Neste World Rallycross of Riga, Latvia – Preview

10km east of Riga in Latvia lies the Biķernieku forest. Here, a 1295m rallycross track with 60% asphalt and 40% dirt can be found. In this COVID-19-impacted season, it holds the fifth and sixth rounds of the FIA World Rallycross season. Johan Kristoffersson has taken two wins in the first and third rounds of the series with Mattias Ekström and Niclas Gronhölm taking wins in the second and fourth rounds respectively.

Coming into this weekend, Kristoffersson has a 17-point lead over Ekström in the championship standings. This is a strong track for Kristoffersson as he has two wins here, coming in 2017 and 2018.

After a successful weekend at home in Finland, Gronhölm comes to Riga in third place in the standings with a six-point gap to Timmy Hansen in fourth. Gronhölm’s teammate Timur Timerzyarnov is in 10th place after scoring a third place in the fourth round.

As mentioned before, 2019 World Champion Timmy Hansen is in fourth place in the championship with only one podium in the first four rounds. His younger brother and teammate Kevin is just behind him in fifth place. Both have undertaken some testing before this round which they are hoping will allow them to extract as much out of the car as possible this weekend.

Credit: FIAWorldRallycross.com

Timo Scheider has had his best ever start to a World Rallycross season by making it to three out of the four finals that have been held including a third place in the first round of the season. This has helped him to seventh place in the standings. Team boss of the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team, René Münnich, has had a tougher season than his teammate and is only 16th.

Monster Energy GRX RX Cartel’s Liam Doran has had multiple technical failures leading him to be 21st in the championship, but team-mate Andreas Bakkerud has had more luck by reaching the final on two occasions and scoring 53 points.

Anton Markund for GCK Bilstein is currently in ninth place after the four rounds and will be hoping to make it through to the final at one of these rounds again. The GCK Unkorrupted pairing of Rokas Baciuška and Guerlain Chicherit are in 15th and 17th respectively.

Joining the 14 permanent racers is home favourite Renis Nitišs, who makes his first appearance of the season with ESmotorsport Eigesa WRX Team in the Škoda Fabia. Jani Paasonen also returns with Ferratum Team in the Ford Fiesta and Krisztián Szabó returns after Höljes with GRX SET in the Hyundai i20.

The time difference to Riga from London is two hours so Qualifying 1 for World Rallycross begins at 8.30 am BST. If the last four rounds are anything to go by, this event is not to be missed!

CoTA Added To 2018 WRX Calendar

The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy will have its first US event in 2018. Championship rights holder IMG has agreed a five-year deal with Circuit of the Americas (COTA) at Austin, Texas.  World RX will make its debut in the United States of America on the weekend of 29-30 September 2018 as part of a festival weekend.

The USA is a key territory for World RX teams, manufacturers and sponsors and this latest news is in line with the World Championship’s continued growth.  The 2018 calendar will feature nine European rounds, Canada, the USA and South Africa.

World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, commented:

“The United States of America has been on our radar since the World Championship began in 2014 but we were determined to wait for the right opportunity. We have been in discussion with a number of venues across the USA but COTA shared our vision for the World Championship and can deliver a key objective of building a first-class rallycross facility. With IMG’s strong presence throughout the US we are confident that the COTA World RX event will be a huge success.”

Bellamy added:

“Other elements of the weekend that we are working on include music, food festivals and action sports – allowing fans from a variety of backgrounds to attend and enjoy an action-packed weekend in the “live music capital of the world”.  The track that we are constructing will be in the stadium area on part of the F1 circuit between turns 12 and 15 – a natural amphitheatre that will enable fans to see the whole track from their seat.”

COTA Chair Bobby Epstein concluded:

“We are delighted to announce that another FIA World Championship will be coming to COTA. There is no doubt that rallycross is a rapidly growing discipline – the fans can watch races in quick succession and the 600bhp cars are mightily impressive.  The addition of a world-class rallycross circuit will be a welcome addition to our growing venue, and we look forward to working closely with IMG in making the first ever World RX event in the USA a resounding success.”

COTA already hosts the USA rounds of Formula One and MotoGP.

Construction of the new rallycross circuit is expected to get underway in the coming months.

