Round one of Nitro Rallycross is in the books, with Timmy Hansen keeping his family team’s unbeaten run at the Utah Motorsports Complex going. But that doesn’t tell the full story of what went down.
Hansen leads the championship, but was he the best performing driver across a thrilling first weekend? Is Subaru the team to beat? And how did the drivers adjusting to new machines fare?
In the first part of a regular ‘power rankings’ feature to run on DirtFish across the 2021 Nitro Rallycross season, DirtFish’s rallycross editor delivers his first top-10 verdict.
Similar to driver ratings in that it ranks drivers, power rankings differ in that there’s no numerical value assigned but instead drivers can shuffle up and down the list throughout the season depending on their performances.
10. Oliver Bennett
It seems like every time Oliver Bennett gets behind the wheel of the Xite Energy Racing Mini he improves, and last weekend was no different.
Rapid starts were the key component of his weekend, and a duel with Kevin Hansen in the last chance qualifier showed what he could do when the stars align.
Mechanical issues on day one, and visibility challenges on day two, stopped him from showing an even stronger hand.
9. Andreas Bakkerud
Andreas Bakkerud certainly didn’t have a bad weekend, but he perhaps didn’t get as much out of the WRX STI as his Subaru Motorsports USA team-mates.
Nevertheless, he showed promise with a comprehensive semifinal win, and could’ve achieved a decent result in the final if it wasn’t for his lap one retirement.
He’ll be looking to string together a couple of strong days in Minnesota this weekend as he aims to secure a full-season Subaru deal.
8. Tanner Foust
The ‘Golden Child’ now quite literally has a golden car, and while Tanner Foust showed flashes of the same speed and consistency that have earned him four US rallycross crowns (including the most recent full season in Americas Rallycross), it wasn’t a barnstorming dominant display that we’re used to.
But he drove his Audi for the first time on Thursday, the day before the event started, so he can definitely be given the benefit of the doubt.
Expect him to put a full weekend together sooner or later, and then, everyone should be very wary.
7. Oliver Eriksson
One of rallycross’ brightest rising stars, Oliver Eriksson backed up that reputation with flashes of impressive speed all weekend in Utah.
A charge in the final may well have resulted in a closer finish, but he succumbed to the same tire issues that caught out many others.
It almost seems harsh to not rank him any higher, but his time will come. He’s given himself an excellent baseline for the rest of the year.
6. Kevin Hansen
The 2019 NRX winner came into this year’s season opener as an instant favorite but faced an uphill battle after an early exit from the head-to-heads at the hands of Scott Speed and two mid-pack runs in the heat races.
After winning – or rather surviving – the LCQ, he showed the form we’re all familiar with by carving his way through from the back of the grid to claim a podium in the final.
A strong end to an otherwise uneventful weekend.
5. Fraser McConnell
Fraser McConnell’s meteoric rise up the rallycross ranks has been building up to this point, and he certainly made it count last weekend.
Fastest lap of all in opening practice followed by a semifinal run in the battles, he likely would’ve had a podium in the final if it wasn’t for a minor skirmish with Olsbergs MSE team-mate Oliver Eriksson.
The speed’s definitely there, and once he gains a little more experience in wheel-to-wheel battles, it’ll only be a matter of time before he’s the class of the field.
4. Scott Speed
Scott Speed picked up where he left off before his back injury of 2019, running Timmy Hansen achingly close in timed qualifying and then winning the head-to-head bracket.
But after a fine first day, a mixture of mechanical gremlins and brutal on-track comings together derailed any hope he had of winning on his return from injury.
However the important thing is Speed is just as fast as ever. He just needs to shake off the bad luck that can be all-too prevalent in rallycross.
3. Steve Arpin
He may not have the star power of Travis Pastrana or either of the Hansen brothers, but Steve Arpin is definitely one of NRX’s very best, and he certainly showed that in Utah.
Left with little time to adjust to his new Hyundai i20, the former-Ford man banged the Grönholm RX-machine straight into the top-five in timed qualifying, then made it all the way to the semis in the one-on-ones, defeating Foust along the way in a thrilling fight.
In the final, he quietly managed his pace as the drama unfolded around him to come home second; a fine result for the three-time Global Rallycross race winner as he embarks on a new chapter with GRX.
2. Travis Pastrana
Believe it or not, Travis Pastrana has never really done that well in Nitro Rallycross – the event that came from his creative mind.
You wouldn’t have known that last weekend though, as he was right at the sharp end of the competitive order for much of the weekend, including a qualifying final showdown with Subaru team-mate Scott Speed.
The end result didn’t truly reflect his weekend, after being shuffled back in the final, but he gave the eventual winner Timmy Hansen a hard time at the start of the main event at least.
1. Timmy Hansen
Nitro Rallycross happens at Utah Motorsports Campus, a Hansen wins. It’s becoming something of a formula, but the elder Hansen brother didn’t have it easy.
He started off the weekend as the fastest qualifier over a single lap, but heavy damage during the one-on-one battles very nearly derailed his weekend.
A stellar repair job put him back on track, literally, and his decisive move over Pastrana, then controlling drive to the win in the final, showed why he’s arguably the best rallycross driver in the world right now.