Thursday 4 April 2019

PREVIEW - World RX returns with a desert duel in Abu Dhabi

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship is back! The winter break has come to an end and testing is complete. The focus now switches to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the opening round of the 2019 season

The World RX of Abu Dhabi will also be the first time a round has been held at night with the semi-finals and final on Saturday evening under floodlights.

As a debutant track, the Yas Marina Rallycross Circuit presents a level playing field for the drivers and teams.

There are plenty of challenges in the purpose-built 1.2 kilometer rallycross circuit featuring 63% asphalt and 37% gravel, a series of wide tarmac areas, tight turns including a hairpin and a formidable jump, all within the circuit’s famous Formula One circuit stadium section.

The quality, depth and multi-national mix of the competitors suggests a fierce battle from the moment the lights go green at Yas Marina.

What's new for the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship? 

There are a number of changes and additions to World RX in 2019.

The most significant change to the sporting regulations is the grid order from Q2 onwards. Q1 will be dictated by the pre-race draw, but for Q2, and Q3 the race order can be reversed by a random draw. Carried out at the end of the last race of Q1 and Q2 the draw will decide if the race order is as usual (fastest cars last) or reversed so that the fastest cars will race first.

At each event, a Driver Assistant to Stewards will be present. A number of experienced rallycross drivers will take up the role over the 10 round season, starting with 2015 FIA European Rallycross Champion Tommy Rustad this weekend in Abu Dhabi. There has also been a specific code of driving conduct for rallycross added to Appendix L of the FIA Regulations.

Within a number of minor changes to the technical regulations, Race Nets will now be used in all World RX cars. These will be visible when onboard views are shown and are triangular nets that pass each side of the driver and are connected to the dashboard. The Race Nets have been introduced to increase driver protection by offering better restriction on the movement of limbs in the event of a crash.

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross championship entry list and drivers

The 2019 entry list features 16 permanent drivers in six teams and four individual entries representing eight automotive brands with drivers from 11 countries.

The defending World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson is not competing in 2019 following PSRX Volkswagen Sweden's withdrawal, meaning none of the permanent drivers in World RX 2019 have won an FIA World Championship title. We will crown a new FIA World RX drivers’ champion this year.

Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud looms as a championship favourite. Third in the overall standings in 2018, Bakkerud starts as the highest-placed finisher from last season. Alongside the Norwegian in the Audi S1 will be Liam Doran code-named "The British bomb".

The Hansen brothers, Timmy and Kevin, will run a pair of Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars for Team Hansen MJP, the first time the Swedish brothers have competed in equal machinery. Timmy and Kevin, may be one of the youngest line-ups on the grid, but they have both been competing in high-level rallycross for the last six years, and Timmy has started in every World RX race ever – all 61 of them.

Team STARD will campaign the all-new Ford Fiesta RXS for Janis Baumanis. He will be partnered by Pal Try in Abu Dhabi. Try will feature in at least three rounds in 2019.

GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund makes a full-time return to World RX after focussing on European racing for the past two years. The Swede will partner team owner Guerlain Chicherit in Renault Meganes.

In the build-up to the season opener, Marklund has been helping with the development of the Megane and the Renault Clios to be shared by GCK Academy drivers Cyril Raymond and Guillaume De Ridder.

Marcus Gronholm’s GRX Taneco squad comprises three Hyundai i20s for Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Gronholm. Abu Dhabi will be the first of a number of selected appearances for Reinis Nitiss of GRX Set. All three drivers completed the final pre-season test in Germany recently.

Oliver Bennett returns to build on his 2018 programme. His Xite Racing Mini Cooper has been subject to a programme of development and testing over the winter. 

Timo Scheider begins his first full-season campaign in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza. The German squad has been quietly going about pre-season testing. 

EKS Sport driver, Krisztian Szabo twice the European Super1600 Rallycross Champion, joined Bakkerud and the 2016 World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom on the frozen wastelands of Scandinavia ahead of the season.

Rokas Baciuska is the least experienced of this season’s rookies. The reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion for Super1600, Baciuska will be at the wheel of ESmotorsport’s Skoda Fabia, which has completed well over 1,000 kilometres of testing this winter.

Let's go racing! 

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