Another year, another season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship! The driver lineup this year has been described as the best in the series’ history, and the season starts earlier than ever!
These guides have become a tradition here at The RallyTakeover, but other priorities mean that this one will be slightly shorter than the previous editions. For a detailed explanations of the features and rules of rallycross, I suggest you check out one of the previous editions.
The calendar sees one major change, as the season ender switches from Argentina to South Africa. This hopefully means better conditions for fair racing, as neither of the tracks used in Argentina were optimal. The season starts at Circuit de Catalunya with only a trip to Canada in August separating all the European events.
I’ve been to Höljes three years in a row now, and can really recommend going to a round. With all of the support classes (S1600, Touring Cars, RX2, European Championship) there are usually two whole days packed full of short exciting races. I might go to Höljes for a day or two this year as well, and hope to catch Estering as well!
This year we see eight teams with two or more drivers, though some teams will enter only one driver in some events. There are also three independent drivers that will take part in most if not all events. We can expect at least 18 drivers at all events. Events where the European Championship also run will feature up to 50 supercars!
PSRX VOLKSWAGEN SWEDEN - VOLKSWAGEN POLO
Petter Solberg (NOR) - Avg 37 events: 22.11 - 9 wins
Johan Kristoffersson (SWE) - Avg 29 events: 17.48 - 2 wins
Many thought that Volkswagen would drop out of the championship after the split of Marklund Motorsport and Kristoffersson Motorsport. That was until Petter Solberg unveiled that his dream had come true; his own manufacturer team in rallycross. The team will use knowledge gained from the extensive WRC testing VW did before they dropped their program, with cars built in Germany and run by Värmland, Sweden based team. Petter Solberg is a double world champion in rallycross (as well as one WRC championship), and tops all WorldRX related statistics with the most wins, top qualifiers and overall points despite last season being below average. Johan Kristoffersson was closest to Mattias Ekström last year, and is unlucky to not have more wins in rallycross so far. If picking between Ogier and Latvala was hard in Fantasy WRC, choosing between Solberg or Kristoffersson could be even harder this year!
HOONIGAN RACING DIVISION - FORD FOCUS RS RX
Andreas Bakkerud (NOR) - Avg 37 events: 17.89 - 6 wins
Ken Block (USA) - Avg 14 events: 6.71 - 2 podiums
After a successful first season for Ken Block and M-Sports WorldRX team where Andreas Bakkerud took 3 wins, we see the team return unchanged. Bakkerud finished third overall last year despite some issues early last year, and has established himself as one of the best rallycross drivers in the world. Ken Block may be old and more of a showman, but proved that he has good pace on the tracks he knows. He struggled with the more complex tracks like in Höljes, but finished on the podium in Hockenheim.
TEAM PEUGEOT-HANSEN - PEUGEOT 208
Timmy Hansen (SWE) - Avg 37 events: 17.95 - 5 wins
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) - Avg 12 events: 17.42 - 1 win
Kevin Hansen (SWE) - Avg 6 events: 11.17 - 3 finals
What is probably the oldest rallycross team in the championship returns with a very strong lineup. Sebastien Loeb does another season as expected, and will be a certain candidate for race wins after observing his dominant display in Latvia last year together with several podiums. He is joined by the sons of rallycross legend and team principal Kenneth Hansen (who has more FIA titles than Loeb); Timmy and Kevin. Timmy was close to the championship win in 2015, Solberg proved too difficult to beat. Kevin was dominant in EuroRX last year and has received a well deserved upgrade to the main team. With one of the best drivers in the world and two huge talents this team might fill up half a final alone!
EKSRX - AUDI S1
Mattias Ekström (SWE) - Avg 26 events: 20.31 - 6 wins
Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen (FIN) - Avg 37 events: 13.70 - 2 wins
Reinis Nitiss (LVA) - Avg 36 events: 12.19 - 1 win
Another team to keep most of their lineup from last year is the double champions EKSRX. Mattias Ekström has received increased support from Audi Sport, and is once again joined by 2013 GRC champion Topi Heikkinen. Ekström is one out of two drivers with an average of over 20 points per event, and will be incredibly hard to beat overall if he decides to do every round. He is still active in DTM, and there will be clashes between the programs. Topi has the potential to win a round now and then, and rarely misses the semifinals. They are joined this year by Reinis Nitiss who left Münnich Motorsport in the middle of last season. He is still considered a huge talent despite struggling to follow up on his great first season in 2014. Getting into one of the best cars in the field might help him getting back on the podium.
