Following on from our interview with FIA World Rallycross Championship commentator Andrew Coley last month, we caught up with the man who gets in amongst the teams and drivers down in the paddock and on the grid – Mr Neil Cole to get his thoughts on the 2015 World RX season.
TCF: 2015 has seen the competition up their game as a whole, who has impressed you the most this season?
NC: I think Johan Kristofferson is some kind of alien – he’s the whole package, and very exciting to watch. Also feels like we’ve seen Timmy Hansen evolve this year, adding aggression to his repertoire.
TCF: Rallycross on a worldwide scale is growing, have you noticed a growth in fans attending the races this year?
NC: Definitely – a stand-out moment was being at Barcelona, for the first time, standing on the circuit and hearing the audible reaction from thousands of spectators – mostly seeing rallycross for the first time. They weren’t just cheering and clapping – they were “oooooh”ing at every overtake, sharp intakes of breath at crashes. It was like a pantomime audience – living every moment outloud. The more established audiences are growing too, at Holjes and Loheac for example, but it was that raw reaction at the Catalan F1 circuit that got me. It was like having the Minions there, in a good way.
TCF: Which fans are the most enthusiastic?
NC: They all show enthusiasm in their own ways, depending on the local cultures… certainly Holjes has a brilliant festival atmosphere.
TCF: The continued development in technology now means races can be streamed worldwide without having to rely on big broadcasting distribution deals, has this helped with the popularity of World RX?
NC: We get feedback from a lot of people watching the livestream – it is an essential part of growing any sport in 2015, and getting the balance between traditional TV deals and free web content, while very difficult to negotiate, is something IMG & WorldRX really cares about.
TCF: WorldRX has been included to some extent in the latest Dirt Rally game, how important do you see the series having a presence in games like this?
NC: I think many people’s first experience of rallycross as a sport/concept will have been on previous iterations of the series – it was in DiRT2 (I think) and played a major part in DiRT Showdown – broadening the appeal of a previously brilliant rally-purist franchise. Now to have the officially-licensed cars, circuits and drivers, playable is a dream to gamers, and WorldRX fans. Online gaming and the accessibility of RX are made for each other, and it is very progressive to have the WorldRX brand licensed to a game within 2 years of its existence as a World Championship.
TCF: What has been your favourite moment of the year on track?
NC: Timerzyanov in Hell – when he rolled and carried on, without actually coming to a standstill, and then went Mad Max on the rest of the field
TCF: What has been your favourite venue to visit this year?
NC: Impossible to pick a favourite, I have had great times, in different ways, at all of them
TCF: What are your thoughts on the 2016 calendar?
NC: It has an excellent range of circuits, and I’m looking forward to Latvia – sounds like an amazing race track.
TCF: There is plenty of supporting action with Euro RX, Super1600 and RX Lites, who do you tip to be a future WRX star?
NC: I think we will hear a lot more from Thomas Bryntesson and Magda Andersson in the future. And I hope Dan Rooke will make a few appearances soon
You can follow Neil Cole on Twitter at @neilcole