What Is The Unique Sport of Rallycross?

Photo by EKSRX // CC BY 2.0

Rallycross is probably not a sport that you have heard of, or if you have, it’s one you know little about. However, you will likely have been aware of circuit racing series’ like Formula One, Formula E, NASCAR, and Indycar. In each of these sports drivers race their cars on closed circuits, all of which are surfaced with either asphalt or concrete, with cars travelling in one direction. In circuit racing, the winner is the first driver to complete a set number of laps.

You may also have been aware of the sport of “rallying”, where cars drive on closed asphalt, gravel, or dirt roads, with the aim of setting the fastest time. Cars start at set intervals, so they are less likely to interfere with each other whilst competing. This means that drivers do not need to overtake their rivals to win. The roads that the cars drive on are not closed loops, with each car having a defined start and end point. The other major distinction is that each car has two people inside it, the driver, and the “co-driver”, who reads “pace notes” that tell the driver what conditions they can expect ahead of them.

Rallycross – Where Two Worlds Collide

Rallycross brings these two worlds together. Rallycross cars closely resemble rally cars in their appearance and set up, meaning that they typically look like modified road cars. The circuits that they compete on combine elements of circuit racing and rallying, in that they are a combination of hard surface (asphalt or concrete) and a loose surface (gravel or dirt). Circuits may also contain “jumps” like some off-road rally circuits, meaning that Rallycross cars can have all four wheels leave the circuit during the race. It may seem like Rallycross is difficult to get into, but like any other sport is mostly a case of practising and getting in with a team.


Like other motorsports, wagering is less popular amongst Rallycross fans than sports like soccer, basketball and football. However, for fans that are looking to place bets on races, services like Fox Bet will soon allow bets to be placed from mobile apps within certain states in the US.

 Photo by EKSRX // CC BY 2.0

Joker Laps

In traditional circuit racing all cars must follow the same route for each lap of the race. However, in Rallycross drivers can opt to take a “joker lap”, which may be shorter or longer than the primary circuit route. Traditionally, the joker lap provided a shorter distance for the car to travel, meaning the driver could gain an advantage. However, the driver is limited to how many times they could use it.

In the FIA World Rallycross Championship the joker lap is a longer distance, with a minimum of two seconds being added to the driver’s lap time. This creates a different strategic element to the joker lap, with some drivers opting to take it early to get it out of the way, and others saving it to later in the race when they have built up a gap. This can make nail biting moments as two competing drivers take different routes around the circuit, with fans waiting in anticipation for them to reemerge together to see who has managed to come out on top.

Competitive Elements

Some circuit racing sports are criticised for their processional races with infrequent overtaking. Rallycross is very different, with drivers often battling it out for the lead from start to finish, leading to exciting races. Drivers often “drift” their cars around the circuit in a similar way to how rally drivers navigate each stage. This also makes spectacular racing for fans as the cars are often just centimeters apart, travelling sideways in a cloud of smoke. A good example of this is the recent World Rallycross Championship Final in Sweden.

World Rallycross Championship in Sweden

How to Watch Rallycross

The top tier competition for rallycross is the FIA World Rallycross Championship, which posts highlight videos of each race on its YouTube channel, meaning you can enjoy the best parts of the action free of charge. Full races are available on TV, with different broadcasters providing coverage in individual countries. You can also attend races in person, with tickets on sale for several more events this year. Individual countries also have their own domestic championships, such as the MSA British Rallycross Championship, which hosts events around the UK.



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