A scene from the 2016 French Rallycross Grand Prix at Loheac earlier in September. Picture: fiaworldrallycross.com

Cape Town - News that the final round of the 2017 World Rallycross Championship is to be staged at the Killarney International Raceway has come as a welcome surprise to South African motorsport enthusiasts.

Killarney executive manager Des Easom announced on Saturday that the Western Province Motors Club had concluded a three-year deal with IMG, the promoters of World Rallycross.

“Cape Town's thousands of loyal fans are going to be delighted at the prospect of seeing this first event of its kind to be staged in Africa,” he said.

City of Cape Town executive depurty mayor Alderman Ian Nielson believes the City's investment in this initiative will reaffirm its status as a world-class African city.

He commented: “Worldwide, motorsport is a significant generator of economic activity and job creation. This event will also contribute to tourism, the marketing of Cape Town as a preferred destination and help grow motorsport in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa."

Universally popular 

Although still relatively new on the world stage, rallycross is universally popular and has certain specific advantages over other forms of the sport. The circuits are never longer than 1.4 kilometres, so the cars are in view all the time.

Similar to traditional speedway, races are short with a limited number of competitors. As a result, the car in front is always the leader - and not a tail-ender who has been lapped. It's tough - both car and driver are subjected to a pounding on part asphalt, part gravel circuits that include spectacular jumps.

The competing vehicles are developed from rally cars, with engines that produce up to 450kW and all-wheel drive, giving them awesome performance. The latest rallycross projectiles are actually faster than Formula One cars from zero to 100km/h.

British roots

Although rallycross originated in Great Britain around 1967, it soon gained in popularity and spread across the channel, to venues in Europe and Scandinavia. However, the FIA subjected it to a lengthy study, before finally granting it world championship status in 2014.

The current premier rallycross championship consists of 12 rounds, most of them in Britain and Europe. Further afield, races in Canada, Argentina and Turkey have recently also been added to the calendar.

The list of top drivers includes the incredible Sebastien Loeb, nine times former World Rally Champion, as well as the current rallycross titleholder Petter Solberg, who is also a former World Rally Champion.

Then only this week, former Formula One top gun Jenson Button announced that he was also considering a switch to the rallycross scene.

Although the layout of the proposed Killarney circuit is still under discussion, it is expected to include a section of the stock-car tar oval and some of the gravel infield area down towards Turn 3, Rose Foundation Corner. With IMG's approval, construction of the new section is due to begin almost immediately.


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