Just like that, things are back to normal and everything is right with the world.
OK, perhaps not, but RallyX Nordic’s Magic Weekend at Höljes has given us the best look yet at what a ‘new normal’ in our corner of the motorsport landscape looks like.
And, do you know what? It’s not bad at all. Sure, there were no fans at the track, and the DirtFish team as well as other media professionals stayed nicely dry in our home offices rather than getting wet in Sweden.
But all of us, fans and professionals alike, were able to follow almost every second of the action thanks to a livestream put together by broadcast giant NEP.
The coverage – fronted by World Rally Championship reporter Molly Pettit, World Rallycross Championship’s Andrew Coley and Neil Cole, and rallycross authority Hal Ridge – made the lack of attendance barely noticeable.
We might be used to hours of livestreams for world championship events, but the added element of a studio, plenty of interviews to fill the lulls in the track action, and a mix of past, present, and future stars both on track and guesting in that studio, made the whole thing a hugely enjoyable viewing experience.
At the track, the broadcast showed that maybe social distancing guidelines weren’t always followed – something admittedly hard to do in an active motorsport paddock – but like NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1, the last of which returned on the same weekend as Magic Weekend, it did show that motorsport can still work amid the new measures required in a global pandemic.
Away from the key question of whether or not the event could work at all – if the answer wasn’t clear enough, yes it most certainly could – Magic Weekend also served as the perfect insight into the World RX season that awaits us.
After a year away racing touring cars and rallying, Johan Kristoffersson is still very much king of the rallycross hill. Over the weekend he drove a fast but privately-developed and run Volkswagen Polo rather than his factory machine and was still more than a match for those in the latest-spec cars, even winning on Sunday.
At the same time, Niclas Grönholm reminded us that he’s still one of, if not the biggest threat to World RX’s top dogs, even if GRX still has a little work to do.
Reigning European and Nordic champion Robin Larsson also showed that he shouldn’t be counted out of the running for the biggest prize, while his JC Raceteknik team mate Ben-Philip Gundersen staked an early claim to the Euro RX crown with flashes of brilliance on his maiden weekend in a Supercar.
Another Supercar debutant was DirtFish’s very own Fraser McConnell. ‘Fraz’ will be racing in the RX2 ‘Lites’ category this year, but used Magic Weekend as a no-pressure introduction to the main game, and boy did he show well. With two full Supercar rounds now in his pocket, he’ll be looking to use that experience as he bids to add an RX2 title to his ARX2 one claimed last year.
But what about the World RX questions left unanswered? Reigning champion Timmy Hansen spent his weekend having fun in CrossCar, while his Nitro Rallycross and TitansRX-winning brother Kevin remained trackside, overseeing the young Lites chargers in his YellowSquad team.
As a result we’re yet to see them show their hand for 2020. The team’s done some work on its Peugeot 208 Supercar over the winter, but unlike Kristoffersson, Grönholm and Larsson, we’ve got nothing to go on just yet – at least in 2020 terms.
The same goes for GC Kompetition. The French team seems to have been testing every moment when it’s not been in lockdown, but its choice to skip Magic Weekend means we won’t see it side-by-side with its rivals until Q1 at Höljes in a month’s time.
Of course, there was no obligation for either of those teams to show up last weekend. RallyX Nordic is a regional series and the inclusion of the likes of Kristoffersson, Grönholm, Larsson, and 2018 champion Oliver Solberg, plus Hansen and WRC star Thierry Neuville in the lower classes served to be something of bonus to fans who’d gone way too long without seeing a proper car on a proper track.
However, with those guys in the field – or fields – it also went to show just how strong the RallyX Nordic grid is too, and that as well as decent World and European seasons, we’re set for a strong Nordic one as well. Which is great, because all three have been a long time coming!
Like thousands of others, I can’t wait to be trackside again, but if this is the sort of thing we’ll have to tide us over in the meantime, I’m more than happy.