Tuesday 30 June 2020

Father-son duo takes on RallyX Nordic 'All-Star' Magic Weekend.

Father-son duo takes on this week’s RallyX Nordic 'All-Star' Magic Weekend at Höljes, Sweden. Niclas Grönholm will enter the Supercar class, while his father, double FIA World Rally Champion 
Marcus Grönholm will compete in the Legends Race on the same event.
GRX Taneco will field one car for the Rally X Nordic ‘All Star’ Magic Weekend event that will be shared by both Grönholm family members.
“It’s going to be awesome to finally get back to racing and rallycross!," Niclas said. "It’s been a long break for the sport’s world and way too long time out of the Hyundai for me personally. But that’s behind us and now I’m very much looking forward to get out on the track and face many of my racing friends again. I expect the racing to be very tough in Höljes so it will be a great chance for us to get ready for the upcoming World RX season, shake off the “rust” and test our updated car."
The Legends Race will feature greats and champions of the yesteryear. Amongst them is GRX Taneco Team Principal Marcus Grönholm. “This is not a comeback – I promised my family to stop permanent racing already some time ago," said Marcus Grönholm. "But as an one-off event, with fast cars and many great drivers, Höljes will be great fun and I’m looking forward to enjoy every bit of it in our GRX Hyundai i20 Supercar. Also, I’ll get to compare my lap-times with Niclas and I am sure he will give me a hard time chasing him.”
The Finnish squad intends to use this event as a part of the pre-season testing, in order to prepare themselves and the car for the World RX season that will start at Höljes in late August.
“Niclas and Marcus will push the car to its limits in a very real racing environment, giving us a real data to work with and allowing us to be better prepared for the World RX season,” said GRX Taneco Team Manager Jussi Pinomäki.
Rally X Nordic ‘All Star’ Magic Weekend event will start on Thursday, July 2nd and will last throughout the weekend, featuring two RallyX Nordic rounds and one Legends Race competition.

#YellowSquad unveils striking new livery.

Henrik Krogstad's RX2 car.
#YellowSquad has unveiled its livery for the 2020 rallycross season, which will be seen in both the RX2 International Series and RallyX Nordic Supercar Lites category this year.

The YellowSquad is a junior rallycross team formed by brothers Kevin and Timmy Hansen in February 2019, with one aim in mind to deliver a platform for aspiring rallycross drivers to learn the skills needed to progress up the ladder towards the World Rallycross Championship.

The team's livery has been created by top motorsport designer Adrien Paviot, who is best known for designing the helmets of Formula 1 stars: Charles Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, and Pierre Gasly, plus WRC champions Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier.

Paviot also designed the livery for Loeb's record-breaking Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak car, and is responsible for designing Team Hansen's World RX cars.

“The car looks absolutely amazing. I think Adrien has done a great job on the design and making something that stands out. In my opinion, it's the best RX2 car I've ever seen, even though I raced a car in the class myself! So it's a very big compliment," said Kevin Hansen, #Yellow Squad Team Principal.

“It's very aggressive, it stands out a lot with the heavy bright yellow matte finish that we have, with shiny elements on top of that. I think it's great for the partners, they get great exposure, and on top of that, there are new matching suits, gloves, and shoes from Sparco for the drivers.

“Everything looks amazing next to the car and I can't wait to see the drivers wearing their Sparco gear and jumping into these cars, matching everything together. I'm sure we look the fastest, and we'll also try to be the fastest on track this weekend!”

Norwegian Henrik Krogstad and Czech teenager Dan Skocdopole will race the cars during the 2020 season, with the attention to detail demonstrated on the team's livery symbolizing the highly professional approach #YellowSquad are taking to its first Supercar Lites campaign.

"I think the livery looks awesome! It's the first time I've had a full-on livery with matching suit, shoes, and everything," Krogstad said. "I'm really looking forward to racing with #YellowSquad while sporting the team colours from head to toe!"

Dan Skocdopole shares his opinion on the striking new #YellowSquad livery: “The car design looks pretty slick, hopefully, the aesthetics translate into an action-packed and fast car throughout 2020. Höljes here we come!”

The new #YellowSquad livery will make its first on-track debut this Thursday when the RallyX Nordic Magic Weekend at Höljes begins with a double-header to get the 2020 programme underway.

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Photo Credit - #YellowSquad

FEATURE: GCK's David Mansfield talks all this spotting.

David Mansfield reviewing data/video with Guerlain Chicherit and Liam Doran.
PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Up top! Right there! Clear high! Two behind! These are terms that you’ve mostly like heard while watching IndyCar or NASCAR. The FIA World Rallycross Championship is no different, as the world’s best drivers battle on track for the best result possible, these drivers also have their own set of eyes perched high in a spotters tower with one aim to assist their driver to maximize their performance on track. 

The main role of a spotter is to keep their driver-focused and informed of what is ahead of them as well as providing real-time information about the cars in the immediate vicinity, and in the case of rallycross they also assist with joker lap strategies as well.  

In the FIA World Rallycross Championship, there is a special tower for spotters where they are able to look over the circuit (higher vantage point) and have live video and timing screens at hand to give their driver(s) all the information they require to assist their driver, and when to potentially take the Joker lap. 

In order to learn a bit more about spotters or spotting in World RX, we speak to none other than David Mansfield from GC Kompetition (GCK) about his road to RX, the role within the sport and more. 

Some of you might not know David Mansfield, so let’s get to know a bit more about him and where it all began for him in Rallycross. 

“I got started with rallycross at a national level in 2008 when I was working alongside Liam Doran at Lydden [Hill] preparing the circuit to bid for the European Rallycross championship back to the UK for the first time in 20+ years,” he said.

