2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 12 / Rosario, Argentina / November 25 – 28, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy has announced its draft calendar for 2017.

The calendar, which is subject to confirmation by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, consists of 12 rounds including an all-new race at Killarney race circuit in Cape Town, South Africa (11-12 November). The 2017 season will begin two weeks earlier than in previous years, with Barcelona forming the opening round for the first time (1-2 April).

The teams will then cross into neighbouring Portugal for round two at Montalegre which will take place on 22-23 April. A return to the legendary Hockenheimring follows, which will see World RX join the highly-acclaimed DTM series again for its season-opening weekend (5-7 May).

No date changes have been made to World RX rounds in Great Britain, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Canada and France. The Latvian RX round will take place two weeks earlier next year, with the event scheduled on 16-17 September. Buxtehude in Germany will once again form the penultimate round of the World Championship, and will also take place two weeks earlier (30 September – 1 October).

The 2017 season will finish in Cape Town as rallycross visits the continent of Africa for the first time (11-12 November). Building on the success of this year, the FIA European Rallycross Championship will again run at five World RX rounds as it did in 2016, but with Loheac joining the series in place of Belgium (Spain, Norway, Sweden France and Latvia).

The Super1600 Championship will comprise of six rounds (Portugal, Belgium, Sweden, France, Latvia and Germany) while the competitive TouringCar series will be made up of five events (Spain, Belgium, Great Britain, Norway, and Germany). RX2 – the newly-branded RX Lites Cup – will follow a revised calendar in 2017 and include seven rounds, two of which will be held outside of Europe for the first time (Belgium, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Canada, France and South Africa).







6. NORWAY – HELL – 10/11 JUNE







Neil Simmons


Ekstrom – 2016 WRX Champion

Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom has been crowned the new FIA World Rallycross Champion after scoring enough points at the German RX round to secure him the title with one round of the World Championship still remaining. Olsbergs MSE driver Kevin Eriksson took the Germany RX win, claiming his first every victory in the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. Petter Solberg finished second, while fellow Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud claimed the third podium spot.

Driving for his own EKS rallycross team, Ekstrom finished fifth this weekend and is now 30 points ahead of last year’s World RX Champion Solberg in the drivers’ standings. Even if Ekstrom does not complete the final round of the Championship in Argentina, a maximum score for Solberg would only draw the Norwegian level and Ekstrom would still win on countback of victories.

“This is probably the best day in my whole motorsport career – it feels like I have electricity running through my whole body,” grinned the new rallycross champion, Ekstrom.

He continued: “I have a lot of amazing memories: from winning the Swedish Touring Car Championship back in 1999, my first DTM title in 2004, my Race of Champions win against Loeb in Paris, and also against Michael Schumacher in 2007, then my second DTM title. Now I’m the new World RX Champion and this feeling beats it all because when I started EKS from scratch less than three years ago, this was my dream. I have always wanted to go to an FIA prize-giving ceremony and now I finally can. This is a huge effort for my family, the team and all the guys who have worked to make this happen. To become an FIA World Champion is what I have always wanted and it is the best feeling in the world. Obviously, I owe a lot of gratitude to my employer, Audi Sport. My bosses gave me permission to compete at the Estering in order to maximise my chances of winning the title. That couldn’t be taken for granted, and I’m very thankful for this. I hope that by clinching the big trophy, I was able to put a smile on their faces.”

The event was won by Sweden’s Kevin Eriksson who started on the second row of the grid of the final. Solberg was fastest to the first corner which awarded him the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, but Eriksson stunned his competitors as he pulled off a sideways move from the outside and managed to take the lead, which he retained for the rest of the race. It can quite possibly be described as the over-take of the year.

“I am speechless,” explained Eriksson, who has become the seventh different winner in World RX this year. “I saw Petter lead off the start and planned to stay behind him but then I saw an opportunity to go on the outside and hoped for the best. Somehow it worked! I felt I had really good speed throughout the weekend and to beat these guys you need to be driving at your very best. This weekend, everything came together and we got the consistency I needed to take the win.”

Second-placed Solberg was first to congratulate Eriksson on his debut World RX victory. “I am very impressed by Kevin. He won the Swedish Championship last weekend and now he has gone one better and take his first World RX victory, which was very well deserved – especially when I had a clear line into turn one and my car is very good on the gravel.”

Solberg continued: “To be honest, I am sad that the Championship is over for me. I have been fighting all year for my third World RX title and I hoped it would go down to the final round and the team were really motivated. It is so important for me to thank my amazing team – I may be the guy driving the car, but the car was so fast this weekend, I think one of the fastest on the track. I can only say thank you for all the hours they have spent in the last two weeks, making small changes which could make a difference for us. They have worked so systematically; second here is a great win for the whole PSRX team. Finally, Mattias is a very worthy winner, he has won a lot of races this year and been very consistent – big congratulations to him and to EKS.”

