13 Nov EXPECT ACTION ALL THE WAY AT THE GUMTREE WORLD RALLYCROSS OF SOUTH AFRICA
World championship motorsport is back at the Killarney International Raceway with the second edition of the Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa on 24 and 25 November 2018. As before, when almost 30 000 fans packed the specially built stands for the first World Rallycross event ever in sub-Saharan Africa in November 2017, it’s the final event of the WRX season; there are scores to be settled and championship positions to be decided.
With the sole exception of defending champion Johann Kristofersson, who has already clinched his second World Rallycross title, the world’s top exponents of this action-packed sport have nothing to lose, everything to gain and just one chance to get it.
That’s a recipe for no-holds-barred, all-action racing throughout the field – including Mr Kristofferson, since there is immense prestige in being able to say “I beat the world champion at one of the fastest circuits on the calendar”. Kristofersson will come to Cape Town with a huge target on the back of his Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR, and he is young enough at 29 to feel the pressure. Don’t expect him to play it safe; he’ll be out there with a point to prove.
World Rallycross combines the best of rallying, motorcycle supercross and oval-track stock car racing into a quickfire, adrenalin charged format that delivers non-stop action. The cars look like the rally versions of familiar hatchbacks such as the Audi S1, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, Peugeot 208, Renault Megane and Volkswagen Golf – but they’re stripped out and reskinned with replica body panels in fibreglass and carbon fibre so that they weigh just 1300kg ready to go, including the driver.
Under the bonnet there’s a highly-tuned two-litre turbopetrol four delivering an incredible 440kW and 800Nm, driving all four wheels via a six-speed sequential gearbox. The gearing is deliberately kept very low since all rallycross circuits are short and tight; the one at the Killarney International Raceway has unusually long straights and it’s still just one kilometre long overall.
The result is an utterly brutal little vehicle with ferocious performance; a rallycross car will hit its rev limiter in top gear at less than 200km/h but it will get there faster than anything this side of a Top Fuel dragster, typically 0-100km/h in less than two seconds – significantly quicker than a Formula One car. As former F1 world champion Jenson Button put it, “These cars are awesome, what you dream about as a kid”, and it is his stated ambition to race in this series.
It gets better: Rallycross is run on tight, gnarly stadium-style layouts, part tarmac and part dirt, with nasty little jumps where the cars get completely airborne. Each race is just four laps, so there’s no time for strategy – it’s flat out from the moment the lights go out.
Either four or five cars line up for the start, but there’s only space for three abreast going into Turn 1, so there’s usually paint traded within 200 metres of the start. It’s very much a contact sport and there are often bits of fibre-glass bumpers and body panels scattered around the circuit after a race. American crowd favourite Ken Block famously left so much of his Ford Fiesta’s bodywork out on the track during the semifinals at the 2017 Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa that the car was under the minimum weight after the race and he was disqualified!
Then there’s the Joker, a longer – but faster – loop around part of the circuit, which each driver has to take once during every race. This almost always shakes up the pecking order, especially if one or two drivers leave it for the last lap, in which case it’s elbows out and the devil take the hindmost in the run down to the final corner.
It’s all over in less than five minutes and you’ll scarcely have time to catch your breath before the cars line up for the next race. There’s non-stop action for two full days, with qualifying, heats, semifinals and finals in three classes, and the best part is that you can see practically the entire circuit from anywhere on the grandstands or the general admission area, which is where you’ll find the most enthusiastic – and loudest – fans.
Book at Ticketpro; prices for the weekend start at R430 for general admission, to R750 on the grandstands, with hospitality packages from R2500. For more information go to www.fiaworldrallycross.com.
General Admission, weekend pass with limited paddock access: R430
General Admission, 12-16, weekend pass with limited paddock access: R220
General Admission, under 12, weekend pass with limited paddock access: FREE
Grandstand Seating, weekend pass with limited paddock access: R750
On-site Parking, weekend pass: R280
Off-site Parking, weekend pass: R220