Interview With Matt Neal

 

An Interview With Matt Neal

He made his BTCC debut at Silverstone in 1991 and has competed in 600+ British Touring Car races, has 60 wins, 16 poles, 49 fastest laps and is a 3-time BTCC Drivers’ Champion and 6-time Independent Drivers’ Champion. He has raced in Australia and Europe and was awarded the Autosport National Driver Of The Year in 2005 and 2011.

What is your favourite circuit?

In the UK Brands Hatch – Been a good hunting ground and is more old school. Overseas either Bathurst or Nordschleife. 

Who was your motor racing idol?

Nigel Mansell – He was always a fighter.

Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

My team mate Flash (Gordon Shedden).

Do you have a pre-race ritual/superstition and if so, what is it?

I have lots, I am annoyingly superstitious. 

Is there a race or series you never competed in, but would like/have liked the opportunity?

Not having done Le Mans is a regret, but I ain’t done too badly so I’m not complaining.

What is the best race you have been involved in? For what reason?

Bathurst 1,000km 1998, we almost won it as complete outsiders and underdogs, so it was what we all achieved together.

Personal Racing Number? What is yours and the meaning behind it?

Used to go with 5 as felt it was lucky and Mansell was always red 5, currently I’m 25 because that’s how long I’ve been racing, plus I had a big win years ago running as 25.

What was the best piece of advice given to you in your racing career?

A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.

Who is the funniest person or your best friend in racing?

Steve Thomas is one of my best mates, his laugh is infectious.

Considering drivers over all-time and series’, if you were a team principal, which two racers would you have in your team if you owned one?

Current drivers, Flash and Tom Onslow-Cole

Touring car fans will be familiar with you commentating on the WTCC, is this an area you would move into in the future and what do you enjoy about it?

It’s ok I enjoy it and the people I do it with.

How did you get into motor racing, what ignited that spark to race?

All I ever wanted to do from a child was race, as soon as I could drive at 17 I bought a motocross bike and trailer as cheapest thing to get into for biggest adrenalin rush, raced that for 4 years then my Dad got me into a car simply to get me away from bikes and went from there.

Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your racing career?

My Dad without doubt.

British Touring is gaining more and more exposure recently (and rightly so) but is there anything you would like to see happen in the media to improve this?

I’d like a two driver race back like in Australia be fun and add another dimension, although that’s not exactly media related.

Outside of racing, how do you relax, what are your hobbies or favourite other sports?

I’m away so much it’s lovely to go home and spend time with the family. But mountain biking, martial arts and training I keep myself pretty busy.

If you could invite 4 famous people (dead or alive) for dinner and drinks, who would they be?

JFK, Elvis, Adolf Hitler and the Queen, just be really interested on each of their takes on life.

Who is your favourite artist or band?

Paul Weller is pretty cool and has some absolute classics all through his career.

And finally…….If you could give advice to anybody (in racing or in life), what would they piece of advice be?

Get a good education and make sure you have a good exit strategy because more don’t make it than do.

This interview took place last year and I would like to thank Matt for taking the time out to answer these questions and wish him the very best for the remainder of the season.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Quick 10 With…..Neel Jani

 

He is a Swiss racing driver of Indian Gujarati origin who began karting in 1998. In 2000 he moved up to Formula Lista Junior for a year before moving to the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup and then the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup.

He raced in the GP2 series from 2005 to 2006 with Racing Engineering and stepping in for a race with Arden. He put his name in the record books as the only person at that time to drive F1 and GP2 on the same day as he was test driver for Formula One team Toro Rosso. In GP2 he won at the Hungaroring and Monza.

He combined his GP2 driving to race in A1GP for Team Switzerland. He took the championship in 2007/08 and finished second the following season. He switched to the Champ Car World Series for 2007 but it was his move to sportscar racing which heralded even greater success.

Driving for Rebellion from 2012 to 2013 in the World Endurance Championship he caught the eye of Porsche and made the move to factory driver in 2014.

In 2016 came his greatest success by not only winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans but securing the World Endurance Drivers’ championship with Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas.

He is a reigning world champion….these are his Quick 10 questions and he is…..

NEEL JANI

1. What is your favourite circuit and why?

Le Mans and the old Kyalami circuit are my favorite. Both are kind of old school race tracks where one small mistake could result in a big crash. It takes a lot of skill to go quick. You really have to know the limits and drive very precise.

2. Who is/was your racing idol?

I had several idol’s growing up from skiing to racing. I was, and still am, always impressed by the attitude and ability to perform under the extreme pressure of competition. It doesn’t matter which sport you do, the pressure is the same.

3. Who would you regard as your toughest opponent?

For 2017, Toyota will be our toughest opponent.

4. Considering racers of all time, you are a team principal and money is no object. Which two racers would you have in your team?

Jim Clark and Juan Pablo Montoya

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

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Muhammad Ali, Roger Federer, Mahatma Ghandi

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

#18. It gave me a lot good memories in 2002 during my Formula Renault year.

25.01.2009 Taupo, New Zealand, Neel Jani (SUI), driver of A1 Team Switzerland Neel Jani (SUI), driver of A1 Team Switzerland wins the feature race – A1GP World Cup of Motorsport 2008/09, Round 4, Taupo, Sunday Race 2 – Copyright A1GP – Free for editorial usage

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

A1 GP Durban because I was sick and I still won the race! My Le Mans 2016 victory because it was a race for the history books and it was an emotional roller coaster

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

No, I am very happy how things went in my career. Everything has a reason!

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

My family got me into racing, luckily, and we only lived about 5km from a go kart track and the home of Swiss Hutless Karts

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

Give your best and you can be happy, because you cannot do more.

I would like to thank Neel Jani for taking the time out from his busy schedule to answer the Quick 10 and wish him the very best for the forthcoming season. An absolute honour for me to be able to put these questions to a reigning World Champion.

See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Spirit Of Le Mans

2010 Le Mans 24 Hours
Peugeots run 1-2-3 and away from the field during the opening hours of the race. Photograph taken from a helicopter shows the famous Dunlop Bridge at bottom of frame and the road winds up to the Terte Rouge corner and the beginning of the Mulsanne straight.
Photo: Rick Dole
©2010 Rick Dole/All Rights Reserved.

Every person has a burning ambition inside them, born from a desire to test their resolve to the ultimate limit. Being able to reach those limits, to go beyond the boundaries, to come face to face with fear like nothing ever experienced before.

