Americans don’t get much love in the way of top-level rally racing, and the FIA is making a big move to get those fans more interested. Yes, there has been the Red Bull Global Rallycross for a number of years, and despite its massive growth and sponsorship, the FIA recognizes it has an opportunity to take this form of racing to higher levels of fan participation.
The FIA World Rallycross series has been around since 2014, and is pretty badass. Cars spread out across four classes, and the headliners crank out damn near 600 horsepower from their little 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, put down power through all four wheels, accelerate from 0-60 faster than an F1 car, and run on a mixed course that has pavement and dirt in every lap. Race weekends include a stack of practice sessions, qualifying heats, and then semifinals and finals, so it stays interesting.
They make stops on five continents, but has never made an appearance in America. This week, in fun fashion, the heads of the sport met at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas and introduced several members of the media and guests to the sport and their plans for U.S. domination. The American spot will be round 10 of their 12 round schedule, and is booked for the weekend of September 29 - 30. With the World Endurance Championship off the calendar for 2018 at COTA, the FIA jumped into the spot fans have come to expect fast things to be playing at the famed Texas track.
The quick press conference included former F1 driver and now rallycross expert Scott Speed, Tanner Foust, James Rimmer, and two-time World Rallycross and 2003 World Rally Championship winner Petter Solberg met with us to talk about the state of the sport and what they’re expecting from the intense action and hot temps when they get back to Texas in the middle of September.
Media and guests were invited to take a quick spin in the passenger seat in one of the race cars on hand, but I instead elected to wander around this new course, scout out the shooting angles, and get my own impression of this new layout built into a circuit I’ve shot more than just about anyone else on the planet.
It’s a tight track, and I’m interested to see how well the action will be in a couple of the narrower sections where these guys are used to driving two- or three-side sometimes. For fans, the layout will be compact and easy to view. Dropped in the middle of the stadium complex between turns 12 and 16 of COTA, spectators will not have to travel far to have tons of grandstand seating, quick access to all the concessions and merchandise stands, and a reasonably good music venue with COTA’s amphitheater just behind the bigger grandstand for turn 15. Tickets are cheap too, with prices announced at being as low as $30 for the weekend, and up to $60.
For those tuning in at home, FIA World Rallycross is only slated to be broadcast online with FloSports, and will have highlight shows on CBS Sports. I hope they make some sort of TV broadcast agreement for live coverage in the States, as every other FIA series that gets to play on our soil also gets shown off on live TV.
Additionally the FIA and Circuit of The Americas announced that this wasn’t just some one-off event for 2018, but that it would be the only permanent rallycross track in America, built into the top class circuit which has hosted the likes of F1, MotoGP, WEC, IMSA, and Pirelli World Challenge since 2012. They didn’t specify the duration of the agreement, but stated that there’s a long-term plan for hosting World Rallycross at COTA. Let’s hope they stick around, and that this series is a hit over here.