The second year of the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WorldRX) will start next weekend in Portugal, with more drivers, more events, more teams and certainly more action. That means it’s time to take a look at what we have ahead of us this year, in the worlds fastest growing motorsport! Welcome to the #TheRallytakeover mega guide to WorldRX 2015!
What is rallycross?
In case you just stumbled upon this guide, and this is your first encounter with rallycross, welcome! Rallycross is a mixture between rallying and circuit racing, complete with tarmac, gravel, jumps and twisty corners. To tackle these tight tracks we have 600hp, all-wheel drive small hatchbacks and sedans that are faster to 60mph than an F1-car.
One event consists of up to six races for each competitor; four qualifying heats, one semifinal and one final. The qualifying heats have four laps, the finals six. Once each race you have to drive an alternative, slower route called the “joker lap”, just to create more action. An example is shown below, where the joker lap on the left joins the regular route on the right.
The number of entrants varies since there are a lot of local drivers, and some guest drivers in each event. Last year we saw everything from 18 to 41 drivers on the entry list. Five events are also part of the European Rallycross Championship (EuroRX), where a lot of drivers compete for the European title. This year the EuroRX has its own semifinals and finals, but the qualifying heats are together with the WorldRX.
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).
It’s a difficult system, but it ensures that the best driver at that event always gets a lot of points, even without a win or even a final. Consistency is the key to success, and while it is very unlikely, you could win this championship without winning a single event. Last years champion, Petter Solberg, won 5 out of 12 events, but was in 11 out of 12 finals (he was qualified for the last one as well, but couldn’t take part because of a damaged car). There’s also a team championship, where each team nominates two drivers for points.
Where do they race?
The calendar is pretty much the same as last year, with only two new events and just some reshuffling of events. This year it’s 13 rounds, 10 out of which are in Europe. You should be able to go to one, if you’re living in Europe.
Round 1: Montalegre, Portugal, 24-26 April
Round 2: Hockenheimring, Germany, 01-03 May
Round 3*: Mettet, Belgium, 14-17 May
Round 4: Lydden Hill, Great Britain, 22-24 May
Round 5*: Estering, Germany, 19-21 June
Round 6: Höljes, Sweden, 03-05 July
Round 7: GP3R, Canada, 07-08 August
Round 8*: Hell, Norway, 21-23 August
Round 9: Loheac, France, 04-06 September
Round 10*: Circuit de Catalunya, Spain, 18-20 September
Round 11: Istanbul, Turkey, 02-04 October
Round 12*: Franciacorta , Italy, 16-18 October
Round 13: San Luis, Argentina, 27-29 November
*Also part of EuroRX.
If you have the opportunity to go to any of these events, do so! I went to Höljes last year, and both the racing and how close you get to the drivers really impressed me. You usually see the whole racetrack, and after a day of racing you can take a walk in the paddock, and watch the mechanics fix the cars. The drivers are usually walking around as well, so it’s possible to have a chat if you want to. I’ll get back to each event in previews that I will post the week before the event.
Who are the teams and drivers?
This year we have eight full-time teams, as well as two individual full-time entrants, meaning we have 18 drivers gearing up for all 13 events. But we also have teams that will enter selected rounds, and of course lots of wildcard drivers meaning each round will have between 20 and 40 entrants. Last year about 110 different drivers entered a round in WorldRX. I’ll only list confirmed major entries here, and get back to EuroRX entries and wildcards in each event preview.
Solberg-Doran RX (SDRX):
Car: Citroën DS3
Drivers: Petter Solberg (avg pts 23.17), Liam Doran (avg pts 6.29)
The 2014 World Champion returns to defend his title, with an improved car and a new teammate! Solberg found the winning formula last year, with five wins out of twelve events last year, and got to the final in eleven rounds. Liam Doran on the other hand, had a really bad season last year. Several rounds with zero points and a suspended license, meant that the “British Bomb” ended up far down on the leaderboard. He has won both X-games gold and event wins in the European championship, so he’s still a very capable driver. If these two can work together, they should have a good opportunity to win the teams title.
Car: Peugeot 208 WRX
Drivers: Timmy Hansen (avg pts 17.58), Davy Jeanney (avg pts 3.71), Janis Baumanis (avg pts (N/A)
The Hansen team returns with an improved version of the Peugeot 208, and a new motivated French driver! After a few problems during the start of last season the team really found the pace, with Timmy winning at Franciacorta last year. Timmy has a single-seater background, and might be the best tarmac driver in rallycross together with Ekström. Davy Jeanney was unable to continue his 2013 runner up form in 2014, partly because he just got guest drives here and there. Now that he’s in the most experienced team with one of the best cars, he will be able to score more points. S1600 driver Janis Baumanis will enter three events in a 208.
Car: Audi S1
Drivers: Mattias Ekström (avg pts 18.33), Anton Marklund (avg pts 14.25), Edward Sandström (Selected rounds, avg pts 2.00)
Both of these drivers are racing in two different championships this year, with Ekström in DTM and Anton Marklund in the Audi Sport TT cup. This will affect at least Ekström, who stated that he will race enough rounds to be able to win the championship, but not all of them. He proved last year that he was able to switch between DTM and rallycross, netting a home win at Höljes. Marklund will race all rounds, but he’s facing a new challenge with circuit racing that might hamper his WorldRX performance. We’ll have to wait and see, since this is a very capable team. As last year, we can expect guest drives where Ekström can’t race. For example, Edward Sandström will drive at Hockenheim where Ekström is busy with the DTM race running the same weekend.