Not knowing whether the current lap will be the final chapter in the story. Holding on to every single piece of emotion so much, that the body tenses with every turn. Searching for ‘that’ zone, where the car becomes an extension of the mind through the curves and chicanes.

As the car begins to feel at ease gliding effortlessly through historic parts of the course another, more powerful, force enters the fray as Mother Nature calls upon all of her strength to cast sun, cloud, wind and rain into the dramatic opera. Responding. Reacting. Realising that this is all part of the test. Can the driver adapt and overcome to these powerful elements as the car speeds through treacherous rain on one side of the course to be met by dry conditions in another part?

Day becomes dusk. Dusk gently dissolves into night wrapping it’s cold arms around the circuit as the cars take on a new existence of life. The headlights flash at every turn, brake discs glowing hot in the cold night praying for morning to arrive, a step closer to that final chapter.

The field of gladiators dwindles, some temporarily but for others it is the end of the emotional journey.

On the horizon the first signs of daylight begin to appear as the sun rises to bring the start of a new day to this epic battle of endurance and speed. Drivers on the limit for every second of every minute of every hour.

There are no losers, not in this story, just the chosen men and women taking a journey into a world that few will ever experience. The crowd are roaring with delight, gasping at horrific crashes and applauding every driver that passes their vantage point. It is a distant respect of honour.

The excitement building to a crescendo of tears, laughter and sadness. To be victorious in unfavourable circumstances, humble in the disappointment of defeat and sombre at the loss of those who never returned from the journey.

Fireworks exploding along the grid as the hero crosses the line with the cast of equal heroes parading behind, every single one playing their part to perfection in this epic tale.

It is remembering why they do this, the reason that every single driver gambles with their life on every stretch of tarmac around this historic circuit and never forgetting that within a second everything can change.

That is the spirit of Le Mans.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

WTCC Adopt Rallycross Joker Lap

WORLD PREMIERE: VILA REAL WTCC JOKER LAP IS GO!

*Alternative route in Portugal located at final turn
*Ground-breaking initiative targets overtaking on street track
*WTCC drivers to take ‘joker’ lap once per race

World championship circuit racing is set for a global first when an alternative ‘joker’ lap is used in the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Vila Real in Portugal later this month.

Designed to further spice up the action on the challenging street circuit where overtaking isn’t always possible, the FIA World Rallycross-style concept will require drivers to take an alternative route in both the Opening Race and Main Race broadcast live around the world on 25 June.

18 MONTEIRO Tiago (por) Honda Civic team Honda racing Jas action during the 2016 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Championship race of Portugal, Vila Real from July 24 to 26 – Photo Jorge Cunha / DPPI

Vila Real’s ‘joker’ lap route is located at the final corner, Turn 26, with the full approval of the FIA Safety Department and local authorities. While the right/left flick through a roundabout will still be used in normal racing conditions, the alternative route will effectively take drivers the other way onto the roundabout and through a tighter left/right sequence before they re-join the start/finish straight. The alternative route is expected to take an additional two seconds, which will hand pursuing drivers ample opportunity to overtake.

However, the ‘joker’ lap cannot be taken until the third lap of either race, while drivers will be able to practice the new route during Free Practice 1 and 2 on 24 June.

The ‘joker’ lap location will be highlighted by special branding to make it visible and understandable on TV. A graphic will give viewers instant notification when the lap has been taken, while fans following live timing will be able to determine the ‘joker’ status of each driver.

François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, welcomed confirmation of the Vila Real ‘joker’ lap. “The ‘joker’ lap concept works very well in rallycross, and I’m certain it will bring an extra dimension to the WTCC street race in Vila Real. It will open up strategies for each WTCC driver, and might even change the course of the race. Of course we never compromise on safety so we have worked very closely with our colleagues at the FIA and with the authorities in Vila Real to put in place a route that matches our requirements but also conforms to all the rigorous safety standards.”

18 MONTEIRO Tiago (por) Honda Civic team Honda racing Jas action during the 2016 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Championship race of Portugal, Vila Real from July 24 to 26 – Photo Alexandre Guillaumot / DPPI

Tiago Monteiro, who claimed a hugely popular home in Vila Real last season driving for the factory Honda team, said: “It’s great to try new ideas, new options to spice up the show. When you are in pole position you don’t really want the ‘joker’ lap because you don’t want to lose your lead. But if you are not on pole position then there is a new opportunity to overtake.”

Yvan Muller, the four-time world champion and now a development driver for Cyan Racing, the team behind Volvo Polestar’s factory effort in the WTCC, said: “It’s like the WTCC MAC3 [team time trial]. Everyone said ‘ah, it’s a crazy thing’ and so on but it’s something new. And when it’s new and it shows something different, it’s always good. We have to try new things, to bring new positive and attractive elements.”

The ‘joker’ lap route remains subject to a final FIA track inspection on 21 June.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photos: (c) courtesy of WTCC

1932 Trophy For Silverstone 500 Winners

The overall winning drivers of British GT’s blue riband Silverstone 500 race will lift a historical piece of silverware next weekend (June 10/11) following the unveiling of the event’s new standalone trophy.

British GT organisers announced the prize at the end of 2016 and have since worked closely with Silverstone’s owners, the British Racing Drivers’ Club, to identify a suitably significant piece of silverware. Its archive contains many such examples but, together, the BRDC and SRO Motorsports Group have selected the ‘RAC Trophy’ that was previously awarded for a 500-mile race at Brooklands on 24 September 1932.

Back then it was common practice for prominent sporting bodies and organisations to sponsor individual awards. The Royal Automobile Club was no exception and presented its cup to BRDC Member William Alexander Cuthbert and his co-driver Cecil Wingfield Fiennes who finished fourth in 1932’s race driving a Riley 1100.

Almost a century ago the ‘500’ was considered one of the BRDC’s and Brooklands’ showpiece events. Indeed, Motor Sport Magazine’s season review, taken from its December 1932 issue, described it as “one of the finest races staged at Brooklands in years,” and “The ‘500’ added still further to its reputation as the finest race of the year at Brooklands.”

But when the circuit was requisitioned on the eve of WWII and subsequently sold in 1946, so the Club’s attention switched to another RAF base: Silverstone.

