Wednesday 25 March 2020

Baumanis joins KYB Team JC in two-car World RX entry.

Former Euro Super1600 Champion Jānis Baumanis will compete in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship this season with newly-formed KYB Team JC alongside Robin Larsson. 

Having driven for team STARD (Ford Fiesta) since 2016, the Latvian driver will switch to an Audi S1 Supercar in 2020. Last year, Baumanis claimed his best results in the World RX championship with a third-place finish in Norway followed by a second-place finish Canada. 

"I’m excited for a new season with a whole new team. JC Raceteknik and Robin showed last year that they had a good pace in Euro RX, so this year I think we will be even stronger with two good cars in World RX," said Baumanis "I can’t wait to get into the latest spec EKS Audi with the latest shock absorbers from KYB. Robin definitely knows the car better than me, but hopefully I can be near his pace as soon as possible."

"My previous seasons in World RX have been pretty tough. After four years of driving a Ford I’m very excited to change to Audi, it will be a big step that will be quite challenging for me."

Jumping into a new car is always a challenge, but the Latvian is ready to face it head-on.

"During the first races there will of course be a bit more focus on the learning process in the new car, but then the goal will be to start from the front of the semi-finals," he said. "Of course, the dream is to win. I know it will be difficult, but with fast cars and a good team, there is always the opportunity to make it happen."

Having already announced that reigning European Rallycross Champion Robin Larsson would race under the JC Raceteknik banner as a permanent individual entry. The World RX teams have agreed to allow Joel Christoffersson's team JC Raceteknik to expand into a permanent two-car team for the 2020 season. 

"This will be brilliant for the whole team, and benefit our Euro RX drivers too. It’s thanks to the approval of all of the other teams in World RX we were allowed to enter both Janis as driver and KYB Team JC as permanent entries, and we are grateful for that," said Christoffersson.

"Being able to start with two drivers in the World Championship feels fantastic, this has long been a dream for me. Thanks to KYB we will start as KYB Team JC and we will continue our technical collaboration with EKS. This investment is a good opportunity for all parties that allows us to develop together."

"I think Robin and Janis will be a strong duo. With Robin, we had a very successful season last year and he comes with good experience in the Audi," he adds. "Janis is new to us, but he is a fast driver with previous experience of World RX. I think both will benefit from each other and together push forward to improve. We aim to fight for a podium in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ championships.”

Baumanis and Larsson will drive the latest-specification Audi S1 Supercars built and prepared by Mattias Ekstrom's EKS squad. 

Larsson sees JC Raceteknik's two-car entry as a positive. "It’s great for JC Raceteknik to enter World RX with a two-car team," he said. "We will get some more support from EKS and with two Audis on the track being able to compare data, it’s positive for everyone."

"Not only will we be racing for ourselves, but there’s the teams’ championship to fight for too. During the first races, we will be able to see how we stand up against the other teams. It would be nice to have good results right away and be able to participate in the championship, I’m sure there are going to be many wonderful fights."

"Of course, there will be tough competition with many fast drivers, but that is why we do rallycross," Larsson adds. "During the first races, we will be able to see how we stand up against the other teams. It would be nice to have good results right away and be able to participate in the championship, I’m sure there are going to be many wonderful fights."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Friday 20 March 2020

History made by the Riwald Dakar Team with first hybrid off-road truck.

PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team.
Gert Huzink from the Riwald Dakar Team fielded the first hybrid off-road truck at the 42nd edition of the world's toughest race; the Dakar Rally.

Riwald, a Dutch recycling company run by Gert Huzink and brother Ewald are responsible for the innovative idea of racing a hybrid-powered off-road truck at the Dakar Rally.

In 2019, after months of working on and developing the off-road truck in partnership with ZF and MKR Technology. The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition was unveiled, and after weeks of testing, it was ready for action.

The C460 Hybrid Edition went toe to toe with diesel-powered juggernauts over the course of 12 stages. The lightweight off-road truck weighing in at 8.5 tones includes 700-kilo hybrid technology that produces an additional 20 horsepower.

History was made when the Riwald Dakar Team #507 hybrid off-road truck set off for it’s first Dakar Stage. The team ended stage one in 42nd place but steadily improved as the rally-raid progressed. On the 10th stage of the rally, the team secured a fourth-place finish, which saw the team climb up to 24th overall at the end of the Dakar Rally.

Speaking to Junaid Samodien (Slipstream SA), Gert Huzink driver of the #507 Hybrid truck explained where his and the teams Dakar Rally story began, saying, “Our first Dakar was the 2012 edition. In the first three years, we were a car-team with the former Mitsubishi Factory Team. We bought the cars and started our semi-professional Dakar team with 3 drivers (Bernard ten Brinke, Erik Wevers and myself) After three years we switched to trucks.”

The Dakar Rally is the world's toughest race. But why would anyone sign up to compete? So, I asked Gert why his team opted to compete in the Dakar over any other motorsport category. “We have chosen the most difficult rally because for us it was the challenge to show that we can finish this tough rally,” he said. “After competing for several years the goal is, therefore, to finish as high as possible. Dakar must be hard and stay hard in order to continue to meet this challenge.”

The Dakar has always been a particularly demanding laboratory for constructors looking to innovate. Today, rally-raids act as an exceptional test bench for all forms of technology including hybrid and electric vehicles, as seen with the all-electric Acciona Dakar entry.

Being the first team to enter the rally-raid with hybrid power. Where did the idea come from to build and race a hybrid truck? “Because we live in a world where sustainability is becoming a daily and important issue and we (as Riwald Recycling company) think highly of these subjects,” Huzink said. “Therefore we want to show that the toughest rally in the world also can be driven in a sustainable, greener and environmentally conscious way and also compete for the top 10.”

While it is all well and good to have an idea to build and construct a new vehicle, lots of testing is often required to ensure that there are no failures or at least failures can be solved before the event.

