Rallycross is a perfect sport for the modern television age. It features short, sharp races that virtually ensure non-stop excitement. It features hugely powerful four-wheel-drive cars, which can be driven at crowd-pleasingly lurid angles. And it features action-packed courses, that mix jumps, bumps, gravel and asphalt sections.
In short, rallycross is pretty spectacular stuff. And that’s because it was designed for television, albeit back in 1967. On February 4 of that year, the first rallycross event was held at Lydden Hill in Kent, to fill some airtime on ITV’s World of Sport programme. A fusion of racing and rallying, it was fitting the inaugural rallycross event was won by Vic Elford, one of motorsport’s greatest all-rounders. Elford convinced Porsche to loan him a 911 from a nearby showroom, drove it to the Kent track and won. He would go on to race in Formula One and sportscars, and won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1968.
Rallycross grew quickly, and in the UK became a staple of BBC Grandstand, in the 1970s and 1980s. But it has faded since then. The on-track product remained spectacular and it had pockets of support – particularly in Scandinavia – but the huge potential of the sport wasn’t being realised.
That is quickly changing – and 2014 could be the year the sport realises that potential. Major sports and media business IMG spotted the potential of rallycross, and last year snapped up the promotional rights to the FIA European Rallycross Championship.