British GT has staged its own version of the ‘500’ there since 2012, which The Home Of British Motor Racing is now keen to formally recognise as a flagship event in its annual calendar. As such, this year’s race weekend will feature a prominent ‘Supercar Sunday’ display as well as family entertainment, open paddock, free grandstand access and pit walk.

Benjamin Franassovici, British GT Championship Manager: “The Silverstone 500 has gathered momentum since we first staged the race in 2012 and is very much seen as our season’s blue riband event. We were keen to further emphasise this by awarding a historically significant trophy to the overall winners and, thanks to the BRDC’s efforts, will be doing so for the first time this year. The trophy is stunning and a wonderful way of aligning our season’s biggest race with a genuine piece of British motorsport history. Whoever wins it can be mightily proud to see their name engraved on its silver and mahogany base.”

Adult tickets for next weekend’s Silverstone 500 start at just £12 while children aged 15 and under can attend for free all weekend. Visit www.silverstone.co.uk/events/british-gt-championship/ for more information.

SILVERSTONE 500 SCHEDULE

Saturday 10 June

09:30 – 10:30: Free Practice 1
12:25 – 13:25: Free Practice 2
16:05 – 16:15: Qualifying – GT3 Am
16:19 – 16:29: Qualifying – GT3 Pro
16:33 – 16:43: Qualifying – GT4 Am
16:48 – 16:58: Qualifying – GT4 Pro

Sunday 11 June

10:05 – 10:15: Warm-up
13:35 – 16:35: Race

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

(c) Photograph and press release courtesy of SRO Motorsports Group

 

 

Gordon Shedden Leads Pack Into Croft

 

Gordon Shedden (GBR) Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R

 

The 2017 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship reaches its half way point next weekend (10/11 June) as the series’ pilgrimage around the best of the UK’s motor racing venues reaches North Yorkshire’s Croft Circuit for Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the campaign.

A capacity 32-car grid will head north with drivers still searching for a foothold in Britain’s premier motor racing series, and the first dozen rounds of the season have been typically feisty and unpredictable – the fiercely competitive nature of the BTCC throwing up eight different visitors to the top step of the podium so far

.

Five marques have been represented in the winners’ circle, with Subaru joining the fold with a maiden win in 2017 via star turn Ash Sutton at Oulton Park – the site of its historic first victory in the championship last year.

The power shifted in the Drivers’ standings following the latest three rounds in Cheshire, with reigning champion Honda’s Gordon Shedden wresting control at the head of the pack after a disastrous outing for early-season table-topper Tom Ingram in the Speedworks Motorsport Toyota.

Tom Chilton (GBR) Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra

The latter will be looking to bounce back after notching just a single point at Oulton, which shuffled him from top of the tree to third on the ladder between the Team BMW pair of Rob Collard second, and Colin Turkington, fourth – both winners at Croft in 2016.

A strong crowd is expected to descend on the charming, charismatic and challenging Croft Circuit to enjoy the mid-June sun with hundreds of thousands more watching the action live on ITV4, as is the case for each and every BTCC encounter.

A year on…

Gordon Shedden endured a tumultuous first half of the campaign in 2016 in his bid to retain his crown. By the time the Halfords Yuasa Racing champion arrived in North Yorkshire, he had suffered three non-finishes. Despite this, he still sat fourth in the championship.

Croft, though, did the Scot no favours with a weekend-best result of just 13th place and a race three finish outside of the top 20 leaving him marooned way down the order in the race for the most coveted crown in British motor sport – ninth and over 50 points shy of then-leader Sam Tordoff.

It’s a different kettle of fish in 2017, though, as Shedden stands in charge at the top of the pile as he searches for a third consecutive BTCC crown. A consistent run of results, with only one non-finish, a disqualification from a provisional race win at Donington Park, encompasses two race wins and five visits to the rostrum – double the number of each in comparison to this same stage last season.

This leaves the triple champion with a very different proposition at the classic Darlington venue this time around – heading the pack with maximum success ballast on board his Honda Civic Type R, albeit at the scene of his worst weekend of 2016.

“It’s fantastic to be heading there leading the championship, but the downside to that is having to carry 75kg of glorious ballast for qualifying and race one!” said Shedden. “That means we’ll need to play the long game, but hopefully the Civic Type R will do the business and the weekend will come to me as it goes on.”

“Croft is an interesting circuit,” he reflected. “It’s a little bit like a game of two halves with some really slow, technical corners and some really fast, high-adrenaline corners, which always throws up a few surprises.”

Michael Epps (GBR) Autoaid / RCIB Insurance Racing Volkswagen CC

Those next up in the running will be hot on Shedden’s heels, ready to capitalise, and will have a job on their hands given Honda, with the exception of last year, are traditionally extremely strong at Croft with 13 wins there in the modern era – joint-most with BMW.

It is the Bavarian marque currently leading the chase with Team BMW’s Rob Collard – the only driver to have scored points in every race so far in 2017. He also happens to have a sparkling record there, having won twice in the last two visits, tallying five podium finishes since 2014.

Croft is a circuit that naturally favours rear-wheel drive machinery and the sister Team BMW machine, harbouring Colin Turkington, will surely be there or thereabouts as he aims to close on Shedden from fourth in the standings. The Ulsterman has garnered the most victories, podiums and fastest laps there in the last 20 years – 11, 19 and 7 respectively. Little wonder he has been dubbed the ‘King of Croft’.

Speedworks Motorsport’s Tom Ingram is in recovery mode and will be looking to make amends and get his title challenge back on track while Matt Neal in the second Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R is also in the mix – a stunning podium triple at Oulton Park made certain of that.

The third 125i M Sport, of BMW Pirtek Racing’s Andrew Jordan is currently some 50 points shy of the top of the table but a victory and a further podium at Oulton Park showed he is firmly in contention, as is the Subaru of Ash Sutton who is just ahead in the tally in sixth spot after his trip to the top step in Cheshire.

Jason Plato (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

Local Heroes

Legendary BTCC champion Jason Plato has suffered a difficult 2017 to date, with fewer points on the board after the opening 12 rounds than ever before. A heavy start line shunt at the season-opening weekend was a factor and Plato will be hoping to be back at the sharp end on home soil, with the Subaru now a race-winning machine in 2017 in the hands of team-mate Ash Sutton.

“There’s progress on my car at times but we’re still trying to fathom what exactly is wrong with it,” said Plato. “At the moment it still won’t do what we want it to do.