Hoonigan Racing Division’s Andreas Bakkerud was relieved to make it home in third place, after suffering from smoke inhalation for the duration of today’s final. He took up the story: “I had exhaust fumes and smoke in the cockpit for all six laps of the final – I have never wanted to see the chequered flag so much in my life! Then in the middle of the race, I also lost my gear lever which made life even more difficult.”

Reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion Kevin Hansen continued his fantastic form this season in the Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar to finish fourth overall in Germany. The 18-year-old commented: “It was nice to be back in the World Championship this weekend. The first day was a little difficult but I knew that our work had taken us in the right direction during Sunday morning’s warm-up. I don’t really know what happened in the final. The first turn was just crazy. Someone hit me and I ended up fourth, for the second time this year. With two fourth places and the European title in the bag, I am pleased with my season.”

Meanwhile, Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson entered the event with a mathematical chance of taking the championship to the final round, which continued into the final, but a puncture on lap three while running fourth put him out of contention and he eventually finished the event fifth overall. Solberg’s second-place finish has seen the Norwegian move back to second in the overall leaderboard – four points ahead of Kristoffersson.

Sixth place was taken by Ekstrom’s team-mate Topi Heikkinen. The healthy points score taken by Heikkinen and Ekstrom this weekend has seen EKS extend its lead over Team Peugeot-Hansen in the Teams’ Championship by 17 points going into the final round of the season.

Elsewhere, America’s Tanner Foust started his second World RX event of the season with Volkswagen RX Sweden but was hampered by some minor problems on day one, which meant he did not qualify for today’s semi-finals.

Germany also marked the final round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for both Super1600 and TouringCars, where both championships went down to the wire. In the Super1600 Championship, Hungary’s Kirsztian Szabo won in his Skoda Fabia and took the 2016 title by one point over Denmark’s Ulrik Linnemann who finished third in Germany. Egor Sanin finished runner-up in today’s event. In the overall standings, Kasparas Navickas ends the year third overall.

The TouringCar Championship proved just as close as Ben-Philip Gundersen triumphed over Sweden’s Magda Andersson by just one point. It was David Nordgard who won today’s event, followed home by Andersson and Anders Braten in third. Third overall in the points at the end of 2016 is Fredrik Magnussen.

2016 FIA World RX Rallycross Championship / Round 11 / Buxtehude, Germany / October 14-16, 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: Colin McMaster/Monster/McKlein

World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, concluded: “Congratulations to Mattias Ekstrom who has become our new FIA World Rallycross Champion after forfeiting his first DTM race in over 15 years. Both Mattias and EKS have worked relentlessly since entering full-time in 2015 and for Mattias to have won in both DTM and now in rallycross proves what a natural talent he is behind the wheel. To become World RX Champion is no easy feat – we have some of the best drivers in the world competing in our Championship. Well done to Kevin Eriksson and Olsbergs MSE who took the first win of the year, Kevin’s pace during today final was excpetional. Congratulations also to Krisztian and Ben-Philip who are our new Super1600 and TouringCar Champions – it was very exciting to see both Championships being won by just a point and just goes to show how competitive both these categories have become. On top of the exhilarating on-track action, we’ve also had a sell-out crowd in Germany this weekend and it’s always encouraging to see how popular our sport has become.”

The season-closer to this year’s World RX Championship will take place in Rosario, Argentina, at the end of November as rallycross returns to South America for the third year in a row.

Neil Simmons


Ekstrom Regains Championship Lead

WRX hit Barcelona last weekend for round nine of the championship. A combination of Formula One tarmac corners and tricky technical dirt sections would be the challenge for the drivers on what was a a glorious weekend.

Loheac had seen around 80,000 fans attend the event which was eventually won by Johan Kristoffersson and catapulted him up the standings.

“We’ve been working hard and everything his about winning in the end.” Kristoffersson said.

Petter Solberg came to Barcelona with a very slim lead over rival Mattias Ekstrom with just five points separating the two drivers. With his win at Loheac, Kristoffersson sat third with a one point lead over Bakkerud who was sixteen points ahead of Sebastien Loeb. That was the top five as WRX landed in Spain.

“It’s a good competition, I’ve started to think about the championship now. Obviously five points is not a lot, but Ekstrom has been extremely good.” Solberg commented.

In the team standings EKS lead the way followed by Team Peugeot Hansen and then VW RX Sweden. It is the team sittig in fourth place who have begun to impress in 2016. In their debut season, Hoonigan Racing Division with Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud had been testing in between rounds with the Ford Focus and it looks like those tests are starting to pay off.

