Rallycross in the United States gets back to its action sports roots on Saturday with the start of heat racing at the inaugural Nitro Rallycross at this year’s Nitro World Games. Travis Pastrana’s permanent rallycross course at Utah Motorsports Campus has turned a number of heads with its next-level design and numerous obstacles, and with top drivers from the X Games rally days like Ken Block and Tanner Foust on hand, today’s event is a throwback to the formative seasons of the sport.
The TV and streaming productions on Velocity and Motor Trend On Demand pick up with the first of two rounds of heat races on Saturday at 4PM ET/1PM PT, while Sunday’s deciding rounds will kick off at 4:30PM ET/1:30PM PT. Here’s what we’ll be paying attention to over the rest of the weekend:
Which drivers will favor which lines on the racetrack?
Only a handful of drivers in this field had ever taken a gap jump coming into this weekend. Some of the newcomers, like Patrik Sandell and Mattias Ekstrom, loved it; others, like Scott Speed, seemed less enthused by the prospect. The gap flies over a smaller jump, which is likely safer for the vehicles but also requires a few more turns than the more straightforward big air. But action sports legends like Pastrana and Block should be expected to take any advantage that the flying leap offers them.
How will fewer cars on track impact the excitement level of the event?
Until tomorrow’s LCQs, semifinals, and finals, Nitro Rallycross is more like a bonkers super special stage at a WRC event than a proper rallycross round due to its two-car heat races. That was no deterrent to the excitement levels at X Games years and years ago, but for a number of years now, American rallycross fans have been used to up to 10 cars on track at a time. Given the punishing nature of the gap jump, what happens if both cars in a given heat suffer issues and have to take a DNF?
Will different cars for many of these drivers impact performance?
Both Block and Foust are known to be competing in different cars than the ones they’ll run at the Americas Rallycross season finale at Circuit of the Americas next weekend. Ekstrom, meanwhile, has enlisted an entirely different team to run his program, Comtoyou Racing, so his EKS RX squad can focus on the concurrent FIA World Rallycross round at COTA. That makes this a true exhibition event, and only adds to the unpredictability already present with a brand new track design.