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RED BULL GRC TO INCLUDE ELECTRIC SERIES


Photo by RX360;DFW 2016

Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) recently made the announcement that it will follow the lead of Formula E and introduce a new electric class to the series.

At first, RX360 was not thrilled about this announcement and had to let the news sink in for a few days. The whir of an electric motor replacing the rip snort of an internal combustion engine just didn't sit too well. After calming down, RX360 decided to look at this with an open mind. After all, a few years ago the new Formula E championship announcement was not welcome news by many open wheel racing fans. However, since the inaugural race a few years ago, the series has gained back some of the naysayers. Many are impressed with certain aspects of the cars such as speed, looks, close competition and lack of exhaust emissions. Be that as it may, many are still hung up on two major issues. The first and biggest issue being the missing sound of the internal combustion engine. People love the visceral screaming sound of the F1 cars and the raging wail of other open wheel screamers like Outlaw Sprint cars. It's a huge part of their appeal. As for the electric brethren, there has been development to add sound to the cars. When, and if, it will ever happen remains to be seen. With rallycross, the sound is definitely a big part of the appeal. Hearing the engines roar on the grid at the launch and around the track is an amazing sound and feeling. Hearing the spooling of the turbo and popping of the anti-lag gets fans excited. Many fans are worried that once those components are taken away a certain amount of excitement and energy will disappear.

The second issue is the fact that, because of battery drain, the drivers need to change cars midway through the GRC event. That's right, they don't change just the battery, they change the whole car. Some say this issue will most likely be a non-issue in rallycross because each race last approximately 10-15 minutes. There has been disappointment expressed by some fans in comparing the electric RX cars to scale RC cars. Some say they may as well get rid of the expensive drivers and put full-size RC cars out on the track and give the remote control units to gamers standing trackside. RX360 has heard a handful of negative responses since the announcement of the electric rallycross cars. However, some fans express that they feel this could be a positive direction for rallycross. "It's an interesting project," said RX360 follower, Jure Krapenc, "and a great achievement. I guess this will be motorsports in twenty years. But, the main reason I'm watching WorldRX is to hear that 3600bhp launch from the start line. Hearing only their tires just won't do." We believe that moving forward will help in the long run, giving the series a broader fan base. After all, we can't deny that helping the environment is a good thing, and this is the direction that car manufacturers are going. If a race series fails to keep up with trends they may find themselves losing out on a certain fan base and behind the motor sports eight ball. However, change is difficult for many, and it may take time for rallycross fans to come around to accepting this new series. "I have to say I am curious about them," said Red Bull GRC fan, Karyn Krukow. "I would like to see how they put the race together. My concern is that they don't have all the kinks figured out with Super Cars and Lites in areas like rules and violations. The races don't necessarily run smoothly, either. So adding a third race doesn't seem like a great idea right now." Despite the mixed opinions from rallycross fans, Red Bull GRC says the electric class is on its way. The first electric rallycross car (built by research and developement firm STARD) has already undergone field testing. It was recently put through its paces for the purpose of more testing up against traditional rallycross cars in actual competition at the Race of Austrian Champions at Greinbach Circuit. The car, nicknamed HIPER, was piloted by Group N World Rally Champion, Manfred Stohl. HIPER is built upon a Peugeot 207 super 2000 chassis and has been proven to perform at 544 hp. The car runs at max power for about 15 minutes and its top speed has been logged at approximately 121 mph.

RX360 heard from two-time rallycross champion, Tanner Foust, on the subject. "Rallycross and electric power are perfect for each other," Foust said. "The other type of racing that has been discussed at length in the same room with electric power are hill climbs; these aren't so popular in the US, but [electric] Rallycross is a growing entity."

It could be argued that Foust is not just at the pinnacle of the sport, but can see from that pinnacle far off into the future. "High power, short races, punishing courses and the need for insane acceleration all make electric power the way of the future for Rallycross," said Foust. "We'll never be able to completely replace the pure brute of anti-lag flames shooting from the pipes, but with electric power the performance capability is a no brainer."

Photo Credit (1) RX360; (2) Motorsport.com

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