Saturday, 7 March 2015

2015: A Big Year for Rallycross...

Rallycross is big news right now in the Motorsport World...

And 2015 is an important year.

Let me explain why...

In 2013, the running of the FIA European Rallycross Championship was taken over by IMG Motorsport and they relaunched the brand as "RallycrossRX" Several big name drivers joined the series in the form of Petter Solberg and Tanner Foust, going up against regulars such as Liam Doran and Timur Timerzyanov whilst being joined by newcomers like Timmy Hansen and Anton Marklund.

The series proved so popular that the FIA took the step to create the first ever World Rallycross Championship or WorldRX for 2014. In came factory supported efforts from Peugeot-Hansen, Ford OMSE and VW-Marklund whilst names such as Jacques Villeneuve, Toomas "Topi" Heikkinen and Manfred Stohl raced in Supercar machinery taking on the best. With added live TV & Internet coverage, the series boomed with many European rounds seeing over 40 Supercar entries and Petter Solberg crowned as the first ever World Rallycross Champion.

So, why is 2015 so important?

Well, the fact that the RallycrossRX regulations have been left largely unchanged means that there are plenty of Supercars out there to use and race that are eligible in Domestic, European & World Championships. Factor in the point that its relatively easy to transport a Supercar to any of the EuroRX events and that alone allows domestic series competitors to take on the best from WorldRX and even have a chance at winning the EuroRX Title. All this means that you can expect large numbers of entrants and big crowds at Rallycross events.

The hugely positive effect that the expansion of WorldRX has had on Rallycross has begun to spread. In 2014, The 5 round FIA European Rallycross Championship saw large entries in the Supercar, Touring Car, Super1600 and RX Lites catergories. This prompted a rethink for the Support Catergories that resulted in a revised calendar in 2015 that now allows drivers from the various different European Domestic series to compete on home turf and compete in Europe as well at little more cost.

This has led to 3 British drivers confirming their intention to contest the Euro Super 1600 catergory in Citroen C2's this year.

But theres also growth to be seen in the British Championship. In 2014 Julian Godfrey secured his 4th British Rallycross Championship title. However there were plenty of regular drivers chasing him for that title in Supercars, such as Steve Hill, Simon Horton, Steve Harris, Kevin Proctor and Colin Anson. Godfrey enjoyed a good early season run that helped him build up a cushion of points, but the racing remained close and fast between all of the competitors.

British Rallycross veterans Mark Flaherty and Ollie O'Donovan both returned to the series. O'Donovan piloted a Mk 2 Ford Focus from midway in the season and took three event wins. Had he contested a full season, Godfrey would have been pushed hard. Flaherty, a veteran from over 20 years ago made sporadic appearences in a LD Motorsports Citroen DS3 during a fact finding return to the series.

This has led to early confirmations of programmes for BritishRX. O'Donovan has confirmed he will run a full programme in British RX and EuroRX in a new Mk7 Ford Fiesta Supercar run by RX Racing Ltd with further appearences in other WorldRX rounds possible. Andy Scott, whose Albatec Racing team contested all WorldRX 12 rounds last year has confirmed a two car assault on BritishRX for 2015 with further plans for EuroRX & WorldRX to be announced.

Add in confirmation of renewed series Title Sponsorship from The Shannon Group, a revised calendar and a revised TV & Online package that will hopefully be confirmed and this could see BritishRX on the road to becoming a domestic series that is capable of rivalling both the BTCC and British GT Championships, the UK's two biggest domestic Championships.

But both EuroRX & WorldRX continue to grow in 2015 as well. Tommy Rustad confirmed over the winter he will race a VW-Marklund Motorsport Mk5 Polo Supercar in EuroRX. Per Eklund announced his intention to run a VW Beetle in EuroRX as well, returning an inconic name to Rallycross.

2014 French Rallycross Supercar Champion Fabien Pailler has confirmed he will contest EuroRX 2015 in a Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar, a similar machine to the Albatec Racing and Hansen-Peugeots campaigned this year in WorldRX. 2014 EuroRX Champion Robin Larsson is looking to expand to a WorldRX campaign, whilst VW driver Johan Kristoffersson and KMS Motorsport are looking to a larger Rallycross programme in 2015.