The circuit is 1137m in length, but with the joker it is extended to 1288m. A track that is 59% asphalt and 41% dirt it is challenging and runs in an anti-clockwise direction. An uphill start to the first long left hander and downhill to turn two, shift down a couple of gears into the left hander and the drivers will meet their first transition to dirt into a right and then left hander, trying to stay clear of the tyre walls. They will have to fight for traction downhill towards the first of the hairpins, a handbrake turn, accelerate uphill to the tarmace and then back onto the dirt into the left hander. The cars will need to stay tight through the right and then left turn before negotiating the jump into the right hander. This is where the drivers will decide whether to go straight on for the joker or go round to do it all over again.

Welcome to Barcelona.

Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom took a lights-to-flag victory at World RX of Barcelona, round nine of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, to regain the World RX Championship lead from Petter Solberg. It is Ekstrom’s fourth victory of the season for EKS.

Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timmy Hansen was runner-up while World RX Team Austria’s Timur Timerzyanov took his first podium of the year after placing third. In the FIA European Rallycross Championship, where Barcelona marked the penultimate round, it was Kevin Hansen who took the victory and also won the Championship with one event still remaining.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy,” said the elated 18-year-old.

One round of Euro RX remains in Latvia in two weeks’ time but Hansen’s four event wins and 30-point lead makes it impossible for his competitors to catch him in the overall standings. Norwegian drivers Tommy Rustad and Tord Linnerud finished second and third respectively.

“I’m really happy – to win a race in World RX makes me smile every time,” admitted Barcelona RX winner, Ekstrom, who also scooped the Monster Energy Super Charge Award for beating his competitors to the first corner during today’s final. “At the start of the season, there were only a few drivers who could take a victory but now there are so many who can win – the competition is very tough and you need to be on your A-game throughout the weekend to be in with a chance. This weekend the competition has been fierce so this win feels even more special.”

Ekstrom’s victory this weekend now sees the Swede lead the World RX driver standings by 10 points but the question remains as to whether he is able to miss a round of DTM in order to compete at Buxtehude in Germany next month. Ekstrom took up the story:

“The entry deadline for the Buxtehude race is next week so I’ve been getting asked about what I’m doing a lot at the moment. I haven’t missed a single DTM race in 15 years so it’s a big discussion. I will speak to my bosses tomorrow morning to see what they say but it’s in their hands so I will respect whatever decision they make.”

Runner-up Timmy Hansen was Top Qualifier at the end of the four qualifying sessions, and spoke positively about the performance of his Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar over the weekend.

“The car has been working very well – the whole weekend we’ve had very good starts and the team have done a great job with the car following my test last week,” explained the 24-year-old. “I want to say that I’m very proud of my brother Kevin, who has already won the Euro RX Championship with one round remaining – I’ve always known how fast he’s been and I’m really happy for him.”

World RX Team Austria had an impressive weekend with its Ford Fiesta RX Supercars as team-mates Timerzyanov and Janis Baumanis finished third and fourth respectively. It is the first time this season that both World RX Team Austria drivers have reached the final and Timerzyanov started on the front row after winning the second semi-final. The result is even more special for the Austrian-based team after an incident with Timerzyanov’s car at the previous round in France meant the squad had to change the chassis in order for him to drive this weekend.

“We are delighted with this result after a difficult season and we are now looking forward to Riga,” said team boss, Max Pucher.

Audi privateer driver Robin Larsson finished fifth, the Swede having retired from today’s final after damaging a wheel. Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson initially finished third but was later demoted to sixth place for pushing. Reigning Champion Solberg finished the weekend in seventh position.

“Frustration is definitely the word from here,” explained Solberg. “We made it through qualifying into the semi-final and that race started OK. I made a good start from where I was on the grid. I was behind Loeb going down the hairpin and then Larsson hit me and knocked me wide. After that, I did everything I could, I tried my best to come back at them [Loeb and Larsson fighting ahead], but the final wasn’t possible this time. I’m really disappointed, but let’s look forward and push on for the next race.”

Elsewhere, double DTM champion Timo Scheider made his return to World RX and finished 17th in the Intermediate Classification standings in a Munnich Motorsport Seat Ibiza, one place ahead of Ken Block who had a challenging weekend in his Hoonigan Racing Division prepared Ford Focus RS RX after suffering gearbox problems in Q3.

In the fifth round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, Denmark’s Ulrik Linnemann triumphed in his Peugeot 208. Hungary’s Luigi finished runner-up at the wheel of his Skoda Fabia and Lithuania’s Kasparas Navickas was third in another Skoda Fabia.

