Despite weathering all manner of coronavirus-related storms, the 2020 World Rallycross season will go down as a classic.
Notwithstanding a late start and early finish, countless calendar shifts, just four stops on the schedule and a severely disrupted supports roster, this year’s World RX campaign featured some unexpected struggles for a number of title-favorites, a season-long title-fight between a pair of returning superstars, and an unrivalled amount of on-track action as always.
If you’re new to rallycross, or missed much of this year’s thrilling season, fear not: DirtFish has you covered with this, the full story of World RX 2020.
COVID calendar complications
The coronavirus pandemic absolutely decimated the global motorsport calendar in 2020, and World RX certainly wasn’t immune.
Russia (for reasons not related to the pandemic), Norway, France, Abu Dhabi, and South Africa all lost their slots on the initial schedule, while Portugal, Belgium, and Germany all had theirs rescheduled until later in the year only to then lose them as well.
Finland (pictured above) was drafted in as an 11th hour addition to add more depth to the calendar, while every event that did manage to take place running two championship rounds with just three qualifying rounds in order to have maximum possible championship rounds with minimal travelling and financial impact on the competitors.
The Germany axing – a debut event on the Nürburgring’s revived rallycross course – proved to be the most impactful, with it costing the championship its final two rounds. That handed a third title in four years to Johan Kristoffersson (although he did miss the 2019 season).
Kristoffersson might’ve already had one hand on the championship trophy ahead of Germany’s cancellation, but with it not yet being a mathematical certainty up to that point, it robbed us of a potential showdown between him and Mattias Ekström.
Speaking of which…
A returning champ… or two
One of the biggest stories of the World RX pre-season, before the whole ‘2020’ thing happened, was the return of Kristoffersson.
The 2017-18 champion moved on after Volkswagen’s departure at the end of the 2018, but after securing the use of former team-mate Petter Solberg’s car from those championship-winning years, he was back with his sights set on a third title.
Many were looking forward to a showdown between Kristoffersson and 2019 champ Timmy Hansen (more on his 2020 struggles later), but his main challenge came in the form of a driver who wasn’t even on the initial 2020 entry list.
That man was Ekström, who filled in for Jānis Baumanis at the first two rounds of the season at Höljes after the Latvian hit funding issues. The 2016 champion immediately disrupted the order, finishing second in round one and winning round two to leave Sweden with the championship lead. Then began a rolling saga of ‘will Ekström appear at the next round?’
Ultimately he did, every single time, and going into what should’ve been the final two rounds of the season in Germany, he was still in with a shout of a second championship. With the Nürburgring trip being called off, Ekström lost any chance of overhauling Kristoffersson in the title race but it would’ve been a tall order to do so on track.
Last year’s pacesetters struggle
While the 2020 season was very much the Kristoffersson and Ekström show, the 2019 title protagonists Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud and Kevin Hansen struggled throughout the year.
For the Hansen brothers, it was a case of new updates to their family team’s Peugeots 208 not quite clicking right away, whereas for Bakkerud it was a change from the Audi S1 to the GCK Megane R.S. RX that failed to provide that step to the title he missed the year before.
The Hansens kept plugging away though, with Timmy rescuing a win at the penultimate round of the season in Barcelona and a second in the final to bring his podium tally up to four for the year and his final finishing position to third. Meanwhile Kevin Hansen finished on the rostrum a further two times and ended the year fifth.
For Bakkerud things were a little less rosy. The pace was there at times, when reliability and poor luck wasn’t getting in the way, and by the end of the season he was looking like a true contender once again, claiming a brace of qualifying round victories and a semifinal win in Barcelona.
But ultimately it was a podium-less season for the Norwegian, and while the results didn’t reflect his season, he ended the year fourth in our season-long power rankings.
Then there’s Niclas Gronholm, a driver that many tipped to be a shoe-in for the 2020 title after a superb, but disrupted, 2019 run.
He did get a win on home turf in Finland but that was his only podium result of the year as GRX struggled to realize the potential of its Hyundai i20.
The support bill on a World RX weekend is usually one of the best in motorsport, and while every round (except the Finland double-header) got plenty of lower-tier track time this year, they too also faced their own difficulties.
With the early end to the World RX season, the European campaign – both for Supercars and front-wheel-drive Super1600 cars – came to a premature end as well.
After the calendar was first tweaked in the summer, both were given three-round championships, but then both were then cut one round short when they couldn’t wrap at the Nürburgring. FIA regulations dictate that a minimum of three rounds must take place for championship honors to be awarded.
With that, neither Oliver Eriksson or Yuri Belevskiy, who took two wins from two in Supercars and S1600 respectively, got a crown.
In Projekt E however, a lack of FIA shackles meant that Natalie Barratt was awarded the championship, but the all-electric series came with its own issues.
Projekt E arrived amid much fanfare, and while the thought was right and the technology impressive, the whole competition ultimately felt a bit stale with grids no bigger than four at any one time, and just two different models of car taking part too.
And then there’s RX2, World RX’s main feeder series. The condensed schedule led to it being pulled entirely, although it did still take place as a two-round shootout on the RallyX Nordic bill in Denmark, with Henrik Krogstad narrowly beating former Supercar driver Guillaume De Ridder to the title.
All will be hoping for a smoother run to glory in 2021.