Ken Block became the first winner of an all-electric rallycross race, beating Hermann Neubauer and Natalie Barratt in the Projekt E season opener at Höljes.
The American, drafted in late on to drive one of the STARD-built Ford Fiesta ERX2s, won three of the four qualifying races, before taking a lights-to-flag victory in the six-lap final ahead of Barratt and Neubauer.
Block’s getaways all weekend had been typically dramatic as he adjusted from turbo power to electric, but in the final he made a measured departure from the grid to lead Neubauer. Barratt, who had opted to joker on the first lap in all four qualifying rounds, opted to follow the pair, and remained close.
By the second lap Block had begun to pull away, helped by Neubauer sustaining an apparent right-rear puncture. To distance herself from the slow Neubauer, Barratt jokered on that second tour.
From then on it was an exhibition, with Block leading Barratt and Neubauer home to take his first rallycross victory since GRC Detroit 1 in 2015, and his first on European soil since a one-off European Rallycross appearance in Norway in 2014.
After years of being told it’s on the way, electric rallycross finally arrived this weekend in the form of Projekt E, supporting the World Rallycross season opener at Höljes.
The series didn’t quite live up to the hype, however, with only three entries taking to the track. Mads Østberg pulled out at the 11th hour following delays in the build of his Citroën C3, while Holten Motorsport didn’t appear at all, and Volland Racing aren’t set to compete until the final round of the year.
With the massive push that the FIA has given to electric rallycross in recent years and the excellent job IMG has done in promoting this new category, a more populated entry list might’ve been expected.
With just three cars on the grid, it was difficult to judge the product at first sight. The Projekt E cars are obviously impressive, and to have all still running by the end of their first weekend was great to see, but if they’re trying to win over the passionate – and often very vocal – rallycross faithful, they perhaps could have done more. Or at least had more entries.
But overall, the Projekt E opener provided a good foundation for electric rallycross and showed that, given time, it can work well. A sentiment echoed by Block in his post-race interview.
“It was a lot of fun, it’s great being a part of something that’s the future and I think it has great possibilities,” he said in his post-race interview.
“It still has a way to go, but I think as far as a starting point they’re well along.
“It’s one thing getting a car on a test track but it’s another thing putting it out on an amazing track like the track here in Höljes and putting it through its paces and seeing where it stands against the other cars in the class but also even benchmarking it against the supercars.
“Supercars have been around for decades so this is not going to be that instantly, but they’ve done a great job, making a great base to start from.”
On paper rallycross is ideal for electric cars – short, sharp races, instant torque, and masses of horsepower. If you can look, or listen, past the lack of pops and bangs (not lack of sound, period. It’s still there, it’s just wildly different), then it’s the perfect marriage.
Or it ought to be.