A World Rallycross race is a weekend spectacular. The GP3R I attended included a parade of the race cars through town, followed by a meet-and-greet with the fans. Fans could get up close and personal with the cars and the drivers, and they were entertained by a drifting demonstration and sky-high jumps from some of the Supermoto contenders.
The racing is a two-day affair held within amphitheater-style venues that let fans in the stands see most of the action. The tracks are made of both asphalt and dirt and they each include a jump or two. They are also short; lap times in Canada took less then 50 seconds for the Supercars.
Drivers get just 12 laps of practice, which can be awfully challenging for those who haven't been to a track before, followed by four sessions of qualifying. The starting positions for the initial qualifying session are drawn at random, and each subsequent session is determined by the times put up in previous sessions. Each qualifying run is a four-lap race with three to six cars duking it out for the best total time.
In every race, each driver has to take one "Joker Lap." The Joker isn't so much a lap as it is one optional turn that adds a few seconds to the lap time and tends to mix up the running order. In almost all of the races I witnessed, the two or three drivers at the back of the back took the Joker turn on the first lap and those at the front waited until the last lap, hoping to build up a lead big enough to stay out front after the Joker. Failure to take the Joker results in a debilitating 30-second penalty.
The top 16 qualifiers earn Championship points, with 16 going to the first-place qualifier, down to 1 for 16th. Of those, the top 12 qualifiers are then put into two semi-final races that go six laps. Timing no longer matters. Finishing position does. The top three finishers from each of the two semi-finals go to the final in one last six-lap race. Semi-finalists earn Championship points based on finishing position, with 6 points going to first and 1 point to last.
The winner of the final is the overall event winner, but he may not score the most points. The winner earns 8 Championship points, with 5 going to second, 4 to third, 3 to fourth, 2 to fifth, and 1 to sixth. That means a driver can earn up to 30 points at an event and it actually makes those 16 qualifying points (which are determined by how fast a driver is) even more important than the 8 points that can be earned by winning the final.
Tire strategy is important. Teams only get two sets of tires to use over the two days. That makes it best to use one set of tires for all qualifying runs and change to the new ones for the semi-finals.
World Rallycross is truly exciting racing, and it's short snippets make it ideal for today's short attention span fans. It's great that the cars and the drivers are so readily available to the fans. It makes for a party atmosphere that will bring fans back time and again. It just needs to gain their attention in the first place. Anyone who likes Monster Energy Drink should attend. This stuff flows like water at these races.
The racing itself is quite cool. The drivers exercise incredible car control on varied surfaces. The cars don't have to endure long stints, but they do take a beating. The jumps challenge the suspension, tires, and front fascias. The tight turns result in more than a little fender-to-fender and fender-into-fender action. The Joker Lap adds to the racing strategy. And the short races mean drivers have to be aggressive and make their moves as soon as possible.
Maybe "Kill all tires" isn't the best way to sum up the philosophy of World Rallycross. "Go fast and beat the hell out of your car" seems to be more appropriate.