This past weekend, America’s Rallycross (ARX) called Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, home. The traveling circus of Rally madness took over the city with a massive festival of Motorsport and entertainment. Friday evening, all competitors took to the city streets in their rally cars for a giant parade. They then parked all the machines along the boardwalk and greeted the fans. Everywhere you turn there were drivers signing autographs and different teams entertaining. There was a friendly but tense atmosphere as most of the teams were ready to get to work for the weekend.
The ARX rallycross tracks are split into sections which each driver has to master in order to complete the best lap times. The course Is made up of tarmac, gravel, a tabletop jump and of course the Joker. The Joker is a section of the track that splits off from the main course, making a lap, on average, 2 seconds longer. Each driver has to complete the Joker once a race. Strategy and help from the team's spotters must be used to efficiently take the Joker.
Each team takes a production car and turns it into the insane machines you see on the track. Volkswagen, Subaru and Ford all have entries in the series with the Beetle, Impreza and Fiesta respectively. The cars have a 2.0L, turbocharged engine that puts out 600BHP and 660ft-lb through a 4WD drive train. This insane set up means they can go 0-60 in 1.90 seconds, faster than an F1 car. Everything that makes the cars practical is thrown away.
They have next to no interior, plastic body panels (mainly because they need to be replaced so often) and a serious roll cage. The techs that work on these vehicles work insanely hard between heats making small tweaks to the car at the driver's request. In some instances, they have to rebuild sections of the car so it can go back out and compete. Cabot Bigham crashed out in a qualifying but had his car race ready by the final due to the hard work of his team.
ARX2 Is the official support class of ARX. The cars are based off of the Ford Fiesta and have mid mounted, naturally aspirated engines that produce 310bhp. Junior drivers compete in the ARX2 classes to hone their skills and work towards the Supercar class. These drivers are the future of the sport and do not disappoint when they take to the track.
Practice and qualifying saw aggression from all teams trying to top the leader boards. The supercar rookie, Travis Pecoy, placed 1st in the second round of qualifying against 2 veterans, Tanner Foust and Scott Speed. Canadian driver, Steve Arpin, placed 1st in the semi-finals, earning him a front row grid placement for the finals. Patrick Sandell had an excellent weekend earning Top Qualifier position for semi-finals but tragedy struck as he crashed out of the final coming in contact with Pecoy at the end of the first lap.
The final featured ARX’s first ever seven car line up. Arpin had the best launch taking first down the straight but broke late causing him to turn wide and falling to seventh place. Tanner Foust led the race for all but one lap, winning the Canadian stop on the ARX tour with his team mate, Cabot Bigham placing second. Scott Speed, winner of the 2018 Canadian ARX, placed third after his team worked frantically fixing his car. A gearbox issue caused Speed to lose 1st in the semi finals.
It goes without saying that the younger generation of this sport work as tirelessly as the veterans. The weekend saw Fraser McConnell victorious overall but the victory was not taken with ease. Connor Martell, the reigning champion, put pressure on McConnell earning the Top Qualifying spot for the final race but lost the lead in the first straight to McConnells perfect launch. 14 year old Gray Ledbetter had the best weekend of her racing career winning the second qualifying heat and 2 fourth place finishes in the finals. In his ARX2 debut, Lane Vacala worked had over the weekend finishing 6th in the finals.
Personally, I believe there is no better racing than rallycross. I was lucky enough to attend a race in Barbados in 2014, ever since I have been hooked on the sport and follow it closely. F1 is an amazing achievement of engineering and people will say it is the pinnacle of motorsport, I disagree. Rallycross drivers are a different breed. There’s no whining when there’s contact, there’s no giving up when a car is damaged. The skill required to change driving surfaces and stay fast is mind blowing. I stood in the infield as these cars blew past me, chaos within an arms length. I've been to many races this year but ARX felt like home. It was a welcome change of pace from the pretentious F1-style that most racing series has adopted. If you ever have the opportunity to go to an ARX race do not hesitate. It's got hands down the best people and bar none the best racing you will ever see