What do rallycross and Hollywood have in common?
No, we don’t mean two-time World RX champion Petter Solberg. Not Mr. Hollywood. The one in Los Angeles that makes movies and so forth.
Original ideas are out. Sequels are en vogue.
That’s what Supercharge, a brand new electric crossover championship bidding to launch its new series in 2022, appears to be creating. A sequel to World RX. It is in almost every way imaginable a carbon copy of the rallycross template – but based in urban locations and without gravel. That aside, the lack of difference between the two concepts is astounding.
It’s almost as if someone right clicked, hit copy and paste, changed a few words here and there, and decided to call it a day. There’s a good reason for that, though, which we’ll get to.
Every circuit on the Supercharge calendar – which plans to visit pretty much all corners of the globe – will follow a pre-defined template. Each ‘Supertrack’, as they’ve been branded, will be about a kilometer long, feature a ‘Super Loop’ track deviation that’s taken once per race, ‘low friction zones’ where grip is artificially decreased to make the track more slippery and unpredictable, and a mandatory 2.5-meter high jump.
In the short term it will not be a problem but if they get FIA status and it starts to do well, then manufacturers will look into itJC Raceteknik boss Joel Christoffersson on Supercharge
It’s the same length as a World RX track. ‘Super Loop’ is the joker lap. Low friction zones are known in rallycross as, er, gravel sections. And almost every single World RX track has a jump; even Abu Dhabi, which is otherwise as flat as a pancake, has a single jump near the finish.
The race format probably won’t come as a surprise. There are ‘group stage’ races with four cars each that hand out championship points. There are three rounds of the group stage before the qualifying drivers move on to the semi-finals and a final, with both stages featuring six cars in each race.
As for the cars, they’re set to produce 500kW. In old money, that’s 670bhp, a little bit more than the current petrol-powered RX1 machines (formerly known as Supercar until the FIA renamed everything last week). But the 0-60mph time clocks in at an estimated 2.5 seconds, slightly slower than RX1, so it’s likely a bit heavier than a top-of-the-line rallycross machine.
The FIA is still expecting World RX to go fully electric in 2022, the same year Supercharge is planning to launch its all-electric crossover formula.
You’ve probably got the point by now. World RX, Supercharge, not that different. But why?
Joel Christoffersson, whose JC Raceteknik outfit runs Mattias Ekström and Robin Larsson in World RX, understood immediately.
“It’s the old boss of IMG [Motorsports],” Christoffersson points out to DirtFish. “He was the first guy who took rallycross into IMG in 2013, Rob [Armstrong], and he has a lot of employees [formerly] from IMG that have been involved with rallycross to make a proper copycat of it.”
For as many similarities as there are, there are also some noticeable differences. When it comes to cars, the series is more Extreme E than World RX.
Supercharge wants to entice manufacturers. While carmakers will be able to shove their own body shapes on top of the chassis and fit their own battery tech, every team will be using the same underlying car, the SC01.
And while Supercharge made its intentions known on Wednesday, it still faces a long road ahead. If Supercharge wants to muscle in on World RX’s market share, it still needs to get its ducks in a row first. There are no teams signed up, no drivers, and it is still applying for FIA status.
But if it does get everything in place, could the success of Supercharge be a threat to World RX’s long-term prospects?
“Yeah, it could be,” responds Christoffersson. “I think in the short term it will not be a problem but if they get the FIA status and it starts to do well, better than what we have now [in rallycross], then for sure manufacturers will have a look into it.
“But as long as we are an FIA world championship it’s more interesting for the manufacturer to go there [World RX] than a support series that doesn’t have any FIA backing. At the moment, it doesn’t anyway, but in the long term it could have.”
And while members of the original IMG team that put together World RX in the first place now try to launch its closest rival in the marketplace, IMG’s departure from World RX at the end of the year is providing hope, not despair, to the teams.
“I think we have positive news now,” adds Christoffersson. “We are getting IMG out and getting a new promoter in, so it feels like something new and good can happen for rallycross as well. We wait and see what is happening with World RX but the feeling is good; I think it could be good for the championship.”
So, a big-budget sequel to the original is on the horizon. But you know what people always say; there’s nothing like the original.
Let’s see if the sequel is still remembered fondly in a few years’ time.