Drag racing aside, World Rallycross Championship cars are pretty much the quickest things on four wheels.
Based on humble hatchbacks but extensively re-engineered into almost unrecognisable machines, they make use of tremendous traction and heavy boost to launch off the line quicker than even Formula 1 cars.
This start performance is not just staggering, it’s also highly important. This is because the races can be as short as four laps long, meaning a fluffed first few hundred metres will pretty much end all hopes of a good result.
Guy Wilks, Britain’s sole remaining entry in this year’s WRX championship, has plenty of all-wheel drive competition experience to his name. Ahead of his final qualifying race at the season's Circuit de Catalunya round, we ask him how he nails a start in his JRM World Rallycross Team Mini Countryman.
“It’s pure aggression. It’s a reaction thing,” he says enthusiastically.
“We’ll do a tyre clean before we roll up to the start. It’s just to get dirt and debris off of the tyres and warm them a little, but we don’t want to warm them too much because these tyres are actually cross-ply, not radial, so if you heat them too much they start to move more and more.”
Wilks says while the tyres do have a manageable operating window, multiple starts can quickly damage them. “One clean usually does the job,” he confirms.
“We roll up to the start line, and the start marshal brings us 10 to 15 centimetres from a trigger point. The trigger is a little rod that sticks up in front of the bumper to recognise a jump-start,” he continues. “If we’re too early, we’ll knock the trigger down and that signals we’ve jumped the start.”
Once in position, the start procedure begins. Wilks' routine is slightly different to most, because his car’s gearbox is still under development, so isn’t yet able to make good use of first gear.
“I’ll engage second straight away - I have a short first ratio in the Mini, so I start it in second, because in first it spins the wheels for too long,” he explains. “To grab second it’s a double click of the gear lever.”
Observations of earlier starts show that this initial gear selection jolts the car as it sits on the line, such is the brutality of a racing sequential gearbox. There’s also a loud thud as the cogs are forced into place.
Wilks carries on: “At this point, the clutch is obviously in, and anti-lag [ALS] is on. ALS keeps the turbo spinning so I get no lag off the start line,” he says.