“Once we secured the European championship and the circuit was up and running I went on the road to help Liam and his team across all the championship events taking on a performance role that eventually lead to becoming a spotter when they were introduced way back in 2012 ish…”

Having been involved in World RX for a few years now, and to properly understand the role of a Spotter in the short, sharp, action-packed championship, we asked David about his role within the sport.  
Anton Marklund and Guillaume de Ridder on the joker lap in Cape Town.
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien

“The role has developed over the years from just “saying what you see” and keeping the driver safe and aware of what they can’t see from inside the car... to nowadays taking the race results into your hands by running strategy in real-time, especially since the joker lap has become a huge part of every race,” he explains. 

“There are some interesting calls from spotters and I’m one of the first to play armchair quarterback and shout or laugh at the screen when you see some of the decisions being made. But it’s certainly difficult to understand everything from the outside watching in, especially as there’s so much data in the spotters tower that you have to process within a short period of time to try and get the best result every lap for your driver and team.”

“So understanding the thought process and what some of the spotters are planning is a tall order. Especially when you take into account that teams have a set plan with a few different scenarios or strategy plays they can make before the start of each race. Usually, that plan goes up in smoke once the light goes green and the cars are at the first corner, and this is where the experience comes in."

Mansfield explains that running reactive race strategies helps but if you don’t achieve the desired result, you as a spotter/strategies should prepare to have a helmet or boot thrown at you. 

“In all the teams I’ve worked for I’ve been allowed to run a reactive race strategy and that helps a ton but you have to be prepared to have a crash helmet or even race boots thrown at you if you make the wrong call and the driver isn’t happy with the race result so it’s a fine line between glory or maximum misery!” 

While the role of spotting in NASCAR and IndyCar versus World Rallycross is not too different, the only real comparison is the length of the races. But, how does spotting in NASCAR and IndyCar differ to the role of spotting in Rallycross? 

“I’ve only recently been aware of spotters in other forms of motorsports to be honest and I’m now friends with a few NASCAR spotters because of the work I do with the American rallycross events,” he said. “You definitely need more endurance to spot for NASCAR or Indy car as the races are longer so it’s not my thing but I assume it’s similar to the sport of fishing... pack some snacks, wack on the sun cream and chill for a few hours watching the world go by.” 

Every job requires special training courses or University degrees etc. before you are allowed to apply or start working in the specified profession. Is there anything specific that someone would have to study or a special skills they are required to have to join Rallycross as a spotter?

“They say to master anything you need to practice for 10,000 hours. I kinda believe that especially with something like spotting because of all the possible scenarios,” Mansfield said. “I know I’m only approximately 5,000 hours into watching race re-runs and onboards from previous years but to fast track the skill I work with multiple teams and drivers in as many different championships as possible to stay sharp.” 

As they say: ‘practice makes perfect’. So, does David Mansfield have any secrets when it comes to improving his skill as a spotter. 

“There is one secret to get really good at spotting that I used when I first started. That’s to focus on whoever you think is the best spotter in each race and study their calls and try to figure out why they make these calls. It helped me a bunch in the beginning learning by watching Kenneth Hansen and his team in my first few years in European Rallycross and cross-referencing calls with the drivers to see their opinions of the strategy,” he said. “It would be like a boxer trying to impersonate Ali’s style and if they have the guts to get in ring that would give them a pretty big head start.”

Accuracy is key in motorsport. Without accuracy in engineering, mechanical, or even spotting a driver could lose valuable time or even positions in a race. How accurate do you actually need to be as a spotter? And, are you required to forecast incidents, time splits, etc.

“This depends on the spotters ability and the drivers capacity to take in information during the race. I’ve worked with 27 supercar drivers to this point and all of them are different so you have to adjust accordingly,” he said. 

Drivers often have preferences with regard to the information they want the spotter to provide. Mansfield explains: “Someone like Andreas [Bakkerud] just needs the clear concise facts whereas Liam wants to know much more during the race so there is little left for him to think about what’s happening around him.”

“In some cases when I’ve seen it coming I’ll tell a driver they are about to be hit and give them a quick 321 countdown so they can adjust for the hit. Sometimes this pays off others I forget to press the button! Haha”

Whilst David leads the way for GC Kompetition in the spotters tower and studying telemetry. He admits that his main role within the team is to brew a mean cuppa tea. We can not verify this fact as we are yet to try his tea.

“Yes reviewing telemetry in between races using the vbox system and my main role is BREW CHIEF... I make a mean cuppa tea being English as you can imagine,” he said.

Reflecting on the past few years in World Rallycross, we asked David what has been his best highlight as a spotter. He immediately points out Andreas Bakkerud’s record-setting clean sweep in Norway 2016.
David Mansfield with Guerlain Chicherit.
PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.

“What springs to mind as a highlight would be Andreas’ perfect race weekend in Norway. I laterally said turn in twice and joker 6 times and Andreas won the event and scored a perfect 30 points for a clean sheet. It’s epic when you’re watching how a driver pulls off a great turn 1 move and ends up 1st, that’s when it gets interesting because it’s then on the spotter if they win the race or not,” he explained.

From time-to-time while watching NASCAR or IndyCar you’d hear this spotter calls, this is slightly different in World RX. Spotter calls aren’t broadcast, and in order to draw a picture of what a spotter would actually, tell their driver we asked him if he’d give us an example of what he’d tell his driver in a before, during, and after a race. 

“Not a chance that the secret sauce and why I’ll be wearing a mask this season so nobody can read my lips…. Haha,” he jokingly says. 

In 2020, GC Kompetition will have six drivers on the World Rallycross grid. Surely, Mansfield won’t be responsible for all the drivers. 

“[I’m] responsible for making the tea and providing light-hearted moral boosting entertainment across all drivers but I guess I’ll just be working with one or two of the drivers if this season ever actually gets going.. as to who you will have to wait and see I guess,” he said.

A very special ‘Thank You’ to David Mansfield for taking some time out of his day to discuss the world of spotting with us. We’d also like to thank Nini Mikolajski (Roots) for arranging the interview. 

