Brian Deegan is open to electric racing

By | December 18, 2023

For many purists, the switch to electric cars marks the beginning of the end for motorsport. Brian Deegan may be a purist, but he doesn’t share the doom and gloom outlook.

Deegan was one of many action sports converts who made the transition to four-wheel motorsport in the early 2010s, racing in the X Games Rally Car Racing and Rallycross events, as well as the Global Rallycross series they spawned. He last raced in that arena in 2016 and won in his last outing at the Port of LA

“I went there and raced rallycross in Europe, in Finland and Sweden. I thought it was cool,” he tells RACER. “Europe loves rallycross and I was just hoping that America would grab this, and I feel like we just had a hard time finding the right promoter.”

Since then, rallycross in the US has moved from GRC to the IMG-led Americas Rallycross series, before Nitrocross arrived – a brand new take on the formula from the mind of Travis Pastrana, with 1,000 hp electric cars and more extreme tracks with bigger jumps and twisty turns and, crucially, the high-profile support of a group that includes UFC’s Dana White.

“Whatever Travis leaves behind will be good,” Deegan says. “And now he’s teamed up with the right guys, all the way up to Dana White, and I feel like they can make it happen.”

Deegan made his Nitrocross bow last month in Arizona with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing JC, and returned for more in December at Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California. He has made steady progress in the four championship rounds he has completed at these two events, from missing the final on his debut to finishing seventh in his most recent outing.

“I feel like they drive about the same, but the batteries are low, they’re heavy, they’re in the back of the car, which really makes the car want to understeer more, so you have to drive with a different style and technique,” ​​says Deegan about the differences between the cars of the past and present. “It’s been two race weekends now, but it’s taken me two weekends to figure it out because the cars drive so differently.

Deegan, pictured at the 2011 X Games, was one of the founders of rallycross in the US. Paul Webb / Motorsport Images

“But I don’t know, it’s not so much about the car, it’s about the event. What matters is: can they make it work? Can they bring money to this event? And I feel like you need manufacturers to bring in money.”

The vast majority of Deegan’s rallycross outings took place amid a boom in manufacturer interest. He drove for Ford, with factory support, while Dodge, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Volkswagen were all also present at the factory between 2011 and 2017. Nowadays the premier class is a one-brand formula, but there is interest from the manufacturer. RACER knows that several companies are eager to get involved quickly, but are all waiting for one to make the first move before entering.

“I still feel like you have to get the manufacturers involved if you really want it to be like the NASCAR level, and I think it might get there,” Deegan said. “I’m not tied to one way or another. To be honest, I like the old school rallycross cars, that’s just me, but the new electric rallycross cars… hopefully they open up some more horizons, more doors, more budgets.”

Fans often call on Nitrocross to ‘bring back Supercars’ – the two-litre turbocharged 600bhp fire-breathing monsters that raced before. While the running costs of the gasoline and electric cars are similar, the unit costs for the cars are about half of what the best factory-developed Supercars were at the peak of their power. Add to that the fact that there are only three recent-spec supercars in the US (Subaru’s three from 2021) and that manufacturers are unwilling to develop expensive ICE race cars for a niche series, there’s no chance of them returning.

But Deegan doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Additionally, he thinks it can help transform races into festival-like events that can be embraced by a wider audience.

“I think good racing is good racing. Why does it always have to be old-fashioned?’ he muses. “Things can change. You can have cool bands and music festivals and all that stuff. The cars, maybe it’s a good thing that the cars are like that, at the end of the day you have to be smart to figure out how to make it an entertaining festival Having fun, that’s what it’s all about.

“They are clearly diehard racers, I understand that. Been there, done that. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting on a good show, and if they can figure out how to keep the audience entertained the entire time, that’s fine by me.

Deegan is the first to agree with those who celebrate the appeal of ‘old school’ motorsport, but he also believes Nitrocross’s embrace of electrification and approach to event staging could be the ticket to finally making rallycross a permanent gain a foothold in the US.

“I just think, you got your diehards, ‘oh no, gas and engines until we die,’ and I get it, dude, I’m exactly the same. I love an engine with a thousand horsepower, the sound of it is great, but a new generation is coming.”

Deegan is clearly a fan of what Nitrocross does, so does this mean he’s plotting a full-time comeback? He answers the question with a smile.

“Well, once the series starts paying a million dollars to win, I’ll be back,” he jokes. ‘No, I’m just kidding. I do it because it’s fun. I already did my deal in racing, took it super seriously, focused and we won a lot of races, but now I’m focused on my kids supercross, Hailie’s NASCAR, Hayden is doing really well, just won the Supercross championship won this year at a young age, and Hudson is coming, he’s still 13, so I have the family aspect.

“I just never wanted to be that dad who’s still fighting to win a trophy. I want my kids to get their chance now, but if there are open dates, open dates, and I can come in and race, dude, sure. I love it, I love supporting the sport, I love the seat time, I love bringing in the sponsors and the entertainment value and anything Travis does, I will support it. We’re all cut from the same cloth, so I’m there to help support what he does and have fun along the way. I like it, you’re in a roll cage, it’s pretty safe.”

It was then put to him that the season finale in Las Vegas will take place the same weekend that NASCAR is in town next March, opening up the possibility of a father-daughter showdown. Haillie is apparently interested in trying Nitrocross one day, but would prefer to have some testing time first – a luxury her father could not enjoy.

“The problem is that all these guys racing these cars – and I’m jumping mid-season – they’re all on. They don’t make many mistakes at all,” he says. “It’s very difficult for someone to just step in and beat these guys. And even to be competitive and save face and not look bad. So I think Hailie needs to do a lot of tests. She has only driven rear wheel drive cars, she has never really driven a four wheel drive car so I think she needs some time to do that.

“I think she can do it, she’s a good driver, but you can’t just jump into it. I think even a good rally driver from Europe who comes along and just jumps in, I would be very surprised if he could win.”

The story originally appeared on Racer

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