History - FIA World Rallycross Championship

History - FIA World Rallycross Championship

Rallycross was invented by Robert Reed, the producer on ITV’s World of Sport programme, when he created the format of a series of short, sharp and entertaining races tailor-made for television.

The dual-surface discipline was duly born at Lydden Hill in the UK on 4 February, 1967, going on to quickly become a staple of Saturday afternoon sports broadcasts in the country. What’s more, rallycross soon spread beyond British shores, with the first event on the European mainland taking place in the Netherlands in 1969, and Scandinavia following suit with its own maiden rallycross meeting in Sweden two years later.

Rapidly growing in popularity across the continent, the new sport spawned a European Championship in 1973, with John Taylor prevailing in the inaugural season. The series was formally adopted by the FIA in 1976 when Franz Wurz – father of future Formula 1 driver, Alex Wurz – was crowned champion. The FIA European Rallycross Championship would remain the pinnacle of the discipline for the next three-and-a-half decades. 

Between 1989 and 2008, Kenneth Hansen re-wrote history time and again with no fewer than 14 title triumphs – a record unlikely ever to be beaten. Six years later, the FIA granted World Championship status to the sport, making it at the time one of only four series to benefit from such an elite standing. Thus, World RX came into being.

The first World Championship event took place at Montalegre in Portugal in 2014, with World RX going on to visit the UK, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Argentina over the course of that maiden campaign. 

The series has since branched out to include events in Spain, Latvia, South Africa, the United States and Abu Dhabi, while attracting some of the biggest stars in the sport, from Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekström, Johan Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen – all of whom went on to win the championship – to Gymkhana hero Ken Block, 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, nine-time FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb and even multiple Olympic Games cycling gold medallist, Sir Chris Hoy.

In 2022, rallycross is set to race into a bright and exciting new era, as World RX goes fully electric for the first time.