World Rallycross Championship (WRX), has felt that it should be more well-known than it is. It offers everything you would expect from modern motorsports, including fast, powerful cars and exciting races that are short and sharp.
It’s literally designed for TV racing. The first event was held in 1967 on ITV’s World of Sport. After being banned from the World Rally Championship (WRC), Group B cars were allowed to race in the late 1980s.
IMG, a major sports promoter, bought the rights in 2014 and created the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The global title attracted Petter Solberg (former WRC champion), but IMG was unable to build on its early success to grow a loyal fan base.
The does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Rallycross Promoter company (run by the same Red Bull-backed group that promotes the WRC) has taken over the rights to the WRX for this year, and in doing so taken on the challenge of making rallycross as popular as pretty much everyone who has seen it agrees it should be. The plan is to embrace the hottest trend in the car market right now: electric vehicles.
The WRX this year features an RX2e support group for EVs. Next year, the RX1 top division will be electric. Austrian company Kreisel Electric was contracted to supply spec 680bhp and 649lb.ft electric powertrains to all competitors (they can be retrofitted into current cars).
GCK Energy will charge the cars using a series of portable 900kWh containers. These containers can be recharged at the French company’s base during events. The new electric motor in the WRX is very similar to the Supercar regulations. Therefore, the cars will be as fast as ever. Because it allows for ample charging time, the rallycross heat race format is perfect for an electric championship. It will attract more sponsors and public attention.
There are risks and it would be a shame for rallycross to go away. It’s a risky move, but it could be a winning strategy for a championship that feels untapped.
It’s an important move for motorsport in general, as there are a growing number electric championships, such as Formula E, Extreme E, and Pure ETCR. However, all of these were created as EV categories. The FIA’s first series to transition from ICE to EV is the WRX. There is no hedging using hybrids or synthetic fuels.
The WRX has given itself a good start if the future is truly electric. It now needs to make the most of its potential, and it will do so soon.
The Power Stage at WRC rallies
It is not uncommon for rally winners to put in a lot of hard work before reaching the final stage. This can cause anti-climax. The Power Stage adds excitement to this stage. Since 2011, the Power Stage has been a regular feature at World Rally Championship events and offers drivers the chance to earn bonus championship point regardless of their overall position. The five fastest Power Stage finishers earn 5-4-3-2-1 points, which gives everyone motivation to keep pushing to the end. It can pose a problem: Should the rally leader settle for 25 points to win or push for the bonus, or do they risk everything? This was the perfect way to cap Elfyn Evans’s amazing performance at Rally Finland. He chose to push and drove flawlessly to beat Ott Tanak by 1.6secs to achieve a maximum 30 point score. Imagine his regret if he crashed. What if he had lost the title by five points? Rally drivers are taught to live by the motto “Maximum Attack”.
Motorsport greats Marcus Gronholm
Two drivers share the record for most Rally Finland victories (seven), the late, great Hannu Mikola and Marcus Gronholm. Marcus Gronholm won 30 of his 153 top-level rallies and was the only driver to push Sebastien Löb during the Frenchman’s long reign.
Finn Gronholm was the 2000 and 2002 Champion in a Peugeot 206 before Peugeot pulled out of the WRC. In 2006, he switched to Ford and won the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time. Gronholm was able to push Loeb in his final season, defeating him by just 0.3secs in New Zealand. He then announced his retirement at the top of the game. He was unable to retire as a three-time champion after finishing second on Rally GB in the climax.