It’s been 33 long weeks since the final round of the World Rallycross Championship in South Africa. Thirty-three weeks since the last major international rallycross event. So, perhaps it’s fitting that Höljes, having had its World RX round postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, is the venue to finally kick things off for 2020.
There will be plenty of people itching to get back into the swing of things for the ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend, which begins on Thursday. Not least the voice of rallycross, commentator Andrew Coley.
Part of the crack presenting team for the TV-only event, Coley is as relieved as anyone to get back to what he does best.
“It’s really important for the industry for this event to happen,” Coley tells DirtFish.
“Yes, the fans aren’t there, it’s a different business model and some fans might be a bit resistant to paying for it but at the end of the day these events are paid for by tickets at the gate.
“So, it’s crucial from a business point of view that the forward thinking from RallyX Nordic and World RX, is supported.”
“People forget that a lot of these teams are renting cars, renting equipment so if no events happened because of COVID, and we said ‘OK, that’s it for this year’, a lot of these teams wouldn’t survive to next year.”
Although Coley and his TV team-mates, Hal Ridge, Molly Pettit and Neil Cole will be entering somewhat into the unknown this weekend, the staff at Finnskoga Motorklubb which owns and runs Höljes have been able to get some insight on how to manage live action in recent months.
Co-organized with Olsbergs MSE team boss Andréas Eriksson, the track hosted the RX Quarantine Shootout in May and hosted the opening two rounds of the Swedish National championship last weekend.
For Coley and crew, how they work will undoubtedly be different to what they are used to, but the lack of spectators has a silver lining.
More rallycross on TV, with a star-studded 90-plus entry to boot, featuring double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson in the Supercar class, with 2019 World RX champion Timmy Hansen teaming up with Hyundai WRC driver Thierry Neuville in the CrossCar division.
“I can’t wait, it’s a cracking event to kick off the year and it’s going to be great” Coley continues.
“Everyone’s keen to see Johan back. I have to be honest and say I would have liked to have seen him in this year’s car because that would have given us a real indicator for the world championship, but even so Kristoffersson isn’t going to have it all his own way, he’s not been in rallycross for over a year.
“Ben-Philip Gundersen making his Supercar debut will also be interesting to see, Fraser McConnell as well and I am really excited to see how quick those guys will be because traditionally, if you’re quick in RX2, you’ll be quick in a Supercar.
“You could probably pick who will make it into the semi-finals but in terms of picking the finalists, that will be a much tougher job, which is great.”
Another contender in the Supercar class is Niclas Grönholm, who will compete in an upgraded Hyundai i20 RX with which he claimed two victories and fourth in the standings in 2019.
“Niclas versus everybody else will be so exciting,” Coley adds.
“Don’t forget, last year he missed the title by something like 31 points [actually 25], but he missed two events and his average score over the remaining events, if you stick those two back in, he would have destroyed the field.
“So, is Niclas going to wipe the floor? I don’t know, but remember, the Hyundai has updated a lot over the winter too so this could be a great chance for him to show us what he’s got for this year.”
That prospect will certainly get fans and participants itching for the return of real-life racing and spectators will also be treated to almost uninterrupted coverage of the entire track action from the start of the event on Thursday, right through to the finals on Sunday, with Friday a designated media-only day, which Coley believes will deliver the true essence of a rallycross weekend.
“To be honest, I’m not really sure what the plan is for Friday but there will be a load of behind the scenes things, interviews and everything so the idea is to give everyone at home a feel of what the weekend is all about.”
The action kicks off on Thursday morning with qualifying heats for the opening round of the RallyX Nordic championship (Supercar, Supercar Lites, CrossCar and CrossCar Junior classes), the All-Star element as well as the Legends class.
Round two of RallyX Nordic then takes place on Saturday, with finals in the remaining categories finishing on Sunday evening.
The event, part of a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the Finnskoga Motorklubb, is live streamed on the StayLive platform, with the subscription package costing 249 SEK (€24.99).
Further donations to Finnskoga MK can made here.
Thursday, 2 July 0930 – 1830
Friday, 3 July 1400 – 1800
Saturday, 4 July 1300 – 1800
Sunday, 5 July 0930 – 1800
*All times CET