As the 2020 World Rallycross season draws ever closer, more and more talking points are emerging ahead of what will be an usual, but no less intriguing season.
Here we take you through the biggest topics of discussion for the delayed 2020 season, from drivers to teams, schedule changes and more.
Can Johan Kristoffersson continue to be a dominant force?
I could easily answer this question with one word and move on: ‘Yes’. I ought to elaborate though.
Johan Kristoffersson is the greatest driver in the history of World RX with a record 20 event wins, a record-equalling two titles, and an almost unbeatable run to the second of those crowns in 2018 – defeat to Sébastien Loeb in Belgium being the only thing to stop him from completing a clean sweep.
But last year the Swede took time away from the series to compete in stage rallying and circuit racing. Upon his rallycross return this year, he’s won two from three in RallyX Nordic driving a privately-developed Volkswagen Polo.
In the world championship he’ll be running the all-conquering factory machine from 2018 (old team-mate Petter Solberg’s car). It’s a proven machine, and he’s a proven driver, but will that year away for man and machine prove to be detrimental?
Team Hansen and the Hansen brothers have upped their game over the last 18 months, as has Andreas Bakkerud, while Niclas Grönholm and Grönholm RX have emerged as the top combination on pure pace.
Kristoffersson will no doubt be a frontrunner, but can he go one better and sweep the board this season? He’s certainly up against it – it should be his most challenging campaign to-date.
How will teams cope with double-headers?
The opening three events of the season will comprise six rounds, with the FIA and series promoter IMG keen to make up for lost time. Rallycross however isn’t Formula 1. Rarely do these cars emerge from the track in showroom condition, so watching how teams manage their cars and keep them in tip-top shape will certainly be intriguing.
For the drivers, it’ll be a challenge too, effectively running two weekends over two days. Here is where Timmy and Kevin Hansen could hold the ace card. Particularly Kevin. The duo competed in the TitansRX series last year.
While the TitansRX format differed slightly to World RX, each of its race weekends consisted of two full championship rounds. Kevin Hansen emerged as the series winner, and was the only driver to finish on the podium in all 12 finals. Many of the Hansen crew members worked in TitansRX last year too, so that’ll definitely stand the reigning champions in good stead during the first part of the year.
Elsewhere in the field, Kristoffersson and Grönholm’s Magic Weekend experience – where they ran two rounds in one weekend at the same venue as the World RX season opener – could also be an advantage.
Defending World RX of Sweden winner Sebastian Eriksson and Olsbergs MSE are well-versed in double-header weekends thanks to their experience in the US where those sorts of events were already commonplace.
Can Timmy Hansen go back-to-back?
The older Hansen brother finally proved his World RX credentials last year, defeating Andreas Bakkerud and brother Kevin in a mammoth title battle that went down to the very last race.
This year he’ll be looking to become a double world champion. He has that difficult first one out of the way, and can now benefit from the experience that comes with it, but his rivals from last year – including Grönholm, who missed two rounds last year through illness – will be keen to make up for their own 2019 shortcomings.
What’s more, Hansen will have to go head-to-head with Kristoffersson.
The pair weren’t always the closest of competitors in the past, but a more mature and more complete Hansen ought to be more than a match for the double champion.
Will there be a new event winner?
This year’s World RX field features eight event winners in its permanent entry list – plus a ninth in the form of wildcard entry Eriksson.
Naturally you’d expect those guys to share the spoils over the course of the year, but there are many more drivers throughout the field that are more than capable of winning. Liam Doran is a X Games and European Rallycross winner; two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider is often at the front end of the field, and GC Kompetition duo Kevin Abbring and Rokas Baciuška have shown excellent pace during their short spells in rallycross’s top level.
There’s definitely drivers capable of winning that have so far yet to do so, but with such a big class of winners, will they be making room for anyone else at the top table?
Will Projekt E be hit or miss?
Electric rallycross is coming. Next year we will have an all-electric permanent support category, and in the coming years battery-powered machines will be eased into the Supercar category too.
This year though, as a way to dip its toes into the water (something we wouldn’t necessarily recommend around electricity), the Projekt E series will feature at four stops on the tour.
Currently the entry list isn’t exactly bursting at the seams – which is a concern for something that has been pushed so hard by series promoters – but it has already managed to attract big names in the form of Ken Block, Mads Østberg, and UK rallying star Natalie Barratt.
If those names can be joined by a few more, the series has great potential to be highly entertaining, despite the lack of pops and bangs.
If not, the meagre entry list will have to put on some hugely entertaining races to satisfy the often hard-to-please rallycross faithful. That of course is possible – two-car races at the X Games and at RallyX Nordic’s Magic Weekend earlier this year provided enough action to make them enjoyable.
One thing’s for sure, it definitely shouldn’t be judged before the lights go out.