Written By – Junaid Samodien

Monday 29 June 2020

Pailler wins on debut in World RX Esports Series

Jonathan Pailler claimed victory at round three of the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s Esports Series at Holjes, while Timmy Hansen moved into the points lead.
Pailler, the Euro RX driver, joined the World RX Esports event, for the first time in the Swedish round and delivered a fast pace throughout qualifying.
He qualified for the final by finishing P3 in semi-final one, then stayed out of trouble in a rain-hit, action-packed final with a lap one joker lap to claim victory in a Peugeot 208 WRX.
Three different drivers took the fastest time in qualifying; Sivert Svardal, Timmy Hansen, and Tom Blomqvist, round two winner Blomqvist fastest in Q3 and Q4 to take the TQ (top qualifier) position for the semi-finals. By taking the TQ, Blomqvist also moved into the series points lead, and he won semi-final one from pole position to take pole for the final.
Tom made a great start from pole position in the final, but he clipped the infamous turn one kerb, which forced him into the path of brothers Timmy and Kevin Hansen, and Svardal, all four cars going off the circuit. Pailler, starting from P5 on the grid, was able to dive into the joker while Timmy Hansen took the lead.
Pailler climbed to P2 when Svardal took his joker on lap three, then into the lead when Timmy Hansen took his joker on lap four. Hansen dropped back into the chasing pack, battling with Svardal, Kevin Hansen, and Blomqvist for the final two laps, with positions changing at every corner. Blomqvist finished P2 with Timmy Hansen P3, Kevin Hansen P4, and Svardal P5.
"This first World RX Esports race was a big learning curve for me to learn about the car characteristics, compared to what Fabien and I usually race online. I started driving on Thursday evening with the Dall'olmo brothers and it really wasn't easy but lap after lap I managed to get closer to their times," Pailler said. "When I saw the Hansen brothers' and Blomqvist's lap times I really wasn't confident, but the two first qualifiers went really well with a clean track. In Q4 I managed to stay with Timmy and get into his rhythm."

"With nothing to lose in the final, I managed an undercut, in turn, one to take the joker and come out third. I then realised that in the wet I could keep up with them and go faster. I focused on driving clean and making no mistakes and it paid off. I really didn’t expect to win but it’s a great surprise, especially given the level."
There were also semi-finals and a final for the Sim category at Sweden, with Killian Dall’olmo delivering a strong fight-back performance in the wet final to climb through the field after a slow start and claim his second victory in a row, ahead of older brother Quentin Dall’olmo and John Harris.
The final round of the World RX Esports series will be at Cape Town, South Africa on Sunday 12 July.

World RX Esports Series Championship Standings:
1. Timmy Hansen (SWE) 73
2. Tom Blomqvist (GBR) 67
3. Kevin Hanssen (SWE) 61
4. Shane van Gisbergen (NZL) 55
5. Henrik Krogstad (NOR) 52

Friday 26 June 2020

The countdown is on to Höljes' 'All-Star' Magic Weekend

There is less than a week to wait. Less than a week until the starting lights go out on the first major rallycross event of 2020. Less than a week until some of the biggest names in the sport – several coming out of retirement especially for the occasion – descend on Höljes in Sweden to battle wheel-to-wheel for glory. Less than a week...until the eagerly-anticipated ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend (2-5 July).
As the world gradually begins to open up again, Höljes is preparing to stage Europe’s first high-profile motor racing event since lockdown. More than 90 competitors have signed up to take part across the five classes – ‘Legends’, Supercar, Supercar Lites, CrossCar/Crosskart and CrossCar Junior – and fittingly, amongst them are some heavy-hitters indeed.
In the invitational ‘Legends’ class – for drivers who are no longer active but whose past achievements make them incontestable titans of the sport – two-time FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm will take on 74-year-old former FIA European Rallycross Champion Per Eklund, fellow rallycross heroes Andreas Eriksson and Stig-Olov Walfridson and rallying and rallycross star Henning Solberg. It is the kind of tantalising line-up that has never been seen before – and arguably, never will be again.
In the Supercar category, double FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson will mark his return to the discipline following a sabbatical season in the FIA World Touring Car Cup. The ‘Super Swede’ will be up against a host of fellow title-winners, including reigning FIA Euro RX and RallyX Nordic presented by Cooper Tires Champion Robin Larsson, former RallyX Nordic Champions Oliver Solberg and Thomas Bryntesson, two-time RX2 Series Champion Oliver Eriksson and ex-FIA Junior World Rally and WRC 2 Champion Pontus Tidemand.
There will be two notable ‘debuts’ in the 22-strong Supercar field, as both JC Raceteknik’s Ben-Philip Gundersen – last year’s RallyX Nordic Supercar Lites Champion – and Jamaican ace Fraser McConnell (Olsbergs MSE) make their maiden appearance in the class, while GRX Taneco’s Niclas Grönholm reached the World RX final at Höljes in 2019 and will be fired-up to kick-start his 2020 campaign with victory.
Supercar Lites promises to be fiercely-contested, too, as a gaggle of young chargers rev up to duel doorhandle-to-doorhandle around the iconic Värmland circuit. Defending Höljes winner Thomas Holmen will take on local specialist Linus Östlund, leading lady Nathalie Petersson – back after a bruising rookie season in 2019 – rapid rallycross returnee Henrik Krogstad, highly-rated Swedes Marcus Höglund, Martin Enlund and Nils Andersson and fast Finn Jesse Kallio, who came, saw and conquered in his only previous RallyX Nordic outing on home soil at Kouvola last summer.
Five-time FIA World Rally Championship runner-up Thierry Neuville and reigning FIA World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen headline the 40-strong CrossCar/Crosskart entry, as the Belgian and Swede team up under the new LifeLive Nordic banner. Ten CrossCar Juniors complete the line-up, as for the first time RallyX Nordic welcomes competitors as young as 12 – proving that the future of the sport is every bit as bright as its present and past.
“After many weeks of planning, we are all tremendously excited to get the ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend underway,” enthused Jan-Erik Steen, CEO of RallyX Nordic promoter, RX Promotion. “A tireless effort has been put in by all involved, and the result is that we have a mouth-watering entry list, huge interest from all around the world and a broadcast arrangement that is set to bring viewers more live rallycross action from a single event than ever before.
“The start of a season is always something to look forward to, but the three-month pause has left everybody hungrier than ever for real-life racing – and that is what we are proud to present. The drivers are ready, the cars are ready, Höljes is looking superb and now all that remains is for fans to settle down on the sofa and tune in for what will unquestionably be the motorsport event of the year so far.”
The joint brainchild of RallyX Nordic promoter RX Promotion and Höljes’ organising club Finnskoga MK, and supported by the Swedish arm of international broadcasting heavyweight NEP, the ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend will follow a purely digital, pay-per-view livestreaming model to adhere to current COVID-19 restrictions.
The commitment is to bring more rallycross action, highlights and ‘insider’ content than ever before to fans all around the world, with a global English-language feed, a presenting team composed of Andrew Coley, Hal Ridge, Neil Cole and Molly Pettit and no geoblocking.
Prominent Swedish streaming platform StayLive will host the ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend, with the attractively-priced subscription package offering more than 26 hours of live-action and interviews for just 249 SEK (c. 460 ZAR). Subscribers will also gain complimentary access to all 2019 RallyX Nordic races as a bonus. You can sign up here.

