Jenson Button heads to Nitro Rallycross

The 2009 Formula 1 world champion will race an electric FC1-X for Xite Energy Racing

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Jenson Button will compete in Nitro Rallycross’ headline Group E category this season for Xite Energy Racing.

The 2009 Formula 1 world champion will line up alongside Oliver Bennett in the team, which is the first to confirm its driver pairing for the upcoming season.

“I want to go racing,” said Button. “I love racing, I love competing and I want to have fun. I’m looking forward to racing Nitro RX with Xite Energy – a team which has great experience of not just rallycross but also racing electric vehicles.

“And I get to race alongside my mate Oli. He’s a great character, great for the sport and comes with a lot of experience of competing on the dirt.

“Hopefully I can learn that side from him and he can learn from my circuit driving. It’s going to be a fun partnership, but I think it’s going to be a good partnership as well and hopefully we can take it to the big boys in rallycross.”

Button has long been linked to a move into rallycross, with his father being British rallycross legend John Button. A move to a US-based series was always seen as the more likely option – as well as currently residing in California, he visited the 2015 Global Rallycross season finale in Las Vegas, and tested Olsbergs MSE’s race-winning Honda Civic Coupe at Sebring in 2017. However, a post-F1 transition to rallycross remained speculation until now.

“There’s a real family connection with rallycross,” Button said. “Dad used to race in the late ‘70s and ‘80s in a Volkswagen Beetle and then a Volkswagen Golf. If you go on YouTube you’ll actually find some videos of my dad racing at Lydden Hill with Murray Walker commentating.

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“I’m a racing driver, not a Formula 1 driver so new challenges is what I’m all about Jenson Button

“I’d like to emulate what he did – that would be pretty special. I used to love going along and watching him race. I remember it was so loud. That won’t be a problem this time – the FC1-X is not loud; it’s awesome that the kids can come and watch and don’t need to wear headsets!”

Since his final F1 race in 2017, Button’s racing exploits have mostly been in sports car racing, most notably Japan’s Super GT series where he won the championship at his first attempt in 2018 alongside Naoki Yamamoto.

So far his only off-road racing has been limited to a sole outing for his eponymous Extreme E team in Saudi Arabia last year, as well as appearances in the Mint 400 and Baja 1000 in 2019. He also recently tested Bennett’s Mini and Ford Fiesta Supercars at Pembrey, Wales earlier this month.

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“Rallycross is night and day different to Formula 1 and that’s why I love it,” he said. “I left F1 after 17 years because I wanted to try something new. I’m all about new challenges.

“I’m a racing driver, not a Formula 1 driver so new challenges is what I’m all about. I felt I achieved what I needed to in Formula 1 so it’s nice to try different things.”

While Xite Energy Racing is the first team to lock in its driver lineup for the upcoming Nitro RX season, a number of other squads have been confirmed to be joining the Group E ranks.

Vermont SportsCar, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Grönholm RX and FC1-X developer Olsbergs MSE are among the other 2021 Nitro Rallycross participants that have purchased a car ahead of the electric class’ maiden season.

Reigning Supercar champion Travis Pastrana has signalled that he will race in both Group E and the Supercar classes this year, while Subaru has revealed to DirtFish that it will be defending its title in the highest combustion class.