What is the world of rallycross all about?
Thanks to the promotional efforts of people like Ken Block and Tanner Foust, you probably have heard of rallycross (or RallyX, as it is sometimes denoted). What you'll have seen is high-horsepower cars, typically hatchbacks, that look like full-on rally cars attacking a circuit made up of dirt and tarmac. Well, what you've seen there is basically the whole concept of the sport. This is rallying and circuit racing combined into one type of automobile racing. There are various formats though.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX) is obviously the most prestigious, but events like the SCCA RallyCross Regional events allow for entry-level competition. In the FIA, the races are head-to-head, while events like the X Games can bring five cars, sometimes more, onto the circuit. This gets loads of TV time and sponsorship but is very difficult to break into. Bilcross is arguably the most affordable in Europe and is also known as Folkrace. Super cheap cars compete here, but it's more of a race of bumper cars around a simple dirt track than a proper competition. Super Rally is a long-distance trek and not a rallycross format at all, while GLOBALRx is a pharmaceutical company and nothing more - just kidding, this is another rallycross championship with the same name, correctly written as Global-RX. Supercross, on the other hand, is like rallycross but for motocross motorcycles.
Rallycross racing began in Britain in 1967 as a television show produced by Robert Reed for ITV's World of Sport show and happened to coincide with the cancellation of the 1967 RAC Rally. As a result, a number of rally drivers used the off time to compete in rallycross. It later expanded to the Netherlands and Australia before being picked up in America. Thus began the RallyCar Rallycross Championship in 2010, attracting bona fide rallycross race drivers, traditional rally drivers, and drifters. In the same year, the X Games added it to its events under the name SuperRally. A year later, the Global RallyCross Championship began with backing from energy drink company Red Bull. This was when the likes of Ken Block, Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, and other extreme sports and driving personalities made their entry into the sport.
Unlike NASCAR, which sees the same sorts of vehicles compete in the same sort of format, rallycross has evolved to cater for all budgets and all car types, including trucks, but of course, the main attractions come from 600-horsepower all-wheel-drive vehicles that are purpose-built by dedicated race teams. As such, pure-bred rally drivers like Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg have been drawn to the sport too, bringing with them their World Rally Championship cars. Another highlight is that the rallycross track can be altered quickly thanks to the use of cones and signboards as track markers, so every event can have a different layout, even if it's at the same venue.
If you're looking to get involved with rallycross events, your first port of call should be the Sports Car Club of America. You don't need a special rallycross car, years of experience, or even a helmet. Many SCCA events will offer helmets for loan and can assist first-time competitors with finding the appropriate classes for their cars and skill levels. Members usually get discounts on race weekends, but anyone can just arrive and get stuck in.
From here, you could progress to the SCCA RallyCross National Challenge, which is a three-event series with events on the east coast, west coast, and somewhere in central USA. These are two-day multiple-course events and are scored by combining the times from each of your runs.
The next tier up is the SCCA RallyCross National Championship, which is an annual two-day event crowning national champions from each class. Two different courses are set out, and again, combined runs set your score. As you'd expect, the competition and cost here are extraordinary.
Where you end up depends on your skill, your financial situation with regards to motorsport, and how far you want to go, but ultimately, almost anyone can get into a cheap car and go have some fun in Rallycross throughout America.
As we just mentioned, rallycross is open to just about any type of car, but the best rallycross cars are usually powered by turbocharged engines producing 600 horsepower and 663 lb-ft of torque. There's no traction control and no ABS, but these cars do have AWD to help them maintain grip and go as fast as possible on a short track with varying traction levels. Below are some of the famous entrants:
As you've seen, rallycross is accessible at many levels, but there are still some things you need to consider. The car that you use for rallycross will get damaged. Tires and brakes, along with all other mechanical components take a beating, so prepare for unexpected breakages and choose a car that is reliable and cheap to fix when you're just starting out. If you can't afford an AWD car, get an RWD one, but if that is too daunting, there's nothing wrong with an FWD car either. Something small and compact is ideal.
Also keep in mind that you may suck when it comes to adjusting to the transition of surfaces, and even if you start out on dirt-only tracks, the driving experience and your inputs and driving style will have to evolve to suit the slippery surface, so don't be afraid of failure. The better you get, the more competitive your rivals will be, so keep in mind that you will always need better suspension, more power, a stiffer chassis, less weight, et cetera. Finally, you're doing this to have fun, and the moment you're not enjoying this anymore, or it costs too much to allow you a full night's rest, it may be time to take a step back.
We've discussed in depth above, but the best place to learn how to get into rallycross in the United States is by learning all about the SCCA's regional amateur rallycross events. These cater to all budgets and skill levels.
Distilled into its simplest definition, rallycross is like full-on rallying, but on a shrunken circuit rather than a point-to-point course. Furthermore, instead of just racing the clock, some formats like the X Games and others will see you compete with other cars on the racing circuit at the same time as you, while other formats feature mirrored tracks for head-to-head competition and traditional rallying sees drivers set off at different times on the same sprint course.
No. The rule set will vary depending on the event or championship, as well as the class. At the top tier, most cars are restricted to 600 hp, but other rules like the inclusion of a roll cage and a fire-retarding system are also part of the limitations.