We’re less than 50 days away from the start of the 2022-23 Nitro Rallycross season, and with it, the beginning of a new era for rallycross with the series’ Group E category.
Testing of the category’s uniform FC1-X race vehicle has been ongoing for a number of months. But recently a pool of drivers got to sample the car on track for the first time, offering feedback to Olsbergs MSE and QEV Technologies, the two firms behind the groundbreaking new machine.
“So far [the feedback’s been] very good,” Kevin Eriksson, who has carried out much of the development work on the FC1-X, told DirtFish. “We are not fully ready but we feel as ready that we can let people get their first impression and it’s always good to get other drivers, we’re all professionals, to get their view of things, so you get a lot of ideas that you can implement.
A key area of discussion at Nitro Rallycross’ recent official test in Barcelona was the deployment of push-to-pass in Group E. The headline figure of 1000 horsepower has been discussed for a long time but, in reality, 250 bhp will be reserved for a momentary power boost.
How exactly that’ll work is yet to be determined.
“One big thing we wanted to know was the feedback on how everyone wants the push-to-pass to work,” Eriksson said. “It seems like everyone is kind of on the same page as I am.
“It’s still under development but my idea is for 10 seconds per race; you get 1000 horsepower when you press the button, and you can use it whenever you want. And you can save it – if you want to use two seconds and then save it to the last finish straight, you can.”
A non-stop downpour arrived on the second day of the test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but that proved to be a benefit with the car having not run in wet conditions before then.
“Obviously this is not the type of track that we are envisioning, really, but it’s actually a really good testing track,” Eriksson explained. “We got both dry and rain, perfect. We haven’t done any kilometers in the rain before this, [it] seems to be working fine.
“All the software guys and engineers were slowly checking everything and adding the power back because they wanted to see what’s going on in the wet, but we were soon back at the full power.
“I wasn’t afraid,” he continued, elaborating on driving the car in the wet. “I mean, we have more wheel travel in this car, you have to use the weight transfer, the center of gravity is very low which is very good for a race car, and I felt we had plenty of grip in the car in the dry earlier in the dry test so I was not worried.
“There are small tweaks we can do to make it even better, but everyone feels under control, especially on one of these days. Everyone needs to get a good first feeling, learn the car, and then of course everyone will drive different.”
Regardless of the weather though, one thing all of the drivers agreed with was how easy the car is to drive no matter what the track conditions were.
“The thing with rallycross and the thing with this car is we are trying to implement so many different disciplines, not only in race cars but also dirt bikes, which Nitro is doing with tracks – they’re adding all this crazy stuff that we have never seen and we’re trying to make a car that works for all those crazy ideas.
“I guess, you know, sometimes when you bake, it’s something about just that special one and you find the ingredient that just works,” Eriksson added. “As a company, we don’t try to make everything too complicated. A lot of motorsports are complicated so as a driver it’s impossible to remember everything that you’re supposed to do.
“I want the driver to be the key guy, but it should be stuff that is possible to do. If the car is easy to drive, you can add more elements too to make it harder. I want you to be able to change settings, of how the car behaves, with regen, with power, move forward more torque, going for the first part that is maybe tarmac, then jumping into the gravel you can maybe turn some regen off, you might want some less.
“We have a lot of ideas. The seasons going forward but we’re never going to stop. It’s fun doing this stuff, but for sure the car, so far everyone seems to enjoy it and have fun.”
The initial test in Spain was as much a fact-finding mission for drivers as it was for the development team, but the real pre-season will kick off in earnest later this month when the competitors will convene in Sweden for the first proper multi-car test – a test where all of the lessons from Barcelona will be put into practice.
“We’re going to be in three weeks or four weeks driving again, all the drivers at the track, so it’s good timing. Do this, get the feedback, positives, negatives, what can we do better, but to be honest the response has been very good I would say.
“And I know there is even more stuff in the car that is possible, so it will be a lot of fun in the future.”
“This is the first year,” he concluded. “If you look at how many years some other categories and cars have had, and we are at this level, I think we have a very good start for the future.”
Tickets for Nitro’s Lydden Hill season opener go on sale
Nitro Rallycross’ 2022-23 season kicks off on June 18-19 at Lydden Hill in the UK, the spiritual home of rallycross.
Tickets for the event go on sale on Wednesday, May 4 at 8am BST, available at ticketmaster.co.uk with weekend tickets costing just £35 and VIP ‘Club Nitro RX’ passes available for £200. Children under 13 go free, but will require a ticket.
“We are so excited to kick off Nitro Rallycross’ next chapter at historic Lydden Hill,” said Nitro RX pioneer and reigning series champion Travis Pastrana. “This iconic track is the birthplace of rallycross and home to some of its biggest moments. Now we look forward to going back to where it all began but adding some Nitro Circus flair. We can’t wait for fans to be a part of the action.”