Content Supplied by RallyX Nordic.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

New, but familiar assault for Doran in 2020.

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Liam Doran will this year, take on yet another bid to win the FIA World Rallycross Championship. In the process, Doran will once again join the 2019 title rival to the Hansen's; Andreas Bakkerud. However, rather than racing in their 2019 EKS machinery, the pairing will join GC Kompetition, a team that Brit is all too familiar with. 

Competing in rallycross since 2009, Doran first joined the FIA European Rallycross Championship, finishing third in 2010 with the Kenneth Hansen Racing (Division 1). He then stepped up to compete in the Supercar category, recording second position in 2012 with his own team; just edging Tanner Foust and slotting in behind the champion, Timur Timerzyanov. 

He then joined the Global Rallycross Championship in 2011 and raced on-off for three years. 2014 saw him joining the FIA World Rallycross Championship with the Monster Energy World RX team. Competing again on an on-off rotation, GCK grabbed hold of his expertise in 2018 to compete at Loheac (France), Riga (Latvia), and Estering (Germany). 

While the team joined the grid earlier that year, it needed crucial input from proven drivers. Doran filled the shoes of Jerome Grosset-Janin after an abrupt end to his season. 

Doran adapted well to this challenge, showing tremendous pace in Loheac; recording the teams’ second-best finish of the season. The Brit then sat out for the American and South African rounds as Anton Marklund took his turn. 

Last year saw the 'British Bomb' join his old teammate, Andreas Bakkerud. Racing with EKS prepared Audi S1’s, the team did very well to allow Bakkerud to finish on equal points with the eventual winner, Timmy Hansen. 

Doran was well on for his first-ever win in Norway last year, joining Niclas Grönholm on the front of the grid for a very wet race. With an excellent start, he led the pack into the joker (lap). As Kevin Abbring led the field, Grönholm and Kevin Hansen bumped doors behind him. This allowed for Doran to catch up quickly, with the front three, who were still to joker. 
The 'British Bomb' in the 2018 GCK Renault Megane R.S.RX.
PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition. 

With virtual victory in sight and only two laps to go, a mechanical issue brought him to a halt. While Grönholm eventually won the race, Marklund in GCK machinery crossed the line first. Had it not been for a mechanical infringement, the team could have taken their first win. 

Nonetheless, GCK showed tremendous progress and has been an ever-present entry into the FIA World Rallycross Championship finals. 

With both Bakkerud and Doran joining GCK in 2020 under the banner Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel, both the team and the drivers will benefit. More so, Doran, who is already familiar with the team and machinery, will be able to help Bakkerud adjust with more ease. 

"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," Doran 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."

Will 2020 see Doran grab his first-ever FIA World Rallycross Championship win? Anything will be possible in an action-packed, condensed 2020 season!

Written By - Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien.

Finland returns as World RX reveals calendar with three double-headers.

Event winner foust leads Timur Timerzyanov.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Championship.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship has formally announced the return of Finland to the 2020 calendar, and a trio of double-header events.  

Due to the delayed start of the World Rallycross Championship season, the event format for the first three weekends (Sweden, Finland, and Latvia) includes two separate rounds condensed into two days, both of which will be awarded full World Championship points.

These changes were announced in conjunction with the formal confirmation that World RX will return to Finland after six years. In addition to this, the World RX has also confirmed that Abu Dhabi will host a single event rather than a double-header as previously announced.

The newly added CapitalBox World Rallycross of Finland will form rounds three and four of the championship that is now projected to take place over eight weekends from August to December.

Finland last featured in World RX in 2014 when the fourth round of that year’s FIA World Rallycross Championship was run on the undulating track at Kouvola. The event was won by Tanner Foust, the first American to win a round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

"I’m delighted that we can add events in Finland. Everything from the initial idea, to getting a contract, has taken just a few weeks and illustrates the best kind of lateral thinking and cooperation from the event organiser, our World RX competitors, the IMG World RX team and the FIA to recognise an opportunity and make the most of it," said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of motorsports events at IMG.

IMG, World RX rights holders issued a statement regarding the attendance of spectators in 2020. The statement read: "All events in 2020 will run within the prevailing national health and safety requirements for mass gatherings and individual event organisers will provide information on spectator attendance closer to their race date."

