As Australian rallying continues to struggle for identity, a team of entrepreneurial thinkers has gathered to form an alternative. More spectator-focused, easier to access and organised in a race-style format, the Sidchrome Extreme Rallycross series hopes to emulate the success of similar events held internationally.
With the likes of Petter Solberg and Ken Block globally involved, the Australian series needs some big names on board, and for the first official test day former WRC drivers Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae arrived at Sydney Motorsport Park with helmets in hand.
They were joined by eight other contenders who fronted up to gain a feel for the format and, more importantly, for the car itself.
Among these was promising Australian rally driver Brendan Reeves. Recently a front-runner in the Australian Rally Championship, Reeves spent 2012-13 in Europe, participating in the World Rally Academy where he showed well against current WRC factory driver Elfyn Evans as well as Swedish specialist Pontus Tidemand.
“I came primarily to find out what the car was like to drive, as well as to get a feel for the rules and regulations and the potential support that was available… you can talk on the phone all you like, but you get more of a feel about things when they’re in front of you,” he tells TT.
Reeves is excited by the prospect of side-by-side racing, on a mixture of gravel and sealed surfaces. “Being contained to one small area Extreme Rallycross will be great for the fans, especially with the jumps and the surface changes thrown into the mix,” says Reeves.
Also exciting is the vehicle’s specification. Powered by a Ford 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine, the Olsberg ‘Supercar Lite’ generates around 230kW, with a six-speed sequential gearbox and four-wheel drive.
The vision is to run this specification as a control, though entrants will be able to alter the vehicle’s basic external appearance to suit sponsor requirements; think NASCAR and you’re not far off the mark.
The Extreme Rallycross series appears tantalising, but what is the car like to actually drive?
“It was actually even better than I expected,” says Reeves after his first stint. “It feels like a S2000 car to drive, but beefed-up, and it sounds incredible with the aspirated engine.
“It was also the best rally-style car I have ever driven in terms of feedback, and was predictable in both wet and dry conditions on the concrete surface.
“I didn’t have an opportunity to try it on gravel, but ‘Atko’ has previously and he said it was just as good.”
Reeves cites the ability to transfer weight in the car as a big advantage. “You could hit the brakes hard, get the weight forward, then hit the throttle. Because the drive split is locked front to rear, you can then induce power oversteer. It also had lots of suspension travel… I’d love to sample some jumps in it, as I reckon it will really bring the car to life!”
Convinced of the series’ potential, Reeves is now working hard to secure a deal that could see him on the ten-car grid when the extreme rallycross season commences later this year.
The first of the seven-round Extreme Rallycross series will be held on the Gold Coast, August 28-29. From there the Extreme Rallycross circus will take in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, with further rounds at Melbourne and Sydney to close out the series.
For more information on the Sidchrome Extreme Rallycross series, visit www.extremerallycross.com.au
For more on Brendan Reeves, check out www.brendanreeves.com.au