Rallycross supercars are seriously quick machines. The power is north of 600bhp, the weight around 1300kg. Combine the two, send the power to the road via four-wheel-drive and stand back.

Or strap in very tightly, as I did yesterday just after former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve was unveiled as one of the contenders for the new FIA World Rallycross Championship.

Previously a European-based category, the series, which has 40 years of history, is expanding this year. Under the stewardship of new promoters IMG, the 12-round calendar will include races in Canada, Argentina and Turkey for the first time.

Villeneuve can’t wait to perform in front of his home crowd in August but he is already up to speed in his Albatec Racing-run Peugeot 208 Supercar. He tested the car alongside team boss Andy Scott in France last week, and yesterday he offered passenger rides to a few journalists at a Dumfries industrial estate.

Tightly strapped in, the vibrations of the car passed through my body as Villeneuve rolled out of the pit area. The mechanical clangs and whistles reminded me that these cars are potent weapons and when Villeneuve put his foot down, we flew forward. The acceleration took my breath away and the ease with which rallycross Supercars reach 70mph and then 100mph is quite frankly astounding.

The track was a simple figure of eight with short straights, but Villeneuve ignored the markers and just danced around. We were only on the circuit for a minute or two but for all of that time the car was totally sideways, even sliding backwards at one point but I'm sure the French-Canadian was in control.

“It drives a proper racing car,” he says. “And you can set it up like a proper race car. The fact it has four-wheel-drive means if you put yourself in trouble you can rescue it a little bit easier.

"At the test in France the car reacted really positively to the changes we made. It’s always been a very important part of racing for me, figuring out ways to make the car faster and more natural to drive.”

You can find out more about rallycross Supercars by watching the Autocar video in which we compare an Ariel Atom to a BMW HP4 superbike and Liam Doran’s Citroën DS3 Supercar.

And you can see Villeneuve's Peugeot in action at the British round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in Kent on May 24/25.

James Bolton is the national rallying editor of Motorsport News, Autocar’s sister publication.