Our main focus is to organise a great event for the competitors, and at the same time to take care of the safety of the participants, with all the necessary restrictions," said SET Promotion’s Event Manager, Sami Puumalainen. "It’s great to get World Rallycross back to Finland after such a long break. We know that many teams and drivers have good memories of the Kouvola circuit; we will do our best to make this one a great and memorable event too." 

The Finnish event will be run behind closed doors and without spectators.

Provisional FIA World Rallycross Championship 2020:
1. Sweden, Höljes, August 22-23 (two rounds in one weekend)
2. Finland, Kouvola, August 29-30 (two rounds in one weekend)
3. Latvia, Riga, September 19-20 (two rounds in one weekend)
4. Belgium, Spa-Francorchamps, October 3-4
5. Portugal, Montalagre, October 10-11
6. Spain, Barcelona, ​​October 17-18
7. United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, October 30-31
8. Germany, Nürburgring, December 12-13
*Subject to FIA approval

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Neuville and Hansen to lead new team at RallyX Nordic.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport 
Reigning FIA World Rallycross champion Timmy Hansen and World Rally Championship star Thierry Neuville will lead Hansen Motorsport's new CrossCar team "LifeLive Nordic" at the upcoming RallyX Nordic 'All-Star Magic Weekend' in Höljes on July 2-5.

Neuville will make his international rallycross debut at the RallyX Nordic 'All-Star Magic Weekend', the first major rallycross event since the COVID-19 outbreak, and it also marks Timmy's first competitive racing miles this year, as the opening round of the World RX season has been postponed until August.

"I’m very excited to get this 2020 race season started, finally!," Hansen said. "It’s the first proper race of the year after loads of esports races. I can’t wait to do the real thing again. It’s not in a Supercar this time, but that sensation of the g-forces, the jumps, and just driving Holjes in itself is magic. It is the Magic Weekend, and for many different reasons."

LifeLive Nordic TN5 CrossCar.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport

"I’m happy that we’ll do not only one race but two races, so that means loads of starts, loads of laps to get that race feeling back in the body, finally to prepare for coming back to Höljes for the world championship in August."

Both Hansen and Neuville will race under the LifeLive Nordic banner, a new partnership between Hansen Motorsport and Belgian CrossCar manufacturer LifeLive, one of five brands authorised to build FIA-approved CrossCars.

“It’s also a great opportunity to get our TN5 into Nordic competition," Neuville said. "It’s a big premiere for us. We are very aware that it’ll be a huge challenge for our team and for LiveLive Nordic, to brings the cars there, and especially to make the cars quick. We’re coming to get the product over there, to get a first impression about its speed, the improvements that need to be made and the development that needs to continue."

"I want to show that we’ve made improvements. It’s a very special market: usually everyone is running with the same brand of car, and we would like to change that in the future," the Belgian adds. "That’s why we have to come over and get mileage on special tracks like Höljes, which is probably one of the best rallycross tracks in the world."

CrossCars is an affordable entry-level category for off-road racing, which Hansen Motorsport already has experience with through its #YellowSquad junior team.

"Being in the CrossCar category will be very tough. I’ve followed it closely, especially through #YellowSquad last year, and I know the level is very high," the Swede said. "The young guys are extremely fast and experienced in that category, so I have to stay very focused, as I do with any other race that I do, including the world championship, super focused on my performance and trying to get everything right in the race."

The Höljes track is an undisputed icon of rallycross, featuring a mix of almost everything. The first section of the track is quite technical due to it's twisty nature, while the second half is a sprint to the finish line. 

There isn't a single corner on the track that won't bring action and overtaking. 

"I’m very pleased to race on this famous rallycross track, and be part of the race weekend as well. I was able to follow it last year already and it was really interesting, so I’m really looking forward to taking part in it," Neuville said. 

Sunday 21 June 2020

Blomqvist claims maiden World RX Esports Series win.

Blomqvist leads Van Gisbergen in World RX Esports Series final.
Tom Blomqvist takes surprise win in the second FIA World Rallycross Championship's Esports Series at Hell in Norway. 

The Brit missed out on a place in the final but was given a second chance after Kevin Hansen, Martin Enlund, and Sivert Svardal were all handed five-second time penalties for contact in their semi-final race.

The six-lap final looked set to be a duel between reigning World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen and Shane Van Gisbergen after the pair topped the Intermediate Classification in qualifying. 

Hansen won semi-final one to secure pole for the final. While Van Gisbergen won semi-final two, to join Hansen on the inside of the grid for the final with Blomqvist in third, Henrik Krogstad in fourth and Marius Bermingrud in fifth (outside line). 

Timmy Hansen lead from the start and had a comfortable three-second lead to Van Gisbergen and Bermingrud who had jokered on the opening lap.

The Swede took the joker on lap two to cover off Van Gisbergen and allowed Blomqvist into the lead. He emerged ahead but ran wide and the New Zealander took the inside line to sweep into second place. Timmy then fell into the clutches of Bermingrud who had jokered on lap one. 

Bermingrud momentarily passed Hansen at turn two, but following contact with Henrik Krogstad who had emerged from the joker lap, Timmy retook the position. 

With clean air ahead and a series of fastest laps (33.8s) Blomqvist was untouchable despite a late mistake in the joker on lap six. He was able to edge ahead of Van Gisbergen and Timmy Hansen to take his maiden World RX Esports Series win with Krogstad and Bermingrud rounding out the five-car final. 

"I am pretty happy with that," Blomqvist said. "I was struggling in the wet to be honest, and I knew I had good pace in the dry, so when I got a decent position at the start of the final and then Timmy went for the joker straight away, I knew if I got some clean air and I should be in with a shot. I knew Shane was going to be strong - the guy is a freak."  

"I did a few of the fastest laps I’ve done over the last day of practice so it all kinda of came together. I nearly messed up the joker lap, but other than that it worked out well."

