The World Rallycross Championship has produced some of the best off-road action in the six years since its inaugural season. From the early dominance of Petter Solberg, to the rise of the manufacturer era and the plucky privateers upstaging the established top table, World RX has also delivered some iconic races.
With the help of DirtFish’s Rallycross editor Dominik Wilde, we take a look back at our top 10 best races in World RX history.
10. Kristoffersson again to the fore as EKS miss open goal (Lohéac, 2018)
It was perhaps the one opportunity to get one over on Johan Kristoffersson and the dominant PSRX team. For the first time in 2018, not one of the Volkswagen Polos occupied a spot on the front row as EKS’s Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud showcased their potential by winning their semifinals in France.
Both got off the line superbly and led the way as Kristoffersson slotted into third just ahead of Timmy Hansen.
Kristoffersson’s decision to take a snap joker lap on the second tour almost caught out Hansen, who gave the Polo a nudge up the rear, which ironically helped Kristoffersson rotate the car into the tight right-hand hairpin.
For much of Sunday morning, the joker lap actually proved to be quicker than the standard lap but Kristoffersson emerged in traffic behind Hansen and Sébastien Loeb.
Common sense was for one of the EKS drivers to joker immediately to capitalize on Kristoffersson’s precarious position, but unbelievably neither Audi jokered until the last lap.
By this time, Loeb had taken his joker lap to release Kristoffersson, who duly swept past Hansen, Ekström and Bakkerud on the final lap to take the win. Impressively, all six cars were separated by just 1.4 seconds.
Despite having the fastest car in the final, EKS’s skewed tactics undoubtedly cost them a victory at least and a dominant one-two at worst. It wasn’t the first time a strong result had gone begging for EKS, with both Ekström and Bakkerud failing to capitalize on excellent pace at Silverstone earlier in the year. – Stephen Brunsdon
9. Kristoffersson profits from Hansen’s last lap nightmare (Mettet, 2017)
Defending champion Ekström’s run of three consecutive wins at the start of 2017 came to an abrupt halt in Belgium as Team Peugeot Hansen and PSRX battled out front in a dramatic final.
After winning their respective semifinals, Solberg and Hansen lined up on the front row of the grid and duly led away from Kristoffersson, while Ekström languished at the rear [above].
Ekström was denied a first-lap joker as Kevin Eriksson nipped in before the Audi, leaving the former on a hiding to nothing.
Out front, Hansen brilliantly forced his way past Solberg – following a mistake at the final corner – to grab the lead.
A sideways Solberg then harpooned the Hoonigan Ford Focus RSRX of Bakkerud into the wall and subsequently out of the race, much to the annoyance of the younger Norwegian.
Hansen looked to have sewn up the race until he suffered a front-left puncture on the very last lap. The Peugeot limped round the final stretch before taking his joker, but it was not enough to deny Kristoffersson – who had jokered when Hansen and Solberg were doing battle – a first win of the season. Little did people realize that Johan would go on to take six more wins en route to his first title. – SB
8. Hansen, Kristoffersson, and Larsson go panel bashing (Turkey semifinal 2, 2015)
Turkey’s Istanbul Park made a welcome return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2020, but five years ago, it played host to a scintillating semifinal of its second – and as yet, final – appearance on the World RX schedule.
Although for five-and-a-half laps of the six-lap encounter things looked to have been going serenely, the race to the flag was as intense as had ever been seen before. Hansen, who had appeared in strife early on with a technical issue, was soon onto the back of the leading duo of Kristoffersson and Robin Larsson following a problem for Reinis Nitišs allowing Hansen through to third.
Kristoffersson and Larsson left their jokers until the last lap, with Larsson emerging just in front of the Peugeot. Hansen was having none of it and stuffed his car down the inside of the square left-hander (the final corner of the F1 circuit), pushing both wide and giving Kristoffersson the lead.
Hansen then charged back up the inside of Kristoffersson at the next corner, forcing the VW wide and opening the passenger door of the Peugeot.
The pair went side-by-side at the next turn, pitching Hansen into a half-spin, with Larsson completing a full rotation behind.
Hansen somehow managed to keep his 208 in a straight line to come home to win the race, with team-mate Davy Jeanney in second. – SB
7. Neck and neck to the line (Buxtehude, 2014)
Does it get any closer than this? Ekström versus Solberg was a World RX rivalry for the ages, and no race summed it up better than the World RX of Germany final in the championship’s first season.
