Friday 5 July 2019

PREVIEW - World RX descends on Sweden for 'The Magic Weekend'

Five Down, Five to go... Fifteen points separate first from third in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

The five rounds to date have seen four different winners. Kevin Hansen claimed victory at round one in Abu Dhabi and there have been victories for Timur Timerzyanov in Belgium and Niclas Gronholm in Norway. Only the current championship leader Timmy Hansen has won twice (Spain and Great Britain).

World RX descends on the Holjes Motorstadion, an old school rallycross track that has been a mainstay of the championship since its inception in 2014.

The Swecon World RX of Sweden will boast a maxed out 25 car entry list. 

Current European Rallycross Champion Reiniss Nitiss will make a return to the fray in a GRX Hyundai i20 in Holjes. “Even though I have spent some time in the GRX car behind the scenes, I have not been in the racing game since the spectacular ending of Abu Dhabi,” the Latvian said.

“It puts some pressure on me, especially with the maxed-out entry list with many wild card entries that can impact everyone’s results.”

Nitiss' GRX team-mate Gronholm, he is looking for back-to-back wins after the success in Hell, Norway. “My goal is to try and maintain the good feeling of the car and the pace I had in Norway and, if I can do that, I can challenge for the win,” he said. 

As for the newcomers, Jere Kalliokoski will make his first appearance of the season for Team STARD, alongside Janis Baumanis.

Kevin Eriksson, who won the 2016 World RX of Germany event, joins Sebastien Eriksson in a pair of Ford Fiestas run by Olbergs MSE. The Swedish outfit will also field a Honda Civic Coupe for the World RX debut with Ulrik Linnemann behind the wheel

Philip Gehrman will compete in a Volkswagen Polo and Kjetil Larsen is also in a Polo for Hedstroms Motorsport.

Fabien and Jonathan Pailler will also make the trip to Holjes to drive their Peugeot 208 Supercars for the Pailler Competition team.

Timmy and Kevin Hansen, currently one and two respectively in the 2019 World RX drivers’ championship standings. Timmy has been on the podium twice in 2015 and 2016 but has yet to ascend the top step on home soil.

The Swedish siblings, in their pair of Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars are separated by a single point at the top of the heap – 107 to 106. 

Kenneth Hansen, Team Hansen MJP team principal is well aware of the challenges of the Holjes track and the importance of doing well at home. “It’s a technical track and one of the biggest tasks is optimising the car for the jumps,” he said. “It’s a very special atmosphere and both Timmy and Kevin are showing they are more than ready for the challenge. So we hope to deliver.

“Along with Loheac, because we have a French car, this is definitely one of the most significant weekends of our year.”

Andreas Bakkerud holds down third place overall on 92 points and is getting ever closer to his first victory of 2019 in his Audi S1.

Holjes is the scene of the Norwegian’s first Supercar triumph in 2013 and he won again in 2016. So far in 2019, he has two-second places and a third on his scorecard.

“Holjes is as we all know the Magic Weekend, also one of the very big highlights in the WorldRX calendar,” Bakkerud said. “It’s the race everyone wants to win. Holjes has treated me well and I’ve been on the podium every year since 2012 when I raced S1600. I hope to continue that strike rate.”

Swede Anton Marklund was denied his maiden victory at the previous round in Norway following a post-race technical inspection – the FIA stewards discovered a discrepancy in the thickness of the front bumper support bar on his GC Kompetition Renault Megane RS.

Dutchman Kevin Abbring impressed on his World RX debut and will make his second World RX start in the ESmotorsport Labas-GAS Skoda Fabia.

“As everything was new for me there (in Norway), there is obviously a lot of room for improvement and Sweden is the right opportunity to show we have learned from Norway to be even more competitive here,” Abbring said.

“It really takes a while to understand the sport, I feel that I don’t need to be that defensive when being in the lead (or in front of someone) and after having some rain metres under my belt now the pace in the wet should definitely be stronger next time."

“The Swedish track looks amazing, the atmosphere and level of competition will be promising. There is no lack of motivation on our side, we are as ready as can be,” he concludes

Timo Scheider has shown good pace this season and has been challenging a podium place in the last two rounds.

Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett will hope to put the set-up challenges on the Mini Cooper in Hell behind him. “I can’t wait for the Magic Weekend of Holjes to kick off, outside of the spectacle that is the party in the woods, it’s also the best drivers’ track of the year,” Bennett said.

“With our set-up this year, it’s my most anticipated track, although with such a big grid entry, anything is possible.”

Hell was a weekend to forget for the GC Kompetition squad. Apart from Marklund being denied his win, GCK newcomer Rokas Baciuska missed out on the semi-finals after being disqualified in Q3.

Guerlain Chicherit, mounted a spirited fightback from the depths of a double joker penalty in Q1 to reach the semi-finals while GCK Academy drivers, Cyril Raymond, and Guillaume De Ridder missed the cut.

Krisztian Szabo is looking to rebound after his failure to reach the semi-finals for the first time this year in Norway.

“For sure, Holjes is the event of the year!" he said. "I have good memories from the track as the last time I was racing there – in S1600 - I finished second. I can't wait to race again in the magic weekend.”

“My goal is to finish a more successful weekend than in Hell.”

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

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