In the penultimate round of the supporting RX Lites Cup, it was Cyril Raymond who took three qualifying wins and the overall victory. Norwegians Thomas Bryntesson and Simon Wago Syversen finished second and third. Raymond’s win this weekend has seen the Frenchman extend his lead over Bryntesson in the overall standings by eight points. World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, concluded:

“We’ve had 28,000 passionate motorsport fans travel to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend. Well done to Mattias who took a well-deserved victory and in doing so managed to move ahead of Petter in the overall standings, which has made this year’s title fight even more exciting. Now it remains to be seen whether Mattias will be able to compete in Germany or whether he will be required to race in DTM. Either way, it’s going to be a very exciting final three rounds. It’s also been a very positive weekend for Peugeot with Kevin Hansen crowned Euro RX Champion and Timmy Hansen finishing second in World RX. The Hansen family now have 15 Euro RX titles between them, which is a staggering achievement. We now look forward to Riga with the World Championship visiting Latvia for the first time.”

A new location awaits the World RX crews for round 10 of the World Championship as the team prepare to compete at the all-new rallycross circuit at the Bikernieki circuit in Riga, Latvia. Neste World RX of Latvia will take place in just under two weeks’ time (1-2 October).



1st – Mattias Ekstrom – Audi S1 – 204pts

2nd – Petter Solberg – Citroen DS3 – 194pts

3rd – Johan Kristoffersson – VW Polo – 178pts

4th – Andreas Bakkerud – Ford Focus RS – 170pts

5th – Sebastien Loeb – Peugeot 208 – 154pts

6th – Timmy Hansen – Peugeot 208 – 143pts

7th – Toomas Heikkinen – Audi S1 – 114pts

8th – Robin Larsson – Audi A1 – 85pts

9th – Timur Timerzyanov – Ford Fiesta – 84pts

10th – Jani Baumanis – Ford Fiesta – 75pts


1st – Kevin Hansen – Peugeot 208 – 117pts

2nd – Tord Linnerud – VW Polo – 87pts

3rd – Jerome Grosset-Janin – Peugeot 208 – 82pts

4th – Tommy Rustad – Peugeot 208 – 67pts

5th – Fredrick Salsten – Peugeot 208 – 66pts

6th – Tamas-Pal Kiss – Peugeot 208 – 58pts

7th – Peter Hedstrom – Ford Fiesta – 53pts

8th – Alexander Hvaal – VW Beetle – 39pts

9th – Tamas Karai – Audi A1 – 35pts

10th – Joni-Pekka Rajala – VW Beetle – 33pts


1st – Ulrik Linnemann – Peugeot 208 – 114pts

2nd – Krisztian Szabo – Skoda Fabia – 108pts

3rd – Timur Shigabutdinov – Renault Twingo – 71pts

4th – Artis Baumanis – Renault Twingo – 64pts

5th – Janno Ligur – Skoda Fabia – 62pts

6th – Kasparas Navickas – Skoda Fabia – 61pts

7th – Ondrej Smetana – Ford Fiesta – 54pts

8th – Luigi – Skoda Fabia – 51pts

9th – Ernestas Staponkus – VW Polo – 48pts

10th – Pavel Vimmer – Skoda Fabia – 45pts


1st – Ben-Philip Gundersen – Ford Fiesta – 72pts

2nd – Magda Andersson – Ford Fiesta – 61pts

3rd – Fredrik R. Magnussen – Ford Fiesta – 54pts

4th – Per-Magne Royras – Mazda RX8 – 51pts

5th – Anders Nymoen Braten – Ford Fiesta – 44pts

6th – Philip Gehrman – Ford Fiesta – 41pts

7th – Daniel Lundh – Volvo C30 – 38pts

8th – Torleif-Haugenes Lona – Ford Fiesta – 38pts

9th – Kjetil Larsen – Skoda Fabia – 32pts

10th – David S. Nordgard – Ford Fiesta – 27pts


1st – Cyril Raymond – 158pts

2nd – Thomas Bryntesson – 150pts

3rd – Simon Olofsson – 128pts

4th – Joachim Hvaal – 115pts

5th – Simon Wago Syversen – 103pts

6th – Sondre Evjen – 78pts

7th – Tejas Hirani – 78pts

8th – Thomas Holmen – 39pts

9th – Alexander Westlund – 38pts

10th – Saeed Bintouq – 33pts

See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

All photo credits: FIAWorldRallycross.com

Quick 10 With…..Mattias Ekstrom

2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship / Round 03, Mettet, Belgium / May 14 – 15 2016 // Worldwide Copyright: IMG/McKlein

He is currently racing in DTM for Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and in the FIA World Rallycross Championship for the team he founded, EKS RX. He is a Swedish Touring Car champion, two-time DTM champion (2004 & 2007) and has won the Race of Champions three times (2006, 2007 & 2009). He has also raced in V8 Supercars, the World Rally Championship, European Rallycross, the Global Rallycross Championship, competed in the Bathurst 1000 and in the NASCAR Sprint Cup at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 in 2010. He is one of the most dynamic and charismatic drivers in racing and it was my absolute pleasure to put my Quick 10 questions to…….


