Why the WRC’s most successful team principal has moved to Nitrocross

Volkswagen dominated the WRC for four years thanks in part to Jost Capito. What can he do for Nitrocross?


Fifteen years ago Jost Capito had an idea. He called ESPN and told them they needed more cars on track. Rallycross at the X Games was the result.

The penultimate day of last month might turn out to be a similarly pivotal moment for the sport Stateside. The German was one of three hires announced by Thrill One Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Nitrocross. Mike Laheta stepped across from NASCAR as senior vice-president, Chip Pankow was named as the general manager and Capito signed up as special advisor.

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Capito. A decade ago he was at the heart of Volkswagen’s extraordinary and unrivalled success in the World Rally Championship. Then he went back to Formula 1. Then he went home.

Now? He’s back. An interested observer at the Nitrocross Salt Lake City event, he was back for more in Glen Helen and now he’s in for the longhaul.

WRC Rally Australia, Coffs Harbour 11 - 14 September 2014

Capito lead Volkswagen to four consecutive driver's and manufacturers' titles in the WRC

“I can’t talk about the contract,” he told DirtFish, “but I’m definitely not in this for a couple of months. To develop this [series] and to take it really where it belongs, it’s not done in a couple of months. The concept is right, the car is right and I believe this is the future of this kind of sport.”

As we mentioned at the top of this story, Capito’s a believer in the dirt-pavement mix that is rallycross. Always has been.

“Basically I brought rallycross to the US,” he said. “As head of global performance vehicles and global motorsport business development, it was my job to introduce the Fiesta to America in 2009. It was a small car and it needed an image in the US. At the time I was supporting Andreas Eriksson in rallycross in Europe.

“Andreas always wanted to do Pikes Peak [Hillclimb], so I said: “OK, I will support you to do Pikes Peak – but then you have to leave the car in America for another two weeks and do X Games.” He agreed. At the time, X Games was a Race of Champions-style side-by-side race. After that I contacted ESPN and told them X Games had to include rallycross.

“They did that in 2010 and had their biggest viewership of all their sports. Global Rallycross was created from there. I’ve always been a fan and I’ve always supported rallycross in the US.”

Capito’s role isn’t full-time, but it is strategic. And part of that strategy is globalisation.

“Nitrocross can grow in the US to become a global series,” he added. “In my experience it’s important not to do this too fast. We have to establish [Nitrocross], to become a really good series in the US. We need to get some really good European drivers in, then you can excite Europe and then you move over and have one or two events [outside of North America]. But we have to do it on a sustainable basis.


Robin Larsson is the current Nitrocross series champion

“Thrill One is taking a different approach, it’s not all based around TV. It’s based on streaming and making the sport attractive to young people. Those guys have lots of experience of doing things differently and the financial background is there to make it happen. There is investment there to do this properly and I think that’s what I’m known for.

“Working with people who don’t necessarily come from racing is a great chance and a great challenge and I really enjoy that. I like to work with young people with different minds who are focused on getting something done together.”

And for Capito, the ubiquitous, all-electric 1000bhp FC1-X is key to the series’ potential.

“It’s about putting a body on it,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to spend millions developing their own battery or motor – people don’t buy their car depending who made the battery or the inverter or converter. It’s not like that anymore. It’s about the looks of the car, the interior, the exterior, the price and the image for the car.

Scott Speed

Captio masterminded the Global Rallycross series, which ran across North America from 2011 to 2017

“For Nitrocross manufacturers come and they put the body on the chassis and they go racing. Look around: racing departments are shrinking. Look at Le Mans cars and there are really three chassis manufacturers now.

“Like I said, the concept is right and the car is right. Nitrocross is highly attractive to manufacturers and I’m excited about the future.”

As the original architect of US RX, it’ll be fascinating to see how Capito can build on foundations he helped lay a decade and a half ago.

Words:David Evans