After helping DTM start their season last weekend, the FIA World Rallycross Championship brings a whole lotta support to Belgium this weekend. Yes, it’s a new record entry!
At Hockenheim last weekend you couldn’t tell that Mattias Ekström was on double duty racing in two championships in one weekend, since he dominated the WorldRX part being both top qualifier and the winner in the final. Only a semifinal win from teammate and 2nd placed Topi Heikkinen was between Ekström and a perfect 30 points score. WorldRX rookie and head Hoonigan Ken Block finished third overall, impressive after being just 12th after qualifying. Championship leader Petter Solberg finished 4th, now having to share the lead with Ekström. Expected championship contender Timmy Hansen had another bad weekend, ending up with 0 points after his car caught fire in Q3.
In our little Fantasy game we saw only three entrants this weekend, and an even spread of championship points meant that no scores reached above 100 points. It’s still early, and there are prizes up for grabs! Next weekend is much more important though, as picking the right EuroRX drivers may increase the score up to 50 % (fact).
This weekend the WorldRX regulars are joined by a hoard of EuroRX drivers in Mettet, Belgium. This is the third year the new track at Circuit Jules Tacheny hosts top level rallycross, and after some minor improvements last year the track is one of the better new ones. It has a couple of jumps, a bit of elevation change as well as both tight and sweeping turns.
Length: 1149 m
Fastest lap: 0:38.634 (Petter Solberg)
Previous winner: Topi Heikkinen (2014, 2015)
Joining the WorldRX regulars this time around is former WRC-driver François Duval. The Belgian has been entering rallycross events now and then after he left the WRC, but with varying success the last couple of years. This year he will drive an OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta, so the machinery should be top notch.
Returning to EuroRX this year is both champion Tommy Rustad and runner-up Jerome Grosset-Janin. New for this year is that they will be teammates in Albatec Racing, since Marklund Motorsport no longer could offer a seat for Rustad. The former touringcar and single-seater racer thinks this is his best option for this year, evident by the performance of Grosset-Janin last year. The Frenchman with experience from rallying was crowned French Rallycross Champion in 2013, and has competed in international rallycross since 2014. Team principal Andy Scott will also do a full EuroRX season, returning to FIA Rallycross after a year in the British Championship.
Fabien Pailler returns this year with the Pailler family team, but for Mettet his brother Jonathan is replaced by S1600 driver Ulrik Linnemann. The Dane won the first S1600 round in Montalegre, but hopes to find a budget to race a supercar in Norway as well.
Eklund Motorsport has built another Beetle for their EuroRX campaign, that will be raced by Alexander Hvaal. After a bad experience as the teammate of Petter Solberg in 2014 and varying results as a privateer in 2015 Hvaal will now race a brand new car that has a lot of potential. He joins Joni-Pekka Rajala, who switches from the old Saab to the newer Beetle for this season. Rajala finished 4th in EuroRX last year, and is expected to improve.
One of the new teams this season is Lotto Team from Poland, featuring the duo of rally veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc and younger desert rally driver Martin Kaczmarski. Both competed in RX Lites last year, and should be well prepared in ex-OlsbergsMSE Fiestas for this season.
Ollie O’Donovan returns to EuroRX after his debut year, and he currently lies third in the British Rallycross Championship after four rounds. Peter Hedström has seemingly ditched the old Skodas and will enter in an ex-OlsbergsMSE Fiesta, and hope for better results than last year. Fellow Swede Fredrik Salsten won the Touring Car support series last year, and following the impressing supercar debut at Catalunya last year he will enter this years EuroRX in an ex-Peugeot-Hansen 208. Tom Daniel Tånevik also moves up from Touring Car, but his car is an older Volvo C30 previously raced by Tommy Rustad. Finnish rally driver Riku Tahko returns with his Mini this year, hoping for better results because of a change to the custom 2L engine allowed from this year. Jochen Coox is another driver with a former WorldRX weapon, as he has bought the Marklund Motorsport Polo previously driven by Tanner Foust. This seems to work well, as he won the first round of the Belgian rallycross championship.
Ole Kristian Temte will continue to drive a Citroën C4 in EuroRX and RallyX Nordic, but did not have a very good pace at the opening round of RallyX. Michael De Keersmaecker is also back for a full EuroRX season after some years away. The Belgian has not raced much since a nasty roll in 2013, but seems to be back with full force this year in a newer Ford Fiesta. Kevin Procter is a regular in British rallycross, and currently lies 4th in the British Championship. Mats Öhman has entered a round now and then the past years, and also races in RallyX Nordic where he finished third in the first round. German Andreas Steffen moves up from S1600 to Supercar this year, racing an ex-Jos Kuypers Ford Fiesta. Steffen was a regular in the S1600 semifinals, but without any remarkable achivements so far. Andri Oun has appeared in WorldRX before, and is commited to a full EuroRX season this year hoping for a top 12 finish. Returning for a second year after his comeback is Mark Flaherty, who also races in the British championship. There he is 13th after four rounds, mostly due to not scoring any points on the double-header at Pembrey.
After the full WorldRX campaign last year Norwegian driver Tord Linnerud decides to move down to EuroRX. Last years results was varied, but Linnerud should have decent pace compared to the other EuroRX regulars. Tamas Karai debuted his new Audi A1 supercar at the end of last year, and could benefit from a new car this year. Derek Tohill is back in an ex-OlsbergsMSE Fiesta after a year off. The Irishman had varied results in his debut supercar season in 2014, but seemed to be on pace when he raced in RallyX Nordic earlier this year.
Also racing an ex-Peugeot-Hansen 208 is Tamas Pal Kiss, who is expected to fight in the top of this years European Championship. The Hungarian won the first round of the national championship, and also showed good speed in Italy last year. Another Hungarian driver to enter in Mettet is Lukács “Csucsu” Kornél, who has previously competed in rallying.