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2019 ARX season preview

ARX

06 Jun 2019

Credit: ARX Rallycross

After testing the waters with a handful of events last year, Americas Rallycross is back this weekend to kick-off its second season.

There will be six events at four different venues across North America, the first of which is at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on a new purpose-built track which is one of two new venues on this year’s calendar alongside the World Wide Technology Raceway, better known as Gateway.

Gateway will host ARX’s first double-header event for rounds two and three of the season. A support spot on the World Rallycross of Canada bill at Circuit Trois-Rivières is also scheduled, as is a return to Circuit of Americas where the series began in earnest last year after its maiden run out at Silverstone in the UK.

 

2019 ARX Supercars schedule

Round 1 – Mid-Ohio – June 8-9

Round 2/3 – Gateway – July 13-14

Round 4 – Trois-Rivières – August 3-4

Round 5 – Circuit of the Americas – September 28

Round 6 – Mid-Ohio – October 5-6

 

Each event will include a full Supercars round, plus two ARX2 championship rounds – except for the Gateway double header, which will feature two Supercar and two ARX2 rounds. This year the ARX2 champion will receive a Supercar test as part of an impressive prize package.

Another addition for 2019 is ARX3 – a new third-tier one-make series using crosskart-style vehicles produced by Sierra Cars, which will feature at every event this year.

ARX3 will add a third level of competition to professional rallycross in North America – Credit: Facebook/Sierra Cars

Drivers

 

Seven Supercars and six ARX2 drivers have so far been confirmed for the 2019 season.

Scott Speed moves to Subaru after four straight US rallycross titles at Andretti Autosport; he joins Patrik Sandell and Chris Atkinson at the Vermont Sports Car-led team.

Taking Speed’s place at Andretti, which now has scaled-back Volkswagen support, is Cabot Bigham. He’s partnered with veteran Tanner Foust.

Rounding out the Supercar entries is Loenbro Motorsports. Steve Arpin returns with his own team, with Travis PeCoy graduating to supercars to partner the Canadian. The team has ditched its lacklusture Ford Focus RS RX platform after a partial campaign last season and will instead run a pair of updated M-Sport built Fiestas which have brought the team success in the past.

There are a number of changes from last year in the Supercars field – Credit: ARX Rallycross

In ARX2, DirtFish Motorsports, which guided Conner Martell to the title last year, will field rookie driver Brad Deberti and the highly-rated Fraser McConnell, who is also running full-time in RX2 in Europe.

Elsewhere in the field Racing4Detroit returns with Alex Keyes, who begins as the favourite to take the category crown.

Dreyer & Reinbold racing are also back with Cole Keatts, debutant Gray Leadbetter, and IndyCar racers Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand, who will run partial campaigns.

Sage Karam will be one to watch in ARX2 – Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar Media

For the inaugural ARX3 races there will be six cars, piloted by TV personality Aaron Kaufman, Donut Media co-founder James Kirkham, plumbing magnate Bill Schuster, record producer Jim Jonsin, and rally drivers John Mcinnes and Dave Wallingford.

 

What to look out for in 2019

Can Scott Speed continue his success with Subaru?

Behind the wheel of Andretti Autosport’s Volkswagen Beetle Speed has been an unstoppable force in recent years, but his move to Subaru has raised many eyebrows.

The team is well supported by the Japanese manufacturer, but has been somewhat underwhelming in recent years. It hasn’t won a US rallycross round outright since 2014, and that was with the short-wheelbase Impreza hatchback platform.

Vermont Sports Car has put countless hours into the development of the WRX STI over the winter, and goes into the new season full of confidence that it can finally end its barren run. As such Speed will retain his favourite tag.

Scott Speed will be looking to bring long-awaited success to Subaru – Credit: Ben Haulenbeek/Subaru Motorsports USA

 

Is the Volkswagen Beetle still the top dog?

Unlike the WRX STI, the Volkswagen Beetle Supercar hasn’t enjoyed anywhere near as much development work in the off-season.

The German manufacturer withdrew its works involvement in both its World and Americas Rallycross programmes at the end of last season, but opted to remain a technical partner to Andretti Autosport’s ongoing rallycross effort in the US. As a result, the Beetle hasn’t been overhauled to the extent of its rival machines.

That being said, the Beetle has been the class of the field since the second half of 2015, so the team has a good platform to work from. It’s also likely to be the car’s final year of competition with the road-going Beetle disappearing from showrooms this year. A fifth straight crown would be a fitting end for one of North American motorsport’s all-time greats.

Can Tanner Foust claim his first rallycross title since 2012 in what will likely be the Beetle’s swansong? – Credit: ARX Rallycross

 

How will the youngsters fare?

The word ‘youngster’ has been carefully selected here in place of ‘rookie’ because 2019 will be Cabot Bigham’s second season in the top US rallycross category. After a season of Supercar competition in the final Global Rallycross season, he stepped back to ARX2 last year.

Last time he was in the premier division he claimed a best finish of fourth, but now he has the capable Beetle at his disposal, so podiums will be the main aim for him.

Travis PeCoy meanwhile has never raced at the top level, but he too has race-winning machinery under him. In fact, the Fiesta he’ll be peddling this season won its last race with Brian Deegan behind the wheel back in 2016.

The car won’t have any cobwebs to blow off because Loenbro Motorsports has been hard at work updating it over the winter, ensuring that the Supercars category’s sole rookie will be able to hit the ground running.

Travis PeCoy is a new name in the Supercars fold for 2019 – Credit ARX Rallycross