Nitro Rallycross takes a step into the relative unknown this weekend with its first-ever snow and ice race at Circuit Trois-Rivières in Quebec.
It’s an event that’s been a year in the making, with Group E’s FC1-X race car making its public debut in a demonstration run on the ice at Race of Champions in Sweden last year. A lot’s changed since then, with the car undergoing continued development ahead of its race debut at Lydden Hill last summer, but now the series has come full circle with the car returning to the ice – but now in a race setting.
Speaking at the Autosport International show last week, where the FC1-X was exhibited in Europe for the very first time, Olsbergs MSE team boss Andreas Eriksson revealed that this weekend’s Nitro Rallycross races could be even faster than what we’ve seen so far thanks to a newly developed race tire that features 12 millimeter metal studs.
“I think people will think they should go softer and I think they need to go harder with the springs. That would be interesting to see. I think it will be more grip than they think as well,” said Eriksson, whose OMSE operation developed the FC1-X alongside electric mobility specialists QEV Technologies. “I'm actually thinking it can be more grip than we had in the last race [in Phoenix]. I think you can be faster, so that's my bet.
“I think the strategy and how you’re using the power, because you can use more power when you get the grip, will be very beneficial for some of the drivers.
“The track is very fast, so I hope that on TV people will love this because I think there will be close racing,” he added. “Fast acceleration, use of push-to-pass, and the launch will be different – it will be a big difference from launching good and launching bad. There will be much more feeling for the driver. But again with the gravel start in Phoenix, you can also see the difference from the ones that pull it off and the ones that had their wheels spinning. You will see similar here.”
That increased grip will be key to setting Nitro Rallycross’ ice races apart from snow and ice events in other categories too, says Eriksson.
“Ice racing [usually] has almost no studs. They’re sliding around, it goes very slow, for me it goes too slow. And then in rally you have studs but you have thin tires so you can go fast because you put a lot of pressure on it,” he explained. “This will be more proper racing with a lot of grip. The whole idea with the FC1-X is that you can sit in the car, look on the TV, and you see it’s bloody fast.
“If you look at the Nitro Rallycross races today, there is a lot of action, a lot of speed, they’re coming backwards into the corner, they go for it harder, they don't go and drive in the corners and try to keep the inside, no-one holds back. And that’s what we’re trying to create on ice, and we can create that and get good visibility. We’ve also done electrical heated windscreens that we hope work well so the drivers can see it all the time.
“We’ve been preparing for a year to do this ice racing so I really hope we've done our homework correctly.”
Speaking on the racing itself, Eriksson added: “The only worry I really have is that they respect each other and race each other because these studs can also do a lot of damage for each other. If you have a flat out and someone comes and hits you in the front, obviously you can destroy a lot of things.
“But my dream has been having this powerful car on ice. The torque and the speed is undoubtedly faster than anything else in electric today, and it would be boring if you didn't have the grip.”