The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition underwent thorough testing, Huzink said, “A new truck obviously should be well-tested and because the Netherlands is not suitable for this heavy-duty-testing, we do it abroad. This takes lots of time and a lot of budget, but it is necessary to get as much information from our trucks and drivers as possible.”

“We try to enter three races a year besides the Dakar Rally,” he adds. “With the new hybrid project, we have previously done a lot of testing activities to test the new parts on longevity. In general: all rally's during the year are tests for us as a team and for the truck as well. In total it costs us 10 weeks a year and for us as a semi-professional team that’s obviously a lot!”

The Riwald Dakar Team has a number of partners who have assisted in the construction and development of their hybrid-powered truck but has Renault had any involvement in the development of the hybrid powertrain. Gert Huzink says that there were a number of partners involved in the project including “leader and co-inventor Mario Kress of MKR Technology who works closely with Renault, ZF and Eurol Lubricants.”
Gert Huzink #507 powering ahead of Kamaz-Master teams Dmitry Sotnikov #507
PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team

Being a creation of Mario Kress in collaboration with ZF, Euro Lubricants and the Riwald Dakar Team, I asked Gert Huzink how is the power/energy harvested and deployed over the course of a Dakar Rally stage.

“Each new development is always exciting and certainly in a Dakar Rally as it is challenging to start driving hybrid!” Huzink said. “Power is created by an electric motor that is powered by the gearbox from ZF and that power is stored in an additional 300-kilogram battery pack.”

“When we wish to use it it will be converted as additional horsepower.”

How much additional power is created by the electric motors? “The electric motor can add more than 200 horsepower extra,” he adds.

“It is unique that the batteries are not being charged the normal way, but by driving! When we hit the brakes or we have a decent, we charge the accumulators by means of the electric motor. We benefit the whole stage from this hybrid technology.”

Huzink adds that the hybrid technology adds to the overall fuel efficiency of his off-road truck: “This also brings fuel savings with about 30% and of course fewer emissions to the environment.”

Being the first to enter the Dakar Rally with hybrid power, how does it compare to the standard diesel-powered entries. He said: “The C460 is a completely new truck and therefore more innovations beyond the hybrid system. This brings several advantages over our previous truck.”

“In total: it's good progress and we see also that our average speed has gone up, especially the direct power of the electric motor when we turn out of corners. That's the biggest difference.”

The Riwald Dakar Team and MKR Technology entered into a three-year partnership with the aim of achieving a top-three ranking within the three-year timeframe. With four top-ten finishes in 2020, I asked Gert how he would assess the teams first-ever Dakar with a hybrid-powered truck.

“With every new project it's always 'wait and see' how the first race will end,” he said. “Also therefore for us it was exciting, our ambitions are always high and it is a pity that we encountered trouble with one driveshaft on the first day.”

“The days to follow we had to prove our hybrid truck is one of the fastest trucks in the field. We've managed to do that, so we're happy with that. All in all this one big learning process and we are eager to show more of our hybrid truck, the C460.”

Having seen the benefits of competing with hybrid power, and two diesel-powered trucks in 2020 under the Riwald Dakar Team banner. I asked Gert if we could potentially see a full fleet of Riwald Dakar Renault Hybrid C460’s in 2021.

“The goal will be to see more and more hybrid trucks at the start of a rally like Dakar in the future,” he said. “But because we are an amateur team that will be done step-by-step. We've made way for more hybrid trucks in different rally's and also in the normal road as well.”

Having entered it’s first Dakar with hybrid power, the Riwald Dakar Team can only get stronger after learning about the limitations and potential issues it may have had in 2020.

We can not wait to see the return of the Riwald Dakar Team in 2021!

A very special 'Thank You' to Gert Huzink for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to the Riwald Dakar PR team for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Photograph Credit and Copyright - Riwald Dakar Team

Saturday 14 March 2020

F1 Joburg Fan Festival Postponed - all you need to know.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Formula 1 has today announced that due to the ongoing global situation regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) the Heineken F1 Joburg Festival due to take place on 29 March has been postponed "to protect the safety of all fans and participants attending the event."

Formula 1, together with Heineken, SAGP, and the Gauteng Province are committed to bringing the event to South Africa and any decision on rescheduling will be made at the right time from a public safety perspective.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport's Valtteri Bottas, as well as former F1 driver David Coulthard, and Renault F1 Team were set to attend the F1 Fan Festival.

Due to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) the 2020 Formula 1 season-opener in Australia was canceled after a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus. Formula 1 also announced the postponement of the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix citing that the 2020 season could start at the end of May. 

"Following the announcement from the World Health Organisation categorising COVID -19 as a pandemic earlier this week, we have made the unfortunate decision to postpone the festival," Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing & Communications said. "Our fans health and safety is paramount and whilst we know this decision will be disappointing for our fans we believe this is the right decision at this time."

"We would like to thank all our partners and those involved in making the event happen, and we are fully committed to returning to bring the excitement of F1 back to South Africa."

Warren Scheckter, CEO of SAGP added that "Hopefully, it won’t be long before circumstances are such that we are able to reschedule the event, and we look forward to working with Formula 1 and Gauteng Province in our continued efforts to bring Formula 1 back to South Africa."

All fans who purchased tickets for the event will be offered a full refund. Tickets can be returned at any Shoprite, Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Computicket outlets or House & Home stores for full refunds until April 13, 2020.

All uncollected tickets and print at home transactions made via Call Centre and Web will be refunded automatically and will reflect within 3-7 working days.

For all ticket queries, contact COMPUTICKET on 0861 915 8000

Written By - Junaid Samodien.

Friday 13 March 2020

World RX season opener in Barcelona postponed.

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has caused many events to be canceled or postponed internationally, and now the FIA World Rallycross Championship season-opener has also been postponed. It was set to be held at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona on 18/19 April.

