XITE Energy driver Oliver Bennett believes that this season could be the “best year of rallycross yet” as he gears up to enter the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Speaking at the 2020 Autosport International Show to The Checkered Flag, Mini Cooper SX1 driver Bennett says he’s “really excited” as his team prepare to enter its second full year of the championship.
He spoke of his plans for this season: “I’m very excited for this year really. I think it’s going to be an interesting 2020 and could be the best year of Rallycross yet. I think in 2019 it was really interesting because it looked as if it was going to be a bad year with the focus on entries, focus on teams and so on, but I think it ended up being the most competitive year so far.”
“I think that’s made everyone hungry and I think it’s going to be really tight next year, then there’s also the potential of moving to electric power after that, so there’s going to be a lot to talk about what the future holds and what’s going to happen with the sport.”
“The top 8 in 2020 is where I want to be. I think the car has got the speed to be there. Maybe the top six is a little far away for us depending on what other cars come out this year – 2019 saw lots of strong cars in that top six, but the car is definitely good for it, it’s just me and the car needing to be consistent this year.”
In 2019, Bennett made it to two semi-finals at both Silverstone in his home round of WRX as well as on the final event of the season in South Africa and he added on his thoughts on his performance last year: “2019 for us was an interesting year, because the car was performing really well for us in testing at the start of the year and my aim was to try and make it to as many semi-finals as I could.”
“In the end I only made it to two but the car performance was great and we made so many leaps forward with it. We had a bit of bad luck and some different sort of situations across the year. We were always very close but something seemed to pop up – like we’d have a mechanical issue or be involved in a racing incident and it put us back a step and we always seemed to be finishing in that 12 or 13th position.”
He continued: “It’s weird looking back because you always think of the good things that happened and your brain kind of tricks you a bit at times. It was a tough year and it just didn’t go our own way at times for one reason or another.”
“If you think about 2018, we had a lot of mechanical issues which I never felt bad about because it was a brand-new car at the time where last year it was things happening that shouldn’t have been going wrong. Whether it was maintenance or what I’m not sure, but it always seemed to put us on the back foot every time.”
“Sometimes it would be something silly like being involved in an accident in Q1 or Q2 and that would put us out for the rest of the day and just small things like that. I think it could have gone better but I think we had a good year overall. I had more seat time and I think we showed the pace was there for the top 10.”
“We’ve got some updates to come for the car this year and get it a bit more competitive and push on into that top 12 which is the key thing for us.”
As well as a WRX campaign, Bennett has also regularly competed in other events away from the world scene in recent seasons and he admitted that his XITE Energy team are looking into some possible other outings in 2020. He said on some potential events: “We’ve got a few other plans for this year. Last year I really liked the look of Nitro Circus so it’s something I’d like to have a look at.”
“It’s good for the branding and that side of things too so I’d really like to get out to the US and do a bit of that. Obviously, we missed Gymkhana last year after that incident in Q4 in Lohéac where we got pushed into the wall, so I’d really like to do Gymkhana if we can too.”
“We’re looking at some different things with electric cars as well. We’ve considered some different options and we’ve got some plans for next year and potentially some surprises too so yeah, we’re looking forward to it all!”
The first round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship takes place at Circuit de Catalunya in Spain on April 18/19.