Rallycross may sometimes resemble a contact sport, but it’s all about strategy too. There are many strategic elements that make a big difference: joker lap and spotter strategy, tyre tactics, and the start procedure. In rallycross, they say that 80% of the game is played at the start. Here are a few things to know about how to win the race to the 1st corner – and the finish line.

Making a good start in rallycross is not quite enough to win you the race, but almost! “Actually, I’d say it’s up to 80%” points out PEUGEOT star Timmy Hansen. “It’s incredibly difficult to make the ideal start in rallycross: it might only be 2 or 3 times a season when it’s absolutely perfect in every way. This is why all the teams and drivers are working so hard all the time on getting it right.
The battle for the 1st corner is brutal, with everyone fighting for the ideal line. But the preparation starts long before then, when the car is being prepared by the mechanics and also testing for future events. A major focus of all that work is always the start.
This is a topic that’s shrouded in secrecy, as a good start strategy can deliver such a big performance advantage. But in general terms, it’s a question of putting the car in 1st gear on the start line, then balancing it on the biting point of the clutch (operated by a foot pedal, just like a road car) while holding onto the handbrake to keep the car still and avoid a jump start. When the lights go to green, the driver has to simultaneously release the clutch and handbrake and get on the throttle, making sure that the 600 horsepower of the PEUGEOT 208 WRX reaches the ground as cleanly as possible.
Each team has a start strategy system designed to help with this task, engaged by a button on the handbrake or steering wheel, and four-wheel drive to ensure optimal traction. But the driver still makes a big difference. “It’s incredible how much faster we’re starting now compared to just one or two years ago,” points out Timmy. “In the end it comes down to reaction time and getting the best possible traction that you can. There’s a lot of power to handle, especially in first gear before you shift for the first time. When you’re sitting on the start line, you can feel the car pulling on the handbrake ready to go, and the engine revs dropping a bit as the wheels dig onto the ground. Then you feel the adrenaline.”
What happens in the next few tenths of a second has a huge impact on the rest of the race, so there’s a lot of pressure to get everything right. At the same time as releasing the handbrake and changing up to 2nd gear, the driver obviously has to hold onto the steering wheel and keep the car pointing straight. This requires some degree of physical strength due to the immense power being unleashed at that exact moment. All the cars are separated by just centimetres, making it so easy to hit someone, as the steering wheel is pulled in all directions. There’s a lot to think about in a very short space of time. And here’s how short…
To detect jump starts, there’s a sensor located 10 centimetres in front of the car bumper. Normally all the cars cut the sensor around 0.4 seconds after the lights go to green, with about 0.2 seconds of that being taken up by human reaction time. This is one area where the driver has a direct influence, with engine power and driveability being the other determining factors once the car is underway. “You don’t really have time to feel exactly how the car is reacting so you need to anticipate everything.” adds Timmy. ‘’Of course you can practise your starts, and we often do, but mainly everything comes down to how you perform in the particular conditions of the day. It’s definitely just as hard to get the perfect start as it is to get the perfect lap.”
On the tight and technical Estering track in northern Germany this weekend, the drivers get to put the theory into practice. Will they get off to a flying start tomorrow, as the weekend of action begins? Watch and find out.

Peugeot Sport Communication Manager: 
Aurélie Lehe +33 6 14 84 28 99  
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