This year is quite special. Rallycross has always been a popular motorsport in Europe, and the European Rallycross Championship has existed for several decades. However, with rising popularity for this spectator-friendly sport and more attention from racing personalities, this year's championship is the first FIA World Rallycross Championship (WorldRX). With the first round kicking off in Portugal next weekend, it's time for the official #TheRallyTakeover mega guide to WorldRX!

What is rallycross?

Even though the sport has grown a lot the last few years, some might not be familiar with it yet. In essence you put a bunch of 600hp, all wheel drive small hatchbacks or sedans on a short and twisty track. The tracks are usually around 60 % solid surface and 40 % loose surface, with individual variations. Once in each race the drivers have to take a joker lap, which is a different route than the normal track. The joker lap is usually 1-2 seconds slower than the regular lap, with the picture below as an example.

A rallycross event consists of a free practice session, four qualifying rounds, two semi finals and one final. The number of entrants varies since there are a lot of local drivers, and some guest drivers in each event. The 12 best drivers after the heats go on to the semifinals, and the 16 best drivers get championship points. The top driver after the heats gets 16 points. Then there are two six-car semifinals, and a semifinal win gains another 6 points. The top three drivers in each semifinal go on to the final where they fight for the event win and another 8 championship points. In short: the drivers score championship points after the heat results, the semifinals and the final. The maximum event score is 30 points (16+6+8).

The complicated system means that consistency is the key to success, and the 2013 European champion Timur Timerzyanov won the championship without winning a single event! Although it can happen this year as well, the amount of races probably means that we'll have a champion with an event win this year. The championship also includes a team championship for the first time in rallycross history. Each team can nominate two drivers for points

Where do they race?

The World Rallycross Championship consists of 12 rounds spread mostly around Europe, but also a few on other continents. So if you live in Europe, chances are that you're not too far away from one of the rounds. America? Well, let's take a look at the calendar:

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Round 1: Montalegre, Portugal, 3-4 May
Round 2: Lydden Hill Race Circuit, Great Britain, 24-25 May
Round 3: Hell, Norway, 14-15 June
Round 4: Kouvola, Finland, 28-29 June
Round 5: Höljes Motorstadion, Sweden, 5-6 July
Round 6: Circuit Jules Tacheny, Belgium, 12-13 July
Round 7: Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, Canada, 7-8 August
Round 8: Lohéac, France, 6-7 September
Round 9: Estering, Germany, 20-21 September
Round 10: Franciacorta International Circuit, Italy, 27-28 September
Round 11: Intercity Istanbul Park, Turkey, 11-12 October
Round 12: San Luis, Argentina, 28-29 November

A lot of events, that's for sure. If you have the opportunity to go to one of these events, don't sit back home. Since there is a mountain of information about each of these events, it's better to get back to them in separate previews. Some of these tracks are old places with a lot of racing heritage, and others aren't really finished yet.

Who are the teams and drivers?

If you own a rallycross car and think you're a good driver, you could enter a round in WorldRX. That means the entrants will change from event to event and new wildcards appear each round. There are a lot of regular teams and drivers too, and these are the ones that will fight for the championship victory.

Team Peugeot-Hansen:

Car: Peugeot 208
Drivers: Timur Timerzyanov, Timmy Hansen

The team of rallycross legend Kenneth Hansen has joined forces with Peugeot for the 2014 season, with double European champion in Russian Timur Timerzyanov and the young Swedish talent Timmy Hansen. Both of these drivers are capable of winning both single rounds and the championship, ending in first and third in the championship last year.

Ford OlsbergsMSE:

Car: Ford Fiesta ST
Drivers: Andreas Bakkerud, Reinis Nitišs, Andrew Jordan

Many of you might recognize OlsbergsMSE as the most successfull team in the US-based Global Rallycross Championship. The Swedish based team is the second of the factory-sponsored teams in this years championship, with Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud and Latvian Reinis Nitišs. Bakkerud has won one of the support championships twice, and finished fourth in his debut season last year, winning two rounds. Nitišs won the support championship in dominant style last year, and are looking to build on that in his debut season. BTCC champion Andrew Jordan and WRC champion Marcus Grönholm have been brought in as mentors, with Jordan entering the British round at Lydden Hill.

Albatec Racing:

Car: Peugeot 208
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve, Andy Scott

Jacques Villeneuve has one of the more impressing racing careers in later motorsport, with the 1997 F1 Championship and the 1995 Indycar season as the main achievements. The Canadian has done a lot of different racing lately, but this will be his first encounter with rallycross. Andy Scott might be the oldest driver in the field, but following the steep learning curve in his debut year as a team owner in European rallycross last year, things might get interesting this year.

Petter Solberg World RX Team:

Car: Citroen DS3
Drivers: Petter Solberg, Alexander Hvaal

The second world champion to enter WorldRX this year is Petter Solberg with his own team. The 2003 WRC champion brings the Norwegian talent Alexander Hvaal along. Hvaal actually had a better season than Solberg last year, mostly because of Solbergs string of bad luck. This year Solberg has more experience, and if he can show the same pace as last year he is a possible champion.

VW-Marklund Motorsport:

Car: Volkswagen Polo
Drivers: Anton Marklund, Toomas "Topi" Heikkinen, Tanner Foust

Marklund Motorsport is another team with mostly young and talented drivers, sponsored by Volkswagen. Swede Anton Marklund also impressed in last years European championship, and is joined by the 2013 Global Rallycross champion Toomas Heikkinen. The Finn, nicknamed "Topi" is one of the hottest new names in the sport, and this team will impact the scoreboards this year. Tanner Foust joins Marklund motorsport in four rounds this year as a guest driver. He won two events last year, and will be a wildcard this year as well.

LD Motorsports:

Car: Citroen DS3
Drivers: Liam Doran, Derek Tohill

Liam Doran might be one of the roughest drivers in the championship. It seems to work in this door-to-door racing series, because he's won four medals in X-Games and had two wins last year. With him is Derek Tohill, who steps up to supercars as another support series champion. It will be interesting to see what these two British drivers can do this year, I'm sure that Doran will cause a lot of havoc.

Eklund Motorsport:

Car: Saab 9-3
Drivers: Henning Solberg, Ramona Karlsson

Rallycross legend Per Eklund is famous for using Saabs in rallycross. While he doesn't race himself anymore, Henning Solberg showed that the car was up to date with good pace last year. Joining him is Swedish female rally driver Ramona Karlsson, the only female driver in WorldRX right now. This team will only enter selected rounds this year, with Henning still involved in WRC.

EKS Motorsport:

Car: Audi S1
Drivers: Mattias Ekström, Pontus Tidemand

Another team that will only run selected rounds this year, with a goal of developing the car for the future. Ekström is considered one of the best touring car drivers in the world, winning DTM twice and STCC once. He also came second in the Swedish round last year. Pontus Tidemand is the stepson of Henning Solberg, and current JWRC champion.

Helmia Motorsport:

Car: Renault Clio
Drivers: Lukas Walfridson, Tord Linnerud

We'll probably see these mostly in the EuroRX rounds. Walfridson is a known name in the sport, with Lukas' uncle Stig Olov as the best known driver in rallycross. Linnerud usually works at a metal recycling site, but will also drive in EuroRX this year. The Norwegian is one of the veteran racing and rallydrivers from Norway, with experience from WRC, Norwegian rally and STCC.

Single car teams:

Davy Janney: The Frenchman is driving a Citroen C4, and while he isn't in one of the larger teams, he is one of the better drivers. Having won the French championship and being second in the European championship twice, this is one of the candidates for the championship this year.

Peter Hedström: This Swede has a fleet of Skoda Fabias ready to race, but so far only he will take on WorldRX.

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Tommy Rustad: Driving a Volvo C30, the Norwegian will drive all the EuroRX rounds this year, possibly adding a few rounds of WorldRX. He is a former touringcar driver with two STCC championships and one independent driver championship in BTCC.

Jos Jansen: The Belgian says he does rallycross for fun, driving a Ford Focus. I'd say he'll get to a semifinal if he's lucky.

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Ken Block: The showman next to none but Solberg will enter three rounds in a Ford Fiesta this year. Should get interesting.

Alexandre Theuil: Alex Theuil is a former French champion, and with that in mind he should be a decent competitor in WorldRX with his Citroen DS3. He will drive in four of the EuroRX events, Portugal and France.

Bohdan Ludwiczak: The experienced Pole will enter a full WorldRX in a Ford Fiesta. He's won the Polish rallycross championship twice, but that is over ten years ago.

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Krzysztof Skorupski: Another Pole, but not as experienced as this is his debut year in the highest class in rallycross. Will drive a Citroen DS3 with LD Motorsports.

Koen Pauwels: This driver is also coming from a support class, with a few years in the touring car division where he is a Belgian champion. He drives a Ford Focus in WorldRX this year.

Joaquim Santos: The local driver of Portugal is former rally driver Joaquim Santos, known for the fatal accident in the 1986 Rallye de Portugal. As he's only a local driver for Portugal, he won't enter any more rounds.

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There are several other, less known drivers as well, but I think this will cover who you'll see the most of this year.

How to watch?

With World Championship status comes a huge network of broadcasters willing to show you all the good racing. For the first time all the races will be broadcasted live (delayed in some countries). In the US BeIN Sports have bought the rights, but I think your best chance is to watch it on a British Eurosport stream. A full list of broadcasters is found here. Broadcast times will also be added in the preview for each round.

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As always Twitter is a good source of information. A lot of the drivers have their own account, but there are some good commentators out there as well worth to follow: @RallycrossRX, @Andrew_Coley, @Racingist, @MarklundRX, @Planetemarcus, @olsbergsmse,

If any of you have anything to add or questions, please do in the comments.

To round off this guide, take a look at the official season preview video. You get to know some of the drivers and hear what they think about the upcoming season.

Photo credits: www.rallycrossrx.com, Motorposten.