Speedmachine: a new kind of race
by Florence Lloyd-Hughes
World Rallycross’ Speedmachine Festival is set to shake up the sports event playbook. Sportcal Insight went to the first edition at Silverstone last month to find out more. Author
21st June 2018, 11:26

Dizzee Rascal, Razorlight, Lethal Bizzle and Basemant Jaxx… This is not the line-up for a show in Ibiza, or a music festival, but the entertainment on offer at World Rallycross’ first edition of Speedmachine Festival at Silverstone in the UK last month.

IMG, the series promoter, has launched a creative new format for its races, and the British leg of the World Rallycross Championship was the first to feature it.

Around 27,500 people came through the gates for Speedmachine’s inaugural weekend, which also featured street food, eSports, exhibitions and sports car rides for fans.

The innovative idea has been spearheaded by Paul Bellamy, World Rallycross managing director for IMG, who has high hopes for the concept.

In an exclusive interview with Sportcal Insight on the sidelines of the main race day at Silverstone, Bellamy said: “The whole idea is about having car show rooms, an exhibition space, the food and the music.

“The people that we had yesterday and last night [Saturday] is a whole new audience, not a Rallycross audience. They came for the music and the food. Some of the manufacturers have even come to me and said this is a new audience for Rallycross.”

Speedmachine attracts a new audience to World Rallycross

IMG has deliberately focused its pricing and on-site camping at families. The strategy already seems to be reaping rewards, as the event’s exit survey found that 52 per cent of those attending had never been to a rallycross event before.

Silverstone is also new to rallycross, having never hosted the British leg of the world championship until it sealed a five-year contract with IMG.

The festival presents a viable option for the track as it attempts to balance its finances after some expensive years of hosting Formula 1. Last year, Silverstone triggered a break clause in its Formula 1 contract, signalling the end of its hosting duties after the British Grand Prix in 2019.

At Speedmachine, racing is interspersed with engaging entertainment, offering fans the chance to take take part in go karting, simulators, Scalextric slot car racing or video game racing, while sipping on cocktails.

IMG’s aim was to create the perfect balance of motor racing content for diehard fans that have made their way from as far afield as Scandinavia and eastern Europe, together with attractions for the local holiday crowd, bringing together the traditional racing fan with families and coveted ‘millennials’.

However, there could still be some work to do to to persuade the hard-core rallycross audience that it wants to hang around to watch the likes of UK grime artist Lethal Bizzle. Plenty of fans had left by the time of his performance on Sunday night.

Speedmachine will return to Silverstone next year and Bellamy is confident that the format is something that IMG “might roll out at some other events around the globe.”

The Circuit of Americas in Austin, Texas will be the first to copy the musically-influenced Speedmachine, with hip-hop artist Ludacris to perform at the first-ever US round of World Rallycross later this year.

The Speedmachine concept could work at other venues

Bellamy argued that the concept could also work at other venues, saying: “In Germany, maybe in the Middle East. But, in order to do the festival concept you need the right facilities. So F1 tracks lend themselves to it because companies like VW and Jaguar are able to offer passenger rides at the track while Rallycross is going on.

“You need a wide enough area to do it so you can have the paddock and the festival area. There’s going to be some venues that just can’t do it.”

Barcelona, along with Hockenheim in Germany could be suited to the format, Bellamy added.

The Speedmachine weekend was part of an “experiment” involving World Rallycross being streamed on Facebook. Coverage of all four qualifying sessions, the semi-final and final was available via the World Rallycross page (figures below).

Source: IMG

Although the streams drew sizeable audiences, Bellamy was cautious about entering into the over-the-top streaming market and charging for access.

He said: “At the minute we just want to get as many people as we can watching this sport, and that’s the philosophy behind streaming.

“There’s some OTT programming. We experimented with streaming all weekend. Q1 and Q2 were streamed. We’re looking to see if this something we can roll out for the future.”

The locations of fans streaming Speedmachine were as follows:

Source: IMG

Looking ahead, IMG has big ambitions for World Rallycross, as talks with promoters in China, the Middle East, and Central America continue.

There are presently 12 stops on the World Rallycross calendar, but it is unlikely that more than two races will be added to the schedule in 2019, nine in Europe, plus one each in USA, Canada and South Africa.

When pressed on the series’ Asian intentions, Bellamy said: “The China talks are advanced. We are in contract stage with two promoters out in China for 2019. We need to finalise that pretty quickly.

“In the Middle East there’s someone there that is very interested and we’re at contract stage. The ball is in their court. I would say they’re the next frontiers.”

Sportcal