"In light of the Generalitat de Catalunya’s decree to currently suspend all live sporting events in response to the evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation, this year’s World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona on April 18-19 has been postponed," the World RX statement said.

"This decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with the FIA, the Spanish ASN, and the local event organizer, as the health and safety of everyone involved remains the top priority."

"We are looking into an alternative date for the event in conjunction with the local event organizer. We will provide further updates as we have them."

Thursday 12 March 2020

FIA Drivers' Press Conference - 2020 Australian GP.

DRIVERS – Nicholas LATIFI (Williams), Sebastian VETTEL (Ferrari), Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes), Daniel RICCIARDO (Renault)

Q: Now, it’s been a complicated build-up to this first race of the season, so I’d like to start just by asking you about your preparations. Daniel, what have you been up to and why is it so difficult for an Australian at home. It seems that this race track, there’s not much love between Australian drivers and Albert Park?

Daniel RICCIARDO: I guess there haven’t been many Australians, so like the statistics… It’s a game of percentages, right? But anyway, I hope this one is good. I feel like one year’s good, one year’s not, but I think I’m due a good one. I’ve been preparing, been preparing well. I don’t know how to sit; everyone’s trying to sit away from each other. We’ll get cosy. What have I been doing? I don’t know, just the usual. Since testing: back in Europe, bit of simulator stuff, and then I was home for a few days. It’s good to be here.

Q: How about the motor – the new car? What did you learn about it in testing? Do you feel you can make a step forward from last year?

DR: Yes, I do. I think the test ended well for us. Day three of week two was a lot more promising and both my feedback and Esteban’s, you could see our expression when we got out of the car, it was certainly a lot more optimistic, so that was encouraging. I just look back at last year, the whole build-up and everything. I was watching some onboards before and I don’t know, I can just see me from the outside and I’m like, “yeah, I’m a lot more comfortable in this car now”, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.

Q: It’s your 10th season in Formula 1?
DR: Yeah, someone reminded me…

Lewis HAMILTON: Jeez!
DR: I know, kinda old, huh!

Q: It’s your 14th, Lewis.
DR: I’m still a baby. Thanks guys.

Q: Let’s move on to the baby, Nicholas Latifi, your first grand prix this weekend. Just describe how you feel? An emotional moment, I guess?

Nicholas LATIFI: Yeah, definitely very exciting. When I was first announced as the race driver last year this weekend seemed so far away. But day by day, going through all the winter preparations and everything, just kind of closing in on this weekend. Yeah, a lot of anticipation from myself and from the team as well, but yeah, really just happy and grateful to be here and just can’t wait to get the weekend underway.

Q: And more nerves than last year when you were in Formula 2?

NL: Right now, no, I would say there are not really any nerves at the moment. I’ve kind of said that from already starting winter testing as the official race driver, for me it just felt like a continuation of the work I was doing with the team last year. I was already really comfortable in the team environment. To be honest, all the stuff that made it feel a bit more like I was the race driver was all the external – all the media, the fan interactions, it’s just at so much more of a higher level. Right now everything is still calm. Maybe once I’m waiting on the grid and the lights are about to go out, that’s probably when I’m going to notice…

Q: You make a reference to the work you were doing with Williams last year, you did six FP1 sessions, so you knew about last year’s car, you drove it. How much of a step forward is this year’s car?
NL: It’s definitely a step forward. It’s difficult to quantify how much, because it’s always the same in winter testing, you never really know what people are doing with engine modes and fuel levels, but just from my first feeling in the car it was definitely much nicer to drive, giving the driver much more confidence to push and attack the corners, which is what you want. We’re going to see come Saturday where we are in the pecking order. We’re optimistic it definitely is a step forward but we’re just going to have to wait and see just how much.

Q: Well, good luck with that. Sebastian, talking about differences from last year to this year. From the outside winter testing back in Europe looked a little bit inconclusive for Ferrari. What can you tell us about it?

Sebastian VETTEL: I think testing is always inconclusive. You never know where you are and that’s the good thing about coming here and [we can] finally get going and racing. I think testing has, not a lot, but it does have its nice sides, aspects, but really racing is what it’s about, so as I said, it’s nice to come here and finally know where you are.

Q: But like Nicholas and Daniel, can you say that this year’s car is a clear step forward?
SV: It is but I think that’s probably true for everyone. That’s the idea of having a new car, obviously learning from the experiences of the year before, so I think it’s true to say that everybody had got a better car this year, but it always depends on where you are relative to the others. So I think our car is doing what we expected. It is a step forward, it feels better, but ultimately it matters where you are next to all the others.

Q: Well, you’ve always gone well here at Albert Park, you’re going for victory number four this weekend. What is it about your relationship with this track? Why do you go so well here?
SV: I don’t know. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like the track. I think it’s a fun track and generally it feels like the right place to kick it off, great atmosphere. Maybe my biggest advantage is that I’m not Australian. And Lewis as well. I think Lewis has done really well here as well. No, because you opened up by saying that Australians haven’t done really well here!

DR: The irony is my best year was the year you had an Australian, but then that got taken away.

Q: 2014, the year you finished second for a bit.
DR: Yeah. Anyway, I’m still bitter.
SV: I don’t know; I was trying to joke. I know, I’m German, so it’s probably not what you expect. I think everybody just loves the track and that’s myself included. I think it has a nice flow to it, a nice rhythm. It’s good that they didn’t resurface much of the track, keeping some of the bumps, some of the nature of the track. I think it’s quite fast, considering it’s a semi-street circuit. Yeah, I like it.

Q: Thank you. Lewis, coming to you, before we talk about track stuff, I just wanted to ask you about your detour on the way here to New South Wales. Tell us what you were doing up there and what you found?

