Tuesday 29 December 2020

Kristoffersson "working on it" to secure 2021 World RX return.

Three-time Champion Johan Kristoffersson is working on all avenues to return to the World Rallycross Championship in 2021. 

After a one-year hiatus from the championship following Volkswagen Motorsport's withdrawal. Kristoffersson announced his return to the highly competitive championship, in a hired 2018 specification Volkswagen Polo R Supercar. 

Whilst the stage was set for a thrilling 2020 season. The World RX championship along with many other motorsport categories were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with a later start to the season (in August) than usual. The calendar was altered to consist of 10-rounds with three doubleheaders and four stand-alone events, but that soon changed as things worsened globally. 

The final adjusted calendar saw the season consist of four doubleheaders at four different European venues equalling eight rounds in total. 

Johan Kristoffersson leading Robin Larsson (KYB Team JC)
Betting odds would suggest that Johan would dominate the season from start to finish. However, that was not to be. Why? Because the master tactician returned. 

Mattias Ekstrom returned to the championship with KYB Team JC and proved to be a championship contender from the get-go. While Kristoffersson failed to win round two of the championship (on Sunday in Sweden), it was pretty clear that he thrilled by the prospects of a close and competitive season. 

Johan went on to claim four wins, two second-place finishes, a third-place finish, and his worst result of the season, a fourth-place finish in Finland (round four). It was quite evident that his rivals found performance over the off-season and in 2019, whilst Kristoffersson's hired VW Polo R Supercar had a few updates, including a WRC specification rear wing. 

The 32-year-old Swede had a flawless season in terms of reliability and staying away from trouble (punctures and bad car damage) which helped shape his championship fight. Those around him ran into trouble, but he only had a minor scare in Kouvola which was solved almost immediately.

Leading the championship by 27-points with one round remaining at the Nurburgring, news filtered through that the final round(s) of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship would be canceled due to the second wave of coronavirus in Germany. Following the announcement, Johan was declared the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Champions and later received the official FIA trophy at the FIA Virtual Prize Giving. 

Johan Kristoffersson is officially the most successful World Rallycross Championship driver of all time, and despite being announced as an official Rosberg Xtreme Racing driver for the 2021 Extreme E series. The Swede is also working on a potential return to the World RX in 2021. However, his hopes hit a stumbling block after Volkswagen Motorsport announced their withdrawal from all forms of motorsport at the end of 2020, but he admits that he is "working on it".

"We are working on that at the moment. The last two rounds of the rallycross championship got canceled, so the season ran pretty short anyway, and we were not really prepared for the season to end so fast. So, we didn't really have time to think about 2021 yet, and then the news came from Volkswagen that they are going to stop competing in motorsport," Kristoffersson said.  

"[Right now] we are working on a solution to see what we can do, and what we can find out. The biggest support for our team in 2020 came from the local dealers, Volkswagen Sweden together with BAUHAUS."

"We will try to continue that work and let's see what's going to happen with the car that I used in 2020. At the moment I don't know but we are working on it," he concludes.

Speaking at the FIA Prize Giving Virtual Press Conference, Johan said teams can begin to prepare for the season ahead following the release of the 2021 calendar.

"We have the 2021 calendar now, so in terms of that I think the teams can prepare, and for 2021 there isn't a huge difference in the regulations compared to '20. So, I think in terms of that there are no worries," he said.

Kristoffersson says the new promoters of the World Rallycross Championship should immediately start working towards the electric future of the sport, as he believes it's more crucial. 

"I also think as soon as we get a new promoter. They should start to work towards the electric future and make a decision quite soon on what's going to happen. So, that teams can prepare for 2022, I think is more crucial."

Can Johan Kristoffersson go for a fourth championship title in 2021? Time will tell! 

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Monday 28 December 2020

Team RX Racing to debut Proton Iriz RX Supercar in 2021

In a brand-new venture to bring a new Supercar into top-flight rallycross, Team RX Racing has announced a collaboration with Tony Bardy Motorsport and Proton Motorsport rally specialists Mellors Elliot Motorsport to build and race a Proton Iriz RX Supercar in 2021.

The car will be based on the Iriz R5 rally car, which was built and developed by Mellors Elliot Motorsport's [MEM] and has undergone extensive testing by the likes of double-World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm and Pontus Tidemand. The Iriz RX is being developed to suit the requirements of top-level rallycross competition and will be entered into the British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy, European Rallycross Championship, and selected World Rallycross Championship events from 2021. 

2007 British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan is set to race the new Supercar in its maiden campaign and will be operated for Team RX Racing by TBM, a firm that has run O'Donovan's rallycross Supercars for almost 15 years. 

"This is a very exciting day for the whole team," a thrilled O'Donovan said. 

"The cars we have been racing in the British and European Rallycross Championships for the last few years are getting a little long in the tooth, and for some time now we have been looking at where to go next."

