And so begins my biggest challenge since I became DirtFish’s Rallycross Editor: convincing rallycross’ fervent fanbase that the world ‘electric’ can be associated with a good idea.
First of all, this will no doubt disappoint, perhaps even anger some people but electric cars are needed for top-level rallycross to survive in the short-term. They may be expensive, quiet, and lack the emotion of the flame-spitting brutes we have now, but it’s the truth.
You don’t have to like them, but at the end of the day in order to race vehicles, you need manufacturers. And, thanks to ever-tightening legislation and environmental targets, brands are being forced to go down the electric route. In order for manufacturers to spend millions a year on racing programs, those programs must reflect the direction of the wider automotive industry whether we like it or not.
But if the rallycross faithful is to truly embrace electric mobility, it needs to bring something new to the table, not just take the place of the tried, tested, and much-loved.
So far, all electric rallycross concepts that have made it to fruition have been equal to or replacing existing categories. Projekt E appeared as something of a Supercar equivalent; while RX2e might present a performance step up over the existing RX2 car, but at the end of the day it’s still a like-for-like replacement.
If the rallycross faithful is to truly embrace electric mobility, it needs to bring something new to the tableDominik Wilde
This is where Nitro Rallycross’ planned electric series – which will arrive in 2022 –has every other electric rallycross idea licked. A giant leap in performance compared to existing Supercars. Check. An accessible platform. Check. A new type of body style. Check.
It’s not just rallycross with a thick coat of green paint, it’s something very different.
NRX’s FC1-X (rendered below), is being developed by electromobility specialist QEV and rallycross giants Olsbergs MSE and will produce the equivalent of 1,000 bhp and launch off the line with a force of 3G. That’s around 400 bhp more than we have now and double the G forces, while 0-60mph times will be slashed by nearly half a second too.
There really will be more of everything. Everything except sound, but surely losing one thing for the sake of many more benefits that only electric power can bring is worth it.
While we’re on the subject of gains…
As I said, being electric has the ability to attract manufacturers. In the US we’ve seen the likes of Dodge, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Ford, Honda, and Volkswagen all lose interest in rallycross, but before we’ve even seen an electric NRX race, we’ve already got three automakers showing an interest.
Volkswagen and Ford, as well as lone survivor Subaru have all been working on bodywork for the FC1-X, and if NRX is to follow the template set out by other electric racing series like Formula E and Extreme E, the chances are that they’ll get to put their own mark on the powertrain before long as well.
And on that manufacturer point, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard a whisper about crossovers or small SUVs racing in rallycross in America. It’s been talked about forever, but besides a fleeting appearance of the Mini Countryman in 2013, it’s never happened. That’s never made much sense, particularly in the United States.
Take a look outside. The majority of cars on the road these days are bigger, high-riding machines. Not small cars. When small cars tried to make an impact in the US in the 2010s, the fad died out almost instantly, and now a Fiesta hatch or Fiat 500 is a rare commodity on our roads.
So, if we’re attracting manufacturers with electric cars, it makes sense to have those electric cars represent the actual vehicles being sold in showrooms too. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday may be a tired, overused cliché, but it makes sense.
For racing to happen, car manufacturers need to be paying attention. Nitro Circus has listened to what they want, what the teams want, what the drivers want, and has come up with the perfect package that keeps everyone interested.
Every single doubt that rallycross fans have about electric racing so far has been completely justified, but finally I think we’ve found an electric formula that will work for everyone.
Roll on 2022!