The 2010s was a huge decade for rallycross. In the US it was adopted as the next ‘big thing’, with drivers flocking from both sides of the Atlantic to compete, while Europe’s hugely passionate and dedicated community was finally given a world stage to shine on.
While the World Rallycross Championship season continues to be put on hold and we wait for the next move in the top-level rallycross soap opera in the US, let’s look back at our top 10 rallycross drivers from both sides of the pond of the previous decade.
Putting together a list like this was no easy task, as such many a top name like Timur Timerzyanov, Robin Larsson, Reinis Nitišs, Sverre Isachsen, Oliver Eriksson, Joni Wiman, Mitchell DeJong, Steve Arpin, and Sébastien Loeb all missed the cut, but only just.
10. Marcus Grönholm
Marcus Grönholm is one of the greatest rally drivers of all time and like one of his contemporaries that you’ll find elsewhere on this list, he was able to instantly translate that success to the cut and thrust of rallycross.
After a brief foray into the European championship at the end of the 2000s, Grönholm was one of the big names attracted to Global Rallycross when it began in 2011. The Finn was instantly successful, winning the series’ first two events at Irwindale, later winning at Pikes Peak as well. In that first season his worst result was third, and if it wasn’t for missing the two rounds held right here in Seattle, he probably would’ve won the series.
In 2012 he began in a similarly successful fashion, winning the opening two rounds in Charlotte and Texas before a heavy crash at the X Games in Los Angeles brought a premature end to not only his season, but his rallycross career.
Were it not for that, there’s little doubt that Grönholm would’ve been a champion, and who knows what else could have followed – he likely would’ve placed higher on this list too. These days he runs the race-winning GRX team in World RX.
9. Toomas Heikkinen
Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen was one of rallycross’s top stars on both sides of the Atlantic when things kicked up a gear in the middle of the decade.
After a horror smash at the X Games in 2012, Heikkinen returned to claim podium finishes in all but one round of the 2013 Global Rallycross season – including a record five consecutive wins, something that remains unbeaten in the US’s top level.
With America ticked off, Heikkinen expanded his horizons for 2014 and finished second in World RX as a rookie. He remained there for four full seasons, taking two event wins, before moving to TitansRX’s international series for 2019.
In the single-make category Heikkinen won the first ever race, and claimed a further two round wins as he remained a strong title contender throughout the year.
8. Tanner Foust
Trailblazer – that’s a word that perfectly describes Tanner Foust. The American was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of rallycross in the US, and has competed in every single professionally-sanctioned rallycross race in America.
Foust was also the first US driver to compete in both European and World RX. He was a race winner in both series, and finished in the top three in points in Euro RX twice, proving that the level of competition in the US was comparable to Europe.
On home soil he won the first two GRC titles, and remained a frontrunner thereafter. He finished outside of the top three in the points only once, and won in all but one of his full seasons. In 2019 he took the final ARX title, emerging at the top of the tree after former team mate and chief rival Scott Speed was sidelined with injury.
7. Kevin Hansen
A rising star whose maturity and success defies his age.
The younger Hansen brother a multiple winner of junior titles, but has also added European and TitansRX titles to his resume and claimed his first World RX win last year. His dominant European RX run in 2016 yielded four wins from five events and a ‘worst’ finish of second.
Last year, his first competing in equal machinery to elder brother Timmy, Kevin Hansen started the World RX season with a first win in Abu Dhabi and remained in the title fight until the final round.
Elsewhere he took a dominant win in the Nitro Rallycross event, and was crowned series winner in the inaugural TitansRX campaign, being the only driver to finish on the podium in every single race.
6. Andreas Bakkerud
Andreas Bakkerud has been one of Europe’s most popular rallycross stars for several years and he’s never far from the sharp end of the field.
The Norwegian began the decade with back-to-back European S1600 titles and has since gone on to compete in every World RX season, taking 30 podiums from 71 starts.
Perhaps his best achievement to date came in 2016 when he swept the weekend at his home event in Hell in the unfavoured Ford Focus RS RX, becoming the first driver in World RX history to take the top spot in every session during a single weekend.
After the manufacturer team exodus ahead of 2019, Bakkerud was an early title favourite and he matched that reputation by taking his first win since 2016 and remaining in the contention until the final of the last round of the season.
5. Timmy Hansen
Timmy Hansen has been a champion-in-waiting for much of his career, and he finally delivered on that promise in 2019, beating Andreas Bakkerud and brother Kevin Hansen in a nail-biting finish.