“Mine is not responding in the same way as the other cars – we made changes on the others and got the same reaction from each, but made the same changes on my car and there was no reaction, so something’s not working.

“I always enjoy coming to Croft,” continued Plato, who grew up in nearby Newcastle. “It’s great to see familiar faces and the racing is always good. It’s usually a rear-wheel drive track and it suited the Subaru last year and hopefully we’ll make another step there with my car and we’ll see what we can do as a team. I’m looking forward to it.”

Huddersfield’s Dan Lloyd also calls Croft home and the MG man will be hoping to make a jump next weekend and build on a season-best 12th last time out, though matching his qualifying effort last year – a front-row berth – may be a tough challenge for the MG6 on current form.

Ashley Sutton (GBR) Team BMR Subaru Levorg

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

(c) Photographs and press release courtesy of BTCC

Hyundai i30 TCR Completes Successful Test In Valencia

Thierry Neuville – Testing

 

  • Hyundai Motorsport continued to develop the New Generation i30 TCR with an intensive three-day program at the Circuit de Valencia
  • After previous testing allowed the team to establish a base set-up for the car, attention turned to maximizing the performance from specific areas of the chassis
  • The focus of the running at the 4km track was on testing different brake materials and damper settings.

Alzenau, Germany

June 2, 2017 – Hyundai Motorsport continued with the testing schedule for the New Generation i30 TCR earlier this week (May 30-June 1), successfully completing three days at the Circuit de Valencia.

Dani Sordo – Testing

The team returned to Spain for the third circuit test of the new car, having previously completed running at the Motorland Aragon circuit in the country, as well as Misano in Italy. As the development continued, attention turned from establishing a strong foundation for the project to concentrating on improving specific areas of performance.

With its technical infield section, long front straight and sweeping penultimate corner, the Valencia circuit was chosen, like the testing venues before it, for its mix of high and low speed corners. This offered the test team the opportunity to fully assess the balance of the chassis in a variety of situations over the course of the week, as the tight development schedule demands.

Focus falls on brakes and damper settings

The time at the Valencia circuit, which hosted a round of the inaugural TCR International Series season, was spent assessing different brake materials and damper settings. With each set-up change Hyundai Motorsport’s squad of engineers could compare the data not only with the New Generation i30 TCR’s previous runs on the 4km circuit, but with the baseline data gained from both Aragon and Misano. This information was then used, in conjunction with the feedback from Touring Car veteran and lead test driver Gabriele Tarquini, in order to work towards the ideal configuration.

Hayden Paddon – Testing

The New Generation i30 TCR is Hyundai Motorsport’s first project designed for circuit racing. The development of the new car is being overseen by the experienced engineers from the Customer Racing department based at the team’s headquarters in Alzenau, Germany. The first completed chassis are scheduled to be delivered to customers in early December.

Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing department manager Andrea Adamo said: “Already we have proved that we have a very strong base car. However, this early in a project there are always areas where you can still increase performance and, more importantly for customer project, improve drivability. After establishing the foundations for the set-up at our previous tests we are now building on to them. At Valencia we focused on the damper and brake settings, and we finished this week with very good information in these areas. Future tests will concentrate on other areas, such as developing the aerodynamic package and maximizing the power from the engine.”

About the Hyundai Motorsport TCR project

Announced in February 2017 the TCR project marks Hyundai Motorsport’s first steps into circuit racing following three full seasons in the World Rally Championship (WRC). Built and developed by the Customer Racing department at the team’s headquarters in Alzenau, Germany the touring car racer will be based on the road-going New Generation i30 model. Design work for the project began in September 2016, taking advantage of the TCR regulations which, since their introduction in 2015, have been adopted by more than a dozen national and international championships. Testing of the first completed chassis began in April 2017, with the first car planned to be delivered to customer teams in early December 2017.

Further information about Hyundai Motorsport is available at: http://motorsport.hyundai.com

About Hyundai Motor

Established in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company is committed to becoming a lifetime partner in automobiles and beyond. The company, which leads the Hyundai Motor Group, an innovative business structure capable of circulating resources from molten iron to finished cars, offers top-quality best-sellers such as Elantra, Sonata and Genesis. Hyundai Motor has eight manufacturing bases and seven design & technical centers worldwide and in 2015, sold 4.96 million vehicles globally. With more than 100,000 employees worldwide, Hyundai Motor continues to enhance its product line-up with localized models and strives to strengthen its leadership in clean technology, starting with the world’s first mass-produced hydrogen-powered vehicle, ix35 Fuel Cell.

More information about Hyundai Motor and its products can be found at: http://worldwide.hyundai.com or http://globalpr.hyundai.com/

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_Racing

(c) Photographs and press release courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport

IMSA Agree TCR Class For 2018

WSC Ltd, the rights holder for TCR, and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), today confirmed plans for a TCR class to begin competing in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, beginning in 2018.

The TCR class will run in addition to the two existing Continental Tire Challenge classes, Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) next season.

“We began our due diligence process on the potential introduction of the TCR platform more than a year ago, and formally announced that we were exploring the concept last year,” said IMSA CEO Ed Bennett. “We engaged our automotive partners and teams throughout the discovery process and determined that TCR would be an attractive addition to the Continental Tire Challenge. We are pleased to work together with WSC CEO Marcello Lotti and Sporting and Series Director Nunzia Corvino to introduce what we believe will be a popular class to IMSA fans and participants.”

Through its partnership with WSC, IMSA will use TCR cars fully homologated by WSC in the new Continental Tire Challenge class. The TCR class is projected to slot in between GS and ST, based on its current level of performance.

As the market develops for TCR-spec cars, IMSA has the additional, exclusive right to establish TCR USA and TCR Canada as standalone series. IMSA, in cooperation with WSC, also now holds the right to sublicense the proper use of TCR specifications to other sanctioning bodies in the territory as well.

“TCR has quickly become the standard global Touring Car platform,” said Lotti. “Our goal was to once again create a base for Touring Car racing. The crucial part about it was to keep the costs for the cars low to ensure equality of opportunity. In North America, we believed IMSA was the most professional partner available in the market and we could not be more pleased to establish this partnership together.”

Current TCR manufacturers with a presence in North America include Audi, Ford, Honda, Alfa Romeo, KIA, Subaru and Volkswagen.