LH: Yeah, I got here on Monday morning and went straight from the airport in Sydney out to the Blue Mountains and got to see... Through the winter I was watching the news and seeing the devastation out here and how it was affecting people but more so than anything how many animals that perished. That, for me, was too big a number to even comprehend. I wanted to get out here before that but it just wasn’t possible and I was like ‘when I first get here I want to go and see it first-hand for myself’. So, I landed, took a two-hour drive up to the Blue Mountains and slowly started to see a lot of the burnt trees, the forest, as far as the eye can see. A really beautiful place. There was already regrowth, but I went to visit an organisation, Wires, that was helping during the whole period, whilst the animals were suffering, while the fires were going on, and they are helping rehabilitate some of the animals. It’s all just people living in local homes around the area who volunteer and so it was really quite amazing, they are the heroes. It felt amazing to see it for myself and see all the hard work that has been done and it meant a lot to them, the people that I met, that we took the time to go out.

Q: Daniel, were you here in the height of summer when the bush fires were at their worst?
DR: I was. I was home, but home for me is Perth, so west coast. We weren’t affected, nothing to the extent of the east. For me to be at home but to see the engagement from the whole world, from all over, that was really nice. It was affecting our country, my country, and to see the generosity from everyone, from all parts of the globe, that was a really good touch.

Q: And Lewis, just on the on-track stuff, you completed more laps than anybody else in winter testing, how confident are you coming into this race?
LH: I don’t really ever use the word confidence. I think we just worked as hard as we could. The runs went well or the days went well in Barcelona. We did leave with reliability issues, which I know the guys have been trying to move mountains over the past couple of weeks so we arrive in the best shape possible. So I truly believe in all the hard work we’ve done. We’re hoping we start off on the right foot. I think we arrive here with two less days of testing compared to last year. I think we’ve got quite a good grip on the car and we arrive as best prepared as we can be. As Seb was saying, it’s going to be interesting to see where we all stand, but that’s the exciting part of coming to your first grand prix.


Q: (Frederic Ferret – L’Equipe) Question to Lewis: with the winter testing, is there some driver and some car you may see as your main rival for your title?
LH: Force India, maybe?

DR, NL: Racing Point.

LH: I don’t call it Racing Point, because I don’t like the name! I prefer Force India. No, I think it’s the same – Ferrari and Red Bull. I think Red Bull have been particularly strong so I don’t really know where they stand between them, but Red Bull were realty strong particularly at the end of last year. Obviously Ferrari have taken a little bit of a step, it seems they may have… they have definitely taken a bit of a step back power-wise, but maybe the car is better, so we’ll see tomorrow when we get in the car over the next couple of days how that plays into effect.

Q: Sebastian, do you feel like you have taken a step back power-wise?
SV: Well, we’ll see. I don’t know if others… I think we’ve focused on all areas and also on the engine in the winter and as I said we will find out this weekend, probably in qualifying conditions when everybody is trying to get to their maximum, and we finally see where we are, not just on power but also on the car.

Q: (Alex Kalinauckas – Autosport) Lewis, regarding the Coronavirus situation, are you comfortable having travelled all the way to Australia and are you satisfied with what Formula One and the FIA have done so far regarding that situation?
LH: I felt OK travelling out here. Naturally, being on a flight with God knows how many people and then stopping in an airport full of so many people, I didn’t really think too hard on it. I was just trying to make sure I was taking all the precautions I could in terms of not touching things and always using hand sanitizer. I am really very, very surprised that we’re here. I think motorsport is… I think it’s great that we have races but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room. So many fans are already here today and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting probably a little bit late but already this morning you’re seeing, with Trump shutting down the borders from Europe to the States, you’re seeing the NBA’s been suspended, yet Formula 1 continues to go on. I don’t know: I saw Jackie Stewart this morning, you know, looking fit and healthy and well in the lift. Some people, as I walked into the paddock, some elderly individuals. It’s a concern, I think, for the people here. It’s quite a big circus that’s come here. So it’s definitely concerning for me. So, no, is your answer.

Sebastian, anything you’d like to add?
SV: Not really. I think it’s very difficult to have a fair judgement. Of course, you realise that a lot of sport, competitions, big events get postponed and cancelled and, like Lewis said, it’s fair to ask the question: why are you here? Obviously we have to trust the FIA and FOM to take precautions as much as they can, but I think the answer that nobody can give you at the moment is how much you can control what is going on. As a matter of fact, we are here. You just try to take care as much as you can.

Daniel, while we’re on the topic, anything you’d like to say?
DR: …

NL: Nothing really more to add. I think the guys summed it up quite well, just taking all necessary precautions and following the advice of the professionals.

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, just as a follow-up to that. We’ve seen several team members have gone into isolation because they’re been tested for the Coronavirus. If any of those results come back positive do you think that the race should be postponed or called off on Sunday?

LH: It’s not for me to make that decision – but I heard that result’s not going to come back for five day or something. Coincidentally. So… yeah. Unlikely.

Q: (Matt Dixon - The Times) Lewis, you’ve been outspoken where others have maybe not dared to be about Corona. What do you think is the reason this race is still going on? Obviously there are… well, is it business interests? Why are we still here?

LH: Cash is king. Honestly I don’t know. I can’t really add much more too it. I don’t feel like I should shy away from the fact of my opinion. The fact is we are here and I just urge everyone to be as careful as you can be. Touching doors and surfaces, and I hope everyone’s got hand sanitisers. And, really for the fans, I really hope they’re taking precautions. I was walking through and seeing just everything going ahead as normal, like it’s a normal day – but it’s… I really don’t think it is. I just hope all the fans stay safe. I really hope we go through this weekend and we don’t see any fatalities, or things that come along in the future.

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, thank you for having the balls to say your piece there and speak out. Everyone else seems to be hiding behind ‘we trust the FIA’, which seems pretty mad. I want to know – this is all four drivers – how you would respond if the FIA, F1 decided to take the decision to suspend the first couple of races of the season, maybe start in Europe. How would you take that? Would that be welcome? Sensible? What’s your opinions?