Larsson may have bettered the pair off the line, but Solberg wasn’t too far behind, while Ekström was buried deeper in the pack.
Second would have been enough to give Solberg the first ever World RX crown, but Solberg of course was never a driver that did anything by halves, and made the most of a mistake by Larsson to sneak by.
He had a lead of, well, acres, but an issue left him right in the clutches of Ekström. Solberg jokered on the last lap, with the merge coming at the finish line. Ekström had done enough to close the gap, but not overhaul it, missing out by an incomprehensible one hundredth of a second. – Dominik Wilde
6. Loeb shows his true potential in nip-and-tuck final (Portugal, 2017)
While Sébastien Loeb already had one World RX win to his name in Riga the previous season, it wasn’t really a representative success in the Frenchman’s rallycross career to date. It had been held in torrential rain with Loeb starting the final from pole and leading the whole way. There was very little racing.
At Montalegre in 2017, it was a different affair and possibly one of Loeb’s best races in World RX.
At the start, it became a race between those who jokered on the first lap and those who hadn’t. PSRX led the former group with Solberg and Kristoffersson, until Solberg suffered a left-rear puncture which dropped him out of contention. Kristoffersson then took up the mantle but was unable to bridge enough of a gap to beat Ekström when he took his own joker.
Quietly, Loeb had closed the gap to Ekström and was right on the tail of the Swede heading onto the final lap. So much so, that Ekström was forced to defend his line on the inside for Turn 1.
Kristoffersson’s final lap joker was sensational as he emerged fractionally ahead of Timmy Hansen, beating the Peugeot by the smallest of margins.
Meanwhile, Loeb was really giving it to Ekström, almost shoving the Audi S1 through the corners. Unfortunately for Loeb, Ekström’s tight defense meant Loeb had to back out slightly and give second best at the finish. – SB
5. Rolls, rain, and rallycross (Hell semifinal 2, 2015)
This felt like a race nobody wanted to win. Solberg might have led off the line, but Bakkerud quickly muscled by. A home win in this pivotal semi was far from being certain though.
After being stuck behind Alx Danielsson, who snuck by as Bakkerud took the lead, Solberg took the joker on the second lap – that’s where everything began to unravel.
Bakkerud’s brushes with the Hell track’s big kerbs led to him sustaining a puncture. That allowed Danielsson, competing in his first semifinal, to move to the fore. Meanwhile, front row starter Timur Timerzyanov – who jokered on the first lap with Ekström and the unfancied PG Andersson – rolled.
Andersson ended up winning ahead of Danielsson, while a battered and bruised Timerzyanov somehow crawled over the line, with Ekström and Solberg also also finishing against the odds.
But what about Bakkerud? The guy who looked most likely to win ended up retiring after his picture led to a entire wheel coming off. – DW
4. Ekström claim first World RX win as Eriksson denied (Höljes, 2014)
Sebastian Eriksson claimed his long overdue maiden World RX victory at Höljes in 2019, but his first win should undoubtedly have come five years prior at the same venue had it not been for a heart-breaking suspension failure in the final.
Back then, Eriksson was something of an outsider in his Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta as team-mate to title contenders Bakkerud and Reinis Nitišs. Eriksson topped the second semifinal to secure a place on the front row for the final alongside Ekström’s EKS Audi, which had won the corresponding Euro RX fixture the year before.
Eriksson and Ekström duked it out at the start of the six-lap final before the former broke his suspension on a kerb. Eriksson was seemingly a sitting duck but miraculously fended off the Citroën DS3 of Solberg for two-and-a-half laps despite his front-left wheel wobbling like crazy.
Bakkerud had been set to profit from Eriksson’s issue but he copped a front-left puncture, losing out to Solberg. Then Solberg was slowed by a puncture of his own, this time on the front-right corner.
On the final lap, Solberg understeered on left-handers and Bakkerud on right-handers, meaning the pair were banging panels at the final turn, with Bakkerud emerging in second over the line. Eriksson, somehow staying in touch, nearly nabbed Solberg for third as an oblivious Ekström cruised to victory by nearly 11 seconds. – SB
3. ‘Eki’ back to his very best (Höljes, 2020)
Kristoffersson made a winning start to World RX at Holjes this year, but round two showed that he wouldn’t have it all his own way as he had in the past.