TCR cars will make their Continental Tire Challenge debut next January at the Daytona International Speedway during the three-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 At Daytona, with their first race planned for the day preceding the 2018 Rolex 24.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

(c) Photos courtesy of TCR International Series

Press Release courtesy of TCR International Series

WRX – Farewell Lydden – Part Two

Of course, being the Sunday of World Rallycross the crowds flocked and the queue on the A2 backed up. We managed to slot into the queue and from the dual carriageway I could see that the cars were being directed into the top field above the circuit, adjacent to a field which the previous day had been clear. We negotiated our way into Lydden Hill and made our way down the dusty track to hopefully where we parked the before, in the VIP and media car park behind the grandstand, but our hopes faded as the security guard on the point directed us to…yes you guessed it, the top field adjacent to the field which I had seen on the way in. It was going to be a longer trek down to the circuit, but the sun was out and the cars were revving. It was a perfect day.

Our first stop-off point was the garage of Oliver Bennett. He was guesting in the WRX for this round. His Ford Fiesta was parked under an Xite Energy drinks marquee, his major sponsor and there were plastic shot containers on a desk with a variety of different flavours to try, of course it would be rude not to take full advantage of the complimentary offers so I did. He was being spoken to by Liam Doran who was in Bennett’s garage this weekend and they were discussing tactics and how the next two qualifying heats should be approached. Bennett took on board what Doran had to say and then donned his racing helmet to jump into the car whilst Liam Doran picked up the radio headset and headed off towards his spotting position.

Time was ticking down and I could hear the cars making their way through the paddock into the pre-grid area situated in front of the Monster Energy tower. We wandered in that general direction and I sauntered by the Team Peugeot garage and spotted the Frenchman who I spoke to the previous day who sponsored the team. He walked over to me and we started chatting and he asked if I was still interested in speaking with the drivers, which of course I said yes. He grabbed the team PR lady and we arranged that I would visit the hospitality area at around 4.30pm. First job of the day complete.

It was time for Q3

Petter Solberg would go top again in a weekend he was beginning to thoroughly dominate. He was over one and a half seconds in front of his team mate, Kristoffersson and over three seconds ahead of Ekstrom. All three drivers maintained their position from Q2

Solberg led the race and took his joker on lap three, re-taking the lead when Kristoffersson took his joker on lap four.

Behind the top three, Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud and Sweden’s Timmy Hansen battled over fourth place in the race and were fifth and seventh in Q3, Hansen’s Team Peugeot-Hansen team mate Sebastien Loeb was fourth and America’s Ken Block sixth, the two drivers continuing their battle from Saturday at Lydden Hill.

Like he was in Q1, Finland’s Topi Heikkinen was eighth fastest in Q3 to return to the top twelve after he was slowed with an engine problem in Q2. Sweden’s Kevin Eriksson also won his race in Q3 and was ninth fastest, with Heikkinen’s EKS team mate Reinis Nitiss 10th. Finland’s Niclas Gronholm was also inside the top 12 along with Sweden’s Kevin Hansen. Great Britain’s Andrew Jordan wass currently in the semi-final places for the MJP Racing Team Austria team, in 11th, despite being slowed with technical problems at the end of his race in Q3.

The postitions looked like this, with qualifying points:

1st – Petter Solberg – 150pts

2nd – Johan Kristoffersson – 135pts

3rd – Mattias Ekstrom – 126pts

4th – Andreas Bakkerud – 119pts

5th – Sebastien Loeb – 115pts

6th – Timmy Hansen – 115pts

7th – Ken Block – 113pts

8th – Kevin Eriksson – 101pts

9th – Timur Timerzyanov – 98pts

10th – Janis Baumanis – 97pts

11th – Andrew Jordan – 95pts

12th – Toomas Heikkinen – 94pts

——————————————

13th – Guy Wilks – 89pts

14th – Jean-Baptiste Dubourg – 86pts

15th – Niclas Gronholm – 85pts

16th – Rene Muennich – 84pts

17th – Kevin Hansen – 83pts

18th – Oliver O’Donovan – 80pts

19th – Gregoire Demoutier – 76pts

20th – Reinis Nitiss – 74pts

21st – CSUCSU – 73pts

22nd – Martin Kaczmarski – 73pts

23rd – Oliver Bennett – 68pts

24th – M.D.K. – 67pts

Q4 was going to be so important and with some very talented drivers outside the top twelve it would take some big efforts for a place in the semi-final heats. From Timerzyanov to Heikkinen, those drivers would be looking over their shoulders for those contenders chasing a place. All drivers down to 16th place would gain championship points during the qualifying heats so there were further battles down the order to be completed.

Sweden’s Timmy Hansen set the fastest time in Q4 at the World RX of Great Britain to end Norway’s Petter Solberg’s runs of fastest times.

Hansen took the joker lap early in his race and won on track to be fastest, as in the last race of the Q3 session Johan Kristoffersson beat his team mate Solberg for the first time of the weekend, Kristoffersson second behind Hansen in Q4 with Solberg in third. Solberg was top qualifier at the Intermediate Classification and as a result would start on pole position for semi-final one, while Kristoffersson would start on pole position in semi-final two.

Hansen’s Q4 time means he moved to third in the Intermediate Classification and would join Solberg on the front row for semi-final one, Kristoffersson joined by his countryman Mattias Ekstrom on the first row for semi-final two. Ekstrom who was eighth fastest in Q4 after a battle with Sebastien Loeb, the nine-time World Rally Champion would start on the second row of the same semi-final race, next to MJP Racing Team Austria’s Kevin Eriksson and in front of Latvia’s Janis Baumanis and Finland’s Topi Heikkinen.

Hoonigan Racing Division team mates Andreas Bakkerud and Ken Block were fourth and fifth in Q4 and would start together on row two of semi-final one, with Andrew Jordan and Timur Timerzyanov also making it into the top 12 to join the semi-final one grid on the third row. Reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion Kevin Hansen, who was celebrating his 19th birthday at Lydden Hill, was ninth fastest in Q4 but just missed out on a place in the semi-finals due to technical problems he encountered the previous day.

