By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
AUSTIN, Texas – It’s not very often you get a chance to witness the debut of a new race series, but fans at Circuit of the Americas this weekend are enjoying the opportunity. The brand new ARX American Rallycross series has its U.S. debut today with the Dirtfish ARX of COTA, just over a month after the series inaugural race at Silverstone in the UK.
The new series is picking up where Red Bull Global Rallycross leaves off and has taken up the mantle of the preeminent rallycross series on our side of the pond. Organized by IMG, which runs the FIA World Rallycross and European Rallycross Championships; ARX will function as a regional support series to the World Championship, much in the way European Rallycross Championship does and also serve as a means to develop talent and promote rally racing stateside which IMG feels is poised to grow considerably in the coming years.
The series runs two classes of cars, the Supercar class features Volkswagen Beatles, Subaru WRXs, Ford Focuses (Foci?) and Mini Coopers turbocharged to within an inch of their life. Their 2.0-liter engines crank out 600 horsepower that propels the tiny machines from zero to 60 mph in less than two seconds, pulling over 1.4 G’s in the process. They are driven by the usual suspects, adrenaline junkies and rally heroes like hoonigan Ken Block, T.V. host Tanner Foust, former F1 driver Scott Speed, and Travis Pastrana fresh off his Evel Live show in Las Vegas where he broke several of Evel Knievel’s motorcycle jump world records. They are joined by Patrick Sandell and Chris Atkinson in the Subaru Contingent, Steve Arpin in a second Ford and Brit Oliver Bennett in the lone Mini. Teams involved include Subaru Rally Team USA, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, the Ken Block Hoonigan Fords and BMW Mini Cooper.
The second class known as ARX2 features purpose-built, tube framed Supercar Lites built by Swedish Rally experts Olsberg. The ARX2 cars are rear engined and put out about 300 horsepower. They are campaigned by event sponsor Dirthfish Rally School, Keatts Motorsport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing of IndyCar fame.
All cars ride on Cooper Tires, the official tire supplier of ARX.
Circuit of the Americas constructed one of the county’s first permanent rallycross facilities in order to host the event and September’s round of the World RallyCross Championship. The track makes use of part of the Formula 1 circuit, with dirt sections added in some of the areas between the track, utilizing many of the normal runoff sections. All of it is contained in a tidy area just in the shadow of COTA’s famous tower. Drivers have to face one jump and are forced to take a longer joker lap once during every race. Several qualifying heats of four laps determine the runners for semifinals and finals which begin at 7:00 PM.
Fans who purchase tickets for September’s round of the World Championship received free tickets for today’s races and many fans have made their way inside the track from this mornings Cars and Coffee and Audi driving experience events which have made for a festive day at the track. Qualifying races are running all afternoon, with only 15-minute breaks in the action. The semifinals and finals run from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time.