In early 2013, quite by accident, I discovered a full colour supplement in a copy of Autosport outlining the big players of the newly revamped for 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship.
And my interest was sparked...
As I browsed through the list, two names caught my eye. 2003 WRC Champion Petter Solberg and British Rallycross ace Liam Doran, son of Rallycross legend Pat Doran.
Now I'm not a big fan of rallying, however I was already interested in Solbergs plans as it was mentioned he could make a move into Touring Car racing. I recall watching the British Rallycross Grand Prix on the BBC from Brands Hatch as a child and something about this series made me want to watch.
With the championship sponsored by Monster Energy and getting a 1 hour highlights programme on Eurosport covering the events of each weekend, coverage of the championship soared. It was a new series for me and my son Aaron who was an instant supporter of Liam Doran and Andreas Bakkerud (due to them being sponsored by Monster) and 2012 Champion Timur Timerzyanov (because he's russian and sponsored by Red Bull...)
Theres a pattern there...
Big names took part during the season in either partial programmes or one off appearances such as Tanner Foust, Mattias Ekstrom, Sebastian Loeb and Tommy Rustad. This pulled in the crowds and viewership for the series and what added to this was that the racing in each round was fantic and hectic and close. It was never clear who the heat winner or the final winner would be.
To add to this aspect, viewing figures for the Championship grew round by round and the spectator figures at each round were getting larger and larger, especially in countries such as France, UK, Norway and Sweden where home grown Rallycross talent is in abundance and the sport is popular.
And then came a thought...from more than one person involved in the championship...
What if the series became a World Championship?
As the season carried on, murmurs began circulating in a familiar, similar way to the process that revived the World Touring Car Championship in 2005. That began life as the European Touring Car Championship and several years later became an FIA sanctioned World Championship. In the European Rallycross Championship, the same thing happened but in a much shorter timescale...
In September 2013 The FIA granted the series to be promoted as an FIA World Championship for 2014 and this move has caused massive interest for the 2014 season. The FIA European Rallycross Championship will continue of 5 events whilst the World Championship will take place over 12 events, encompassing the 5 European events.
Ford has pledged manufacturer support for Swedish Rallycross sensation Andreas Bakkerud whilst Peugeot have announced a manufacturer backed entry with Rallycross legend Kenneth Hansen for an entry for his son Timmy.
Plenty of entries have been announced apart from these as well. Liam Doran and his team are hard at work to build two cars to gain manufacturer support whilst Petter Solberg is expanding to a two car entry with Alexander Hvaal joining him for the 2014 season. Anton Marklund has also announced a two car team, returning with two VW Polo Supercars. Even WTCC regulars Munnich Motorsport, who campaigned three SEAT Leon's for Rob Huff, Marc Basseng and Team Boss Rene Munnich have built an Audi A3 Supercar to campaign throughout the 2014 season.
Now, I find when talking to a lot of people outside of Social Media about Motorsport that their first thought is "Oh yes, its boring, just like that Formula One!"
I find it a lot...
Well I champion the cause of Touring Cars all the time in this case, explaining how the BTCC has 3 40 minute races on a Sunday thats much more exciting and devoid of any politics. I also explain the fun aspect that the WTCC also offers as well, with Touring Cars racing on the same circuits used by Formula One but offering exciting races (Hungary for example...)
Well I'm also now going to recommend to anyone who has cable or satellite, to give World Rallycross a go. The cars are still recognisable on the outside, however underneath they are 600bhp, 4 wheel drive, race prepared monsters who have starts that could give an F1 car serious competition and where the racing is, if its possible, closer than Touring Car racing can be.
So this year, apart from my usual focus on Formula One, BTCC, WTCC, ETCC & DTM, I will also be keeping a keen eye on the World Rallycross Championship for a 2nd season as it hits the world stage and I will be looking to learn more about this sport to impart to you, my readers.
Especially the heat system. I need to get my head round that one...
I will also add that I am looking forward to the UK round of the championship from Lydden Hill in May as its now been been confirmed that 2013 BTCC champion Andrew Jordan will be taking part in that round with the Swedish Ford team in a Fiesta Supercar.
Thats got my interest even more.
So if you have Eurosport, give the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship this year and see if it offers an alternative to the usual single seater and tintop coverage out there. You can also follow updates from the championship on Facebook & Twitter by searching for "RallycrossRX".