We usually write our wishlists before Christmas, but with the festive period now well out of the way, we’re engaging launch control and clunking into gear as we ready ourselves for another season of intense rallycross competition.
With a new season comes new expectations for the year ahead, and with a world championship due to get a new promoter and a fresh US series, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2021.
But what do we want to see from rallycross in 2021?
A proper World RX championship fight
We pretty much got this in 2020, but while Johan Kristoffersson would’ve gone into the final double header of the season at the Nürburgring with one hand on the championship trophy, that event’s cancellation robbed us of a potential showdown between the Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström.
What’s more, after overcoming early season gremlins, 2019 champ Timmy Hansen was right up there by the end of the season. And then there’s 2019 contenders Andreas Bakkerud and Niclas Grönholm, who both also had their own hurdles to overcome.
Bakkerud struggled throughout 2020 as the Mégane R.S. RX failed to match the frontrunners both on pace and reliability, going without a podium just one year after coming achingly close to the title.
Grönholm meanwhile entered 2020 as many people’s favorite for the title, but a solitary win (his only podium too) was all he had to show for all that promise.
Imagine everything works out, and you have the 2019 and 2020 contenders all at the fore every single weekend. You have the potential for one of the greatest title fights not just in rallycross, but in all of motorsport.
A return for Johan Kristoffersson
Johan Kristoffersson has already said he intends to return to World RX in 2021, but that may be easier said than done.
The former Volkswagen factory driver returned last season after a year away with a handy rental agreement with the German manufacturer that allowed him to keep on using his ex-Petter Solberg Polo, a car identical to that that had given him two titles.
Since then though Volkswagen has closed the doors to its immensely successful motorsport operation. Does that mean the rental car desk is shut too? Maybe. Maybe not.
“Obviously the shutdown of Volkswagen Motorsport doesn’t make things easier so I think we have some work to do there, but let’s see what we can do,” Kristoffersson told DirtFish at the end of last season.
“We are working on it, but if we don’t manage that we will try to do something else.”
Either way, a World RX without Kristoffersson is a weaker World RX. Fingers crossed he’s back and in a competent machine as well.
Expanded grids in the US
Unless the COVID-19 crisis throws up further unavoidable complications, domestic top-level rallycross will return to the United States this year for the first time since 2019.
Nitro Rallycross appears to have ticked all the right boxes early on, but it faces a challenge both Global Rallycross and Americas Rallycross faced in recent seasons: car counts.
The final two ARX events featured eight-car grids, but for much of the category’s final season just seven cars from three teams showed up.
With Andretti and Volkswagen bowing out at the end of 2019, and the likes of Bryan Herta Rallysport and Olsbergs MSE missing for the entire ARX era, NRX faces an uphill battle to get a sizeable grid for its first season.
Subaru could field as many as four cars, while Loenbro Motorsports has three Ford Fiesta STs, but there’s also the possibility of European teams making the trip across the Atlantic to compete, while Olsbergs MSE has also expressed an interest in returning to the arena it once dominated.
Its Honda Civic Coupe platform was developed for the US market (where the road-going variant remains on sale) and it underwent an upgrade program throughout last year.
There’s nothing to say that NRX can’t attract decent-sized grids for its first season, but it will arguably be one of the big talking points in the lead up to the series’ inaugural event.
A renewed European Championship
As a result of the coronavirus crisis the European Rallycross Championship was relegated to a slender three-round calendar in 2020.
That was cut further with the cancellation of the season finale at the Nürburgring, meaning that for the first time since the venerable series debuted in 1976 the season wasn’t completed and a champion not crowned.
That’s a crime for a much-loved series that’s been around for longer than the world and numerous US championships combined.
Naturally, with the world championship arriving on the scene in 2014 and the US having some form of top-level series since 2011, European rallycross hasn’t always had the lion’s share of the headlines, but that doesn’t diminish the series’ importance in the motorsport world.
For the sake of the numerous privateer teams across the continent and rallycross’s ultra-passionate fanbase, European rallycross needs a proper, meaningful return in 2021. Five rounds supporting World RX are expected this year, fingers crossed they come off.
A resumption of TitansRX
Former World RX competitor Max Pucher’s novel TitansRX series made its debut in 2019 to much acclaim.
Loud, high-performance cars, but at a fraction of the cost of traditional supercars, a wide variety of superstar drivers, and a bunch of classic tracks all over Europe were on offer.
As costs spiraled at the top level and the discipline strayed further from its grassroots beginnings, TitansRX seemingly gave rallycross fans a brutish back-to-basics, but ultra-competitive, series they craved.
That was until 2020 did what 2020 did and forced the series to scrap its planned schedule which included a transatlantic trip to Canada.
A six-driver Austria-only mini-series kept the category on the radar last year, and a five-event, 10-round season across Austria, Hungary, and Germany is planned for later this year. Should it get the go-ahead, it would be a most-welcome remedy after a tricky 12 months.