1. What is your favourite circuit and why?

Nürburgring-Nordschleife – it’s simply unique.

2. Who is/was your racing idol?

Walter Röhrl.

3. Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

Petter Solberg.

4. Considering drivers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which drivers would you have in your race team? (WRX or other)

Walter Röhrl, Sébastien Loeb, Petter Solberg.

5. If you could invite four famous people to dinner (past and present), who would you invite?

Juan Pablo Montoya, Felix Neureuther, Frans and Novak Đoković

6. Personal racing number. What is it and the reason behind it?

#5 – because a lot of things in life have something to do with “5” – like you have 5 fingers on your hands.

7. What is the best race you have been involved in?

DTM Brno 2004 (winning my first DTM title under a lot of pressure), Bathurst 1000, NASCAR Sonoma, WorldRX Höljes, World RX Hockenheim.

8. Is there a race or series you have not competed in that you would like to or have wanted to?

No. Luckily I was able to try everything I wanted like WRC, NASCAR, V8 Supercars, DTM, WorldRX, GT racing.

9. How did you get into motor racing? What ignited that spark?

My father was a rallycross driver so I spent a lot of time in the paddocks when I was young. Despite that I wanted to become a tennis player. Then I drove a kart and from this moment I wanted be become a race driver.

10. What is the best racing advice you have been given?

Go hard or go home 🙂

It’s not often that you get to interview people you regard as your heroes or admire in racing, especially as a World Rallycross fan. This was one of those times. I would like to thank Mattias for taking the time to answer these questions and wish him the very best for the remainder of the season.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photo Credits:

Mattias Ekström


Kristoffersson Wins In France

It was Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson who took victory at the Bretagne World RX of France in Round 8 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Andreas Bakkerud of Hoonigan Racing took second and Peugeot-Hansen’s Sebastien Loeb finished off the podium places.

One driver missing from the final was Mattias Ekstrom who had been leading the Intermediate Classification. He suffered a puncture in the first semi final and did not progress.

It was double champion Petter Solberg who was to benefit from Ekstrom’s misfortune, even though he missed out on the podium. Solberg goes to the World RX of Barcelona with a five point lead.

Kristoffersson is the fifth different winner this season but things did not start off too well for him.

“We couldn’t get it right yesterday. I was P10 after Q2 and the car didn’t fell right. My team worked really hard on the car overnight and in the rain this morning, the car felt amazing. This car and my driving style work very well together in the wet conditions.

Second place Bakkerud was happy with the weekend at Loheac.

“It was great to have both myself and Ken [Block] in the final for Hoonigan Racing Division. I feel like we are making progress each round. I’ve had four podium finishes in the last four rounds so I must be doing something right.”

Next up is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Asphalt: 60.4%

Length: 1.133km

2015 Result:

1st – Petter Solberg (Citroen DS3) – 4:51.051

2nd – Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Polo) – 4:53.724

3rd – Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) – 4:53.909

Fastest Lap – Johan Kristoffersson – 45.212


1st – Petter Solberg – 181

2nd – Mattias Ekstrom – 176

3rd – Johan Kristoffersson – 158

4th – Andreas Bakkerud – 157

5th – Sebastien Loeb – 141

6th – Timmy Hansen – 117

7th – Toomas Heikkinen – 101

8th – Robin Larsson – 71

9th – Timur Timerzyanov – 67

10th – Davy Jeanney – 60

11th – Anton Marklund – 59

12th – Janis Baumanis – 59

13th – Kevin Eriksson – 57

14th – Ken Block – 53

15th – Reinis Nitiss – 35

16th – Kevin Hansen – 30

17th – Niclas Gronholm – 26

18th – Liam Doran – 23

19th – Francois Duval – 18

20th – Andy Scott – 6

21st – Tommy Rustad – 4

22nd – Rene Munnich – 4

23rd – Jean-Baptiste Dubourg – 1


1st – EKS RX (Ekstrom/Heikkinen) – 256

2nd – Team Peugeot-Hansen (Loeb/T.Hansen) – 226

3rd – Volkswagen RX Sweden (Kristoffersson/Marklund) – 188

4th – Hoonigan Racing Division (Bakkerud/Block) – 167

5th – World RX Team Austria (Baumanis/Timerzyanov) – 126

6th – Olsbergs MSE (Gronholm/Eriksson) – 80

7th – all-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport (Nitiss/Munnich) – 26

*one car teams (such as Solberg and Larsson) are not eligible for team championship points and Reinis Nitiss has announced that he will leave Munnich Motorsport after France and will return to Olsbergs MSE for Barcelona.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photo Credits: FIA World Rallycross (c)

Adventures At Lydden – May 2016

World Rallycross

September 7, 2016

Back in May I wrote a feature article for The Pit Crew Online about my visit to the WRX at Lydden Hill. Now that the FIA World Rallycross Championship is a permanent fixture for this website, I thought I would republish my adventure.

