WORLDS APART? MAYBE NOT FOR MUCH LONGER
When the World Rallycross Championship thundered onto the scene in 2014, it was dominated by Petter Solberg, whose all-action ‘Hollywood’ style proved unsurprisingly popular and was exactly the kind of crowd-pleasing draw the young championship needed to establish itself.
But fast-forward four years and the name on everybody’s lips is Solberg’s Volkswagen team-mate Johan Kristoffersson, who wrapped up his second consecutive title at Austin. In truth, it had never really been in doubt, a point underlined by his adding a ninth win from 10 rounds in Texas.
Kristoffersson had dominated most of those rounds from the front, so Austin was something of an outlier. Third on the grid after trailing Solberg in their semi-final, Kristoffersson hit the front when 2003 World Rally champion Solberg made an unforced error two laps from home.
The two make for a fascinating comparison, with Kristoffersson’s silkysmooth style honed in circuit racing proving the more effective of the two. And with two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom claiming the 2016 world title, it marks the third year in a row that a driver with circuit-racing pedigree has prevailed over the rally drivers. Are we witnessing a changing of the guard?
Stephen Brunsdon takes an in-depth look at the evolution of rallycross on page 8, with input from the champion and those who have attempted to beat him this year, including Timmy Hansen, a contemporary of Carlos Sainz Jr and Robin Frijns in Formula BMW.
Their rise to prominence underlines the point made by our expert coach Rob Wilson on page 4 that the techniques needed to be quick in rallying are not so dissimilar to racing. While Kimi Raikkonen’s struggles in the World Rally Championship remain fresh in the memory, as Stephane Sarrazin has proved (page 7), who’s to say that we won’t see another racing driver make the switch with aplomb in the near future?