Jenson Button is relishing the “new challenges” of his move into rallycross.
The 2009 Formula 1 world champion’s long-awaited move to rallycross is one of the topics being chronicled in XITE Energy Racing’s new behind the scenes documentary series, Through the Dust.
Button, alongside XITE Energy Racing owner-driver Oliver Bennett, embarked on a “Preparation and foundation” test at Pembrey circuit in Wales earlier this year, where he got to work with his new team for the first time.
“This is very different, it’s a lot more technical. I really enjoy the challenge, but I really don’t know how good I’m going to be,” he says in the first episode of the series. “They always say if it’s got four wheels, [it] doesn’t matter where it is or what it is, you should be able to be competitive if you’re good in one type of racing.”
Button won’t be racing the Olsbergs MSE-built Ford Fiesta ST Supercar he sampled at the Welsh track however, instead driving an all-electric FC1-X, again developed by OMSE.
But that’s something that he feels could be a positive as he gets to grips with a wildly different discipline to the one where he made his name.
“[I’m] excited by the challenge, working with a great group of people that will point me in the right direction,” he says.
“And the technology is new for all of us – jumping in a combustion engine rallycross car, I’m definitely on the back foot, but with it being EV, it’s a nice place to be because I can use my skills of working with engineers to develop the car further with Oli.”
“Still a lot of progress needed, but again, learning as quick as I can because I know there aren’t really many more [test] days before the start of the season,” he adds.
“But it’s a fun process and for me that’s what racing’s all about now after leaving Formula 1. It’s new challenges and that’s what I love in life.”
Moving on from Wales, Button got his first taste of the FC1-X in Barcelona – and it made a great first impression.
“[It] definitely puts a smile on your face. The amount of power, as a kid this is the sort of car that you would want on your bedroom wall. But when you drive it, yeah, it’s just madness.”
He also spoke of the differing approaches between himself and Bennett, a rallycross veteran.
“I have learnt a lot from Oli of the limitations of the car [going] sideways,” says Button. “Even if it’s not as quick, it’s been really useful to get a feel for the car.
“Oli comes from a very sideways background, I come from not sideways at all, so it’s been really good for us to work together, to learn from each other. And I think he’s probably dialed it back a little bit, and I’ve dialed it up a little bit.
“It’s been really useful, so I think it’s going to be a good partnership going forward.”
Expanding on his early impressions of rallycross after those first two tests, Button says: “Being a rallycross driver, it’s pretty cool. For me, after [my] F1 career I wanted to do something that was fun and I really feel that rallycross is definitely fun – the driving aspect, but also the atmosphere within rallycross.
“It’s a lot more relaxed and we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time,” he adds. “My dad used to race in rallycross, and I always used to see the smile on his face when he came home, so it’s lovely to feel that firsthand.”
Episode one of Through the Dust is available to stream on XITE Energy’s YouTube channel now. The series will feature 10 installments, with new episodes arriving the week before each round of the 2022-23 Nitro Rallycross season.