The Saturday.

There are three things that I will take away from the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill. The series itself is insanely entertaining, Lydden Hill is a fantastic circuit and I have sunburn.

The sun literally blazed down at the weekend and what a glorious two days it was too. In my life as a racing fan and writer, I have been to some terrific circuits and events but I have to say that after my first visit to Lydden Hill and a WRX event it has definitely hit the button of ‘favourite’.

This visit had been planned for some while with a good friend of mine and we had both been counting the days. I had not planned to write an article for The Pit Crew, but as the date drew closer it morphed into a good idea. I had moved to Kent just over a year ago and quickly found out that Lydden Hill was on my doorstep. That was when the decision was made to attend the FIA World Rallycross Championship. A decision that proved to be outstanding.

I have been a big fan of World Rallycross since its inception, but this visit has made me fall in love with the event.

We arrived on the Saturday, a day that would include practice, two qualifying rounds of WRX and three qualifying rounds of the Super 1600’s and RX Lites. In between there would be stunt shows, drifting, Group B demonstrations and the chance to walk around a very accessible paddock area. Now, this is where WRX differs from a lot of other championships I have attended. It is quite normal to be standing in the paddock of a support series, but being inches away from the cars and drivers such as Sebastien Loeb, Ken Block, Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekstrom and Liam Doran! That was just quite unbelievable.

So, there I am getting out the car with the track in the dip below me and I was instantly impressed. My mate and I were treating Saturday as a bit of a recce but soon found out that the action on track was just non-stop. The turnaround in races at a World Rallycross event are extraordinary. No sooner are the cars on their warm down lap than the next set of cars are lined up on the grid. The 1600’s were out practicing and so we wandered up to North Bend and down the side of Hairy Hill.

The first set of awnings I came across had the Group B demonstration cars inside. They all looked retro and proud with big bodywork and even bigger spoilers. We sauntered down and came to the paddock area. First sightings were of the Super 1600 cars and we just casually walked by the garages as the drivers wandered around and the mechanics worked on the cars to get them ready for the upcoming qualifying heats. We took a zig-zag route and passed by the large awning of Terry Grant with his stunt cars. More about them later.

My first visit would be to Hoonigan Racing Division. There was Ken Block’s #43 car in it’s multi liveried glory sitting in the garage as a couple of mechanics made some adjustments. As I cast my eye up, there was the great man himself standing about two feet away from me. I crossed over the paddock to where Johan Kristoffersson’s car was up on a jack with the right wheelbase being looked at, an engineer busily replacing something which looked rather important.

Over at Team Peugeot-Hansen, both Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen were having hasty work done to their cars in readiness for the upcoming qualifiers. The mechanics looked a bit busy, too busy. Walk round the corner with World RX Team Austria awnings to the right. They had two helicopters in the field behind! Two!

We had been walking around looking at the paddock when I walked by a man wearing a baseball cap, Red Bull sponsored Audi shirt and sunglasses. I did a double take and continued to walk on as my brain tried to tell my mouth who I thought I had seen.

“That’s Andrew Jordan!” I said to my mate.
“Where?” He asked.

I pointed behind and with him being a big BTCC fan, he wandered back and with the subtle nature of a brick, leaned on the guard rail, turned and stared at Andrew Jordan. He looked across at me and nodded. I walked back and he got his camera out.

“Go get a pic,” he said.

I didn’t want to seem like a pillock so waited for a moment as he was in the middle of a conversation. Then, when I thought the time was right, I walked over.

“Andrew Jordan?” I asked.
“Yes, mate.” He replied.
“Do you mind if I have photo? Big fan of yours.”

We stood next to each other and I had my photo taken with a BTCC champion. I thanked him for the photo and wished him the best of luck for the rest of the season. Bizarre! – Great spot though.

I walked down a bit further and there was the massive set-up of double world champion, Petter Solberg. Now, in my build-up to Lydden Hill I had emailed the PR Manager of Petter Solberg cheekily asking for a quick interview with the champ himself, not expecting any kind of reply. Imagine my surprise when I got an email saying, “Yes, sure come after Q2 on Saturday.” – I looked inside the garage and there was Petter talking to his team. Now was not the time so I left the other fans taking photographs and wandered down the slope towards the dummy grid where they line up. Liam Doran’s car was already there, mechanics standing by the car with arms folded.