Among those eliminated prior to the semi-finals was Australian Supercars star Scott Pye who missed out by a single point, GCK's Rokas Baciuksa,  New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, Audi factory GT driver Kelvin van der Linde, and Titans RX driver Tamara Molinaro. 

There were also semi-finals and final for the Sim category at Hell, featuring 10 of the world’s best DiRT 2.0 Esports racers. Killian Dall’olmo claimed victory for the SET Esports team, in front of round one winner Quentin Dall’olmo and John Harris.

The penultimate round of the World RX Esports series will take place at Holjes, Sweden on Sunday 28 June.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Andreas Bakkerud returns with a new team but the same ambition to be World RX champion.

Andreas Bakkerud leading Timmy Hansen and Niclas Gronholm in the 2019 World RX title decider.
PHOTO CREDIT: Slipstream SA/Junaid Samodien
Andreas Bakkerud returns to the FIA World Rallycross Championship with a new car and a new team but with the same ambition to be FIA World Rallycross Champion. 

Coming off the back of finishing second in the closest-ever finish in World RX championship history, the Norwegian is anxiously awaiting for the new season to kick-off in August. Bakkerud spoke with Andrew Coley (World RX commentator) on the official CatalunyaRX Instagram to discuss the year ahead.

Moving from an EKS developed Audi S1 Quattro, Andreas, and his 2019 team-mate, Liam Doran will once again join forces. “I’m feeling pumped and very excited to have signed with GCK together with the RX Cartel, Monster Energy, and Liam (Doran). So I am sure that we will have an exciting year”, Bakkerud said.

In 2020, the pair will move over to the biggest team, currently on the RX grid. The collaboration certainly promises to benefit both as GC Kompetition (GCK) is in search of their first win, while both Andreas and Liam Doran can bring their wealth of experience to the team, in a bid to improve the Renault Megane R.S. RX even more.

Testing the GCK Renault Megane at Killarney, a day after the 2018 championship ended, Bakkerud seemed pleased with the car. The Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel driver noted that the Megane R.S. RX has lots of potential and is capable of running at the forefront of the grid.

“After the 2018 season, I stayed one day longer in Cape Town testing the Megane and I was very, very surprised, and very keen to get my hands on it. Because it’s a car that I think has a lot of potential and I think that GCK has shown great pace many times, but maybe it needs more time to get stable drivers and input; and, more calmness in the team,” he said.

Having raced for EKS, Hoonigan Racing Division, Olsbergs MSE, and Set Promotion, Bakkerud surely has a wealth of experience and knowledge to offer. The Norwegian even ran his own team in 2010.

“Hopefully we can come up with something good on the table that can help us win races because I have won with every car that I have driven. So, I have to kind of win with the Megane as well (laughs),” he adds.

He also added that the ideology of the RX Cartel is to be serious about racing, whilst also joking around a bit. The aim is to bring this philosophy over to GCK, helping to lighten the mood and find a new viewpoint and aim. Whilst GCK won on track in 2019, technical regulations deemed it worthy of disqualification. And, while this might have been a set back at the time, both GCK and Bakkerud are now more fired up than ever to fight back, win races and championships.

Whilst the Renault Megane has a larger wheelbase compared to the EKS Audi S1 (the car, Bakkerud has driven and gotten used to over the past two years), he firmly believes that the Megane is capable of winning, much like the Ford Focus RS he previously competed in. Liam Doran, who previously raced for GCK in 2018, happily agrees with this as the Englishman seems happy to jump back in the Renault Megane R.S. RX.

“I absolutely believe that the car [Megane] can do top results,” he said. “When we can put all the pieces together I am very sure that we can be one of the most successful teams of the 2020 World Rallycross Championship and onwards. So, at least that is my goal and I know from GCK’s side, the goal is to win championships and the goal is to win races and the goal is to do well and also to entertain the fans.”

Looking back at 2019, Andreas stated that the first round of the championship might have already been the hardest blow of the season. A disqualification during Q3 turned the tables during the weekend, but more so for the developments later in the year.

“At the end of the day, I blame Abu Dhabi more than anything else because I felt leaving Abu Dhabi, I scored the most points of everyone in the championship and I felt the disqualification in Q3 was something – it was not me. I am not sure if it’s FIA or the guys that made the track. It’s the approval of not doing the first corner after the checkered flag which was the fault because seven or eight drivers did it the same as me,” Bakkerud explained. “We kept flat out and thought it was the last lap and I didn’t see Timmy and we hit and it was a hard start of the year. I love the track – the track is really, really cool it was just unlucky.”

Whilst the Abu Dhabi track has been altered for 2020, the overruling for a disqualification meant that Bakkerud walked away from the weekend, without any points, whereas it should have been the other way around. While the EKS squad worked very hard to get the Audi back for Q4, he walked away from the weekend with no points, whereas it could have easily been much more.

“If it’s one thing I am going to blame it is the stewards in Abu Dhabi for black flagging me with the crash of Timmy because EKS managed to get the car ready for Q4. We did Q4 and bounced over the finish line with a wheel going loose, and we still managed to get through to the semi-finals,” he said. “We were so happy and then unfortunately they took us out of the race and we scored zero points and I think Timmy scored five, six, or seven. If I look back on it, I blame the stewards.”
Andreas celebrating after winning in Canada.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com

Three successive podiums during the next three rounds saw him, steadily climb back in the championship. However, a handbrake issue during the British round meant that a podium couldn’t be converted into a win. He also led in Holjes, only to break a drive-shaft in the semi-final. At Loheac, he crashed with Niclas Grönholm, whilst in the lead of the final.

After the mid-season break, mental games came into play. The Canadian race weekend saw Bakkerud winning, whilst Timmy Hansen probably had his worst RX weekend to date. This propelled him into the championship fight yet again. He took the win at the most crucial point; as both Hansen brothers were struggling.