WorldRX has seen 2 brand new teams confirm their full season campaigns for 2015. WRC driver Manfred Stohl and Austrian Rallycross driver Max Pucher announced the formation of WorldRX Team Austria, running two Mk7 Ford Fiesta Supercars built by Stohl Racing. Munnich Motorsport confirmed they are running two Audi S3 Supercars with Team Owner/driver Rene Munnich driving one of the cars in a full campaign. Swedish Rallycross racer Ramona Karlsson has announced an original route to competing this year, setting up a Crowdfunding scheme to allow her to run the first ever Female Supercar Rallycross team in EuroRX

With the confirmation on New Years Eve by 2014 WorldRX Champion Petter Solberg to defend his title and the return of Mattias Ekstrom's EKSRX Team, who have signed Anton Marklund to be his team-mate, VW-Marklund signing Per-Gunnar Andersson... All this already and theres still more to come from big hitters such as Peugeot-Hansen, Ford OMSE, LD Motorsports and others as well.

Add in new venues in Barcelona, Spain and the Double-Header with the DTM at Hockenheim for this year and the chances of the show getting bigger and better are 100%!

Recently Tino Anayi, WorldRX Managing Director for IMG Motorsport confirmed the increase in Social Media alone last year was huge. The Championship witnessed huge growth via its social platforms with Facebook likes showing a percentage increase of 348% over a 12 month period. Twitter saw a 202% increase in followers, while Instagram proved to be the biggest growth platform with a 900% rise.  Overall, the average reach across all social media platforms per event rose from 430,000 in 2013 to 6.7 million in 2014.

Thats huge interest on a Global scale.

In the US, the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship saw an increased entry last year with Manufacturers such as Ford, Subaru, Hyundai, Chevrolet and Volkswagen represented. Former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Junior joined SH Motorsport whilst Ford OMSE fielded Joni Wiman & Patrick Sandell. Gymkhana star Ken Block competed in his Hoonigans Division Ford Fiesta with limited appearances in EuroRX.

Andretti Autosport joined the series with support from Volkswagen. Scott Speed & Tanner Foust drove for the team, starting out in works Volkswagen Polo Supercars before switching to GRC Beetles. The Team has confirmed both drivers will return in Beetles this year. Subaru Rally Team USA have also confirmed they will be back with two cars for regulars Sverre Isachsen and Bucky Lasek and a limited programme for Travis Pastrana. The Championship itself has confirmed a larger 12 round Calendar for 2015 as well.

In a time where Motorsport fans are looking for a bigger and better spectacle than the current pinnacle of Motorsport, Formula One, Rallycross is stepping up to meet that need. The Supercars alone are machines to behold themselves: Flame Spitting Monsters, producing over 600bhp from 2 litre Turbocharged engines, using 4 Wheel Drive to slide and drift on various surfaces such as Dirt, Tarmac and gravel. These guys are sliding sideways in cars that can accelerate faster than an F1 car.

Now dont get me wrong. I love Motorsport as my regulars know. I watch F1, Touring Cars and Rallycross and I enjoy them all. To all the people I talk to who say Motorsport is boring, I recommend Rallycross as its a new, exciting sport again. It has a very large coverage base utilising the Internet and Social Media very well and in 2015, its prescence can and will only grow.

I'm looking forward to the 2015 Rallycross seasons in:

The FIA World Rallycross Championship
The FIA European Rallycross Championship
The Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship &
The MSA British Rallycross Championship

I hope you'll join me in what is looking to be a stellar year for Rallycross in general.

One final thing to add. If your reading this and you love talking about Rallycross or your a fan of all things Rallycross and you are on Facebook, type in "Rallycross Talk" into the search bar. Its a group dedicated to all things Rallycross and we chat about everything there.

Heres The link:

www.facebook.com/groups/rallycrosstalk/

All the best!

Phil!

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