Opposite Paddock Bend and above the dummy grid area I saw the Monster Energy stage and decided to go up. They had the stunt cars lined up and I saw a two sets of steps leading up to the hospitality area with security guards. I just wandered up, a security guard jigging to the booming music being played. He smiled and ushered me inside and that’s when I saw the PS4 WRX game set up which my mate made a bee-line for. I wandered cautiously over to the Monster bar, not knowing if we were supposed to be here or not and ordered a Monster Lemon Rossi with the VR46 logo all over it in a yellow can. I stood looking out as the cars went hurtling round the track. The qualifying had started. This was a great vantage point so we decided to stay where we were. The stage was set high above the paddock and I had a great view of what was going on. During the interval, Terry Grand came out in his Monster sponsored cars, drove around the entire circuit on two wheels, performed drifts and set a Ford Sedan Legend up to go round in a circle on its own whilst he did the same in the opposite direction in his TVR. Very entertaining I must say. The drift cars came out and did their thing. I’m not a massive drift fan but it was very impressive and put on a great show.

This is when the start of what was a very entertaining day became surreal. I had already drunk two cans of Monster, I’m hyper enough anyway so imagine that included into the equation. This had the desired effect that I needed the gents. I explained to my mate that I was popping off to find one.

On the way I saw Kevin Hansen standing at his awning talking to someone. Feeling slightly brave I slowed my walk and casually, without looking too weird (I hope) looked at the car being worked on. The man he was talking to walked off and Kevin just shot me a glance. I took my opportunity.

“Kevin, I write for The Pit Crew Online, wondered if I could just ask you a couple of questions?” I asked, expecting a shake of the hand or just a polite no.
In my head the reply was “What! Sorry? Did you just say sure?” – Think quick Simmo.
“Tough day today, how are you finding it out there?”
“It was hot and very tough. Hoping to deliver better.”
“What do you think of Lydden?”
“Great circuit, very quick.”

I nodded to the car and Kevin smiled as the mechanic worked on it, he shrugged his shoulders as if to say “No idea” and politely waved as he walked off.

I saw World RX Team Austria driver. Janis Baumanis, he had a huge fan base at Lydden, he smiled and I said:

“How’s the car?”
“Good.” He replied and smiled.

With those spontaneous Q&A’s done, I wandered off to the gents in the corner. On the way back I could see a large crowd gathering as cars were going out. I worked my through and as I reached the turning that would take me back to the Monster Energy stage I noticed it was cordoned off and fans were being stopped from moving across. I gazed around and noticed that I had a line of cars coming up behind me. RX Lites. All the people surrounding me wore FIA World Rallycross identification and I suddenly felt slightly out of place. I asked the marshal if I could duck through but she said I’d have to wait where I was for a moment. The people around me were FIA scrutineers and they were checking the cars. A young lad who was part of their team stood next to me. I looked at him and smiled uncomfortably, he smiled back and walked away from the man he was with to the front of the car. The grey haired man with the clipboard turned and said to me.

“Can you see that damage at the back?”
“Yes,” I replied nervously.
“Was that from Q1?”
“I have no idea.” I replied still feeling rather nervous.
“It’s not too much. I think it’s fine to race, what do you think?” He asked.
“I think if you reckon it’s fine then that’s good enough for me.” I replied not knowing what to do. The marshal was wetting herself. This was slightly awkward.

He waved the car on and his young assistant joined him. He gazed at the young man, realising he had not been speaking to his assistant and then looked back at me. I just smiled and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. The grey haired man laughed, tapped me on the shoulder and walked away. Phew! The cars filed through and eventually the marshal let me escape, still laughing.

I ran back to the Monster stage and told my mate who just laughed and shook his head. The surreal moments did not stop there.

This is where I bumped into an official Monster and WRX photographer, I didn’t get his name. We were on top of the Monster Energy tower watching the racing with an RX Lite driver who had been punted off the track wandering back onto the track after the race in front of the car who had smacked him to remonstrate with the driver. That was quite entertaining. The photographer explained that he had just come back from Rally Portugal. As we stood there just chatting about racing, it was getting chilly. He took off his very expensive camera equipment and placed them on the floor.

“Do you mind watching that whilst I grab a jersey?”
“Sorry.” I said, looking down at the thousands of pounds worth of equipment on the floor.
“If you could keep an eye on it for me, be back in a minute.”
“Er, yeah. Sure.”

Off he wandered leaving me, somebody he had never met, guarding his extremely expensive camera equipment.

“There’s probably a deposit worth of a house there you’re looking after.” My mate said, which made me feel a bit nervous.

