|PHOTO CREDIT - FIA World Rallycross Media|
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden's Johan Kristoffersson arrives in Portugal with an early advantage in the overall standings after winning an action-packed and dramatic season opener at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Returning to the scene of his maiden World RX win in 2015, the defending champion is keen to maintain a winning run that has seen him triumph in eight of the last ten events.
“I am really happy to open my 2018 campaign with a victory but I am now fully focused on round two in Portugal,” the Swede commented. “The competition is stronger than ever so I am sure my rivals are coming to Montalegre even more determined to get on top of the podium. Nevertheless, both myself and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden will be ready for the challenge and you can be sure I’ll continue squeezing as much performance from my VW Polo R as possible this weekend.”
Situated in northern Portugal close to the border with Spain, the iconic Montalegre rallycross venue is a popular stop for the series with its regular sell-out crowds and demanding layout against the backdrop of the hilly Vila Real region.
Furthermore, the venue’s location 1,030m above sea level makes it the highest event on the World RX calendar and presents its own unique challenges for the cars, which must be more finely tuned to cope with the greater altitude.
Last year's event saw Mattias Ekstrom claim victory ahead of Sebastien Loeb (Team Peugeot Total) and Kristoffersson. It is a result EKS Audi Sport driver Ekstrom will be keen to emulate this weekend after being disqualified from the final last time out in Catalunya-Barcelona.
The 18-strong Supercar entry list includes two-time World RX of Portugal winner Petter Solberg, who sits three points behind team-mate Kristoffersson in the title table after being classified TQ (Top Qualifier) in Catalunya-Barcelona, Andreas Bakkerud (EKS Audi Sport), who will look to build on his podium result in the season opener and Timmy Hansen. The Team Peugeot Total driver scored a top four result in Montalegre last season and will be keen to bounce back after his Spanish challenge was undone by techncial issues while leading the first semi-final.
Elsewhere, GRX Taneco head to Portugal with renewed optimism after Niclas Gronholm took its new Hyundai i20 to fourth place in round one, while GC Kompetition will seek another step forward with its Prodrive-developed Renault Megane RS following an impressive points-scoring debut.
Similarly, Olsbergs MSE is targeting strong results with Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson, the latter a podium-finisher in Montalagre in 2016.
In addition to 15 permanent World RX drivers, three round-by-round entries will compete in Portugal, including Oliver Bennett in the Team XITE MINI Cooper S plus local racers Joaquim Santos in the Bompiso Racing Team Ford Focus and Mario Barbosa in a Citroen DS3.
The FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 continues in Portugal with round two of its six-event season. Artis Baumanis leads the standings after taking maximum points in Catalunya-Barcelona, the Latvian heading up a capacity entry of 25 in Montalegre that also includes Portugal's own Helder Ribeiro and Mario Teixeira.
World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy commented: “It is always a pleasure to return to Montalegre for the World RX of Portugal. The venue is a mainstay of the international rallycross calendar and continues to attract sell-out crowds, who return year-after-year to enjoy the fantastic racing this challenging, high-altitude layout regularly produces. Better still, we come to Portugal on the back of a thrilling season opener in Catalunya-Barcelona, which proved to be as close and exciting across the board as we expected. It is a trend that we have no doubt will continue this weekend and well into the season.”
ARTICLE BY - FIA World Rallycross
IMAGE CREDIT - FIA World Rallycross Media