of the World podium for the first time in 2019.
Plus the GCK Renault team finally broke its victory duck last year – before a post-race penalty took the win away.
So 2019 proved that with a field full of underfunded privateers you can have a wide-open title race, and 2020 should deliver even more evidence of that.
What’s going on in America?
That’s a very good question for rallycross fans. After Global Rallycross’ grim and well-publicized demise at the beginning of 2018, Americas Rallycross rose from its ashes.
In theory having a domestic series backed by the operation behind the World Championship was a great idea, but after just two seasons (one of which was a four-event calendar that actually began in the UK) ARX was quietly retired – leaving US rallycross fans wondering, yet again, where they’re supposed to be getting their fix from.
Right now speculation is pointing towards an expansion of the Nitro Rallycross format. The single-event competition, part of the wider Nitro World Games action sports event, has been run for the last two years. It’s been a resounding success, with a handful of top European stars joining the domestic US field on a crazy Travis Pastrana-designed track in Utah.
Naturally more of that would be pretty much perfect for the US, but this really has to be third time lucky.
Rallycross arrived in America a decade ago with bucketloads of potential, and most of it has failed to materialize. Sure, the racing has been great and many a star driver has been attracted, but poor management and a lack of commitment from higher-ups has all but killed the discipline Stateside all too many times.
If the US is going to have a third crack at a top-level national RX championship, now is the time to get it right.
Will the Nürburgring be a hit like Spa?
‘Oh no, another Formula 1 track’… That was the reaction from many RX fans when Spa-Francorchamps was announced on the 2019 World RX calendar. Spa may be famous throughout motorsport, but RX lovers had gotten too used to their sport being crammed into compromised spaces at F1 tracks that didn’t do it justice – at the expense of proven venues with proper RX heritage.
Yet the Spa event proved to be a classic, universally lauded by fans and drivers alike.
Now the Nurburgring is coming to the World RX calendar for 2020.
Germany already has an excellent professional rallycross facility in the Estering, which has held World Championship races previously. This iconic venue was keen to return to the World RX schedule, but the space and facilities afforded by the Nurburgring no doubt played a part in the move to the former German Grand Prix venue.
Should the first rallycross event at the Nurburgring go well then it’ll draw favourable comparisons to Spa. Should it not, then the angry mob will be lining up to carry the paddock piece-by-piece 300 miles north to Buxtehude.
Will TitansRX avoid ‘second album syndrome’?
TitansRX was a revelation in 2019. Amid rising costs in the World Championship, former World RX competitor Max Pucher founded a low-cost alternative and it proved to be an instant hit.
Using single-make cars that weren’t a world away from Supercars in terms of performance, TitansRX provided excellent racing in its first season as it visited iconic tracks all over Europe.
It also attracted a plethora of big name stars, ranging from rallycross icons Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen, and Topi Heikkinen, to World Rally stars Hayden Paddon and Craig Breen, and the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr, sportscar racer Oliver Webb, and many more.
This year the series will expand globally with an event in Canada, stepping into the Trois-Rivieres slot vacated by the World Championship. That proves TitansRX’s huge ambition to be taken seriously on a global stage.
With TitansRX’s maiden season out of the way, year two will show just how strong the concept can be.
And it will also go green with its biofuel-based ‘Real E’ concept. Another bold idea, it’s Pucher’s bid to prove you can keep noisy, fan-friendly combustion engines and be more environmentally friendly than an all-electric series.