The 2021 Nitro Rallycross series went underway on Friday and Saturday (September 24-25) at Utah Motorsports Campus at Toole, UT with two days of racing action. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) won the Supercar category on Saturday afternoon with Canadian Steve Arpin (Hyundai i20) finishing second and younger brother Kevin [Hansen] (Peugeot 208) completing the podium.
For the 2021 Nitro Rallycross series the organizers came up with a format based on the Global Rallycross Championship from a couple of years ago as well as some formats from back in the days when ‘Rallycross’ was added to the program of ‘X Games’. To start with this last one the head-to-head races have been introduced again on a typical track with a gap jump and table top jumps. The so called ‘battle brackets’ were scheduled for the first day where – according to the format – a championship point was awarded for each battle win and pole position for day 2 heat races is determined by the final battle.
Through a system of 1/8 finals (with 2 bye’s following the 14 starters) and quarter-finals on Friday eventually Travis Pastrana (Subaru Impreza) beat Steve Arpin in the first semi-final while the second semi-final went to Scott Speed (Subaru Impreza) who beat Fraser McConnell (Ford Fiesta Mk8). The final race in the battle brackets – an all Subaru Motorsports one – went to Pastrana who beat Speed.
Saturday’s racing format existed of two heat races with the first two qualified for a 10-car-final. All other drivers battle it out in the semi-final with the first two of each semi-final also qualified for the final. The remaining drivers get a ‘Last Chance Qualifier’ with the top two completing the grid for the final.
The first heat race saw Scott Speed on pole as he was part of the battle brackets final. Speed did not finish the first heat race and got disqualified from it for an action on Kevin Eriksson (Honda Civic). Therefore Speed needed the later races in order to qualify for the final. Timmy Hansen won the first heat race ahead of Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta Mk8) and both secured their spot on the grid for the final. In the second heat race with Pastrana on pole the American made it first to the finish line after being in the lead during all the laps. Steve Arpin was the other direct qualifier for the final.
The remaining (non-qualified) drivers were seeded in two semi-finals where Scott Speed won the first one ahead of McConnell. Qualifiers for the final following the second semi-final were Andreas Bakkerud (Subaru Impreza) and Tanner Foust (Audi S1).
Two more tickets for the final were up for grabs for the remaining drivers in a last chance qualifier. The race was red flagged following a roll of Robin Larsson (Audi S1). Liam Doran (Audi S1) was already out at that moment after he broke the back left suspension of the Audi. The re-run went underway with four cars as obviously Liam Doran but also Kevin Eriksson did not took the start. Kevin Hansen and Cabot Bigham (Audi S1), the latter however with a broken front left suspension, were the drivers allowed to take the final spots on the grid for the final.
The final went underway with nine cars as Cabot Bigham did not took the start following the severe damage in the last chance qualifier race. The front row was occupied by the heat race winners Timmy Hansen and Travis Pastrana. The drivers who finished second in the heat races, Oliver Eriksson and Steve Arpin, were on the second row. Row three and four of the final were occupied by the top two finishers of the semi-finals, meaning Scott Speed and Andreas Bakkerud on row three and Fraser McConnell and Tanner Foust on row four. Kevin Hansen was sole on the fifth and final row.
Timmy Hansen lead the final after the start and by the end of the first lap he was ahead of Oliver Eriksson and Steve Arpin. Mid race Eriksson went into the joker lap section allowing Steve Arpin to move into second and Kevin Hansen into third. Arpin made it into the joker lap section in the penultimate lap while the Hansen brothers both cleared the joker in the final lap. That joker lap strategy didn’t change the order of the top three and therefore Timmy Hansen won the opening round of the 2021 Nitro Rallycross series ahead of Steve Arpin and Kevin Hansen. Taken into account the one-off events of Nitro Rallycross in 2018 (won by Timmy Hansen) and 2019 (won by Kevin Hansen) no other driver than a ‘Hansen’ has won it so far. Fraser McConnell came in fourth ahead of Subaru drivers Speed and Pastrana as last finishers in fifth and sixth. Eriksson, Foust and Bakkerud were all labeled DNF.
