|PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport|
Loheac was another valuable opportunity for the Team Peugeot Total to assess the latest evolutions to its 208 WRX EVO, introduced only 2 months ago in Sweden, with a number of areas identified for further improvement. Although the squad didn't quite obtain the result it wanted over a very tight final race on home territory, this has only made everyone even more determined to get back on the podium and challenge for wins: the stated objective for this 1st season as a factory team.
The Bikernieki circuit is located only 15 minutes from the very centre of the Latvian capital Riga, which ensures a large crowd, as rallycross is one of the most popular forms of motorsport there. The racing venue takes its name from the Bikernieki pine forest, which the gravel section of the track (that has its origins in 1962) runs through. In total, the circuit is 1.294 kilometres long, with a 60/40% asphalt to gravel split. It’s a challenging layout with a wide variety of corners: the lap record is currently held by America’s Ken Block at 45.831 seconds.
With 4 rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship to go, Team Peugeot Total is currently 3rd in the Teams’ Championship. In the Drivers’ rankings, Timmy Hansen is 4th and Sebastien Loeb 6th, with only 9 points separating 3rd to 6th places, while Kevin Hansen is 8th.
Sébastien Loeb“My 1st victory in the FIA World Rallycross Championship was in Riga in 2016. So naturally, it’s a place that I like a lot with plenty of good memories for me. We showed some good performance on this track in the test we had previously this summer, and we saw then that our Peugeot 208 WRX Evo was doing very well there, which is encouraging. But I can’t really say any more than that. At Loheac, we had the speed, but things didn’t turn out too well for us. I didn’t have a single clean race apart from the semi-final. In the final, I again had the speed, with the quickest lap in front of Johan Kristoffersson, but I wasn’t able to get a good start and so I found myself 6th at the first corner. That sums up the whole difficulty of rallycross: you need everything to go smoothly from start to finish. I’m hoping that Riga will work more in our favour, starting right from the initial draw.”
Timmy Hansen“I’m really looking forward to Riga: you race close to the city and you’re always surrounded by loads of passionate rallycross fans. It's a track that I always enjoy: as a team, we've had some good success in the past on this track, so let’s see how it goes. The main feature of Riga is that there’s really high grip there and it’s a very technical circuit: a proper challenge for the drivers and teams to make the most of it. The setting is very beautiful too, in a park. We’ve had a lot to analyse as a team since Loheac, and we’ll be trying to put the lessons we learned from there into place. I know that we have all the ingredients to succeed.”
Kevin Hansen“After the craziness of our home race at Loheac, with so many fans and media sessions, I think Riga will be a bit more of a calm and normal race weekend for us. But that doesn’t make it any less special. I feel I’ve been learning and improving all the time at every round with the yellow 208 WRX, and now I am starting to feel very much at home with it. Again at Loheac I was close to the final and I felt that we achieved the maximum we could. We need to continue this upward curve, and that’s the goal here. I was already very close to getting in the final in Riga last year, so I feel we have some very good possibilities next weekend.”