Arriving at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California for the fourth round of the 2022-2023 Nitro Rallycross Championship last Saturday afternoon, this writer didn’t really know what to expect. That changed a few minutes later when the first group of electric Group E FC1-X race cars, boasting 1,070 horsepower and capable of racing from 0-60mph in 1.4s, attacked the sweeping dirt track.
At the wheel of one of them was Andreas Bakkerud, who has competed in the FIA Rallycross Supercar class since 2013 in both Euro RX and World RX, becoming European Champion in 2021. He was also the runner-up in the 2019 World Rallycross Championship, and the 31-year-old Norwegian was excited to be part of the NRX action.
“I grew up in Norway, and I (still) live in Norway,” he says. “Growing up, we had this sport in Europe called rallycross. Rallycross is motorsports and MMA. It has it all. We race on tarmac, we race on gravel, we do jumps. Especially now going into Nitro Rallycross, which [series founder] Travis Pastrana has been very involved with, things are really crazy! Nitro Rallycross is a mix between rallycross and motocross put together. At first, and in my head, I was like, “This is complete madness.’
“The motorsports industry is in a big change right now,” he continues. “You’re going from zero to electric and saving the planet and blah, blah, blah… It makes sense for me as a Norwegian because we already drive electric cars and the country is very green. Then you come over here to California and you race an electric car with over 1,000 horsepower. It’s kind of odd and new and different, but also very cool. Nitro Rallycross is the right thing for the planet. This FC1-X is going to be the future. Electric cars are going to be the future.”
Bakkerud was clearly impressed by the performance of the FC1-X he drives for the Monster Energy RX Cartel team.
“The cars have two motors in the front and two motors in the back,” he says. “It weighs about 1,600 kilos (3,500 pounds) and it does 0-60 in about two seconds with gravel tires! These cars are just beasts. I’d love to race a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or whatever, but I’ll go back to the beginning here: Rallycross is the motorsports’ answer to MMA. It’s got it all. Rallycross is my passion and it is cool for me to see that Nitro Rallycross is stepping it up so much.”
Bakkerud admitted that the characteristics of the FC1-X take some getting used to.
“It does,” he says. “This is the beginning of a new era, right? I was lucky enough to be able to do the World Rallycross Championship in ICE cars and we did the development there with engineers and big budgets. I mean, the biggest budget we had was 14 million Euros in 2018 and we traveled around the world with the Audi factory team. I had a blast. We visited 13 different countries. Now we are doing the same thing with electric cars. Sure, right now I would say that the ICE car I once raced is still a little bit faster. It’s a mix between the weight, the power, and the size of the car. These cars here are a bit bigger than the ICE cars.
“Inside the car it, is still the same thing. It’s noisy and hot and it smells. The heat and the noise is still there.”
Bakkerud believes that the Nitro Rallycross Championship is a sign of where racing can go in years to come.
“It is charging into the future,” he says. “The first two races we did this year were in Europe and were more my style. It was about 50/50 with pavement and gravel. Here in America we go to ‘Travis Pastrana-land’ and we drive all on dirt and fly cars over 100-foot gaps and stuff. That’s out of my comfort zone, but the majority of the races are this style that you’re seeing at Glen Helen.
“The charm with rallycross is that with the variation of tracks also requires different skills, so all that we wish for the future is that we get more racers, more teams and bigger teams. We are all working together here. None of us are earning big (money). We are just trying to keep everything together. We want to share this excellent sport with the fans.”