As DirtFish’s writers continue to pick out their standout moments from 2021, rallycross editor Dominik Wilde’s pick unsurprisingly involves big jumps and door-to-door racing.
When I joined DirtFish ahead of the launch of the media side of the organization, one thing was clear: covering Nitro Rallycross would be top priority for me.
The problem is, in December 2019 when those first discussions took place – or January 2020 when we unveiled this thing to the world – Nitro Rallycross didn’t actually exist as a series. Fast forward two years from those initial secret meetings and Nitro RX has just wrapped up its first full multi-round campaign.
So what’s my best moment? I could cheat, just say the season in its entirety, file this feature right now and go back to getting very drunk and very fat as we all should do during the Christmas period. But no, there is one moment – or race weekend – that I can pick out.
Travis Pastrana is easily the most passionate, most driven person I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. The guy loves what he does, and works damn hard to turn his wild visions into reality. And that’s what he’s been doing for most of the last two years, slaving away to rescue rallycross in the US, and improving it in the process.
He also competes in his series. He doesn’t have an unfair advantage (he’s very clear about making sure the playing field is fair in that regard). But he nevertheless did find success in it – he won it outright.
During the season Pastrana entered victory lane not once, but twice. The first of those victories was rather special. It seemed unfathomable that Pastrana had only won one rallycross event before 2021, Not that you could tell based on his Phoenix performance at the midpoint of the year.
A qualifying win – claiming the scalps of drivers like Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen to boot – a third heat win from three on the year (he’d go five for five by year’s end), and then an untouchable performance in the final was the story of his weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
That first victory of the season would go on to propel the Subaru driver to title success; success that also came after years of underachievement on the rallycross side of the Vermont SportsCar operation. It also capped off a remarkable year which also included rally and hillclimb triumphs for Pastrana and the team.
It’s an impossible task, picking out one moment from planet DirtFish to mark out my year, but given the wait, the work, and what the Phoenix win went on to develop into, it’s quite a fitting moment to single out.
My bosses asked me to pick out one thing – so I’m going to totally ignore them and carry on, because, why not? I guess I will cheat after all…
You see, while Nitro RX has been fun and rewarding to cover this year, there’s been another videogame-come-to-life series that’s also caught my eye as well.
Like with Nitro RX, spending a year covering Extreme E without a single race taking place was mightily frustrating. So to see it finally come to life in 2021 has been fantastic. Sure, there’s been some tricky moments, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but what it’s done well it’s done very well.
It’s a good series, with the potential to become a great one should it overcome its teething troubles – and it will. Let’s not forget, this multi-continental championship with brand new cars, utilizing untried tech and an evolving sporting format came about during a crippling global pandemic.
The fact it exists at all is a miracle in itself, never mind the fact it made it to the end of that first season showcasing multiple moments of brilliance along the way, not to mention its paddock is one of the most enjoyable to be in out of all motorsport.
Being on the ground in Senegal was a magical experience that’ll stick with me forever, and returning to the XE family for Christmas in Dorset was yet another cherry atop of the 2021 cake.
So there you have it, Pastrana emerging as a top-tier rallycross driver in Phoenix is the one moment I would pick if I really had to nail one down. But the truth is, for me this year’s been all about two new championships trying new things, and making motorsport fun again too.
Isn’t it nice in this era of doom and gloom to see that at least the immediate future of our sport looks like a good laugh? Roll on more of the same in 2022.