In what was arguably the most competitive World RX season, Hansen managed to notch up double the wins of any other driver and were it not for a heavy shunt at the season opener in Abu Dhabi, he could have won the title in even more convincing fashion.
But Hansen’s rallycross record isn’t all about his title. A five-time event winner before 2019, he been one of World RX’s stars since day one, and coming from a family that has umpteen other rallycross titles to their name, you’d expect that.
He’s faced some tough competition in his time in the form of Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekström, Johan Kristoffersson, and Bakkerud to name a few, and he’s been on par with all of them. What’s more, he’s only 27, so if we revisit this list in a few years, the chances are he’ll be even higher up.
4. Mattias Ekström
After making his name on race tracks in the DTM, Ekström began to dovetail his tin-top career with one in rallycross.
Despite the radically different nature of the high-downforce silhouette touring car series and rallycross, Ekström was equally at home in both – although you’d expect that from a Scandinavian driver who spent some time in his formative years rallying.
Ekström’s top-level rallycross debut came at X Games Munich in 2013, where he secured a pair of top-five finishes. He didn’t have to wait long for World RX glory either, winning on his second outing on home soil in Sweden in 2014.
After running most of the 2015 season (missing Hockenheim where World RX shared the bill with DTM), Ekström got Audi’s blessing to run the full season in 2016. The manufacturer’s faith was repaid when he broke Solberg’s stranglehold on the title, preventing the rallying legend from taking a third straight success.
Ekström clinched the 2016 title at Audi’s home round at Estering with a round to spare. His title defence in 2017 got off to a great start in 2017 with three straight wins, but missing the Swedish round and the emergence of compatriot Kristoffersson put paid to hopes of another title. He eventually finished second, a result he’d match in 2018, albeit without another race win.
3. Petter Solberg
After losing his World Rally Championship ride, Solberg made the switch to rallycross in 2013, right before the discipline went stratospheric.
A brace of podiums in the European championship set the stage for the inaugural World RX season. Five wins, including the very first World RX event, and three on the bounce later in the year gave him a convincing second FIA World Championship crown.
A year later Solberg faced a tougher challenge, but nevertheless achieved a higher points total and a second consecutive World RX title. He remained a frontrunner for the next three years before retiring at the end of 2018. By then his mantle of World RX’s number one star had been passed onto his team-mate, and the driver we’ve placed at the top of our list…
2. Scott Speed
Scott Speed moved to rallycross in 2013 after spells in Formula 1 and NASCAR. In rallycross he found his home.
After claiming a surprise debut win in Brazil (in what was initially supposed to be a one-off appearance), he won again in Charlotte in 2013 before moving to Andretti Autosport in 2014.
Another round one win, this time in Barbados, plus a victory in Los Angeles followed, then after his team introduced the Volkswagen Beetle, Speed began an unprecedented run of four titles in as many years.
When Americas Rallycross competed on the same bill as World RX in 2018 and 2019, Speed – and the rest of the US field – showed pace on the combined timesheets that proved his four titles were the real deal.
At Silverstone and Canada in 2018, Speed wasn’t a world away in the times, despite carrying 25 kg ballast to compensate for the regulatory differences between the US and European cars, while in Canada in 2019 he was quicker than the entire world championship field, with Subaru team-mate Patrik Sandell the only driver to lap faster.
It could have, and should have, been five American titles as well, but for breaking his back in a horrendous crash after overshooting a minor jump at Nitro Rallycross during the summer of 2019. The injury meant that he missed the final two ARX races, which caused him to slip down to sixth, the lowest championship position of his rallycross career.
1. Johan Kristoffersson
There was only ever going to be one driver in the number one spot on this list, the undisputed king of World Rallycross in the 2010s: Johan Kristoffersson.
No driver has come close to the level of success the Swede has achieved. Sure, Solberg may have as many titles, but Kristoffersson’s 20 wins are double that of Solberg and Ekstrom who share second spot on the all-time wins list, and two more than Speed’s impeccable US record.
Of those wins, 11 of those came in 2018 – a 12-round season – nine of them in a row. He was victorious in every full season he competed in, another record that’s unmatched. And his worst championship finish in a full season? Third place.
Long story short, Kristoffersson is easily the best rallycross driver of the 2010s, and one of the best of all time. What’s more, with him already announcing a comeback for the currently delayed 2020 season, he could even add to his legend.