World Rallycross (RX) has finished with a flourish in Hong Kong after a tough year. The series had a bullish debut as an electric racing competition in August 2022, but the fire at the Lydden Hill race in July put a pause on the main series as the incident was investigated. The conflagration is still causing controversy and questions over the existence of the series, but Hong Kong potentially points at a reinvigorated future for World RX with a new event model with wider audience appeal.
“The fire was something that no one needed,” says Arne Dirks, Executive Director, FIA World Rallycross. “We had started the season well. Everybody was happy to go to Lydden Hill – the rallycross birthplace. The weather was fine and then suddenly on Friday morning, there was smoke. We’re still investigating what really happened. But there’s enormous passion from everyone involved, especially the teams and drivers. We don’t give up. Everyone said, let’s find a solution. Special One lost a lot of money and are still trying to find solutions. But even they have just recently issued a statement that they want to come back.”
World RX needed to keep on racing while the RX1e cars were suspended from use during the investigation, with some brand-new locations and tracks coming up on the calendar. “We had Cape Town, South Africa, on the schedule with Table Mountain in the background, which was incredibly picturesque and now there’s Hong Kong,” says Dirks. “This is something we have been working on for over a year, which we hope will lead us into a different future, so everyone wanted to continue.” To achieve this, World RX switched from its 500kW (685hp) RX1e car to the Zeroid X1 vehicle used by its junior RX2e series, but upgraded from 270kW (370hp) to 300kW (411hp). “Running the Zeroid X1 was not the ideal solution, but it was the best we could find. The races in South Africa were pretty good. Saturday’s final here in Hong Kong was fantastic. We are close to knowing exactly what happened with the fire and then we can be ready to race RX1e again in 2024.”
“This season has been challenging,” says Klara Andersson, who drives for the Construction Equipment Dealer Team. “It was a tragic thing that happened. We all fought so hard behind the scenes to switch to the Zeroid X1 cars and finish off the championship. It’s not an ideal situation, but we’re happy that we could still be driving these two events in South Africa and Hong Kong and put on a good show for the fans. Of course, the car is a little bit different than what we’re used to, so we’ve had to adapt to that.”
“It’s been very much a team effort,” says Kevin Hansen, who drives for Hansen Motorsport and won the first Hong Kong race on Saturday. “It’s very tricky to find the perfect setup and the best way to drive it. The car is really sensitive, so it was an incredible team effort to control the race. It was really tight. Winning the first race in front of a roaring crowd on the ground and receiving the trophy on the podium was so cool.”
“The RX1e cars developed from last year to this year and they feel really nice,” says Andersson. “The Zeroid X1 is approximately the same weight but half the power so it’s a whole different balance. I’ve struggled a bit to get to grips with it because now I’m driving too aggressively. When I drove the Zeroid X1 two years ago, I didn’t have any experience and I thought it was easy, but you need to drive it in a particular way to carry the speed around. We need to adapt to different cars and all of us have done the homework now.”
While there has been disappointment that the faster RX1e cars have remained on hold since Lydden Hill, the Hong Kong racing took place on the waterfront near the city center, a new experience for World RX. “It’s really cool,” says Andersson. “The track looks really nice. It’s exciting to have the first city events here in Hong Kong. We have a whole new audience with new fans. They don’t have a racetrack here in Hong Kong. We can give motorsport interested people something to watch. I would love for us to grow the sport by bringing it to new places and a new audience. Some of the old school tracks are the best in the world but we need to travel so far to get there. Some are three hours from the nearest airport. A city race is so much more accessible.”
“The Zeroid X1 is obviously the temporary solution and what is coming for the future is really exciting,” says Hansen. “Fans will love it. We certainly do. And hopefully we have many more city races like this one in Hong Kong. We have a beautiful city here. People can walk here very sustainably, and we race sustainable cars so it’s the perfect solution for it and we don’t make a huge impact on the city with traffic. We closed very few streets. No traffic jams and we really are the perfect sport for citizens.” Hansen Motorsport has a strong decarbonization message, so reducing the impact of the racing is very important to the team.
“City tracks like Hong Kong must be part of the future,” says Dirks. “When we go where the people are, and with this backdrop of Hong Kong, it’s something special. We’ve created something new and exciting.” Certainly, the crowds in Hong Kong were different from the usual hardcore rallycross fans found at Scandinavian tracks, for example. The visitors included city dwellers who were merely curious and looking for a day out, rather than longstanding followers of the sport. “We were talking about doing this for such a long time. We started the project to have a city race in 2021. But going forward we will have a mixture of tracks from the heritage of rallycross and city races. We are in discussions with different organizers across the world. There are great opportunities also to run alongside festivals. We want to build the sport in a in a new way but not forget where we’re coming from. I’m very positive about the future.”