The provisional 2018 calendar looks like this:

2018 World RX Calendar*

Spain – Barcelona – 14/15 April

Portugal – Montalegre – 28/29 April

Belgium – Mettet – 12/13 May

Great Britain – Silverstone – 26/27 May

Norway – Hell – 9/10 June

Sweden – Holjes –  30 June/1 July

Canada – Trois-Rivieres – 4/5 August

France – Loheac – 1/2 September

Latvia – Riga – 15/16 September

USA – COTA – 29/30 September

Germany – Estering – 13/14 October

South Africa – Cape Town – 24/25 November

*Subject to confirmation by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in December

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

South Africa Welcomes WRX

World Rallycross packs up its circus and travels to South Africa for the first time since its inception and the last round of the season.

Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson may have secured the WRX title (as predicted by yours truly at the beginning of the season) but there is still second place up for grabs with former champions Mattias Ekstrom and Petter Solberg separated by just the one point.

Joining the permanent rallycross drivers will be two South African drivers, set to compete in their home RX. Mark Cronje will take the drive for Albatec Racing in the Peugeot 208 with Ashley Haigh-Smith competing an Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta. They will be joined on the grid by other wildcards Oliver Eriksson from Sweden who will drive in a second Olsbergs and Belgian Gregoire Demoustier who will race the Peugeot 208 for DA Racing alongside Jean-Baptiste Dubourg.

The only driver on the grid who has fully experienced the Killarney International Raceway is Rene Muennich who drove at the event launch.

The Killarney International Raceway is 1.07km circuit with eight turns. It is 60% asphalt and 40% gravel. The joker comes after turn 5, a sweeping ‘parabolica’ style extra which curves round the outside of turn 6 and has its own right-hander (tagged Turn 6a) which flashes out onto the straight as the cars speed down towards turn 7 into a kinked turn 8 towards the start/finish straight.

The circuit itself has Table Mountain visible in the distance. It was upgraded at the end of the 1950s in line with FIA standard regulations and in 1960 hosted its first international Formula 1 race, be it that it was a non-championship affair. This race was won by Stirling Moss in a Porsche, winning a very closely contested drive by just two tenths from his fellow Porsche driver Jo Bonnier. Wolfgang von Trips completed the podium in his Team Lotus-Climax.

Although this is the first visit of WRX, Killarney also hosts other series such as single-seaters, GT’s, motocross, karting, super motards, stock cars and drag racing.

The rallycross track itself looks fast and sweeping and is certain to host some closely contested racing.

With the recent news that Ford will not be developing a new Focus for WRX which in turn lead to the announcement by Hoonigan Racing Division that they will not be competing next season, this last season RX event could be the opportunity for new teams and/or new drivers to put their name in the market place for what is the most dynamic four-wheeled racing series on the planet.

Double WRX champion Petter Solberg had this to say about the event:

“I expect South Africa to become a fantastic event. What more would motorsport loving crowds want than a full World RX display of the roughest and fastest cars on the planet racing each other? I will for sure be there fighting for the season finale win!”

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Hamilton And Solberg Jnr. To Appear In Canada

Hamilton To Star At Canada RX

Rising motorsport stars Nic Hamilton and Oliver Solberg will compete in the supporting categories at the Canadian round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy at Trois-Rivieres next week.

Hamilton, the younger brother of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, is currently competing in the British Renault Clio Cup series and will make his rallycross-circuit debut on sealed and unsealed surfaces driving a Canadian side-by-side Can-Am Maverick X3 at Trois-Rivieres, prepared by Fuca Racing.

“I’m very honoured to have been chosen to compete. For me it’s always been a dream to be part of a World Rallycross weekend. Being an on-road driver myself, I’m really looking forward to doing some off-road stuff, to drift and control the car on different terrains,” said Hamilton. “I’m just going to go out and have fun – I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m really looking forward to it and I’m definitely up for the challenge.”

Oliver Solberg, son of two-time World RX Champion Petter, is racing his father’s title-winning Citroen DS3 Supercar in the RallyX Nordic Championship this season (and won round two in Sweden), and is also rallying in Latvia. The 15-year-old will compete in the four-wheel drive CXE national rallycross category at Trois-Rivieres, while his father races in the main event for the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team.

“It’s a cool track, I always love going to it,” said Solberg Jnr. “It’s like a rally stage with big jumps and big gravel. It’s a bit of a different car than I’m used to, but it will be very good fun.”

The World RX weekend in Canada will being with the traditional down-town parade of World RX cars on Friday evening.

Neil Simmons – @world_racing