2007–2017: NEW ERA
By the end of the Noughties, things were looking brighter. Teams in the European Rallycross paddocks had begun to grow into two-car operations; British driver Liam Doran became one of the first drivers to truly sign for a team as a professional driver by joining Kenneth Hansen Motorsport for the 2010 season.
American X-games star and TV presenter Tanner Foust also became a series regular, and rallycross events began to take place in America too, notably at the X-games, and with initial standalone events in New Jersey.
The European Championship remained a collection of individual events that made up the required points-scoring rounds, until the end of 2012, when it was announced that sports marketing giant IMG would take on the promotion of the sport.
Having retired from his World Rally career at the end of 2012, Petter Solberg entered a privately run Citroen DS 3 in the series, and live television was immediately back on the agenda. The series also featured a change in format, moving away from the traditional three heats and A,B, C finals to a qualifying heats stage, semi-finals and finals structure.
At the end of 2013, the FIA announced that from 2014 the sport would become a World Championship. New events were held in Belgium, Canada, Italy, Turkey and Argentina in World RX’S first term, where Solberg won the title and Ford-backed Olsbergsmse collected the teams’ championship. Peugeot also officially entered, supporting Hansen’s team, and it was the Team Peugeot-hansen squad that won the teams’ title in 2015 while Solberg collected another drivers’ crown.
Drivers from across the motor racing spectrum joined the series, nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb made a one-off outing in 2013 and returned full-time with Team Peugeot-hansen for the 2016 season, while 1997 Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve raced in a campaign in 2014. Double DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom turned a one-off outing in 2013 into creating his own team and claimed both the drivers’ and teams’ titles in 2016.
As the sport celebrates its 50th birthday this week, both Volkswagen and Audi have recently pledged works support for Solberg and Ekstrom’s teams respectively, while the electrification of rallycross is a hot topic for the future, clearly of interest to manufacturers (in statements made by Peugeot, Volkswagen and Audi). Manfred Stohl’s STARD research and development firm released the first fully-electric rallycross car at the end of 2016.
Solberg took two world titles