Since the inception of the World Rallycross Championship seven years ago, there have been a number of tracks that have come and gone. Through the championship’s previous promoter, IMG, the rise in popularity of World RX required a healthy mix between traditional rallycross venues and well-known permanent circuits transformed into RX tracks.
Naturally, over time, some tracks have slipped off the calendar, making way for new venues to come in to fill their slots. It’s impossible in today’s high-cost world of RX to maintain a truly global schedule like the World Rally Championship or Formula 1, meaning that some of our favorite tracks are forced to sit on the sidelines…for now.
Here, we take a look at some of the unlucky venues to have lost their place at the top table of rallycross in recent years.
What’s not to love about the legendary Canadian track? Situated on the banks of the St Lawrence River, the circuit was first used in 1967 for the Trois Rivières Grand Prix, attracting the likes of Mario Andretti, James Hunt and Gilles Villeneuve among many others. World RX made its debut there in 2014 and unsurprisingly, was a hit straight away.
It was the longest track on the World RX calendar and produced some of the best action as well as the highest top-end speeds down the long main straight.
The street circuit nature of the track also caused plenty of drama, due to the precariously placed concrete barriers and 90-degree turns, most notably at the end of the lap where the surface changes from gravel to asphalt. Notable incidents include Andreas Bakkerud admirably holding onto his third place with a broken rear two-link in the semifinal in 2018, where the Norwegian battled a badly crabbing EKS Audi S1 at breakneck speed and very nearly made it through to the finals after Sébastien Loeb binned it on the final lap.
A lot of the RX purists may not necessarily be fans of the so-called ‘cookie cut’ circuit racing tracks being transformed into a make-shift rallycross track, but that is actually at the very heart of the rallycross category.
Some of the modern versions have failed to wow fans while others were a popular addition. The Istanbul Park track proved to be one of those latter introductions. Like its incredible full-length circuit, the RX track didn’t stick around for long unfortunately, which is a real shame because it produced arguably one of the craziest semifinals in World RX history in 2015, when Andreas Bakkerud and Timmy Hansen went head-to-head in an epic panel-bashing affair.
The track itself was a compact challenge where precision was key. The left-hand hairpin followed the slow right and left-handers of the full circuit ensured cars emerging from the joker lap could run side-by-side for three corners in a row, while the gravel section on the in-field varied wildly in racing line and grip levels. All in all, it was a superb little circuit which is sadly missing from the calendar.
There’s so much to be said about a rallycross track which leads from the start straight into a hairpin. Mettet in Belgium is another RX track cut out from a longer permanent circuit racing venue, but the natural gradient changes and eye-watering bumps and dangers towards the end of the lap made it one of the most entertaining tracks on the schedule. If there was one driver who typified the sort of racing Mettet delivered, it is Timmy Hansen who endured some of the best and worst moments of his World RX career to date.
The Swede was a dead cert for the win in 2017 in his Peugeot 208 when, on the final lap, he suffered an agonising left-front puncture while leading. Hansen still held the advantage coming to the end of the race but had yet to joker. The subsequent time loss on the loose gravel with a flat tire cost him the win, and Johan Kristoffersson came through to take the first of his seven wins that year, beating Hansen by a fraction of a second.
Hansen then produced the drive of his life in the semifinal the following year. Having been turned around at the start, Hansen was then baulked in the joker lap and fell to the rear of the field. Knowing he had to pass three drivers – who had already jokered – to make the final, Hansen pulled off three sublime moves to book his place in the final, while Bakkerud also made it through after having to take two jokers following an initial jump-start.
Autodromo di Franciacorta
Much like Istanbul Park, the Autodromo di Franciacorta only had two years on the World RX calendar, but the Italian venue certainly made its mark, with its unique configuration and high-octane races. Franciacorta was perhaps the most ‘circuit’ of the circuit racing converts but the wide road layout and the fast blast through the chicane at the start was a popular niche part of the track.
A combination of flat kerbs – with which the drivers were more than generous – tire stacks and vast gravel traps didn’t necessarily give the track a true RX feel, but it was a sign of the times and when the championship was in its infancy on the global stage, such a track was necessary.