“This event is always crazy but this year’s edition was extra tough,” said Timmy Hansen afterwards.
“I was able to take the lead in the final with a switchback move but there were people all over the back of me for the next few laps.
“I had to be very careful as the track was so tough and really easy to pick up a puncture on. Track evolution was tricky to manage too but we got that right; switching from the tabletop line to the gap jump route at the mid-point helped me pull a gap on the guys behind and that’s what ensured I came out of the last-lap joker with a solid gap.
“I’ve been involved since the very beginning in 2018 and it feels great to be back on the top step again. Now I’m looking forward to the next round at ERX Motor Park and it looks like it could be just as good or maybe even better than this round with how wide the track is.”
Also part of the Nitro Rallycross series is the so-called NRX Next (elsewhere also known as RX2, ARX2 or Supercar Lites). The event at Utah Motorsport Campus counted as a double header event for the NRX Next category with one round on Friday and one round on Saturday.
On Friday the podium saw a Swedish one and two with Casper Jansson (NRX Next) winning it from Martin Enlund (NRX Next). Lane Vacala (NRX Next) completed the podium on the third step. On Saturday there was more success for the Hansen family as George Megennis (NRX Next) drove to victory in round 2 of the series. Megennis is competing for the #YellowSquad, the team of Timmy and Kevin Hansen. Enlund and Friday winner Jansson were second and third.
The next round of the 2021 Nitro Rallycross series takes place next weekend on October 2-3 at ERX Motor Park outside Minneapolis, MN at Elk River, MN.
Round 1 – Supercar – Battle Brackets: 1. Scott Speed (USA), Subaru Impreza; 2. Travis Pastrana (USA), Subaru Impreza; 3. Fraser McConnell (JAM), Ford Fiesta Mk8; 4. Steve Arpin (CDN), Hyundai i20; 5. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 6. Tanner Foust (USA), Audi S1; 7. Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 8. Oliver Bennett (GB), BMW MINI; etc.
Round 1 – Supercar – Final: 1. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 2. Steve Arpin (CDN), Hyundai i20; 3. Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 4. Fraser McConnell (JAM), Ford Fiesta Mk8; 5. Scott Speed (USA), Subaru Impreza; 6. Travis Pastrana (USA), Subaru Impreza; 7. Oliver Eriksson (S), Ford Fiesta Mk8 – DNF; 8. Tanner Foust (USA), Audi S1 – DNF; 9. Andreas Bakkerud (N), Subaru Impreza – DNF; 10. Cabot Bigham (USA), Audi S1 – DNS.
Round 1 – NRX Next – Final: 1. Casper Jansson (S), NRX Next; 2. Martin Enlund (S), NRX Next; 3. Lane Vacala (USA), NRX Next; 4. Eric Gordon (USA), NRX Next; 5. Simon Olofsson (S), NRX Next – DNF; 6. George Megennis (USA), NRX Next – DNF.
Round 2 – NRX Next – Final: 1. George Megennis (USA), NRX Next; 2. Martin Enlund (S), NRX Next; 3. Casper Jansson (S), NRX Next; 4. Lane Vacala (USA), NRX Next; 5. Sage Karam (USA), NRX Next; 6. Eric Gordon (USA), NRX Next; 7. Simon Olofsson (S), NRX Next – DNF.
Supercar (after round 1): 1. Timmy Hansen (S), 51; 2. Steve Arpin (CDN), 47; 3. Kevin Hansen (S), 41; 4. Fraser McConnell (JAM), 37; 5. Scot Speed (USA), 34; etc.
NRX Next (after round 2): 1. Casper Jansson (S), 90; 2. Martin Enlund (S), 90; 3. George Megennis (USA), 80; 4. Lane Vacala (USA), 75; 5. Eric Gordon (USA), 60; etc.