Let’s start with Daniel.
DR: You really want me to talk? Honestly, from my side, I have to put my trust in the FIA and also, I think, we may all have opinions but at the end of the day I’m here to compete and race cars. I’m not really much more than that in this situation. There’s people who are spending more time investing in it than I am and I’m kind of just following guidelines. I came here knowing we were going to compete so, to be honest… I don’t want to say selfishly… but I’ve just got my head down, focused on the race and I’ve been training and preparing and obviously getting a bunch of emails with guidelines and this and that but I honestly haven’t spent too much time digging into details. There are certainly people around me doing that, so yeah, it’s a tough one. I know it’s real but, as maybe Seb touched on, I don’t know who knows really, at least in this room, we don’t really know the extent of it or how quickly it can spread, or what level it’s at. It’s kind of left to the others for now. It’s mixed. The racer in me is happy that I’m here, for sure.

Sebastian, if the first couple of races were suspended, postponed… what would your reaction be?
SV: Well, one way or the other, I think you expect and you hope that we take the right decision, or the sensible decision. So, if that’s the case then there’s probably reason for it. If it’s not the case then you rely on the fact that maybe there’s not enough reason for it. As I said, I don’t think I’m the one to judge, and I think, to be completely straight, we are probably in a lucky situation, as in, obviously we are exposed to people, and so on, but I think we can largely control our own situation. Obviously in the car we don’t even have a passenger. What I mean is, you try to control the situation for yourself first, as much as you can. That’s selfish but I think everybody in this regard is selfish. You see some people being more relaxed about handshakes, others less. Now some laugh it off, some take it very serious. I think, as I said before, my stand on it is that it’s very difficult at the moment to really categorise and say that it is great, I don’t know, serious, or not serious – but that’s why you have to ultimately put yourself into other people’s hands and trust them. I think we all did getting down here. The flights weren’t cancelled, we were all allowed to travel, so we trusted whoever we flew with. We are sitting in this room. Within that, I think that you are within your own bubble and you try to control it as much as you can. I think that’s valid for us sitting here on the couch, that’s valid for people sitting opposite us and it’s valid for people outside and around the globe. I think it’s probably right to take care and take precaution. How much is necessary, and who’s responsible and whatever other questions, I think there are a lot of questions at the moment that are very difficult to answer.

NL: Obviously for me, it being my first race in Formula One, it definitely is a bit of a strange feeling to have it all starting like this but, again, me, nor any of us are qualified to really make that decision on if the race goes ahead or not. I mean, if the coming races, including this one, don’t end up going ahead, then just have a bit of a holiday I guess. There’s not really much more influence that I’m going to have on the decision. And, again, just following the advice of the professionals really.

And the debut would have to wait…
NL: yeah.

Q: (Giles Richards – The Guardian) To all drivers. We now understand that at least four team members have been tested for the Coronavirus and up to eight. Now, if one of these comes back with a positive result, given how close-knit, and how closely everyone works together in the paddock, is it not of concern to you that it will probably suggest that the Coronavirus has taken hold in the paddock already?

SV: I don’t know. How can you answer that? You can’t. You don’t know. Maybe yes – and I think as far as, and I’m not an expert, but as far as I understand, some people will have it and you don’t see anything. They show no symptoms. You might have it.  Sorry, but who knows. Maybe to some degree you never know and to another degree you will. So, I think the precaution obviously, as far as I understood, that these people got checked. I don’t know how long it takes, if it takes five days or shorter, I have no idea. I think you will probably have to cross that bridge when it comes to it. Then, there’s always an argument that we should have seen this before, we shouldn’t… I think we are all here happy in a way to race because we all love racing. We want to race – but you can’t ignore the fact that something is going on and you have to be aware of the situation – but answering these questions, I think nobody can.

Q: (Craig Slater – Sky Sports) Sebastian, the FIA have had this inquiry into your power unit. They haven’t found the team guilty of any specific wrong-doing. Are you disappointed then that they didn’t clear the team, could this have been handled better in terms of what’s been said in public? And to Lewis: it’s been a friendly rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari; are the gloves off now?

SV: I took the gloves out once to Lewis and it wasn’t the right thing to do so I said it afterwards. Remember Baku!
DR: Well done Baku.
SV: Everyone remembers that race so… who won the race? Anyways, what was the question, sorry?

Q: (Craig Slater – Sky Sports) That the team wasn’t cleared, Sebastian, given that they couldn’t find a specific illegality with the engine.
SV: Um, well, I don’t know. As far as I understand it was cleared so I think… For me it’s very simple. Obviously I trust my team to do the right things, within the regulations, at all time. I think we all trust, all drivers, the governing body as in the FIA, to do their job for all teams on the grid. I think that’s probably the answer, so there’s not much else to add. If you have further detailed questions and so on, then I’m not the one to answer because I think the cars are quite complex now so probably I’m not the best person to give you enough insight. I think the other one, that I would like to add, which I think from your second question, I can smell might be a hint, is that for me it doesn’t change anything in terms of the relationship that I have with other drivers and in this particular (instance) with Lewis. I think the respect that we share we’ve grown over the years is untouched and I don’t think is at threat.

LH: What was the question?

Q: Are the gloves off?
LH: Well, no.  Firstly I think I repeat what Seb has just said. Between us our respect has continued to grow over the years and that doesn’t change. I think that what goes on in the background between teams and the governing body, I think is a separate issue. I think it could have been handled better, for sure but again, that’s really something that should be directed to Toto. I think for us athletes, us drivers, we just want to arrive at the races. Naturally all the teams are different in their performance but you want to feel that you’re playing on fair grounds. That’s the approach that we have and I think… I don’t really know. I won’t add too much more to it because it will just cause more trouble.