The semi-final line-ups would look like this:

SEMI-FINAL 1

ROW 1

Petter Solberg – VW Polo GTI

Timmy Hansen – Peugeot 208

ROW 2

Andreas Bakkerud – Ford Focus RS

Ken Block – Ford Focus RS

ROW 3

Janis Baumanis – Ford Fiesta

Timur Timerzyanov – Ford Fiesta

SEMI-FINAL 2

ROW 1

Johan Kristoffersson – VW Polo GTI

Mattias Ekstrom – Audi S1

ROW 2

Sebastien Loeb – Peugeot 208

Andrew Jordan – Ford Fiesta

ROW 3

Kevin Eriksson – Ford Fiesta

Toomas Heikkinen – Audi S1

We had watched Q3 at the back end of the circuit opposite Chessons Drift. We looked down at the entrance to the joker with the packed car park in our view on the opposite side of the circuit. The bank rises up and to the right the trees block the view of the start/finish line, but my can you hear the engines as they rev up. It’s a weird mix of acoustics as the sound of the revving cuts out and there is this low grumble which grows louder and louder until eventually the cars pop into view. Remember, these beasts can accelerate off the start line quicker than a Formula One car, so by the time they reach the entrance into the drift or the joker, whichever a driver decides, those cars are going at a rate of knots. They burst into view with the sound of screeching tyres, the smell of burning rubber being pushed up your nostrils and the dust from the drift billows up into the air and as the wind catches it the cloud switches direction and hits you in the face. It is a most incredible experience.

Q4 we watched from the banking directly in front of the Monster Energy tower, the view is good. You can see all of the circuit from this vantage point if you are standing high enough up the banking. It was from here that we decided to walk back through the paddock after the Q4 excitement to grab some lunch back at the car and to see what faces I could bump into.

I had a Pit Crew Staff t-shirt which was tucked in my waistband and I had decided I was going to get some drivers to sign it, for prosperities sake. The first person I managed to grab on the way back to lunch was Janis Baumanis. There was a little translation problem at first as he took my marker pen, I thought he was saying “write”, which I thought was odd as I wanted him to write it, but turns out he meant “tight”, so Viv pointed out to me that he wanted me to pull the t-shirt tighter. That little obstacle conquered and signature number one out the way.

Sebastien Loeb walked out the Peugeot garage, he was in jovial mood and was smiling for photographs. I asked him how preparations were going for the semi-final and he winked, giving me a thumbs up. I took that as things were going pretty well.

Managed to get Andrew Jordan to sign the Pit Crew t-shirt and we decided to head back to the car for lunch.

The cars were lining up in the pre-grid for the semi-final heats, there was a World War Two fly-by and the national anthem. I had arranged to meet Neil Cole, the WRX television reporter, and I could see him interviewing Petter Solberg and feverishly walking around the paddock so I walked round, leaving Viv on the public side and entered the pre-grid area. I wandered over to the race office and leant over the wooden fencing and called Neil’s name, he was leaning against the wall. He smiled and shook my hand and I could tell he was busy so I let him get on.

I walked down into the pre-grid area where the cars were assembled, mechanics performing their final checks, media personnel buzzing around and VIP guests standing to one side and watching. I had the crew from Hoonigan Racing Division standing next to me, a mixture of nationalities but I managed to make out a few Americans and British accents. They were discussing the upcoming semi-final and judging by the conversation there was a lot of confidence about Bakkerud making it through.

The Frenchman I met yesterday was standing above me on the gantry and he smiled. “Four-thirty!” he shouted down, giving me the thumbs up. I returned the greeting and said that I would be there.

The cars for semi-final one were being moved out onto the grid, I was standing just inches away and it wasn’t just the noise but the heat coming from the cars was unbelievable. Neil Cole ran back through, he intimated to me by touching his ear-piece that the live show was on so now wasn’t a good time to talk. I understood.

The Hoonigan mechanics were right with their feelings as Andreas Bakkerud qualified in 2nd place just under a second behind Petter Solberg, with Timmy Hansen bringing his Peugeot through in 4th. The second semi-final would see Solberg’s team mate Kristoffersson win convincingly over Loeb and Ekstrom, who was having by his standards a particularly quiet weekend, in 3rd. The final was set. I also managed to get a photograph with Kevin Eriksson.

ROW 1

Petter Solberg

Johan Kristoffersson

ROW 2

Andreas Bakkerud

Sebastien Loeb

ROW 3

Timmy Hansen

Mattias Ekstrom

During the final I stood underneath the Cooper Tire inflatable with Kevin Eriksson next to me. We greeted each other and as the final got under way he commented how Petter got an electric start.

The final was underway.

Petter Solberg took an emphatic win with Johan Kristoffersson making it a one-two for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden, while Hoonigan Racing Division’s Andreas Bakkerud took the third podium spot in his Ford Focus RS RX Supercar.

Kristoffersson’s runner-up position this weekend catapulted the Swede to the top of the drivers’ standings – four points ahead of Mattias Ekstrom who finished fourth in his Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro. Ekstrom, who suffered a puncture in today’s final, had the fastest reaction off the start awarding the reigning World RX Champion with the coveted Monster Energy Super Charge Award. In the overall teams’ standings, PSRX Volkswagen Sweden continue to dominate – 69 points ahead of Team Peugeot-Hansen who remain second.

“This is the victory I needed,” beamed Solberg, who took his first win since Portugal 2016. “The team have been flat out over the last couple of months – the car is good but it’s the little details that the team have been working on that has given us the consistency we need. It’s been good team-work with Johan too – we give and take a little bit from each other and it’s been working very well. Now I’m looking forward to my home event in Norway – we have done some testing there and know the track well so this will help. It’s a very special place for us – we are a small country but with over 25,000 fans attending Hell RX the atmosphere is always fantastic. I have competed in motorsport for many years and things can happen very quickly – we must remain consistent and stay smart. Regarding Lydden Hill, I have to say thank you – the atmosphere is always amazing and the volunteers have been great.”

New Championship leader Kristoffersson commended Solberg on his Lydden Hill victory. “Congratulations to Petter, he has been brilliant all weekend,” explained the 28-year-old Swede. “He has had the upper hand since the draw and managed his tyres very well. It’s all about the points now, I am now leading the Championship and the Teams’ Championship is looking very good too. My launches are now feeling better and the reaction times are getting faster every time – it’s been a good team effort. I’m really pleased with the weekend and this is the fourth Volkswagen podium in a row. Now I’m leading the Championship for the first time on my own and it’s a great feeling – I will definitely be fighting hard to keep it that way!”

Third-placed Andreas Bakkerud added: “Huge congratulations to Petter and Johan – both have been quick from practice onwards and for me, this weekend was about being the best of the rest. The whole team did a fantastic job – we tried our hardest but it was not quite fast enough. It’s just a small window of time before Hell, we have some developments to try so I must push that weekend and I hope that we can get back to the top.”

