World Rallycross 2024 season preview: it's petrol vs electric in the great reboot | CAR Magazine

World Rallycross 2024 season preview: it's petrol vs electric in the great reboot

Published: 31 May 2024

► CAR’s World Rallycross 2024 season preview
► It’s petrol vs electric, and Swede vs Swede
► Season starts on 8 June 2024

If you’re wondering whether petrol or electric is best for motorsport, you should get an answer by the time this season’s FIA World Rallycross championship climaxes in Australia in December.

The 2024 season starts on 8 June in France, and debuts a drastically different format to 2023. Then, the sport’s top class was all-electric. But that experiment had to be aborted mid-season because of a battery fire in one of the Lancias being run by Sebastien Loeb’s Special One team at Lydden Hill.

So now the old ‘Supercar’ class of four-cylinder combustion cars making around 560bhp, running on sustainable fuel, will be competing against some of last year’s RX1e twin-motor electric cars, which can muster 670bhp.

It’s the only series that has petrol and electric competing in the same races, and should be pretty spectacular, given the power outputs invovled. As ever with rallycross, the venues are part-road, part-dirt, and through the course of a race the conditions change as more mud and gravel gets strewn around. And with events happening in Sweden, Hungary, Belgium and Portugal, as well as France and Australia, the weather could be a big factor.

That all makes it very hard to predict the outcome. But it’s a safe bet that six-time world champion Johan Kristoffersson will be at or near the front.

Among those aiming to make life tricky for him are fellow Swedes Kevin and Timmy Hansen. The brothers are sticking with their electric Peugeots, which they’re confident have evolved well since last since.

Kevin, who finished as runner-up last year, says: ‘I think the most fun you can have is in the RX1e car. It is much more powerful, a bigger challenge for braking, the torque is unbelieveabe, the speeds that you get, you can’t compare it to anything.

‘The petrol cars are really good and they’re a bit lighter, so you are able to corner a bit quicker, but the power and acceleration are slightly down.

‘We’re still learning. It’s only our third year in electric racing. Petrol technology has been around for generations. This is a technology we’re still developing and refining.

‘Rallycross is always going to be the most fun, the most exciting and the most challenging motorsport in my opinion. Any driver that comes in and tries always struggles because it is something different. You are required to push yourself to an extreme, and your car to an extreme, and your car control to an extreme, and push your competitor to an extreme as well.’

But how do you go up from second to first on the podium – how do you beat Kristoffersson?

‘It’s quite simple. You get a better race car. His team has done a great job delivering a car and understanding it very quickly. It’s our fault that we’ve given him this opportunity to shine for so long.

‘I think we have the smallest budget in the championship and the most sustainable car. When you’re determined, like the Hansen family can be, and have the experience, we very much believe it’s a possible task for us. We’ve made a few steps forward with the car over the winter.’

They’ve also, as a team, continued to minimise their carbon footprint; Hansen Motorsport is climate-neutral as a team, thanks to efforts such as its HQ in Götene, Sweden, being run entirely on sustainable energy.

Timmy, the 2019 champion, who came sixth last year, says rallycross drivers need years of experience: ‘At first I could drive fast on tarmac, but absolutely not on gravel. But as the years went by I learnt about the dirt and going sideways, the balance between tarmac and gravel, and the jumps. It’s just a beautiful sport. I love it now.

‘This year we have the chance to win, and I have that hunger.’

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions