Jenson Button will compete in this year’s Nitro Rallycross championship, racing in the all-electric Group E class.
The 2009 Formula 1 world champion, son of late British rallycross racer John Button, will drive for Xite Energy Racing alongside fellow Brit Oliver Bennett.
“I want to go racing,” said former McLaren, Honda, and Brawn driver Button. “I love racing, I love competing and I want to have fun. I’m looking forward to racing Nitro RX with Xite Energy – a team which has great experience of not just rallycross but also racing Electric Vehicles.
“And I get to race alongside my mate Oli. He’s a great character, great for the sport and comes with a lot of experience of competing on the dirt.
“Hopefully I can learn that side from him and he can learn from my circuit driving. It’s going to be a fun partnership, but I think it’s going to be a good partnership as well and hopefully we can take it to the big boys in rallycross.”
Button and Bennett both have teams in Extreme E, with Bennett driving every race for his team since that series’ inception.
Button, meanwhile, ran the first-ever race for his eponymous squad, but stepped aside in favor of Kevin Hansen for the second round of the 2021 season, although he continues to have a hands-on role in running the team.
His post-F1 racing activities have mostly centered around sports car racing, making appearances in Super GT – where he won the 2018 championship – the World Endurance Championship, and British GT.
Button has long been rumored to be eyeing a move into rallycross, however, with a U.S.-based series thought to be his most likely option since his move to California after retiring from F1. He previously visited the 2015 Global Rallycross finale in Las Vegas and tested a Honda Civic Coupe supercar at Sebring two years later ahead of the Race of Champions in Miami.
“Rallycross is night and day different to Formula 1 and that’s why I love it. I left F1 after 17 years because I wanted to try something new,” he said. “I’m a racing driver, not a Formula 1 driver so new challenges is what I’m all about. I felt I achieved what I needed to in Formula 1 so it’s nice to try different things.
“There’s a real family connection with rallycross. Dad used to race in the late ‘70s and ‘80s in a Volkswagen Beetle and then a Volkswagen Golf. If you go on YouTube you’ll actually find some videos of my Dad racing at Lydden Hill with Murray Walker commentating.
“I’d like to emulate what he did – that would be pretty special. I used to love going along and watching him race.”
Bennett, who runs the Xite Energy team as well as racing for it, was thrilled to have Button on board, and said that he’s already been making an impact, with the team having undergone a testing program at Pembrey Circuit in Wales earlier this month.
“As well as the circuit experience he brings, one of the things you notice immediately is the level of professionalism”, Bennett said. “You don’t become a Formula 1 world champion without knowing how to get the best out of the car, the engineers, the team and everybody around you. I feel, as an organization, we’ve already benefited hugely from having him with us.”
Nitro RX will have four of its 10 rounds in the U.S. over the 2022-23 season, with additional races taking place in the UK, Sweden, Finland, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.