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Bakkerud and the RX Cartel: The Champions World RX Needed

Nov 112019

Sports don’t build character, they reveal it. Tell that to Andreas Bakkerud and he’d be more than likely to agree with you. The 28-year-old from Norway has been hell-bent on a Supercar rallycross championship his entire life, and this season has proved to be the most divisive of his career yet.

By the season’s final flag in Cape Town Bakkerud finished with an equal points score to the 2019 title winner, but was denied the drivers’ crown. However with an army of new fans and a groundbreaking team behind him, it’s clearer than ever that the sport needed Andreas as champion; here’s why…

For context, quickly wind the clock back twelve months. Discussions of electric-power replacing petrol-power filled the World RX paddock, and manufacturer involvement in the FIA’s youngest off-road World Championship was dwindling at an alarming rate. What’s more names like Solberg, VW, Loeb, Audi, and the then double world champion Johan Kristoffersson all declared themselves out of the World RX game. The championship looked dead on it’s feet. Worse still for Bakkerud, as the dust settled on the final race of the year - a winless season came to a conclusion without a championship title.

“It was a pretty crazy and difficult time,” admits Andreas. “I had two seasons with Hoonigan Racing alongside Ken Block in ’16 and ’17, and then everything changed when Ford pulled out. I reached a deal with Audi and Matthias to race together in 2018, which could put me in the title fight. Then at the end of the season Audi stopped the funding for the team, and I was back in the same situation again with no drive. It sucked. A lot!

 

“Now with the FIA Word Rallycross Championship, the only outcome I want is to win the world title. It’s hard to describe to people how it feels to come close to success so many times, but then have the opportunity to fight back again taken away. Especially when you’ve been with factory supported teams.”

 

"Honestly, I’ve never done anything else other than rallycross, so for me it’s been everything. It’s what I’ve been doing all of my childhood, as well as all of my grown up life so far. I don’t know the best way to describe it - but it really is everything to me. I’ve worked as a mechanic, driven snowploughs, hitchhiked to events… anything I can do to try and save and hustle more money to get back in the drivers seat.

Over the winter, and early new year, in the run up to the 2019 season, Bakkerud did just that. A last minute deal between himself, Liam Doran, and Monster Energy was struck. Better still, after more than three seasons as a No.2 driver in various teams, the pairing would be an equal driver match made in heaven. Bakkerud and Doran had previously enjoyed success together in 2013, launching the Norwegian’s career into the premier class of rallycross. Not to mention putting both drivers on the map as the most successful team of the then outgoing 2013 FIA European championship season. Crucially both Bakkerud and Doran were also on the same page about taking their careers to the next level.

 

Enter The RX Cartel

 

“I had my first Supercar drive with Liam Doran back in 2013 in the European Championship,” explains Bakkerud. “We took four wins as a team together back then - and I learnt so much. So I knew working again with Liam was going to be a good thing for both of us. The deal also meant I’d work with Monster Energy again, who I was with when I first started my rallycross Supercar career… even back then in my first year of Supercars we became the most successful team in the paddock. Liam will hate me for saying this but he’s like a brother to me in a way. We fight, we race, we always have each other’s back. I couldn’t imagine having the same team mate relationship with anyone else in the paddock. Liam has been pushing to get back to a good place in rallycross since all of the stuff happened in 2016. He’s a really really great driver and his technical knowledge is second to none. We both knew we wanted to do things differently this year…

 

“That’s where the RX Cartel came from. For sure we want to race and win; what team doesn’t? But we wanted to do it with style, and do it in a way nobody has seen before. In past teams I’ve always done what’s needed with sponsors or whatever, but it’s usually the same thing over and over. The same team gear, the same sponsor events, the same talks. We absolutely didn't want to do this bullsh*t in our new team; the RX Cartel.

In the seven months that followed, the duo really broke the mould. Between unveiling the team at the championship opener in Abu Dhabi and the dust settling in South Africa, Bakkerud and Doran scored six podiums, including a win at the World RX of Canada, filmed feature movies, brought 1920’s gangster inspired suits to press conferences, and hooked a brand new fan base to rallycross online and in the grandstands. Out of the ashes of a series that was floundering, new legions of fans were emerging, and it wasn’t just because of the racing.

 

Changing Times

 

“The RX Cartel has been a game changer, and thats the way we wanted it to be,” continues Bakkerud. “We are so pumped about the response we’ve had from the fans - that’s the reason we do all of it. Over 12 thousand on Instagram is insane for a rallycross channel. After the first race in Abu Dhabi we produced a mini movie for the weekend - Liam got a podium but was pretty beaten up, and I had a smashed up my car - basically because I f**ked up the lap count - which cost me around 90k in damages. The video showed all of this in a creative way. Think B-Movie Hollywood style meets World RX. The reception online was crazy - most online loved the video, and said they hadn’t seen anything like it before. But then I got called into the race officials office at round two in Barcelona because of it. They [the organisers] didn't understand it - but the audience online did.

 

“Unfortunately I guess that’s where the problem is - there are a lot of people in motorsport that don’t want to address the new generation of fans. It’s not all about just wearing a team shirt and saying the scripted stuff outside the car on race day - nobody cares about that anymore. You have to be fast as f**k on-track, but offer entertainment off-track too.

From joyriding skidoos in Canada, to shooting money guns in Spain, and repeatedly spoofing three time FIA champion Petter Solberg - take a quick look to see for yourself. What’s more, the high profile support piled-up too. The UFC’s Emil Meek, pop star Shane Lynch, Nicolas Hamilton, and Nitro Games FMX rider Bilko are just a handful of names showing their support for the RX Cartel’s new approach to motorsport.

 

Battle in 2020

 

Bakkerud continues: “Of course I’m absolutely gutted things didn't go my way in South Africa. The team and I did absolutely everything we could to fight for the win and the title. Losing the championship on a count back decision is even more heartbreaking, and it’s not something any driver wants. On the other hand, I really believe we’ve won over a completely new set of fans to rallycross this year; which is more than any other team can claim to have done. That’s super important now more than ever. People need to stick with the sport and stick with the RX Cartel.

 

“Championships are piling on the restrictions now more than ever - a lot are switching to electric, and more are having smaller engines. Even though it’s a difficult time at the moment - Rallycross has still stayed at full power - like Group-B racing on steroids! Flames, contact, and 600bhp! There’s never going to be a dull predictable race in rallycross. And its the same for the RX Cartel.

 

Bakkerud and the RX Cartel weren’t the champions World Rallycross got in 2019, but one thing is certain - they were the ones it sorely needed. Let battle commence in 2020.

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