Q: (Roger Barne – Beyond the Racing Line) There’s a bit of talk about having some changes to the track in the next couple of years here in Melbourne. What’s the drivers take on what would you like to see at Albert Park track changed in the next couple of years? Nothing, Seb?
SV: I haven’t heard anything.

Q: (Roger Barne – Beyond the Racing Line) Possibly resurfacing, widening the track, possibly going on at 12 to lengthen that end to add another straight?
DR: I’m aware of some of it so I guess I can talk on it a bit. As a driver, I think as Seb touched on earlier, we do enjoy this track. I don’t know any driver that doesn’t. It’s fast and flowing. In a way, it’s a bit like Monaco, like it’s a pleasure to drive by yourself but for overtaking come Sunday it’s not always the best track on the calendar. I think the overtaking average is certainly one of the lowest. We were asked our opinion -  I guess a few of us – if we thought the track could do with some changes and yeah, we were told there were some areas on the track they could widen or try and change the angle of the corner, to try and open it up and create maybe bigger braking zones or basically more chances for overtaking. I think this is what is trying to be achieved. So I’m definitely for that because we’ve also driven this layout for a while so with a few corners changed then if it did make the show on Sunday better I think we would all be OK with that.

LH: Yeah, no, I agree with what Daniel said. I think it’s firstly, this is a fantastic place to come to every year, I think the best opening race in a country that probably Formula One’s ever had. It’s such an exciting place to come to and the track is fantastic but probably a bit like Monaco, a little bit more so on a single lap for us in qualifying, but in the race I think it’s the third or fourth most difficult track to overtake on so if they were to make some modifications, make it longer, particularly right now when we’re getting faster and faster, you’re probably going to see less overtaking I would imagine, potentially this year also being that we have more downforce, more drag which affects the car further behind even more so. So yeah, I’m definitely for them adding some really cool modifications. I just hope that we do stay, keep the race here. I don’t really know what they would have to do to the actual current layout; just extending that’s going to make a big difference. I don’t know the answer to that but I’m all for it.

SV: I haven’t seen any suggestions. In a way it would be sad to change. I get the point but I don’t know, obviously next year it’s supposed to change a lot in terms of racing, so maybe it’s wise to wait for that before you rebuild the whole track, might also be the cheaper option, let us spend the money on the cars before you spend the money on the track. I think it’s probably best to wait and see what happens next year and then we’ll see. If they make the track even nicer then go ahead but usually with those things they end up doing it not so nice.

Q: Nicholas, how was your track walk yesterday?
NL: Yeah, I was going to say, I can’t really comment so much on that because I haven’t driven it. We have been around the track four times already; I did come out quite early. It looks like a great track to drive; I’ve heard many great things about it. I ran twice. I came on Saturday; I was here quite early. Yeah, walked it twice. I’m just going to have to wait and see.

Q: (Inga Strake - Pole Position Reports) Lewis, your team press release said that at the beginning of the season you feel really fit, probably fitter or more ready than before. How much is that is down toward what you’ve been posting over the winter, your vegan nutrition and what did the change in nutrition mean for you? And is it more about food and eating, what you take in or also about sustainability and environment?

LH: I think my health has just got better and better over the last couple of years as I’ve gone to the plant-based diet. It is not the easiest thing to straight away go to and you’re constantly learning about the foods and discovering more foods… things that you probably would never… no, things that I would have never really eaten before, to give you some variability. I focused on having consistent good solid meals; I had a chef during the winter so that was really why it was particularly a better period of time for me but I do feel a large part of the reason I have gone that way is because of the environment and for the animals. It’s a little bit difficult, sitting up here, because I know not all of us do… you know, vegan, not everyone continues but not for me, I’ve definitely felt the benefits from that on the health side of things and physically, it’s just enabled me to… you know people do think you’re going to lose muscle if you don’t have your protein, that’s… a lot of the time people say I need my protein but it’s absolute rubbish. You just need to do some reading on line. I’ve managed to… last year I bulked up, I put a lot more weight on. This winter I trimmed down, like cut but have more muscle and I’m able to lift more weight than I’ve ever done before and I haven’t been able to run further than I’ve ever been able to run before. That’s just enabled me to train better. But you’ve seen it in other sports, other sportsmen and women around the world are trying these things. Serena (Williams) has been working on it, Djokovic, you’ve got a bunch of people out there that are doing it. I think it’s a positive and important way to go for us all. I think there are lots of areas that need to… not just in food but there’s a lot of things that we all need to do better moving forward but one step at a time.

Q: Have you ever tried a 40-hour fast, Lewis?
LH: Why would you do that?
DR: Why do you ask? He asked me in Abu Dhabi. What was my answer? I was bored, wasn’t I?

Q: You said you’d done a 40-hour fast.
DR: Yeah, so a bit of experimenting so I guess on the diet stuff so, lot of vegan stuff now you hear and fasting comes in. I guess I’ve stayed open-minded through it all so yeah, I tried a little bit of fasting over the last few years but yeah, I’m not going to go on a spiel and say I did it because of this reason, that reason. I just… a few people did it and said it was quite good so I thought I’d try it. Did you do it?

Q: (Jon McEvoy – Daily Mail) Just to go back, obviously a serious subject, the coronavirus, would there be any circumstances if there were more incidence of people getting ill or, God forbid, someone involved in the sport, died, at which you guys would say we’d rather not race? You say we’re already here which we obviously are but there will be 100,000 in on Sunday and the day before and that could be alleviated if there were no race. Would any of you consider lobbying to go down that route?

SV: My stand, and I think I probably… I hope others would agree, we hope it doesn’t get that far. If it were to get that far then for sure you pull the handbrake and I think we are a group of 20 guys and I think we’ve got together over the last years for various circumstances on various topics and I think we share common opinion on big decisions and that, I would qualify, is a very, very big decision and ultimately, as I said before, you look at yourself and we would, I think, be mature enough to look after ourselves and pull the handbrake in that case.

