Big promises, big expectations, and big hype – a lot of it admittedly from yours truly – but did Nitro Rallycross’ big foreign foray to Lydden Hill work?
There was a lot to unpack last weekend: all-new electric cars, changes to the sacred Lydden Hill and Nitro Rallycross venturing outside the United States for the first time.
Let’s start with that first one. I’m a big fan of the FC1-X as ‘a car’. It’s a technological marvel with more power than a developed country, but although we knew it was going to win every numbers game thrown at it, we had yet to see it actually race in the real world.
While there were a number of power steering issues faced throughout the field over the weekend – a consequence of the car being unused to heavy contact, but something I understand will be relatively easy to fix based on discussions with multiple people in the paddock – it did produce entertaining and competitive action right away.
That shouldn’t have been in doubt, if we’re being honest. Olsbergs MSE, which developed the car, knows rallycross better than most. It’s the team (and family) behind the SuperCar Lites racer which had been responsible for some of the most entertaining racing of the last decade, and its Supercars have always been pretty potent tools too. Nevertheless, you never know until you see it for real.
A competitive car is a real asset. Of course it is, but while a massive portion of the fanbase will still be banging on about the lack of sound (yes, less of it is there, and no, I don’t actually care) we can actually focus on the passes, the strategy, the last minute dives, the defensive moves. The racing.
Next on the list is Lydden Hill. In a pre-event feature I described modifying the fabled Kent circuit as like putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa – an analogy that a certain Mr. Pastrana borrowed once or twice over the weekend too.
But this wasn’t crude graffiti with a Sharpie, but rather one of those once in a generation touch-ups that keeps the masterpiece fresh for a new generation.
While I can, admittedly, take or leave the jump on the Dover Slope, the new ‘Talladega’ banked first turn and repositioned joker made for some great starts and tense finishes respectively.
Four-wide into what was Chessons not only looked spectacular, but opened up a plethora of strategy options: Do you gun it and escape the carnage behind? Do you hang back and send it round the outside? Do you throw it up the inside, or nail it through the dust and hope for the best? Things you could’ve admittedly done before, but with less freedom.
And that joker. It certainly made for some nail biting finishes, especially in the battles which would perhaps translate better on television than they do in the real world at an open place like Lydden Hill were it not for the side-by-side finishes provided by the longer route.
Then there’s turning Kent into the 51st State. America’s take on rallycross is certainly entertaining, and they’ve always been incredibly keen to highlight their fondness of the disipline’s origins on the other side of the pond.
But Europeans looking the other way have been less accepting on the whole in the past. There felt like a wave of positivity throughout the paddock and viewing areas over the weekend. Crowd numbers were decent, too, despite the ‘dreaded battery’ cars and ‘unthinkable track tweaks’.
Nitro Rallycross has come into this year with a colossal uphill battle ahead of it as it introduces vehicles that many of the old school fans don’t approve of and expands into markets that are used to seeing the word ‘rallycross’ applied to a rather different sporting and entertainment product, and while things generally get better over time, I already think they’re very good. Maybe they’ll be great after Sweden, and then what?
The sky’s not the limit this time, it’s where we’re starting from. Next stop: beyond.