Franciacorta was also the scene of Timmy Hansen’s maiden World RX victory, secured on the same day as Petter Solberg became the first-ever World RX Champion in 2014.
Circuit of the Americas
It’s safe to say that if World RX was to be a truly global championship, it needs to return to the United States. And to help it regain the reach and potential in the country, a US round probably needs to be a priority.
Although World RX has only ventured to America twice before (in 2017 and ’18), there are a number of tracks which could conceivably fit the bill. The Circuit of the Americas, whatever your opinion of the track itself, deserves another crack after a couple of years off the scene. The track could possibly do with a bit of a revamp, certainly in length, but the joker merge was genuinely exciting and, for a while in 2018, looked like the only thing stopping Johan Kristoffersson from completing another serene run into the final.
The proximity of the track to the city of Austin has proven popular with the F1 circus and with fresh promotion from WRC Promoter going forward, the potential to engage the US rallycross crowd once more must be looked into.
Kevin “Around the Outside” Eriksson is all we need to say about this track. The Estering in Buxtehude is a legendary RX track and has been a staple of the European Rallycross Championship for decades. If a track produced an overtake so out of this world that the driver – whose father is none other than the great Andreas Eriksson – received a nickname derived solely from that track, you know it’s pretty special.
Kevin Eriksson was just a 21-year-old protégé of his dad’s Olsbergs MSE team at the time and admitted that he got the now famous overtake idea from his father Andreas. The hairpin bend, which comes shortly after the start following a fast right-hand kink is a deceptively quick corner in which drivers can take far more speed into it than they think. Enough handbrake on entry and plenty of right foot on the exit and there are places to be made.
Buxtehude is also extremely old school, and that sits well with tried and tested rallycross fanatics. The short, sharp shoot down the back straight to another tight hairpin is then followed by a daredevil flick between the armco barriers and the final narrow chicane to end the lap. In recent years, Andreas Bakkerud famously won a heat race with a double puncture, while Mattias Ekström and Petter Solberg duked it out for the closest-ever finish of a world championship RX race in 2014.
How could we even consider leaving out Lydden? The place where it all started back in 1967. The story is well-known by now but the impact that rallycross creator Robert Reed, who invented the made-for-TV sport for ITV’s World of Sport while with ABC Weekend TV. Had it not been for the Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 Motor Club and Lydden Hill circuit owner Bill Chesson, rallycross as we know may not have been created.
Lydden quickly became the home of rallycross in Britain and further afield. Despite just five corners and covering a total distance of a mile, Lydden was the perfect venue for RX. With the glorious Kent scenery surrounding the picturesque circuit, the track itself is a marvel, especially for spectators. Drivers love it equally as well, thanks to the iconic corners of Paddock Bend, Pilgrims and Devil’s Elbow, the latter leading up the hill to North Bend before plummeting back down to the fast right-hander which rewards those drivers on ‘full send’ amply as the screech of the tires and the banging and popping of the anti-lag ricochets off the adjacent trees behind.
World RX left Lydden after the 2017 edition for pastures new at Silverstone the following year. The rationale was clear and largely understandable from a business point of view. Silverstone had the resources and the accessibility that Lydden didn’t at the time, although the Home of British Motorsport’s tenure in the championship didn’t last longer than two years. Since then, Britain – the creators of rallycross – has been without a round of the world championship. It’s about time that changed don’t you think? And what better homecoming than a return to its roots in Kent.
Hockenheim and Rosario due to their ability to throw up possibly some of the most bizarre races in World RX history. Anyone who hasn’t already watched semifinal two from Hockenheim in 2016 simply hasn’t experienced rallycross at its most mental best. Kristoffersson battling a charging five-car train on three wheels while Liam Doran somehow got his underpowered Mini onto the front-row of the grid and Janis Baumanis denied himself a place in the final after smashing into the rear of Kristoffersson.
San Luis was used as the season finale in 2015 as resulted in Robin Larsson’s only event win to date on the ultra-fast Argentinian track.