|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross|
The FIA World Rallycross Championship ventures into the Nordic heartlands this weekend (9-10 June) with a visit to the famed Hell circuit for Team Verksted World RX of Norway, round five of the 2018 season.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson leads the drivers’ standings after a third win from four events at World RX of Great Britain, extending his advantage to 14 points over Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb. EKS Audi Sport’s Andreas Bakkerud makes it three manufacturers inside the top three overall, 22 points adrift of the top spot.
Held at Lankebanen, World RX of Norway is a mainstay of the schedule as one of six events that have featured on the calendar every year since the inaugural World RX season in 2014. Among the faster tracks in the championship, Lankebanen’s undulating layout and sweeping curves are a firm favourite among drivers.
Kristoffersson goes to Hell seeking a repeat of his commanding win twelve months ago when the Swedish driver denied local favourite Bakkerud a popular win.
Bakkerud enjoys a strong record on home soil having celebrated victory in 2016, scoring a remarkable 'clean sweep' of wins in all four qualifying races, his semi-final and the final. Moreover, he starts the Norwegian event on the back of a second-place finish at Silverstone, his best result since joining EKS Audi Sport.
By contrast, countryman Solberg is chasing a first podium in front of his adoring fans since 2014, as well as a timely strong result to haul himself back into contention following a semi-final exit at Silverstone.
The only driver to stand on the podium at each round this season, Loeb scored a top three result in Hell last year but has his sights set firmly on victory this time around. Similarly, Team Peugeot Total team-mate Timmy Hansen will seek a return to winning ways after triumphing in Norway in 2015.
This year’s event will see 22 Supercar entries take to the starting grid, including four Norwegian drivers – Solberg and Bakkerud, plus wild-card entries Tommy Rustad (HTB-Marklund Motorsport) and Kjetil Larsen, both driving Volkswagen Polos.
Team Verksted World RX of Norway will also see the much-anticipated international rallycross debut of former F1 driver Alex Wurz, who will compete in the MJP Racing Team Austria Ford Fiesta. One of motorsport’s most versatile racers, the McLaren, Williams and Benetton driver started 69 grands prix and recorded three podiums in an F1 career spanning ten years. He is also a two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner.
Wurz lines up alongside team owner Max Pucher, who makes his first World RX start since 2015 as part of an all-Austrian assault.
Euro RX front runner Anton Marklund makes a second World RX appearance of the season in the Marklund Motorsport VW Polo, while Finnish racer Joni-Pekka Rajala takes on the second Team STARD Ford Fiesta alongside permanent entry Janis Baumanis.
Alex Wurz, MJP Racing Team Austria, said: “I grew up on rallycross tracks as my Dad is a three-time European champion and I’ve always loved the sport. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, so I thought where better than Hell to throw myself into the deep end with the big World RX dogs. I’m so pleased Max Pucher has given me this opportunity to compete and I’m really proud to be part of MJP Racing Team Austria. I’m definitely managing my expectations but I will enjoy every minute.”
World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy commented: “We always look forward to returning to the Nordic regions and Hell. There is no doubt the always-vocal and passionate Norwegian fans will be out in force to support Petter Solberg and Andreas Bakkerud around a circuit that produces fantastic action year-after-year. Moreover, it is a pleasure to welcome former F1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hours race winner Alex Wurz to the starting grid in Norway. Based on the classic World RX racing we have already seen this season, it is certainly no coincidence drivers of Alex’s calibre want to join the rallycross ranks. With stars of rallying, touring cars and single-seaters already competing in World RX, it once again serves to demonstrates the immense appeal of World RX across motorsport.”
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media|