MJP RACING TEAM AUSTRIA - FORD FIESTA
Timo Scheider (DEU) - Avg 4 events: 6.50 - 1 final
Kevin Eriksson (SWE) - Avg 12 events: 9.33 - 1 win
Andrew Jordan (GBR) - Avg 3 events: 10.00 - 1 podium
Some of the controversy during the off-season have been involving team principial (and sometimes driver) Max J. Pucher, who first split up with Manfred Stohl last year and then had to find some new drivers for his team. Timo Scheider left DTM for WorldRX this year, and has had a couple of good outings with Münnich Motorsport. A bit of adaptation time might be necessary for Scheider, but don’t be surprised to see him on the podium this year. Since we won’t see OlsbergsMSE as a full-time entry, winner at Estering last year Kevin Eriksson has also joined the team. It will be interesting to see if Kevin can establish himself on a higher level. Former BTCC champion Andrew Jordan is replacing Scheider at Lydden Hill, while Alex Wurz has tested the car and could join the team later in the season.
TEAM STARD - FORD FIESTA
Timur Timerzyanov (RUS) - Avg 37 events: 10.43 - 2 podiums
Janis Baumanis (LVA) - Avg 15 events: 8.47 - 2 finals
Timur Timerzyanov and Janis Baumanis were clearly unhappy with Max J. Pucher and his team last year, and has joined forces with Manfred Stohl and his team. If you think the name STARD looks familiar, it is because they will also provide the cars for the new US-based electric rallycross series. Timerzyanov is a double European Champion from just before the WorldRX era, and was especially unlucky last year with both crashes and jury decisions. Baumanis has shown increasing progress since his supercar debut in 2015, and could take his first podiums this year.
RX TEAM HUNGARY - KIA RIO
Lucacs “Csucsu” Kornel (HUN) - Avg 4 events: 6.00*
Gianluigi “Gigi” Galli (ITA) - Avg 4 events: 2.25 - 1 semifinal
After first showcasing the Kia Rio in 2015, and then racing a couple of events last year, Gigi Galli has now been joined by former JWRC driver Lucacs “Csucsu” Kornel. Kornel did 4 events in EuroRX last year with varying success, and it is expected that this will be a learning year for both him an the team. Gigi Galli has qualified for one semifinal in his rallycross career, racing an OlsbergsMSE Ford at his home round in Italy back in 2014. He will join the team this spring after a second Kia Rio has been completed.
DA RACING - PEUGEOT 208
Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (FRA) - Avg 6 events: 4.50 - 1 podium
Gregoire Demoustier (FRA) - Avg 0 events: N/A
With Jean-Baptiste Dubourgs DA Racing expanding and buying two ex-Peugeot-Hansen 208's for a full season, one of the hottest rumours of the off-season was that we would see fellow Frenchman Davy Jeanney follow from the Swedish team. Instead we find a different Frenchman, Gregoire Demoustier, join the team for Barcelona,Barcelona, Portugal, Belgium, Canada and South Africa. Demoustier is already quite experienced, having raced in WTCC the last couple of years and in GT racing earlier. He also has some experience from Trophee Andros, which will be helpful in rallycross. Dubourg has back to back titles in Trophee Andros from 2016 and 2017, and finished on the podium in Loheac in 2015. If they can get the 208's running as good as Hansen did, he will definitely end up in the semifinals regularly.
FORS PERFORMANCE - RENAULT CLIO
Guerlain Chicherit (FRA) - Avg 6 events: 0.17 - Top 16 once
Guerlain Chicherit has recently formed a partnership with Prodrive and Renault to form a new manufacturer team! Sadly the new team using the Renault Megane won’t be ready until 2018, and Chicherit will drive in selected (most likely European) rounds with the Renault Clio that won the French Championship last year. Not a bad car, but could the driver do well in this company?
LOCO WORLD RX TEAM - VW POLO
Guy Wilks (GBR) - Avg 5 events: 3.40 - 1 final
Guy Wilks has struggled in his returns after his wonder drive at Lydden Hill in 2015, but shows up with an ex-Kristoffersson Polo and a new team for this year. The former rally driver certainly has a talent for driving, but it remains uncertain up to this point if it is good enough here. It certainly is important to have a British full-time entry!
GRX - FORD FIESTA
Niclas Grönholm (FIN) - Avg 12 events: 2.80 - 2 semifinals
Last year was a learning year for the son of rally legend Marcus Grönholm. OlsbergsMSE had resources put in developing the new GRC Honda, and the competition was at a higher level. He will definitely be closer this year in terms of driver ability, but how good is the ex-OlsbergsMSE Fiesta when almost all the other competitiors improve their machines?
Last year WorldRX was available for streaming at Youtube, and I see no reason why they should change that. You might not me able to use it if a TV channel has bought the rights in your country, but then you can find out which channel here.
We will as last year play Fantasy WorldRX here at The RallyTakeover, and since the rules in the competition are mostly the same we won’t change them here either. There are real prizes, and last year TheTurbochargedSquirrel chose a sweet Peugeot-Hansen t-shirt as his prize for winning. The previews will be posted mondays before the race weekend, and let me know in the comments if you want Twitter or E-Mail notifications.
Any other questions or comments are also welcome in the comments section. I really look forward to this season, and more unpredictable racing from this season!