Slowly but surely, more and more Formula 1 circuits being transitioned into rallycross tracks.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship had four current or former Formula 1 circuits on the original 2020 schedule, out of the 10 events.
In contrast, the inaugural 2014 season had just one former Formula 1 track (Istanbul Park) from the 12 events.
It is a debate which has split rallycross fans. Many see the move towards grand prix venues as a money move and one that dents rallycross’ rich history.
Lets look at the case of the much-loved Lydden Hill. IMG chose to move the British round of the World RX from Lydden to Silverstone in 2018 in an attempt to attract more people with Silverstone being an international facility compared to Lydden which needed upgrades to its infrastructure.
However, the decision to drop Silverstone after just two years means there will be no British round in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship which has left many fans very disappointed.
With hindsight, perhaps the World Rallycross Championship should never have gone to Silverstone because it has proved to be unsustainable and sustainability is vital at the moment for all motorsport series.
Most of us know that the three big manufacturers that were in the World Rallycross Championship (Audi, Volkswagen and Peugeot) all pulled out at the end of 2018.
It left the series in a situation where the whole grid is made up of privateer teams which has decreased costs.
Nevertheless, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit and Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps were added to the calendar last year and remain on the schedule for 2020.
Germany’s Nurburgring is set to makes its debut for the World Championship in December, making it the third grand prix venue to feature on the calendar in the last 14 months.
Some fans are worried that this is the start of an evolution for the sport that will see more and more grand prix venues being utilised and the diminishing of classic rallycross circuits such as Holjes, Hell and Loheac.
Lead World Rallycross commentator, Andrew Coley, recently gave us his opinion on the topic:“It has to be a mix; we’re a World Championship and the sport only existed in Europe.
“So certainly when you leave Europe you either build a brand new track which is ludicrously expensive, or you modify an existing circuit.
“They’re not all F1 tracks; Mettet wasn’t, South Africa isn’t. And Spa is an F1 track and was absolutely epic!
“Of course we should visit the traditional tracks too, like Holjes. Don’t forget ALL rallycross tracks were new at some point…even Holjes.”
I have to agree with Coley here. At the moment, IMG has got the balance just right. The FIA World Rallycross Championship must keep Holjes’s Magic Weekend as well as the likes of Hell, Montalegre in Portugal and France’s Loheac.
Unfortunately, for 2020’s revitalised calendar, Hell was dropped which is very disappointing considering how much love it receives from rallycross fans.
If the championship does introduce more grand prix venue based tracks, they have to be exciting and produce great racing and last year’s World RX of Benelux at Spa-Francorchamps provided exactly that.
There were overtaking opportunities at nearly every corner and the chance to differ your racing line and easily go side by side with your rivals whilst rubbing doors and trading paint.
It was fantastic.
Unlike Silverstone, the newer venues (Spa-Francorchamps, Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, Nurburgring) need to stay on the calendar for the long-term because that is how they will grow and become prestigious and historic over time.
The World RX of Latvia is quickly becoming a fan favourite despite Latvia having little motor racing pedigree, very similar to when Formula 1 first went to Budapest and look at the Hungarian Grand Prix 34 years later – it’s one of the most popular events Formula 1 visits.
Equally, the traditional circuits must remain. Holjes, Hell and Loheac are rallycross’ equivalent of Formula 1’s Monaco, Monza or Silverstone. They simply have to be a part of the rallycross calendar.
Those events are iconic and have so much history that has been built up over years and decades. That is why the loss of Lydden Hill was not taken well by many.
The way the championship goes over the next few years will be intriguing, especially post-coronavirus.
Currently, the balance between grand prix venues and non-Formula 1 venues is just right as long as Norway’s Hell returns next year, and new events create great racing for rallycross.
It would be fantastic if Mettet, the Estering or Lydden Hill feature on the world championship’s schedule too and it will be intriguing as to whether IMG chooses to return to any of those tracks.
A few more events on the calendar would be nice but what is more important is for the FIA World Rallycross Championship to have a rigid and sustainable calendar rather than events dropping on and off the schedule.