Rounding out the top five this weekend was Frenchman Sebastien Loeb – the Team Peugeot-Hansen driver fighting hard with Ekstrom for the majority of today’s final. Timmy Hansen was sixth overall, the Swede slowed after spinning his Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar on North Bend and later losing time with a left-rear puncture.

I headed to the media centre where I caught up with Petter Solberg for a one-on-one interview. He remembered me from our interview on top of the Monster Energy stage last year and smiled whilst shaking my hand, which I thought was a really nice gesture.

“I know you like it at Lydden. Last race here, what did that mean to you?” I asked.

“For sure it means a lot, it’s sad that we are going.” Petter replied.

“I was looking at the times of the session across the weekend and at times you were one to two seconds above everyone else. What made that difference?” I asked.

“The driver.”

We both laughed, what a great response. Petter shook my hand and thanked me for the questions, he wished me well and said “See you again,” before wandering off to the stage to be interviewed for the television with Kristoffersson and Bakkerud.

I listened in to the press conference surrounded by all the other media outlets, journalists jostling for places to get the best audio recordings.

I headed away from the media centre after the drivers had spoken to meet up with Viv who was taking in the sights of the circuit being cleared up and we headed off to the Team Peugeot garage. The PR lady took myself and Viv through to the hospitality suite and she informed us the drivers were having their debrief and she wasn’t sure how long they were going to be.

I sat down and readied my questions and we waited as the Peugeot staff cleared away the equipment and other media representatives waited patiently. Time moved by and it appeared the drivers were busier than had been expected. The PR lady walked in and said she wasn’t sure how long they were going to be as there had been a lot to discuss. Not knowing how long it was going to take, we had been waiting for about half an hour and also not wanting to look like a pest I said that I understood they were very busy and that maybe we could arrange an interview with all three drivers another time. She agreed to this and seemed a bit relieved I wasn’t being pushy about the interview which had been arranged.

I have this outlook on interviews that if I came across as a pushy and impatient writer then any future articles would be lost because people remember. I use Petter Solberg as an example, he remembered how I spoke to him the previous year at Lydden and although he was due to get to the stage for TV, he took the time to come and talk to me, because he remembered. I hope the same applies to the Team Peugeot representatives.

If you have read my Adventures From Lydden article last year and this two part live special, you won’t need to be told how much of a fantastic time I have at World Rallycross events. This weekend in particular was just an amazing adventure. I got to meet some great people, spoke informally with drivers in a relaxed atmosphere and had an extreme amount of fun. This was Viv’s first visit to a World Rallycross event and she also enjoyed the whole race weekend experience. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you have never been to a WRX event, then I highly recommend you put this on your to-do list.

Thank you World Rallycross. Thank you Lydden Hill.

Here are your championship standings:

See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons and Viv Gillings

Twitter: @world_racing

Photographs © – Viv Gillings

Twitter: @viv_simmons

The Lydden Frontier – Part One

World Rallycross

Neil Simmons and Viv Gillings

Although Lydden Hill Circuit is not too far from our home, it was an early start as we prepared the provisions for our day at World Rallycross, the last one to be held at Lydden Hill.

We arrived in good time and were directed to the media car park behind the grandstands. The swirling clouds had gathered and it looked like our decision to wear summer tops and shorts was a bad one. We had nothing to fear, the sun would shine and shine very bright on this fantastic event and superb circuit.

As soon as we got out the car you could hear the WRX cars in free practice and noise of the engines, not far from us. “Oh my!” Viv said with a smile on her face. She’s a petrol head and I just knew from that opening statement she was going to enjoy today.

The first visit was to the paddock to cast our eyes around the garages and marquees. I saw Janis Baumanis wandering down the pit lane and decided to ask him how he thought things were going. He was in good spirits and appeared happy with how his preparations were going. Baumanis was sitting 9th after the free practice which had been dominated by Solberg and Kristoffersson, Ekstrom a further six tenths behind the PSRX drivers. Bumped into Reinis Nitiss, he smiled and looked upbeat. I also wandered over and spoke with Mattias Ekstrom at the area where they scrutineer the cars. He was his usual smiling self and stopped to have his photograph taken with fans. I thanked him for doing my Quick 10 interview recently and he said it was a pleasure. I wished him luck as I could see he was in a rush to get to his car and I didn’t want to hold him up.

This was Viv’s first time in the WRX paddock so I decided to give her the tour of the circuit. We walked round each paddock in a zig-zag formation, through to the area where they scrutineer the cars and then up to the Monster Energy stage. A quick “pit stop” there to grab some energy drinks and then off round the side of the Canterbury Straight, but through the camp site set behind the trees and at the rear of race control.

We had a great view of the circuit, wandered up on top of the Monster Energy tower and I managed to get my photo taken with a Monster Energy girl, as you do.

The path winds through a beautiful wooded area and if it wasn’t for the sound of the popping, whizzing and cracking of the rallycross cars just metres away it painted a picture of tranquility. We continued to walk up a steep rise to stand behind the joker between Pilgrims and Chessons Drift. The WRX cars were out and we stood just metres away as they came round to practice their joker laps, dust flying up into the air and into the crowd. Mattias Ekstrom nearly lost his back end coming into the joker. That could have been costly!

After grabbing a few snaps we walked into the massive grass car parking area down the side of Dover Slope. The rallycross cars were still flying round but our attention was also drawn to some fantastic spectator cars parked up, Viv, being a massive Ford fan, had her attention drawn to the selection of Ford Focus RS’s and Ford Fiesta’s on display and an Aston Martin. In fact throughout the day I think we visited the garage of Hoonigan Racing Division more times than any other team, not that I minded.

We finished up standing at the North Bend looking down Hairy Hill and it was the RX2 cars who were now skirting round the circuit. The sun was now blazing down. It was time to grab some refreshments.

Once refreshed, I decided to visit the garage of MJP Racing, having interviewed team boss Max Pucher and Kevin Eriksson this week in my build up. Max had told me in a conversation we had to stop by the garage. I spoke to one of the team members who informed me that Max was racing in Italy this weekend. I managed to see Kevin before the qualifying heats, he was standing in front of the television in the team hospitality area studying the times. As he turned I called him and Kevin walked over smiling.

