After years of growing the championship from a European-only pursuit, FIA World Rallycross finally visits the United States this weekend with two days of action at Circuit of the Americas. The country’s first permanent rallycross track will see the 10th of 12 rounds in this year’s championship, sandwiched neatly between a visit to Latvia two weeks ago and another round in Germany in two weeks’ time.
While COTA is a new addition to the World RX schedule, having replaced the second German round at Hockenheim in the championship table, many of the drivers entered in the event have competed in America before, usually in X Games rounds but occasionally in other Red Bull Global Rallycross events. Sebastien Loeb is perhaps the best known of the group: made his rallycross debut at X Games Los Angeles 2012 with a dominant victory, beginning an association with Kenneth Hansen that continues in the series to this day, as he drives for the Hansen-led Team Peugeot Sport.
But he’s far from the only one. Timur Timerzyanov substituted for both Marcus Gronholm and Travis Pastrana in his GRC career, and Anton Marklund competed at multiple X Games rounds in America with his family’s team in 2013 and 2014. Kevin Hansen made his debut on American soil as a GRC Lites driver in 2014 and took a podium finish. And both Andreas Bakkerud and Kevin Eriksson have competed in both Supercars and GRC Lites in the United States before, with Eriksson finishing second in the 2014 GRC Lites standings.
However, this event will be American rallycross fans’ first chance to see Johan Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekstrom, and Petter Solberg, the series’ three most recent champions, on their home soil. (Ekstrom did compete at X Games in 2013, but only in Munich.) In fact, they’ll have the chance to see Kristoffersson lock up the championship on Sunday, as the Swede has what can only be described as a soul-crushing 73 point lead over Ekstrom, his closest competition. After winning eight of the first nine races of the 2018 season, the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver needs only to be 60 ahead of second place to lock up the title—something that should happen, barring catastrophe.
On the bright side, the chase for second place is exceptionally close. Ekstrom, Bakkerud, Loeb, and Solberg are within six points of one another for that spot. With a maximum of 30 points available during the weekend, it’s conceivable that this group leaves Austin in the opposite order in the championship that they entered it. Timmy Hansen, meanwhile, comes into the weekend having just won Nitro Rallycross, and only sits a further 12 points back of Solberg in sixth.
After this weekend, World RX shifts back to Europe for its annual visit to Germany’s Estering on October 13-14, which concludes one of the busiest stretches of the season with four events in seven weekends. The series then pauses for just over a month before wrapping up in South Africa on November 24-25.