VW Marklund Motorsport:
Car: Volkswagen Polo
Drivers: Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen (avg pts 18.33), Per-Gunnar “PG” Andersson (avg pts 4.00), Tommy Rustad (EuroRX, avg pts 2.33), Tanner Foust (Selected rounds, avg pts 14.00)
No, you didn’t misread that. Team principal Jan Marklund continues with his VW-supported team despite his sons transfer to EKSRX. He also brings back 2013 GRC champion and 2014 WorldRX runner up Topi Heikkinen, this year with proper title ambitions. Replacing Anton Marklund is former WRC-driver and double JWRC champion PG Andersson, a driver that also raced two rounds last year. Norwegian veteran circuit driver Tommy Rustad will be the teams EuroRX entry, as well as a wildcard entry in Höljes. American “race everything VW everywhere” driver and TV-host Tanner Foust will race at Hockenheim, Lydden Hill, Mettet, Canada and Loheac, two more events than last year. He’s capable of winning these rounds, after an impressive display at both Lydden Hill and Kouvola last year.
VW KMS Motorsport
Car: Volkswagen Polo
Drivers: Johan Kristofferson (avg pts 14.25), Tord Linnerud (avg pts 1.00), Ole Christian Veiby (EuroRX, avg pts 0.00)
The second Swedish, VW-supported team to enter WorldRX this season. Both Johan Kristofferson and Linnerud entered EuroRX last year, with mixed results. Kristofferson impressed everyone in Belgium and Italy, showing that these newer tracks suits his style. Linnerud on the other hand, drove a Helmia Motorsport Renault Clio that suffered from constant engine failure, so he could only get to one semifinal last year. The Norwegian rally and touringcar veteran was as good as Petter Solberg in 95/96, but never got as far as Petter did. Still, he’s a good second driver in this team. WRC3 competitor Ole Christian “Baby-Veiby” will enter EuroRX with a third car, valuable experience for the young Norwegian.
Car: Ford Fiesta
Drivers: Andreas Bakkerud (avg pts 15.92), Reinis Nitiss (avg pts 17.33), Timur Timerzyanov (avg pts 13.75)
The winning team last year, and one of the most important teams in rallycross today. Has built over 20 Fiesta Supercars that are now used across the globe, but will only enter two cars for a full WorldRX season. Andreas Bakkerud won two events last year, and if he could stay down to earth he has the speed to win more events this year. At one point last year the young Latvian Reinis Nitiss seemed like the biggest challenger to Petter Solberg, but ended up with only one win from last year. Joining Bakkerud and Nitiss is double European Champion Timur Timerzyanov, who switches from Peugeot-Hansen to Olsbergs for this year. Things have been quet around Timur, and there were speculations that he was off for circuit racing instead. Now he’s back for a full season, and after a disappointing 2014 he’s got the best machinery to get him back on top. Olsbergs also has lots of young talents ready to step into a fourth car, like Joni Wiman, Daniel Holten, Sebastian Eriksson and Kevin Eriksson did last year.
WorldRX Team Austria
Car: Ford Fiesta
Drivers: Manfred Stohl (avg pts 9.00), Max Pucher (avg pts N/A)
An exciting entry this year is the Austrian duo of former WRC-driver Manfred Stohl and Max Pucher, racing Ford Fiestas built by OlsbergsMSE. Stohl impressed in his first event in Argentina last year, in the controversial second PSRX car. The Fiesta should be easier to drive, and it will be interesting what Stohl can do in WorldRX. Max Pucher has raced in the national championship in Austria, but seems unexperienced to me.
All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport:
Car: Audi S3
Drivers: Rene Münnich (avg pts 0.00), Alexander “Alx” Danielsson (avg pts N/A)
We first saw the new Audi S3 of Münnich Motorsport in Germany last year. Then it was terribly off pace, but now another one is ready and they will enter both for a full season this year. Former touringcar-driver Rene Münnich will drive one of them, and I think he will benefit from focusing on rallycross only. Experienced Swedish circuit-driver Alx Danielsson will join Münnich the first three rounds, and we’ll probably see more drivers from touringcars in the second Audi S3 throughout the season.
JRM Mini WorldRX:
Car: Mini Countryman
Drivers: Dave Mirra (avg pts N/A), Danny Way (avg pts N/A), (Note: Not confirmed) Guerlain Chicherit (avg pts N/A), Riku Takho (avg pts 0.00)
JRM Motorsport will enter two prodrive-built Mini Supercars in selected events this year, with multiple drivers. So far Dave Mirra, Danny Way and Guerlain Chicherit has been mentioned as possible drivers, neither of which has competed in WorldRX before. Mirra has experience from Global Rallycross though, and Chicherit from rallying. Danny Way is a professional skateboarder, and seems unexperienced to me. Mirra and Way is confirmed to drive the Mini at Hockenheim, but no more rounds confirmed so far. Finnish rally driver and MINI ambassador Riku Takho drove the Mini at the Top Gear event in December, and is very likely to drive the Mini here as well. What do all of these drivers have in common? They’re sponsored by Monster Energy.
Car: Audi A1
Driver: Robin Larsson (avg pts 12.33)
Robin Larsson was very close to winning at Lydden Hill last year, and several consistant performances earned him the EuroRX title. This year he’s racing a full season in WorldRX, and is one of the drivers that can win events this year.
Koen Pauwels Motorsport:
Car: Ford Focus
Driver: Koen Pauwels (avg pts 2.83)
Belgian driver Koen Pauwels will enter selected events this year, after managing to get to the final in one race last year. He will have to step it up to be able to replicate that, in a car that hasn’t proved any speed yet.
How can I follow WorldRX?
WorldRX is broadcasted in lots of countries, and you can find out which channel here. If you don’t have that channel, but still want to watch, all races are availible on livestream. The livestream might be geoblocked, but I can say that there are ways to get around that.