I thanked him for doing the Quick 10 interview questions with me and he said it was a pleasure and he enjoyed the questions. He leant on the barrier and we just spoke informally, it didn’t feel like I was interviewing him, it just seemed like a normal converstaion. He told me he was feeling good this weekend and was hoping for a final slot. Kevin added that with everybody so close together in terms of timing, it was difficult to predict anything right now. I asked him what it was like having Andrew Jordan stepping in as team mate instead of Timo Scheider this weekend. Kevin smiled and said that Andrew was great to be around but it was strange having him as a team mate as he had now got used to Timo being part of the team. Kevin looked extremely relaxed and happy. Not wanting to take up too much of his valuable time, I wished him well, thanked him for his time and we shook hands. A genuinely nice person.

I love wandering around any racing paddock but there is something truly remarkable about the World Rallycross paddock. The teams are friendly, the personnel very accommodating and it is just a really relaxed atmosphere. Knowing that this is going to be the last WRX weekend before the championship switches RX Great Britain to Silverstone did fill me with a little bit of sadness and I truly hope the paddock stays as it is when it moves.

Heading into Q1 the following grid was decided (Pole is situated to the right of the circuit):

RACE 1

Mattias Ekstrom (Pole)

Andreas Bakkerud

Ken Block

Niclas Gronholm

RACE 2

Petter Solberg (Pole)

Johan Kristoffersson

CSUCSU

Rene Muennich

Timur Timerzyanov

RACE 3

Andrew Jordan (Pole)

Reinis Nitiss

Oliver O’Donovan

Timmy Hansen

M.D.K.

RACE 4

Janis Baumanis (Pole)

Kevin Eriksson

Jean-Baptiste Dubourg

Toomas Heikkinen

Guy Wilks

RACE 5

Gregoire Demoustier (Pole)

Oliver Bennett

Kevin Hansen

Sebastien Loeb

Martin Kaczmarski

The story of Q1 was that Petter Solberg would finish just under a second ahead of his team mate Johan Kristoffersson who was also two seconds ahead of championship leader Mattias Ekstrom. Andreas Bakkerud, Timmy Hansen, Ken Block, Sebastien Loeb, Toomas Heikkinen, Kevin Eriksson, Andrew Jordan, Janis Baumanis and Timur Timerzyanov would make up the top twelve, the drivers who after all four qualifying heats would make it through to the semi-finals.

Reinis Nitiss received a thirty second time penalty for not taking his joker lap and Niclas Gronholm had a terrible accident after his car rolled several times exiting onto the Dover Slope. The driver emerged from the car unscathed and scrambled over the barriers to safety.

The grids for the second round of qualifying read like this:

RACE 1

M.D.K. (Pole)

Oliver Bennett

Reinis Nitiss

Niclas Gronholm

RACE 2

Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Pole)

CSUCSU

Martin Kaczmarski

Gregoire Demoustier

Oliver O’Donovan

RACE 3

Janis Baumanis (Pole)

Timur Timerzyanov

Kevin Hansen

Guy Wilks

Rene Muennich

RACE 4

Ken Block (Pole)

Sebastien Loeb

Toomas Heikkinen

Kevin Eriksson

Andrew Jordan

RACE 5

Petter Solberg (Pole)

Johan Kristoffersson

Mattias Ekstrom

Andreas Bakkerud

Timmy Hansen

In Q2 it was business as usual for the three fastest drivers from Q1 who held those positions again with Solberg, Kristoffersson and Ekstrom leading the way. Ekstrom was still two seconds off the Polo pace and he must be wondering how to claw that gap back. Solberg, as always, enjoys Lydden Hill.

“It’s not easy,” said Solberg afterwards. “it’s quite a special track, but it’s a fantastic feeling. Some improvements we have done from the last race have made me more comfortable and faster. It’s great, to be fastest on this track is always a dream and I’m happy I must say.” Petter then eluded to his team mate. “Johan has also done a fantastic job, so a good team effort again.”

The GRX mechanics worked quickly and superbly on Gronholm’s wrecked car from Q1 and the Finn managed to put his car into 10th. Reinis Nitiss retired after contact with a barrier at the first corner.

We had been sitting at the joker when Nitiss collided with the barrier and came to a grinding halt. There were a large group of Latvian supporters next to us and they groaned. Nitiss climbed out the car, hopped over the barrier and sat down on the grass watching the remaining cars complete the race. He had his head in his hands and looked very upset. The only time he looked up was when the Latvian supporters proudly chanted his name and he slowly raised his hand to acknowledge their support.

Heading to the last two qualifying heats tomorrow the heat will definitely be on for Toomas Heikkinen as he sits just outside the important twelve places. A great set of qualifying sessions for Andrew Jordan who sits in 8th place and must be confident of a semi-final place barring any unfortunate accidents.

The two other British entrants also taking part this weekend, Guy Wilks and Oliver Bennett find themselves 12th and 23rd respectively with Ireland’s Oliver O’Donovan in 17th. The Ford pairing of Andreas Bakkerud and Ken Block from Hoonigan Racing Division look fast this weekend and are looking at making some improvements overnight to put them even more in contention for honours.

As with my last visit, it was an incredible day. We managed to be present at the Rig Riot, the music blaring, Monster Energy girls dancing on stage and throwing out t-shirts to the crowd with Andreas Bakkerud, Ken Block, Petter Solberg and Johan Kristoffersson. It’s amazing how many people will jump, push and bump their way into position for one of those t-shirts. In the VIP/Media car park you get to meet all sorts of people and I struck up a conversation with a man who was visiting from France and informed me that he was staying in Sandwich, a small Cinque Port town not far from the circuit. He asked me what my role was here today and I showed him my media pass and explained I was the WRX Editor at The Pit Crew Online. That is when he told me he was the main sponsor for not only Team Peugeot but for IMG, the event organisers. In the next breath he invited myself and Viv to the team hospitality suite to talk with Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen and Sebastien Loeb. Add that to the invitation we had to the RX2 after race party and, well, you can imagine we were extremely pleased with our day of “meets-and-greets”.

We wandered around the historic car marquee and then sat in the shade by the trees as they put on their show on track. Yes, the same as last year the sun beamed down and I have sunburn. We both left having thoroughly enjoyed the racing, the spectacle and the show which is World Rallycross, it never fails to deliver.

That was our Saturday adventure and tomorrow we get to do it all again.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Photographs: (c) Viv Gillings

Twitter: @viv_simmons