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Nitro RX: An electric game-changer for motorsport

A new era of electric motorsport will begin this year when Nitro Rallycross goes electric, Total-Motorsport.com's Nigel Chiu went to Barcelona to see the new car in action

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It’s been very difficult to get motorsport fans on board with electric racing and to convince them that there will come a point when internal combustion engines are no longer the norm.

Whilst Formula E have done an incredible job to attract a high quality calibre of manufacturers and drivers, one of the big elephants in the room has been the energy management which some fans believe isn’t proper racing.

This is where rallycross comes in – a motorsport which is all about short, sharp, hard racing and where the capability of an electric car can be demonstrated on the biggest stage.

In 2018, rallycross made its debut at an annual extreme sports event called the Nitro World Games.

The track at Utah Motorsports Campus was like nothing anyone had seen before, with a huge 40 metre ‘gap’ jump, different routes and the ability to take different lines to go side by side.

Three years later, the inaugural Nitro RX season took place across the United States with some of the biggest off-road names, including pioneer Travis Pastrana, Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Scott Speed, Tanner Foust, Andreas Bakkerud and NASCAR stars Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott.

Mattias Ekstrom chasing Patrik Sandell in 2018 Nitro Rallycross at Nitro World Games (Red Bull Content Pool)

Despite being in just its second season, Nitro RX will take things to the next level by going international and introducing a ground-breaking electric vehicle called the FC1-X, which will make its debut this year in a new class named Group E.

A weapon of a car

Having had the fortune of being invited out to Barcelona to see the FC1-X and lucky enough to have a ride-along with Kevin Eriksson.

Even though the conditions were very wet, the car felt amazing as it rocketed down the main straight at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, going from 0-60mph in 1.5 seconds.

The grip levels were immense as the car just kept on going and you couldn’t feel the gear shifts when each of the three gears were selected.

Eriksson said it was the best car he had ever driven, a comment echoed by most of the other drivers who were there including Oliver Eriksson, Oliver Bennett, Connor Martell and Cabot Bigham.

Leading electric mobility company QEV Technologies have developed the electric side of the car, in partnership with First Corner and long-term rallycross operator Olsbergs MSE.

The all-wheel drive monster they have created produces 800kW of power, which is equivalent to over 1000BHP. Such is the acceleration, the drivers will feel a g-force of 3g which is unheard of for an off-road series.

QEV Technologies software engineer Jonathan Fernandez says the FC1-X will be faster than the internal combustion engine Supercar.

“We were asked for these targets and it’s something we have been able to deliver,” Fernandez told Total-Motorsport.com.

“This car is something that’s completely different to other championships, Formula E, Extreme E and the World Endurance Championship, that we cover.

“The first thing the drivers have said is ‘wow, this is very powerful, the car behaves very well’ so they are enjoying it.

“We are still in the development phase, but the car has been running very well so far and has met all of our targets.”

A car built for hard racing

The FC1-X has been made with contact and wheel to wheel racing in mind, plus the drivability to take alternate lines so we can get more of the great action that Nitro RX produced in 2021.

Group E will become the top class in Nitro RX from this year, when the season begins on June 18-19 at Lydden Hill, taking over from the traditional Supercar category, although the internal combustion engine class will also remain.

The FC1-X in the rain during testing in Barcelona

Using their experience from RX2e, which was the first-ever FIA electric rallycross championship in history, QEV Technologies have ensured Nitro RX‘s FC1-X will be reliable and are already in the fine tuning phase to get the tyres, driveshaft, prop shaft and gearbox in balance so the electric motor can run at its full potential.

Five-time WRC winner Kris Meeke was in Barcelona, showing a keen interest in Nitro RX‘s new top class, and had a beaming smile when he got out of the car, describing it as “crazy” and believes the potential is “incredible”.

The future is here

Electric motorsport has been spoken about as the future for over a decade, but it’s now time to talk about it in the present. The technology is here and any concerns about the sound or lack of noise need to be erradicated.

Remember when Formula 1 moved from normally-aspirated V8 engines to the currently used turbo-hybrid power units in 2014? There was a lot of backlash, but that slowly and surely eased away as the racing became the most important aspect.

Jenson Button will compete in Nitro RX this season

Eight years on, F1 is arguably in the best state it’s been in for a long time due to the quality of the drivers and the racebility of the new 2022 car, at least Jenson Button, among many others, think so. The noise simply doesn’t matter.

People love rallycross because of the drama and action of having multiple cars going for it, leaving nothing on the table over different surfaces and jumps.

When there are 10 FC1-X machines in the final of each Nitro RX event, it promises to be spectacular and whilst there haven’t been too many official announcement about who’s competing, I can guarantee you the grid will be just as strong as last year.

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