Images via Josh Tons
UPDATE: A Thursday press release from Nitro Circus has revealed changes to the event format. Only three drivers will advance straight to the semifinals. Six drivers will take on a pair of last chance qualifiers, and three will move on. The six-car semifinals will see two drivers eliminated before a four-car final.
The inaugural Nitro Rallycross, held at Utah Motorsports Campus as part of Nitro World Games on September 22-23, will use a brand new event format unlike rallycross events of recent years. A preliminary look at the new event build appears to take inspiration from not only X Games events from decades past, but also short track racing sanctioned by the United States Auto Club, which also serves as the sanctioning body for this event.
According to official documents, things will get going with a number of practice sessions on Thursday and Friday, in which competitors will get used to a unique Yokohama tire compound exclusively used at this event. Competitive action will begin on Saturday with qualifying, as drivers will take a single timed lap to set their spot on the grid. Two rounds of three-lap heats will then commence, but only two cars will be on track at a time; the first heat will consist of the first two qualifiers, the second heat will consist of the next two, and so on. After the first round of heats is completed, times will be aggregated to set the second round matchups.
Points will be awarded, but the event will use an inverse points format where the winner receives one point, second place receives two, and so on. After heats are finished, the six drivers with the lowest point totals move directly to the semifinals, with ties broken by faster qualifying time.
The rest of the field, up to 10 cars, will move on to a Last Chance Qualifier ladder similar to those used at popular invitational short track events like the Chili Bowl. Four cars will be on track for each three-lap LCQ, and the top two finishers of each session will move on to the next one. Seventh and eighth in the intermediate standings will be slotted into the final LCQ and thus have the best chance at moving on; ninth and 10th will first appear in the penultimate LCQ, and so on.
The top two drivers in the final LCQ will join the top six overall in the semifinals. Those sessions will double the lap count to six, with the four even-numbered qualifiers in the first semi and the four odd-numbered qualifiers in the second. Only the last place finisher in each semifinal will be eliminated, giving way to a six-car, eight-lap final.
As with all major forms of rallycross, one Joker lap will be required from drivers in each session. While official confirmation has not been issued, the assumption is that the Joker will be located in the second half of the lap, as there is a portion on the map where the course splits into a paved lane on UMC’s road course and a dirt lane on the infield.