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Rallycross

This article refers to the European autosport. For the amateur U.S. autosport, see SCCA RallyCross.


Rallycross is a spectacular form of sprint style automobile racing, held on a closed mixed-surface racing circuit, with modified production or specially built road cars, similar to the World Rally Cars, but with about 250bhp stronger engines. It is mainly popular in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Great Britain. An inexpensive, entry level type of rallycross is the Swedish folkrace or its Norwegian counterpart, the so-called bilcross.

The sport started as some kind of a TV show (with especially invited rally drivers), produced by Robert Reed of ABC television for ITVs World of Sport programme, at Lydden Circuit (between Dover and Canterbury) in Great Britain on Saturday, 4th February 1967; the first ever true rallycross was organised by the late Bud Smith and the Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 MC and was won by later Formula One driver as well as 1968 Rally Monte Carlo winner Vic Elford in a Porsche 911. However, the true birth of rallycross is often wrongly connected with the cancellation of the 1967 RAC Rally, due to Foot and Mouth disease, in November of 1967. The foreign entrants for the RAC had planned to take part in the 1st international rallycross at Lydden Circuit, on Saturday, 25th November 1967, but went home immediately after the rally had been cancelled at the eleventh hour. Therefore only national British drivers competed in the maiden international event, which was eventually won by Andrew Cowan and his Sunbeam Imp. Thames Estuary Automobile Club's (TEAC) premier event, the original Clubman's rallycross, was held the next day. It opened up the new rally drivers' fun-sport to many amateur competitors, proved very successful and thereby paved the way for the first generation of real rallycross specialists, a lot of them coming from the ranges of autocross and autograss racing.

After only one and a half years and several RX events at Lydden as well as Croft Circuit (near Darlington) ITV dropped Rallycross by the end of 1968 and BBC adopted the young sport for its Grandstand programme. In 1969 Lydden Circuit and Croft Circuit were joined by another RX venue, Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire. However, while both Lydden and Croft nowadays are still in use for rallycross Cadwell Park later dropped this type of car racing from its schedule.

Per Eklund, 1999 European Champion, and his 4WD Saab

The largest competition nowadays is the FIA European Championship for Rallycross Drivers. Nordic drivers have dominated the sport ever since the end of the 1970s, with names as Martin "Mister Rallycross" Schanche (Norway), Olle Arnesson (Sweden), Matti Alamäki (Finland), Kenneth "His Kennyness" Hansen (Sweden) and Per Eklund (Sweden) as some of the more famous. British drivers to win European rallycross titles were the first ever European RX champion, Scotsman John Taylor (in 1973) and the two Englishmen Will Gollop (1992) and Richard Hutton (1994).

In rallycross several cars start abreast at the same time, and drive three to six laps on a rather short racing track, setting the best qualifying times. In the end there are 'C', 'B' and 'A' finals for the 16 fastest drivers of the qualification and the overall winner of the event will be decided in an afternoon showdown. Rallycross is a relative small sport compared to rally and asphalt racing.

FIA European Rallycross Championship cars are built based on production car body shells but are extensively modified. A typical leading ERC series car, Per Eklund's Saab 9-3 Turbo 16 4x4 technical specifications are a 2 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder 16 valve engine with a 45mm turbo restrictor rated at 550+bhp and 800Nm of torque, four wheel drive with programmable active differentials and six-speed gearbox, 1200 kg (2005 FIA regulations) and will do the 0-100 km/h sprint in less than 2.5 seconds.