Riga, Latvia was yet another good round. After the success of the previous rounds, Bakkerud took substantial time to study the track in a bid to yet score more points. EKS jumped in and helped to test the car and set-up for the track.

He did well, only to fall behind the likes of Hansen and Grönholm in the final.

From thereon, the championship ended in the same fashion as Bakkerud predicted. However, not even the Norwegian himself could predict the true chaos that would erupt during the last few laps of the year.

With a six-week break and only 1 point separating the top 2, both Bakkerud and Hansen kept themselves fit and ready for the fight.

“I think I was like one point behind him going to Cape Town and from practice on we both showed great pace. He won Q1 by 3 tenths of a second. He (Timmy) beat me the first lap by 8 tenths and on the second lap it was even and then I caught back up a few tenths on the last two laps,” he explains. “And that was my weakness. With brand new tyres on the Audi I never managed to squeeze the good 3 tenths to a half a second.”

“I then changed tactics and I reused used tyres all the way through until the semi-final and then I actually had five new tyres left. Using two new tyres for the semi-final and three new tyres for the final so I was ready for action.”

Conserving his tyres throughout the weekend, allowed Bakkerud to use new tyres for the finals. This propelled him to start the final from the front row. The Norwegian ultimately took the lead of the race, only to slide wide in the gravel hairpin. This caused a snowball effect, when Hansen took the inside line and the pair collided.

As everyone bumped one another in the hairpin, both Hansen brothers were catapulted onto the grass bank and re-joined the race again at the back of the field.

In all the chaos, Niclas Grönholm took the race lead, while Bakkerud was in second-place. Up until this point, the latter would still have won the championship.

Yet, disaster struck on lap 3 as Timo Scheider retired from the race, promoting Timmy Hansen into fourth- and ultimately the championship-winning position. Had it not been for Hansen’s previous four wins, Andreas Bakkerud would have been crowned the FIA World Rallycross Champion in South Africa.

Andrew Coley described the Bakkerud-Hansen rivalry as the Senna-Prost moment of World RX. Fans will forever be on opposing sides in terms of this racing incident. However, Bakkerud manages to take the positive memories from this; reminiscing about the goosebumps he felt ahead of the final race.

“Looking back at it off-course, it is still very disappointed that we didn’t leave there with the World Championship title but at the end of the day the goosebumps on the start line of the semi-final, and the feelings ahead of the race and the disappointment after the race. It was a special experience that I can’t describe it in any words. Like so much emotion coming through – a wicked experience but also a very tough one to swallow because I felt in that final that Timmy did so much bad stuff at the end when I look back at it," he said. "But it’s all in the past and I can’t do anything else than man up and grab the new opportunities that I get.”

Bakkerud believes that it will be very tough to beat double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson in the Volkswagen Polo.

“I think that it’s going to be very, very tough to beat Johan who is returning with the Polo. We all need to remember how much money Volkswagen have paid to be in the rally programme,” he said. “I think it was a crazy amount which they have used on that car and I think in 2018 we had somebody calculate an average how much they were in front of the other teams and I think it was like half a second. And of course, we caught some back when they rested last year… They didn’t rest but the cars were standing still but I still think there is a gap.”

The new GCK driver will certainly come back stronger and hopes to beat both reigning champion Timmy Hansen as well as Johan Kristoffersson.

Written By: Junaid Samodien and Franco Theron

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Münnich looks forward to testing himself against the best in World RX.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media. 
Rene Münnich, the owner and team manager of 
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, will contest another full-time FIA World Rallycross Championship for the first time since 2016. However, the German entrepreneur is by no means an unknown name in the motorsport fraternity. 

Having made his debut in 2005 in the German Autocross Championship, he entered the ADAC Procar series as well as the European Rallycross Division 1A in 2007. Subsequently, he claimed the German Rallycross Championship in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011. 

In 2012 – 2016, he raced in the World Touring Car Championship, whilst also competing in the 2014 Blancpain Sprint Series and the 2015 TCR International Series. 

In 2011, he entered the Supercar division of the FIA European Rallycross Championship. For the 2012 and 2013 season, he raced in the Super1600 category, and in 2014, 2017 and 2018, he again competed in the supercar category. 

At the same time, he also started competing in the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014, completing two full seasons in 2015 and 2016. 

Evidently, it is very clear that Münnich is a truly busy person. Apart from owning companies, managing racing teams, he himself carries the passion to race. 

Since 2013, Münnich Motorsport has had several wins in both the World Touring Car Championship, as well as the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Having previously signed the likes of Robert Huff, Gianni Morbidelli, Sabine Schmitz, and James Thompson in Touring Cars, well-known Rallycross drivers like Tommy Rustad and Reinis Nitiss have also raced with his teams previously. 

Two-time DTM champion, Timo Scheider has also been a frequent name with the team since 2015 and in 2020, the German will once again race in a full season. 

"I’m glad to be back in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, joining Timo in our two-car team. Last year the racing in World RX was very competitive and we produced some solid results," Münnich said. "We expect the same high level of close racing this season and I am personally looking forward to testing myself against the best drivers in the sport once again."

In addition to taking part in the 2020 season, ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport is also committed to the electric future of world rallycross.

"We welcome the plans for the FIA World Rallycross Championship to phase in electrification from 2021 and we are making plans to be part of this exciting future,” he added. 

Written By: Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien

Tuesday 9 June 2020

In conversation with Timo Scheider ahead of the 2020 World RX season.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross.
Timo Scheider joined the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2015 and immediately impressed upon his full-time debut at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2017. The Rallycross bug had evidently bit the German racer hard as he will compete in his sixth World RX season, this time alongside team owner, Rene Münnich. 

Scheider was quick to show his love for Rallycross, stating that general paddock life and way of racing as the reasoning behind this passion for the sport. Coming from circuit racing background (DTM), the driving style in World RX tends to differ and while both racing formats create a form of adrenalin, it does tend to differ. 

