The FIA World Rallycross Championship returns to Europe this coming weekend, after a short trip across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada and GP3R . This is the event of the year with the biggest crowds, with over 75 000 spectators surrounding the track. Rallycross is huge in France, so you don't want to miss this event!
Described as "the temple of rallycross", the track is almost built to be the ultimate version of a rallycross track. For the first time this season most of the track is dirt, with only a third being a solid surface. The length is a rather normal 1088m, but the joker is long and includes both a jump and a very fast chichane.
With rallycross being so big in France, there is a healthy national championship just like we see in Norway and Sweden. That means that the best drivers in the French championship can be just as good as a lot of the WorldRX guys. Of course, all the regular drivers come to Loheac, with both additions and exceptions. Let's take a look at the entry list:
- 1: Timur Timerzyanov (RUS), Team Peugeot-Hansen - Peugeot 208
- 2: Ollie O'Donovan (IRL) - Ford Focus
- 3: Timmy Hansen (SWE), Team Peugeot-Hansen - Peugeot 208
- 5: Pontus Tidemand (SWE), EKS - Audi S1
- 6: Alexandre Theuil (FRA) - Citroën DS3
- 11: Petter Solberg (NOR), Petter Solberg World RX Team - Citroën DS3
- 13: Andreas Bakkerud (NOR), OlsbergsMSE - Ford Fiesta ST
- 15: Reinis Nitiss (LVA), OlsbergsMSE - Ford Fiesta ST
- 18: Jonathan Pailler (FRA) - Peugeot 208
- 20: Fabien Pailler (FRA) - Peugeot 208
- 21: Bohdan Ludwiczak (POL) - Ford Fiesta
- 22: Koen Pauwels (BEL) - Ford Focus
- 26: Andy Scott (GBR), Albatec Racing - Peugeot 208
- 27: Davy Jeanney (FRA), LD Motorsports - Citroën DS3
- 28: Christophe Wilt (FRA) - Citroën C4
- 43: Ken Block (USA) - Hoonigan Racing Division - Ford Fiesta ST
- 50: Kevin Procter (GBR) - Ford Fiesta
- 54: Jos Jansen (BEL) - Ford Focus
- 55: Gaëtan Serazin (FRA) - Peugeot 208
- 57: Toomas Heikkinen (FIN), Marklund Motorsports - VW Polo
- 66: Derek Tohill (IRL), LD Motorsports - Citroën DS3
- 71: Marc Laboulle (FRA) - Citroën C4
- 72: Rodolphe Audran (FRA) - Peugeot 207
- 74: Jèrôme Grosset-Janin (FRA) - Renault Clio
- 75: Martial Barbette (FRA) - Renault Mègane
- 78: Laurent Bouliou (FRA) - Peugeot 207
- 79: Edward Sandström (SWE), EKS - Audi S1
- 81: David Binks (GBR), Albatec Racing - Peugeot 208
- 83: Patrick Guillerme (FRA) - Peugeot 208
- 84: Hervè Knapick (FRA) - Citroën DS3
- 85: Christian Beroujon (FRA) - Citroën DS3
- 87: Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (FRA) - Citroën C4
- 88: Henning Solberg (NOR), LD Motorsports - Citroën DS3
- 89: Nabil Karam (LBN) - Citroën Xsara
- 92: Anton Marklund (SWE), Marklund Motorsport - VW Polo
- 95: Simone Romagna (ITA), Petter Solberg World RX Team - Citroën DS3
- 98: Pascal Le Nouvel (FRA) - Ford Focus
Returning in France are a several of the wildcard drivers from the round at Lydden Hill, including Ollie O'Donovan, Fabien Pailler and Kevin Procter. Ken Block returns with his Hoonigan team, looking to replicate his podium in his first WorldRX race in Norway. The EKS team returns as well, though without Mattias Ekström. Pontus Tidemand will drive with full confidence after his first WRC2 win in Germany, and Edward Sandström in the second car impressed everyone at his debut in Mettet.
All the new French drivers might be the most interesting though, because of the high level in the French Championship. One of the most recognizable names are Jonathan Pailler, who will drive the same car that Jean-Luc Pailler drove at Lydden. Jonathan doesn't have that much experience in a supercar, but has proved his speed in the French championship this year. Gaëtan Serazin won the French Championship in 2012, and Marc Laboulle in 2009, which makes both a likely contenders for a semifinal spot. Hervè Knapick comes with two Citroën DS3's, with Christian Beroujon driving the second one. The French veteran drove his first rallycross race in an Alpine A110 in 1979, so experience shouldn't be a problem. Several podiums in the French Championship lately as well. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg won the French Super-1600 championship last year, and has stepped up to the supercars class this year with good results.
Rodolphe Audran, Pascal Le Nouvel, Martial Barbette, Laurent Bouliou and Patrick Guillerme are less described drivers, so I wouldn't expect too much of these. Unless someone can tell me otherwise, of course. In the Albatec team Jacques Villeneuve is off commentating F1 (!) this weekend, so British driver David Binks will drive his car in France. Binks drove in Global Rallycross in 2012, where he frequently featured in the final. After the first season his sponsor pulled out, and he hasn't competed since. It will be interesting to see what he can get out of the Albatec 208, since Villeneuve obviously has struggled with rallycross since his debut this year.
Also quite interesting is the fact that Henning Solberg will continue to drive Liam Doran's car in France. Henning were back in the semifinals in Canada, and the DS3 should be slightly faster than the old Saab 9-3 of Eklund Motorsport. His brother Petter Solberg are looking for a new driver for his second car, after Alexander Hvaal decided that the car wasn't good enough for him. Now Hvaal doesn't enjoy driving anymore, and says the cars were too different to be in the same team. Now Solberg has employed Simone Romagna, and the Italian rally driver should be better suited for the soft setup in Solbergs car. Another driver making his debut is Nabil Karam. The Lebanese will drive a Citroën Xsara here in Loheac, and he has experience from the French championship as well.
Of course, you can watch this live on livestream. It starts 13:30 on Sunday with a recap of the heat races, followed by live semifinals and finals. Be sure to make your predictions or add questions and additional info to the comments. I'm not very good at French, so researching all these drivers are a challenge for me.
Last year Andreas Bakkerud took an impressive victory in front of Petter Solberg after one of the best finals last year. Petter now has the upper hand in the championship, and since this track suits him he will look for a good result this year as well.