Fortunately the cameraman wasn’t too long, I was so relieved. Wandering back through the paddock after Q2, as instructed by Petter Solberg’s PR, I noticed that he was in deep conversation. The option had been given for me to chat to him after the race on Sunday and I was beginning to think this was a good idea as the crowds gathered round his awning and I didn’t know what his PR man, named Per, looked like. Suddenly my mate nodded in the opposite direction and there was Marcus Gronholm standing with his World Rallycross driver son Niclas. I wandered over and as I got closer, Marcus got taller. He is huge! I noticed he was being very fan friendly and so I asked him if I could have my photo taken with him and his son Niclas.

“Sure.” We stood waiting for my mate to take the photo and he said “One hundred Euro’s a snap.” He laughed and that was the picture opportunity done. So not too bad, a BTCC driver, double World Rally champion and a WRX driver on my tick list.

Walked by the Hoonigan Garage and shook hands with Andreas Bakkerud. Name dropping all over the place. He had a huge fan club, all dressed up in their blue hoodies. They looked like they were having fun.

During the day we had walked the entire circuit, had a spot of lunch, saw a lot a grid girls, walked the paddocks and witnessed some epic racing we decided to go back to the Monster Energy tower.

I had decided to give up on the Petter Solberg for today and go and find him tomorrow after the final. We stood on top of the tower and my mate nudged me and pointed at the Quest TV crew who were setting up for an interview. I didn’t pay much attention and then one of the crew wandered over to us.

“Hi, guys. Sorry to be pain. Do you mind if we use your spot for a bit? We’re interviewing Petter Solberg.”

A rounding “No, we don’t mind at all,” was the response he received.

He chatted to us and I mentioned that I was supposed to be interviewing Petter today but he seemed a little busy.

“Well, why don’t you have him after we’re done.” Said the Quest crew member.

A few minutes later, Petter Solberg in full race uniform walked up with a couple of people and had his TV interview with Quest. My friend pointed at two men standing in front of me, an old guy with a notebook writing furiously and a young guy about my height with short blonde hair.

“One of those could be your man.” Said my friend who knew about the exchange of emails I had with Per, the PR man for Petter Solberg.

I checked both men. The older man seemed like a journalist and so I discounted him. I looked at the blonde haired man and took a deep breath.

“Excuse me. Are you Per?” I asked.
“Yes.” He replied.
“Neil, from the Pit Crew Online. We emailed each other.”
“Ah! Yes. Neil Simmons.” Per said smiling.
“I could see Petter was really busy earlier as he is now, so I may leave the interview until tomorrow.” I said politely.
“We can do it straight after this TV interview. No problem.” Per replied.

I felt my heart rate get a bit quicker. Petter was nearing the end of his interview and I was about to be faced by a double World Rallycross champion.

“Only if you’re sure?” I asked.
“Sure. No problem.”

We stood to one side and I had noticed earlier my phone had died so I persuaded my friend to use his voice recorder on the phone to record the interview. Per nodded to me and I wandered over with the Quest TV crew watching on with a gathering of journalists who had been waved away. I felt out of my depth and slightly nervous, but I took a deep breath. I knew I only had three questions, due to time constraints.

“Hello. Petter. The Pit Crew Online, I write for them. We follow your career and I’m doing a special feature.” Petter relaxed from the initial approach and nodded at me.

“How did you feel how today went?” I asked, knowing that he had blitzed everybody in qualifying.

“I feel good. We did a lot of hard work since the last race in Belgium, because the Audi’s have been a little bit faster. But now I think we are catching them back again.” He replied.

“But you like Lydden don’t you?” I asked and Petter smiled.

“Ah. Lydden is a fantastic track. I am looking forward to tomorrow. We are going to try to do some small adjustments to get the team in first place.” Petter replied.

“And who do you think will be your biggest challenger tomorrow. Ekstrom?” I asked.

“Yeah. Ekstrom.Yeah. Definitely.”

Petter Solberg smiled and I put my hand forward and we shook.

“Fantastic. Thank you, Petter.”

He was welcoming, cheery and had a very relaxed nature about him. I had been very nervous but straight from the off he relaxed me. If I had more time then I could have gone into a few more questions but I knew he was against the clock.

That was Day One at Lydden. Bizarre, surreal and I interviewed Petter Solberg. World Rallycross offers some fantastic racing, insane action and boy…do they know how to put on a show! Lydden as a circuit is just so nice. I loved it.

I came to Lydden Hill as a motor racing writer and a World Rallycross fan, I left falling even more in love with this series. If you have never been to WRX event I urge you to go. Honestly, you won’t regret it.

Neil Simmons

WRX Editor

Twitter: @world_racing

Photo Credits: Neil Simmons 2016 (c)

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