Rotorua’s Sloan Cox heads to Finland this week to join eleven other drivers at the RX Academy coaching camp, the first step in his goal of building an international career in rallycross.
The 26-year-old two-time New Zealand Junior Rally Champion has stepped away from domestic competition, deciding to focus on rallycross, aka RX, which is a high-octane blend of rallying and circuit racing run on specially-constructed tarmac and gravel rallycross tracks. Cox is the first New Zealander to apply and be accepted to the RX Academy, the starting point for many rallycross competitors in Europe and the world, offering competitors professional coaching with driving, mental and physical fitness, media and PR.
Cox is looking forward to soaking every scrap of information he can from the academy’s three-day coaching camp. Ten days later he heads to a one-day test in Strängnäs where he’ll get his first taste of the factory-built Renault Clio RS RX car, which are identical for all academy drivers. The test day will include on-track sessions and coaching, and out of the car Cox will work with academy coaches to analyse data about the car’s performance and video footage to see where he can improve.
On 6 May, Cox then tackles the first of five RX Academy events, with the opening round run at the Höljes Motorstadion in Sweden, a track known as the home of Swedish rallycross, having hosted its first rallycross event in 1976.
“There’s a lot ahead for me to take onboard,” says Cox as he starts his journey to Finland. “The three-day camp will be filled with fitness and mental training, learning to understand the data from the car, meeting the team at SET Promotion which runs the RX Academy and the other competitors, so lots to learn and people to meet.
“The big goal this year is about adapting the skills I have from rally to rallycross. I’ve done some circuit racing with other cars around me, but nothing like this intensity of competition, which is obviously very different to rallying when you’re the only car on the road during each stage.
“Rallycross is a blend of rally, circuit racing and a bit of speedway. I love the style and how aggressive you can be with passing, so I’ve focused my preparation on how the top drivers race smoothly and pass successfully, how they hold their lines, and get good exit speed from the corners. Rallycross allows a bit more guard rubbing than circuit racing, not that they want to see big impacts, but the top guys race really close.”
Cox will be making the most of the two weeks of learning and testing to prepare for his first event in May. “I’ve looked at the Höljes track online and it’s a circuit that the World Rallycross Championship uses. It’s great that the academy has us lined up to race at a venue of this calibre.”
The final leg in this trip is for Cox to join RX Academy coaches and competitors at a round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Belgium. RX Academy organisers SET Promotion also run a number of teams at every level of European rallycross. “There will be a lot to take in Circuit Jules Tacheny seeing what the top level guys do,” says Cox. “It’s an exciting opportunity and a cool part of the academy programme.”
To date, Cox’s motorsport career has always involved his family – father Steve, mother Toni and sister Tarryn. For this first month-long trip to Scandinavia, Cox is travelling by himself and is excited by the adventure and opportunities ahead.
“I am a little worried about the language barrier, as this is a first for me, but everyone speaks great English. Motorsport has always been a big family thing for us, so that will be a very different aspect. The team at SET Promotion has been really helpful and welcoming so far, especially knowing I’m travelling so far from home. There’s a lot to take on, but by the end of the year with the camp, more testing and five events completed, we’ll see where these opportunities will take me in the future.”
The complete RX Academy season includes the 6 May round at Höljes in Sweden, three rounds in Finland – 16 June (Honkajoki), 11 August (Jalasjärvi) and 25 August (Kouvola), and concludes on 7 October at Tierps in Sweden. Each event is made up of an open practice session, four timed qualifying heats, two knock out semi-finals and one final. Each heat features a joker lap, which is a longer section of the circuit which all participants have to take at least once during each race.
by Kate Gordon-Smith/Relish Communications