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Episode 29

Why I Love Motorsport:

Rallycross

Being able to watch live motorsport once again has reminded me just how much I love it. But that got me thinking. What made me fall in love with it in the first place?

The recent return of motorsport to our TV screens has once again reminded me exactly why I’m writing this blog. I love motorsport. Being able to immerse myself in a sport I’m passionate about, be it through reading the gossip and journalism from the preceding days, donning my bright orange cap for the duration of the weekend, watching and listening to the television coverage, and finally sharing my own thoughts and opinions via the #RaceWatch series, it got me thinking: what exactly is it that I love about this sport?

Now, in itself, this question is complex. After all, ‘motorsport’ is an extremely broad spectrum that encompasses all sorts of vehicles and disciplines. Therefore, lets focus on the specific competitions that I closely follow, starting with rallycross.

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Rallycross, for those who don’t know, is pretty much a mix of circuit racing with stage rally racing. It’s quite complex to explain exactly what goes on, but I’ll give it my best shot, using the premier FIA World Rallycross series as an example. The cars are pretty ridiculous, with 600bhp from just a 2-litre engine, four-wheel drive, and are capable of sprinting from 0-60mph in around two seconds, all whilst wrapped in the chassis of your run-of-the-mill hatchback.

These fire-spitting, anti-lagging machines race on short, challenging circuits made from a combination of tarmac and dirt/gravel, with lap times at most venues around 50 seconds. Races are short but sweet, with four qualifying sessions consisting of 4-lap, 5-car heats, all vying for the fastest aggregate times, followed by 6-lap semi-finals and finals. Alongside this, rallycross houses extra variables such as the drag race to the first corner and the slower, longer joker lap that each driver is required to take once per race.

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With that in mind, what exactly is it about this spectacle that makes me so enthused? Primarily, it comes down to the closeness of the racing. Rallycross cars are fundamentally overpowered, and have very little aerodynamics. When combined, this means the cars are able to run extremely close to each other for pretty much the whole race and, as such, any little driver error is punished. What’s more, with such little aero effect coming from the bodywork, the drivers don’t especially care too much for the outermost panels. The old mantra of ‘rubbing is racing’ is very much applicable here.

The variable track surface also exaggerates the sense of drama from these machines. With rough gravel and dirt on offer, alongside big jumps to handle, cars have to be set up with quite soft suspension, resulting in very apparent pitching and diving from the chassis under heavy acceleration and braking. Combine this with the low grip and high power creating big, dusty powerslides round the bends, and you’re met with an incredible display of car control from the drivers.

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Another aspect of the FIA World Rallycross that initially drew me in related to the calibre of teams and drivers in the series. Whilst many of the big names have since pulled out, I was stumbling across a series with factory outfits from VW, Peugeot and Audi, with big names such as Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Mattias Ekstrom all within a few inches of each other on track. In short, this was a series full of big teams, hosting some of the best drivers, and creating some of the closest, most enthralling racing there was. It got me hooked within minutes.

Currently, despite a manufacturer exodus at the end of 2018, the series still creates incredible entertainment. Experienced rallycross drivers such as Andreas Bakkerud, Timmy Hansen and Liam Doran are to be reunited with double World Champion Johan Kristoffersson in 2020, returning with his VW Polo R after his brief spell in the World Touring Car Championship. Last year’s Drivers Championship was the closest of any FIA Championship in the world in 2019, with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen finishing just a single point ahead of Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud after an extremely controversial final in which the two drivers collided whilst fighting for the lead.

In short, the closest championship of the year came from a series involving 600bhp, four-wheel drive hatchbacks drifting, bumping and jumping over mixed-surface circuits. When put that way, rallycross sounds like an absolute riot. And it doesn’t disappoint!

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