“It’s the best feeling you can have when you have to handle such a strong car on different surfaces” Scheider mentioned. 

After 16-years and two championships (in 2008 and 2009 with Audi) in the DTM series, Scheider started his full-time campaign in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. In only his first race, Scheider managed to put pressure on another former DTM- and newly crowned, WRX champion, Mattias Ekström. 

Starting from the second row of the grid, Timo passed the stagnant Johan Kristoffersson and then Andreas Bakkerud for second-place. Outpacing the latter, both Ekström and Scheider jokered on lap 2 to exit just in front of Bakkerud and the chasing pack. To be able to do this on debut, as well as to finish right on the rear wing of the newly crowned champion, showed the world what he was capable of. 

Scheider’s second true showcase came in 2018, competing in the ARX at Silverstone. With a flipped bonnet and impaired vision, he finished the race only 0.57 seconds behind Patrick Sandell in second. 

In 2019, the German did well, recording a final race appearance at Yas Marina, Silverstone, and Killarney (South Africa). He also recorded semi-final appearances at the Circuit de Catalunya, Spa Francorchamps, Hell, Trois-Rivieres, Loheac, and Riga. This meant that he only missed out on a single finals’ appearance throughout the whole season. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA
Joining forces with Rene Münnich, 2020 is set to be a very exciting year for the team. 

Speaking to Timo Scheider ahead of the 2020 season, the German champion explained his ambitions for the 2020 season. “I need to be on the podium. This is a clear target for 2020”, he mentioned as his first ambition from the year. 

Having stood on the WRX podium and just missing out on several occasions, the Münnich Motorsport driver certainly proved his worth in 2019 and will undoubtedly come into the 2020 season with valuable lessons learnt. 

Having a teammate for 2020 will also help with a much quicker car setup and track analysis than before. Whereas Timo previously used the 4 heats to set up his car for the finals, a combined input from his teammate should help to set up the car much quicker. 

Scheider is also confident that the 2020 car will be stronger, stating that the team engineer spent time on the previous weak areas. 

Whilst most of the World is currently still under partial lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus, Scheider mentioned that he is spending the time with his two boys and wife at home. 

Talking about what he is most looking forward to in 2020, Scheider quickly mentioned his anticipation for the first line up with his competitors, sending it into turn one (whichever track it might be). 

The German is clearly very anxious to kick off the 2020 season and we can certainly not wait to see the ALL-INKL.com Muennich Motorsport team in action. 

Written By: Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Leclerc impresses in virtual Rallycross debut.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc impressed on his World Rallycross Esports Series debut at the Yas Marina Circuit over the weekend. 

Whilst the world is slowly returning to normal following stay at home orders due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many professional drivers took to sim racing and Esports to entertain their fans.

Charles Leclerc is one of many real-world racers who took to sim racing like a duck to water streaming Formula 1 races, lawnmower racing, truck simulator driving, and over the weekend he made his rallycross debut.

It was an eventful debut for Leclerc who was involved in multiple incidents throughout the qualifying stages battling his way in-and-out of traffic, as well as rolling his car in Q3, to taking a race win in wet conditions in the fourth qualifier, but unfortunately, he was unable to progress to the semi-finals after finishing twelfth in the intermediate classification.  

Whilst he missed out on a place in the semi-finals, his shire speed came to the fore in the fourth qualifying race. The rain came and he showed pure speed from lights out. And, despite Henrik Krogstad crossing the line first, Leclerc was declared the race winner after Krogstad was awarded a jump-start penalty.

Following the fourth qualifying race, Leclerc admitted: “In the rain, I am quite good. While in the dry [conditions] I am struggling but not massively compared to the others.”

In the build-up to the FIA World Rallycross Championship Esports Series, Charles practiced with the Dall’olmo brothers. Killian Dall’olmo is the reigning DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion, while his older brother Quentin Dall’olmo won the Abu Dhabi Sim Racers eSports event this past weekend. 

Speaking after the race about Charles Leclerc’s performance, Quentin said: “We did few races before the event and for the first time on the game he [Leclerc] was really good but sadly he had no chance with a lot of contact with the other drivers. But if he does the next round with more training he could have a really good result.”

Supercars star Shane van Gisbergen (event winner) was an unstoppable force in the series opener in Abu Dhabi, with 2019 World RX Champion Timmy Hansen and Henrik Krogstad rounding out the podium. While Kevin Hansen had the pace but after a few incidents he finished the final in fifth place. 

Kevin believes that Leclerc had the potential to make it into the finals, but was involved in too many incidents.

“I think he [Charles Leclerc] has the potential to be in the finals. It was a shame that some drivers took him out during the races,” Kevin Hansen said.  

World Rallycross commentator Andrew Coley was also quite impressed by Charles Leclerc’s performance on debut.

“To me, it was clear [Charles] Leclerc had put the laps in, he had the pace. But he was really unlucky at the start, quite often through no fault of his own. It can happen in real life too, for instance, an unlucky Q1 draw can be hard to recover from. But to me, he looked fast, and as I understand it he enjoyed it.”

Charles Leclerc training with World RX driver Matvey Furazhkin
Footage Supplied By: FIA World Rallycross Media.

Getting up to speed in a virtual RX Supercar came quite quickly for both van Gisbergen and Leclerc. Coley said that he'd love to see Leclerc and Van Gisbergen get a test in rallycross. 

“I’d love to see him [Leclerc] and Van Gisbergen have a test in real life, and then to see the smile on their face when they get out of the car!” Coley said.

“But in the meantime the more they’d like to enter WorldRX’s Esports the better, I’m really grateful for their time, and I know the fans are too.”

Speaking after the qualifying races, Leclerc admitted that his virtual rallycross debut was very cool. “It was fun! Hopefully, I can do the next event,” he said.

The FIA World Rallycross Esports Series will return on 21 June 2020 in Hell, Norway.