Words by Lochlan Walker
Photos by Owen Rumpel and Lochlan Walker
Back in 2019, we covered the America’s Rallycross series in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. We were convinced that Rallycross had become the greatest spectating motorsport. Table top jumps, door to door racing, actual contact without repercussions. We followed it religiously. Unfortunately, they canceled the series and we found ourselves outsiders watching overseas series.
Before they canceled ARX, they held a race at the Utah Motorsport Campus. The track was designed by Travis Pastrana and the Nitro Circus team. Immediately, the event was turned up to 11. More tabletop jumps were added along with a 130 foot gap jump that saw cars passing over a portion of the track below. At any given time, you could have cars jumping over cars. What was already an incredibly exciting series to watch became this chaotic spectacle you couldn't take your eyes off.
A few years and the better portion of a pandemic later, the Nitro brand announced the birth of Nitro Rallycross. Its promise was a multiple race series across North America with the same insanity and vibe the Utah track provided. Since then, we can confidently say they have kept their promise.
Phoenix was the 5th race of the 2022 globe trotting season. It featured a specially made track constructed at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsport Park. Seeing it for the first time reminded me of a gladiator pit, akin to the coliseum. Dug down into the dirt and sand, the 1.2 KM track has incredible elevation change with 4 table tops, one huge passover jump and wide lanes designed for constant overtaking.
Then comes the joker. The Joker is a section of the track that splits off from the main course, making a lap, on average, 2 seconds longer. Each driver must complete the Joker once a race. Strategy and help from the team's spotters must be used to efficiently take the Joker. The best and unusual part about this series is that you can see 90% of the track from the grandstands. All the action happens in front of you and you rarely have to look to the screens to view the chaos.
The side by side series became an instant fan favourite due to the plucky little machines. The class is made up of Can-Am Mavericks, the same vehicles you see your neighbours load up to take out to the mountains every Friday.
One major difference that sets this series aside is the class of cars. You have the NEXT class, which have mid mounted, naturally aspirated engines that produce 310BHP. The cars appear to be a Ford Fiesta but that is where the similarity stops. Roll cages, carbon fibre bodies with extraordinary suspension and aerodynamic wings set these cars apart from their stock street legal cousins.
FC1-X | Group E
These purpose-built electric cars are the most powerful, capable machines in Rallycross around the world. Created by First Corner, LLC, a division of the Olsbergs MSE, this “SUV” uses 4 electric motors to produce a staggering 1170 horsepower. It will make 3g’s when launching and will sprint from 0-60MPH in less than 1.5 seconds. You will be told time and time again that this 0-60MPH time is quicker than an F1 car, which it is. This fact makes it even more mind blowing when you see these cars physically make contact for the first time. Rallycross is one of the only motorsports in the world where contact is not forbidden so these drivers will use any means necessary to pass their competition. The punishment these cars go through is immense, speaking with a technician in the paddocks, we learned that these cars use 60% of their charge in a single 3 lap heat and with the contact, they can look pretty beat up by the end of the day.
Sustainability is incredibly important to the future of motorsport. Finding an environmental middle ground is difficult but Travis Pastrana and the Nitro Rallycross series have found a way to increase the entertainment value while proving the electric haters wrong.
Walking into the event you’re met with open paddocks and drivers wandering through the lanes. You can watch technicians work on vehicles, ask drivers questions or get shot by Nitro legend, Streetbike Tommy, with a Gel Blaster. Nitro Circus adds to the excitement with a showcase of their star studded FMX motocross riders. These athletes present an FMX aerial display, launching their bikes into the air and completing tricks that you would only see at a Nitro Circus Live event. Music fills the air as you lose yourself in the pageantry. You’re brought back by a whistle, warning you that the FC1-X cars are making their way to the staging lane. They drive right through the main pit lane to get to the track and, being electric, prowl the pits silently. You have to have your head on a swivel.
When the FC1-X cars are lined up, a heartbeat fills the grounds as the countdown begins. In the final 5 seconds, the start has a small screen above the grid that spells out N I T R O followed by a green SEND IT. The cars squat back on their haunches and explode onto the track, there really is nothing else like it.
If you do manage to pry your eyes away from the race and look to the screens, you will see footage from a FPV (first person view) drone closely following the action. It looks so much like a video game that you would be hard pressed to believe it was real if it wasn't unfolding in front of you.
Nitro RX recently announced that they will be holding a race in Calgary, Alberta, our home town. As you can imagine, we are incredibly passionate about this series and we encourage everyone to make their way to the Calgary Stampede grounds on February 4-5 in the new year to experience the biggest growing motorsport in the world. Tickets go on sale this Friday and can be found here https://www.nitrorallycross.com/