Wednesday 11 March 2020

World RX confirms 13-strong permanent field for 2020 season.

The permanent entry list for the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship has been revealed today. 

The 13-strong permanent driver line-up offers up the tantalizing prospect of a title contest every bit as intense as the season-long skirmish which highlighted the 2019 edition.

Among the roster of permanent competitors, who will be joined by a number of round-by-round entries at each event, there are drivers representing eight nations, supported by world-class teams and six manufacturers keen to win the battle of the brands.

In 2019, after 196 races, including an incident-filled finale, the leading protagonists for the drivers’ title – Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud – were tied on 211 points. The trophy went to the elder Hansen – based on a countback of event victories.

So, if you thought it would be hard to surpass a season-long rivalry that went to the wire in South Africa, along comes the double World RX champion intent of adding a third title to his name. Yes, Johan Kristoffersson is back!

The record-breaking Kristoffersson claimed back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. And, in 2019 the champion returns at the wheel of a VW Polo GTI RX for Kristoffersson Motorsport under the team banner "Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS".

As for the Hansens, Timmy, the reigning champion, is joined by younger brother Kevin, in a pair of Team Hansen Peugeot 208s in which they will also defend their teams’ championship.

Norwegian Bakkerud and Liam Doran are back with the Monster RX Cartel banner, but this time the team is being run by the French outfit GC Kompetition. This season they have swapped their EKS prepared Audi S1s for Renault Megane R.S. RXs.

While GC Kompetition's team owner Guerlain Chicherit teams up with Rokas Baciuska in a pair of Renault Clios in the GC Unkorrupted squad. Sweden’s Anton Marklund returns with GCK Bilstein and will drive an updated Renault Megane R.S. RX.

Hyundai is represented by GRX Taneco with fast Finn Niclas Gronholm and Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov behind the wheel of the i20 Supercars. Gronholm, who recorded two wins in 2019 but missed two rounds due to illness, is expected to challenge strongly for top honours as is Timerzyanov, who posted a notable maiden World RX victory at Spa-Francorchamps.

Timo Scheider returns alongside team boss Rene Muennich at the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport outfit which will field updated and improved Seat Ibizas.

Sweden’s Robin Larsson, the 2019 FIA European Champion, steps up to World RX full time and will race an updated ex-Ekstrom Audi S1 Quattro with the JC Raceteknik team.

Apart from the permanent drivers, a number of round-by-round entries will be announced over the coming weeks.

"The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship permanent entry list underlines the lure of World RX for both teams and drivers," said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of Motorsports Events at IMG.

"We thought it would be tough to eclipse the drama and excitement of our 2019 season but if you look at the class of 2020, we have all the ingredients for a rivalry every bit as intense."

"Our 2020 line-up is bursting with world-class talent – including two world champions, European champions, and multiple race winners."

According to Bellamy, the 2020 season is a pivotal year as the sport of rallycross takes it first steps on the road to electrification.

"Together with the FIA we are committed to an electric future for rallycross," he said. “This year we will embark on our journey to a phased introduction of an electric world championship in 2021 by introducing the electric series Projekt E as part of that process." 

"There is a huge groundswell of support for electric rallycross from teams and industry stakeholders. There is an inexorable surge towards electrification in the automotive industry and we are excited to be part of it."

Bakkerud, Doran return in all-new Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel.

Andreas Bakkerud and Liam Doran return in 2020 with all-new Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel.

After missing out on the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship title on countback (equal points with Timmy Hansen), Bakkerud is even more motivated and determined than ever to reach the very top in 2020.

The Norweigan believes that GCK and the updated Mégane R.S. RX can provide him with the best chance of bringing home both FIA World Rallycross Championship titles in 2020.

"First off, I’m proud to sign my eighth season in a row in a supercar – it’s pretty insane! I’m very pleased that I’ll be driving with GCK in 2020, continuing the Monster Energy RX Cartel story too," he said. "GCK has been a breath of fresh air in World RX since joining the sport, and I know the potential this car and this team have."

"I tested the GCK Mégane R.S. RX after Cape Town RX 2018 and have been in contact with GCK ever since, so it’s great to finally be able to work together. Plus, last time I drove a Renault I became European Champion, so why not bring the title home again this time?"

Bakkerud is under no illusions that the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship will be easy, after coming within a whisker of claiming the title in 2019.

"I take my task very seriously – I know I’m here to win races and hopefully do well in the standings, but I respect the fact this championship keeps getting stronger and it won’t be easy," the Norwegian said. "But it will be fun!"

As in 2019, Liam Doran lines up alongside Andreas this year in the Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel. The Briton is excited to be back and is looking for better luck and more celebrations in 2020.

"The RX Cartel is back!" Doran said. "I’m stoked to be racing again this year. Last year had some real ups and downs for me and Andreas – I really wanted to get a win but it just didn’t happen. This year there are no excuses!”

Doran is returning to GCK for his second spell after competing in four races at the end of 2018. The ‘British Bomb’ is confident a return to the Mégane R.S. RX will bring better fortunes this season.

"Teaming up with GCK will be great. I drove the Mégane R.S. RX in 2018 and we really got on, so I’m definitely looking forward to getting back behind the wheel," he said. "Last year I struggled to get to grips with the car (the Audi S1), so to get back in something I know will be great – and with all the developments made on the car since I last drove it, I have high expectations."

"We ended last year on what seemed like a bit of a low with Andreas missing out on the title, but all in all 2019 was a massive success for us and I’m sure we can carry that momentum into 2020 with GCK."

