Tuesday 25 September 2018

PREVIEW: World RX to break new ground at the Circuit of The Americas.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
The FIA World Rallycross Championship will break new ground this weekend, with Texas’ Circuit of The Americas set to host the first-ever World RX of USA.

Fifteen permanent competitors will take to the track, going door-to-door around the new permanent rallycross circuit that incorporates part of COTA’s Formula 1 layout. The field is headed by defending World Champion Johan Kristoffersson, who will clinch his second consecutive Drivers’ title this weekend should he score 17 points or more.

In World RX, however, nothing can ever be taken for granted, with myriad twists, turns and unexpected dramas all part-and-parcel of what is renowned as one of the world’s most thrilling championships.

Whilst PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Kristoffersson has unquestionably been the class of the field this year, his rivals – a number of them World Champions in other high-profile series – are redoubling their efforts to halt his charge.

Just six points blanket second to fifth in the classification after nine of the 12 rounds, and the drivers filling those spots – Mattias Ekstrom, Sebastien Loeb, Andreas Bakkerud and Petter Solberg – are some of the biggest names in international motorsport.

EKS Audi Sport’s Ekstrom and Team Peugeot Total ace Loeb arrive in the USA buoyed by top three finishes last time out in Latvia, and both have title-winning pedigree in other high-profile series. Ekstrom has made the final in every round bar one this season – meaning the Swede is always a threat – while Loeb has tallied six podiums from nine starts this year, a statistic beaten only by Kristoffersson.

Bakkerud (EKS Audi Sport) and Solberg (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) are guaranteed crowd-pleasers, big personalities and famous rivalry invariably amongst the highlights of World RX events. Both are more than capable of winning – with 16 prior victories between them – and both will be fired-up to break their 2018 duck and etch their name in history as the very first winner of World RX of USA.

“It’s going to be a fast one, which is what us drivers really like and it looked like a real challenge with some interesting corners – hopefully some good places to overtake," said Solberg. "There’s always something special about a new track and a new venue, but being the first time for the championship and the team to compete in America will be a great experience. As well as the track layout, I think we should be in for a good atmosphere with the fans as well.”

Timmy Hansen sits sixth in the sister Team Peugeot Total 208 WRX, but a strong result at COTA would vault the Swede firmly into the thick of the second-place scrap, which is set to run right to the end of the campaign.

Beyond the top six in the standings, Niclas Gronholm has been quietly impressive behind the wheel of GRX Taneco Team’s Hyundai i20, currently leading the non-manufacturer battle in seventh position overall. The young Finn has reached the final on three occasions already this season, and came within barely half-a-second of mounting the podium in Riga – motivation to go at least one spot better in the ‘Lone Star State’.

Kevin Hansen in a third Peugeot 208 WRX is next up, the young Swede rivalling his more experienced team-mates on occasion as he continues to prove himself on the World Championship stage, while former Euro RX Supercar Champion Timur Timerzyanov in the second Hyundai can never be ruled out of springing a surprise.

GC Kompetition will field owner/driver Guerlain Chicherit, as 2017 Euro RX Supercar Champion Anton Marklund rejoins the World Championship fray in the sister Renault Megane RS RX, more than three months on from his last appearance. The Swede narrowly pipped Cyril Raymond to the runner-up laurels in the 2018 Euro RX tussle in Latvia, and will be keen to stake his claim to a full-time return to the highest level.

Swedish duo Robin Larsson and Kevin Eriksson are eager to bounce back from a disappointing outing in Riga in Olsbergs MSE’s brace of Ford Fiestas, while Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Gregoire Demoustier (Sebastien Loeb Racing) complete the entries.

ENTRY LIST PROVIDED by FIA World Rallycross Media

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