After coming together with fellow front-row starter Larrson in the first corner, Ekström – making his return after a year away from the championship – darted to the joker to escape the melee. That afforded the 2016 champion with plenty of clear air, while Kristoffersson had to manage the field from the front.
With Larsson continuing to pressure Kristoffersson, the then-double champion lost time hand over fist, while Ekström put in strong times lap after lap. Everyone but Kristoffersson had jokered by the end of lap two, with Ekström leading that gaggle comfortably.
It was now a straight fight between Kristoffersson and Ekström, with the two giants pushing to win on ultimate pace.
Ekström prevailed, with his hard work mid-race proving to be enough to overhaul Kristoffersson as he took the joker. To add insult to injury, Kristoffersson was penalized for tagging a track marker in the joker post-race. – DW
2. Hansens versus Bakkerud (South Africa, 2019)
A championship fight to end all championship fights. After years of manufacturer dominance and a seemingly endless winning streak from Kristoffersson, World RX was blown wide open in 2019, and the final race of the season was fitting of the year-long title scrap between Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, and Kevin Hansen.
Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud wasted no time in getting down to business, coming together right off the start line, but it was the Audi driver that narrowly held an early advantage.
Coming onto the sweeping dirt right-hander, the pair were side-by-side and contact was inevitable. Both were speared into the outside wall, with Kevin Hansen also being collected in the melee.
Miraculously, Bakkerud emerged from the skirmish relatively unscathed, and set about chasing down Niclas Grönholm, who’d snuck through amid all the drama, for the race lead.
Hansens out, title to Bakkerud after one lap. Right? Not quite.
There were still five laps of the race – and the season – remaining and Bakkerud still needed to emerge from the joker ahead of Timerzyanov (who’d already taken the longer route early on). He managed that, helped in no small part by Timerzyanov suffering a tire rub, but with Timmy Hansen battling back to fourth place it meant that both finished equal on 211 points, and with four wins over the course of the season to Bakkerud’s one, the title went to Hansen.
One of World RX’s greatest races, to wrap up arguably its greatest season. – DW
1. ‘You don’t see this kind of racing in any other motorsport!’ (Hockenheim semifinal 1, 2016)
In recent years we’ve seen Kristoffersson’s ability to drive any car in any condition to a race win, but back at the Hockenheim we got an early look at the future three-time World Champion’s supreme ability.
Driving a privately built and entered VW Polo, the Swede was hit from behind by Solberg into turn one, resulting in Kristoffersson’s car emitting a smoke screen that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond film as the bodywork rubbed on the rear left tire.
By lap three the tire was completely gone and Solberg and third-placed driver Jānis Baumanis could smell blood. It was shaping up to be an epic three-way fight for the win in the second half of the six-lap contest but Liam Doran, driving the unfancied and underpowered 1.6-liter Mini Countryman, joined the party while Solberg and Baumanis scrapped over the final two transfer spots and Kristoffersson held firm up front.
Doran barged his way through to second as Baumanis and Solberg took the joker on lap four, but with Kristoffersson’s pace severely hampered by his wounded car, Baumanis emerged level with him. The pair collided, taking Baumanis out, while Doran was now Kristoffersson’s nearest challenger.
Doran bided his time, sneaking past Kristoffersson at turn one going onto the final lap, with Solberg following through. What had been a dominant performance turned into survival as Ken Block also found his way through, relegating the VW driver down to fourth at the line and the Polo continued to disintegrate. – DW
Narrowly missing the cut: 10 World RX races have been featured above but some other thrillers were unfortunate to miss out on a place in our run down of the best.
Timmy Hansen’s sensational – and ultimately controversial – last-lap lunge from nowhere to momentarily snatch victory from Ekström at Höljes in 2015; while Kevin Eriksson became Kevin “around the outside” Eriksson after his audacious move at Turn 1 to take his maiden win at Buxtehude in 2016, the day Ekström won his first and so far only World RX title. More recently there was also Niclas Grönholm’s mammoth effort to keep the field behind him in the second Finland final in 2020, a result that would ultimately be his only win of an otherwise trying season.