Confirmed 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship entries thus far: 

Guerlain Chicherit – GCK Unkorrupted – Renault Clio R.S RX
Rokas Baciuska – GCK Unkorrupted – Renault Clio R.S RX 

Timo Scheider – Munnich Motorsport – Seat Ibiza
Rene Munnich – Munnich Motorsport – Seat Ibiza

Niclas Gronholm – GRX Taneco – Hyundai i20
Timur Timerzyanov – GRX Taneco – Hyundai i20

Anton Marklund - GCK Bilstein - Renault Megane R.S RX

Robin Larsson - JC Raceteknik - Audi S1 

Timmy Hansen - Team Hansen - Peugeot 208 WRX 
Kevin Hansen - Team Hansen - Peugeot 208 WRX

Johan Kristoffersson - Volkswagen Dealer Team BAUHAUS - Volkswagen Polo GTi RX

Andreas Bakkerud - Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel - Renault Megane R.S. RX
Liam Doran - Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel - Renault Megane R.S. RX

Two-time champion Johan Kristoffersson makes World RX return after one-year hiatus

PHOTO CREDIT: Kristoffersson Motorsport. 
Two-time World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristofferson has confirmed his return to the series with Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS in 2020. 

The Swede claimed seven victories on route to his maiden World RX drivers' title in 2017 and surpassed that feat in 2018 winning 11 of 12 rounds in the defense of his first World RX crown. However, a few months later he was left without a seat when PSRX Volkswagen withdrew from the championship.

After a stint in rallying and a season in the World Touring Car Cup where he claimed three race wins. Kristoffersson will return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the wheel of a works-built Volkswagen Polo Supercar under the team banner "Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS". 

"It has been a hectic period and not the easiest path to go along. There have been many alternatives, but right now I feel really satisfied. Rallycross is very close to my heart. All our energy and focus is now on World RX," Kristoffersson said.

The 31-year-old says that while his attention was elsewhere after a one-year hiatus, he has learnt from racing elsewhere and is refocussed for the season ahead. 

"I have caught up with some of the races I missed and my conclusion is that our opponents took steps forward during 2019," he adds. "I have also taken my steps as a driver through what I have learned in rally and track racing and that is the mix that becomes rallycross."

Kristoffersson Motorsport has a long successful history in motorsport, and in 2013 they returned to rallycross with a single event in Sweden. The team expanded its operation in 2014 when it entered two Volkswagen Polos in the Supercar class but later stopped running a team in World RX class after Johan joined the Volkswagen backed PSRX team in 2017. 

"I’m really looking forward to this season and it is a bit special to do it with Kristoffersson Motorsport. When we entered rallycross in 2014 we set a three-year plan to become world champions," Kristoffersson said. "It succeeded, however with PSRX where I had two fantastic years. But some of our own staff were on the substitute bench so to speak. That’s why it’s so extremely nice to do this."

KMS team boss Tommy Kristoffersson says the team is well aware of the challenge it faces in 2020 entering as a family team.

"We hope to score good results early on, giving us a chance for extra support for the latter part of the season. Of course, this puts pressure on our team, but I feel assured we have a very competent squad," he said.

"Tight races, powerful cars, big crowds. Rallycross is surrounded by emotions and the organizers have found a great concept for the events. And with a double world champion behind the wheel the pressure is on."

"We will be there aiming to win, but anyone involved in this business knows it’s not that easy," he adds. "After all, we’re a private team and the resources are limited, not even close to 2017 and 2018. Also, the car will be based in Arvika, not in Hannover, even though we will be buying services from Volkswagen Motorsport."

Kristoffersson senior says the team also has an eye on the electric future of rallycross.

"It has always been a benefit to work with Volkswagen and together with their development department I hope that we will be able to join and lay the foundation for the future of motorsport," he said. 

"Rallycross is a perfect product for electrification and there is no more efficient way to conduct development work. Much of what emerges through motorsports is used in the extension of our standard cars."

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Larsson returns to World RX with JC Raceteknik.

Robin Larsson, the 2019 FIA European Rallycross, and Nordic Supercars champion will return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2020 with JC Racetecknik. 

The 27-year-old Swede was left without a seat at the end of the 2018 season after Olsbergs MSE took a step back from the World RX championship for the 2019 season. He soon found a home at JC Racetecknik and went on to took four victories in the Euro RX championship on his way to a second title, as a reward for wrapping up the title early, Larsson was entered into the Latvian round of the World RX championship where he showed his strong pace. 

This season he will race the Audi S1 Supercar that former World RX champion Mattias Ekstrom drove in 2018, updated to the latest specification by the EKS team. 

"It’s so exciting to be entering the World Championship with a strong team and a good car. Last year, both me and Joel had our best seasons ever, so continuing this together with the team will be extra special," Larsson said. "Of course, there will be tough events with many fast drivers, but that’s what rallycross is all about."

Larsson has high hopes for the 2020 season. "We had good speed last year with good times against the World Championship drivers. Now that we are racing together on track I will be able to increase the pace even more."

"We’ll see during the first events how we stack up against the other teams. It would be nice to have good results straight away and to be able to continue that form. There are going to be many lovely battles I think."

The Swede says that his World RX entry was only possible thanks to backing from Br Öhman, Blåkläder and several of both the team's and Larsson's collaborative partners.

"Joel, dad [Lars Larsson] and Simpa [Simon Eriksson] have helped a lot with getting the budget together for this year, the World Championship has always been the target," he said. "When Mats Öhman and Br Öhman came in and supported us like they have, it was an amazing feeling, it’s very good of them. And it’s also thanks to all of our partners, because without them this wouldn’t be possible."

Confirmed 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship entries thus far: 

Guerlain Chicherit – GCK Unkorrupted – Renault Clio R.S RX
Rokas Baciuska – GCK Unkorrupted – Renault Clio R.S RX 

Timo Scheider – Munnich Motorsport – Seat Ibiza
Rene Munnich – Munnich Motorsport – Seat Ibiza

Niclas Gronholm – GRX Taneco – Hyundai i20
Timur Timerzyanov – GRX Taneco – Hyundai i20

Anton Marklund - GCK Bilstein - Renault Megane R.S RX

Robin Larsson - JC Raceteknik - Audi S1