The first fruit of the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s collaboration with Volvo Construction Equipment was put to the test at Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal last weekend (17-18 September), as a revised first corner and new joker at the Circuito Internacional de Montalegre shuffled the pack and drew enthusiastic comments from competitors.
Through its official track building partnership with Volvo CE, World RX is able to leverage the equipment, experience and expertise of the Swedish industry leader, with the aim of enhancing and improving existing circuits and – ultimately – constructing new ones.
Hand-in-hand with the fastest and most powerful cars the World Championship has ever seen – with World RX’s new-generation, all-electric beasts pushing out the equivalent of 680bhp and 880Nm of instant torque – the objective is to fashion fresh features and innovative elements that will generate the most exciting racing on the planet.
At Montalegre, the changes were two-fold. The old joker lap – a long, sweeping asphalt right-hander at the end of the main straight – became the new Turn One. The track width on the exit of the corner was also increased, allowing for a range of lines to be adopted away from the start and resulting in some thrilling overtaking moves.
Following consultation between Rallycross Promoter, international motorsport’s governing body the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), drivers and teams, a new joker was duly designed and built – assisted in the final phase by Volvo CE machinery, including the cutting-edge ECR25 Electric – between Turns Two and Five.
This S-shaped gravel section – pitching cars ones way and then the next in quick succession – ran alongside the main lap, producing a number of dramatic and unpredictable merges as drivers on the faster racing line kept their foot flat to the floor in an effort to reach Turn Five before rivals navigating the tight-and-twisty joker. In addition to heightening the intensity for competitors, the parallel lines made for a visual treat for spectators both trackside and watching at home via RX+.
Arne Dirks, Executive Director, Rallycross Promoter GmbH, said:
“Montalegre marked the first step in our quest – in conjunction with Volvo Construction Equipment – to design the rallycross tracks of the future. Whilst a comparatively small step at this early stage, it was nonetheless significant and demonstrates our commitment to making World RX the most spectacular motorsport product around.
“The feedback from drivers was generally very positive, and while there are aspects we will look to refine moving forward – such as the width of the new joker, for example – that is exactly what this process is all about, experimenting with different elements to see what works, what doesn’t and what we ultimately need to create the perfect rallycross tracks of the future. Thanks again to Volvo CE for their input and support – we have an exciting journey ahead of us!”
Johan Kristoffersson, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021 FIA World Rallycross Champion, said:
“The new joker lap was nice, and the changes made the first corner more interesting. To be honest, I prefer this layout compared to the old one where you could split the strategy at Turn One. I really liked it.”
Timmy Hansen, 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion, said:
“I definitely liked the new Turn One, most of all. That was a really good improvement, getting all the cars together down that long straight – it ended up as a very good first corner. You could take the start from the inside, middle or outside and still have a chance of grabbing the lead. The joker lap was good but could maybe be a bit wider to flow a bit better with the rest of the circuit and perhaps include a jump.”
Niclas Grönholm, Winner at Montalegre in 2021 and 2022, said:
“I think the new joker was a good addition to the circuit to add a bit more action, and the old joker being the new Turn One was better as well, so it was a good change overall.”
Kevin Hansen, Two-Time World RX Event-Winner, said:
“The new joker lap was a fantastic change to the Montalegre track – tight, technical and, being on gravel, even more fun! We’re already working on updates to it for 2023 as we continue to build Rallycross 2.0.”
Anton Marklund, 2012, 2017 and 2022 FIA European Rallycross Champion, said:
“I think the new joker lap was really positive, to be honest; first of all, it made for a better Turn One than in the past, and I always like driving on gravel so to bring even more gravel to the circuit is an upside for me. It generated a big improvement to the track and racing action, and if we can widen it a little moving forward to allow a bit more room for sideways driving, that would make it flow even better still.”