After what feels like a million years of waiting, Nitro Rallycross finally gets underway this weekend with the first of five events across the United States.
Often the butt of jokes in the rallycross community over in Europe, the US interpretation of the discipline has come full circle with anticipation for the new series and the discipline as a whole Stateside at an all-time high.
But what’s what? Who’s driving? Where and what are they driving? Read on to find out all you need to know about NRX 2021.
Runners and riders
The all-star driver line-up for NRX features the usual suspects from the last decade or so of Global Rallycross and Americas Rallycross, with a who’s who of top European names thrown in for good measure.
Leading the charge is, of course, Subaru, with four-time US champ Scott Speed and NRX pioneer Travis Pastrana behind the wheels of the team’s WRX STIs. Popular European driver Andreas Bakkerud will also pedal a third car for the opening rounds, with the door being left open for him to see out the season. A fourth car was expected but has yet to materialize.
Another powerhouse team will be the Olsbergs MSE outfit of Sweden. A mainstay during the early years of rallycross in America where it often swept the titles, it’s been something of a sleeping giant in recent seasons.
But now it’s back in full force, with Oliver Eriksson and 2019 ARX2 champ Fraser McConnell running the latest iteration of the team’s Ford Fiesta ST, and Kevin Eriksson and bringing the Honda Civic Coupe back to the country where it made its name. Sebastian Eriksson was previously announced as driving a second Honda, but will be absent from the season opener.
The Hansen squad is also back. Winners of the first two Nitro Rallycross events, which were single round contests at the Nitro World Games action sports event in 2018 and ‘19, Kevin Hansen will be looking to add to the family’s US trophy haul. He’s committed to a full season, while 2018 champ Timmy Hansen is so far only confirmed for the season opener but is likely to do more rounds.
Among the US contingent, Tanner Foust – the only driver to contest every professional rallycross event in the US – will be reunited with 2019 Andretti team-mate Cabot Bigham.
But with Volkswagen, and subsequently Andretti’s withdrawal from rallycross at the end of 2019, the duo will instead line up in a pair of Audis for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing which steps up to the Supercar class for the first time after several successful seasons in the second tier Lites competitions.
Steve Arpin will also be looking to once again upset the big teams. The multiple race winner and 2017 title contender has ditched his venerable Ford in favor of a tie-up with race winning World Rallycross squad Grönholm RX which gives him access to the rapid Hyundai i20. He’ll definitely be one to watch over the course of the season.
Also coming over from Europe is the popular RX Cartel operation, which has left World RX behind for NRX. Lead driver Liam Doran is no stranger to North America and was a multiple race winner in GRC and X Games last decade. He’ll be joined by multiple European champion Robin Larsson, with both running the same EKS-built Audis as DRR.
Oliver Bennett’s another World RX regular that’s left that series for a full crack at America as well. His striking Mini will be at every round this season.
Supercar entry list:
#00 – Steve Arpin (Hyundai i20, Loenbro Motorsports)
#02 – Cabot Bigham (Audi S1, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing)
#4 – Robin Larsson (Audi S1, RX Cartel)
#9 – Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208, Hansen RX Team)
#13 – Andreas Bakkerud (Subaru WRX STI, Subaru Motorsports USA)
#16 – Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta ST, Olsbergs MSE)
#21 – Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208, Hansen RX Team)
#33 – Liam Doran (Audi S1, RX Cartel)
#34 – Tanner Foust (Audi S1, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing)
#35 – Fraser McConnell (Ford Fiesta ST, Olsbergs MSE)
#41 – Scott Speed (Subaru WRX STI, Subaru Motorsports USA)
#42 – Oliver Bennett (Mini Cooper, Xite Energy Racing)
#96 – Kevin Eriksson (Honda Civic Coupe, Olsbergs MSE)
#199 – Travis Pastrana (Subaru WRX STI, Subaru Motorsports USA)
A seven-car field is expected to contest the NRX NEXT category, which follows in the footsteps of GRC Lites and ARX2 as rallycross’ premier development series.
So far, we’ve seen that Indy 500 regular Sage Karam, Lane Vacala, and Simon Olofsson will race in the category for DRR; Martin Enlund will fill one of two Enlunds Motorsport seats with Casper Jansson in the other, while Eric Gordon will race for Bak 40 Motorsports. George Megennis will race for Kevin Hansen’s YellowSquad too, following a successful rallycross debut in Sweden earlier this summer.
All will race the same 310bhp purpose-built SuperCar Lites machine that has been a mainstay in rallycross’ second tier in both the US and Europe since 2013.
NRX NEXT won’t be the only support category, either. After a successful low-key debut as ARX3 in 2019, Sierra Cars will also be returning to add an entry-level rung on the ladder with a field of 200bhp, Suzuki Hayabusa-powered UTVs.
One of the competitors in this class will be Ken Block’s daughter, Lia.
A long-standing criticism of GRC was its tracks – more often than not built a few days before the race on city streets, parking lots, or airfields. ARX wasn’t much better, carving dirt sections into the grass runoffs of established asphalt circuits.
To rectify this, NRX adopted a ‘motocross with a roll cage’ philosophy, designing tracks with high banks, multiple jumps – including the now-signature 100ft gap jump – and different lines to really test drivers.
The first venue, at the Utah Motorsports Campus, has gradually evolved since its debut, and has served as something of a proof of concept that has gone on to spawn similarly dramatic courses at NRX Motor Park, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Glen Helen Raceway, and The FIRM. All will provide a thrill for drivers, but all will have their own character and challenges, too.
The calendar will effectively be split into three, with two lots of back-to-back events and the season finale coming off the back of a one-week break:
Utah Motorsports Campus, UT – September 24-25
ERX Motor Park, MN – October 2-3
Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, AZ – November 13-14
Glen Helen Raceway, CA – November 20-21
The FIRM, FL – December 4-5
The first day of each event will consist of solo single-lap qualifying runs to determine the order of ‘battle qualifying’, which will consist of one-on-one races in a bracket-style tournament. The final of the bracket will determine pole position for day two, with each battle winner being awarded a single championship point.
On the second day, two eight car heat races will take place over five laps with the top two finishers from each of those races getting a pass into the final. The remaining drivers (12 in Utah) will be split into two five-lap semifinals where again, the top two from each race will advance to the final.
The remaining cars left (eight in Utah) will go into a ‘last chance qualifier’ (LCQ) in which, once again, the top two finishers progress to the final. All other runners are out of the event at this point.
That sets up a 10-car final, where the winner will be awarded 50 points, second 45, and third 40, with the rest awarded points at five-point intervals.
Where to watch
For viewers in the US, all the action will be streamed for free on Peacock, whereas everywhere else in the world, YouTube will carry event live streams.
It will also be carried live on BT Sport in the UK, DAZN in Brazil, Italy, Japan, Spain and all non-exclusive territories; Fox Sports and Kayo in Australia; MCS in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, Sky in New Zealand, and SportsMax in the Caribbean.
Highlights will also be shown on beIN SPORTS (Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia), Sportsnet (Canada), SuperSport (Sub-Saharan Africa), Tencent (China), and Viaplay Sport (Nordics, Baltics, Poland).
And of course, DirtFish is the place to be for all coverage before, during and after the event.