"The easy option would have been to buy a car from the World Championship, but we wanted to do something different, to stand out from the crowd."

"I’ve worked with Tony for a very long time now and he is one of the best in the business. Linking his experience of rallycross with the expertise of MEM in the cooperation we’ve put together is a hugely exciting prospect," he adds.

Team RX Racing Chief Engineer and Tony Bardy Motorsport Owner Tony Bardy admits that they had a different car planned, but decided "to do something different".

"We did have a different car planned to move us forward, but Ollie didn’t want to be like everybody else, he wanted to do something different. I pondered over that, but to start from scratch it would take years to build and develop something brand new," Bardy said.

"Then it occurred to me, I’ve known the guys at MEM a very long time, and the Iriz is something very different. It didn’t take us long to decide that this is the way to go, to create the first Proton rallycross Supercar."

"The Iriz has already done lots of rallies and proved the concept, so as long as we can get comparable power from the engine to what we have now, which I’m sure we can, I see no reason why we can’t be right where we want to be. The quality of the Iriz R5 is high, and to be involved in this new project with the Iriz RX is a breath of fresh air."

Mellors Elliot Motorsport and Proton Motorsport's Team Principal Chris Mellors adds that when developing the Iriz R5, his team over-engineered the car in some areas as they have had the intention to do some rallycross at some point. 
"When we built the Iriz R5 originally, we had in the back of our mind that we might like to do some rallycross, so it was a bit over-engineered in some areas from the start," Mellor said.

"We’re very excited, both Ollie and Tony have vast rallycross experience and it’s great to have a collaboration for this project to see what we can achieve together."

"Although the Iriz is very short, it has one of the longest wheelbases of the R5 cars, with very good suspension travel and fabulous front geometry, from Proton’s original design. We’ve got a lot of adjustments available and we’re going to need to make some specialist components to best suit a rallycross setup, but we’re not far away already."

"We’ve had some very positive rally tests recently, and we’re getting stuck into the build of the new car now."

"We like winning and that’s what we want to be doing with this project too," he adds.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Sunday 27 December 2020

Ekström rules out return to World RX in 2021.

2016 FIA World Rallycross Champion Mattias Ekström has ruled out a return to the championship in 2021. 

Ekström made an unexpected return to the championship this year, as a replacement for Jānis Baumanis who could not compete due to budgetary issues linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Immediately following the 2018 World RX finale in Cape Town, South Africa, the Swede announced that he will no longer compete as a full-time entrant. However, you can not keep a champion away from the highly competitive World RX championship. He returned for a one-off appearance with JC Raceteknik at the World RX of Benelux where he claimed a tenth-place finish. 

In the latter half of the 2019 season, the Swede took up an advisory role assisting the Monster Energy RX Cartel, as Andreas Bakkerud was in championship contention. However, it was not to be for the Norweigan who ended the season as vice-champion having finished the season on equal points to rival Timmy Hansen. 

A few months later, EKS announced that they would be selling a few Audi S1 Quattro's to Joel Christoffersson's JC Raceteknik. 

After a thrilling and captivating 2019 season. Could anything really top that? The answer was rather simple, YES! 

JC Raceteknik made their World RX debut under the banner KYB Team JC with Robin Larsson and Baumanis at the wheel. However, those plans soon changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which meant the 2020 calendar would need to be altered. 

World RX in 2020 was originally set for an 11-round calendar, but due to a later start than usual and the COVID-19 pandemic, the calendar was watered down to 8-rounds at four venues.

Four venues, four doubleheaders, eight rounds, and thrilling action from start to finish. Any mistakes or errors would be costly. And, to spice things up even further, double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson returned in a VW Motorsport Polo. 

Could anyone stop, Johan? Yes! 

Ekström would be a strong candidate as he returned as a super-sub in the second Audi S1 Quattro with KYB Team JC. 

No-one would have expected to see Mattias return, a return that would ultimately be a blessing in disguise for the championship, as he took the fight to his fellow countrymen.

The pair were closely matched throughout the season, but it was Johan Kristoffersson who came out on top with four event wins, with Ekström claiming two wins and a few second-place finishes seeing him end the season as vice-champion for the third time.

"I got into this season without having a thought of driving rallycross again, and we sit here with the title in the Teams’ Championship and second in the Drivers’ Championship. The only other goal was of course to also win the Drivers' title, but we were simply not fast enough," Mattias Ekström said. 

KYB Team JC led the teams' championship from start to finish with Team Hansen only coming on strong at the tail end of the season. 

The 2016 World Champion admits that he had more fun driving as a hobby instead of as a factory team, and pinpoints his wins in Holjes and Riga as the best races of the season. 

"It has meant a lot to me to compete and have fun again together with JC Raceteknik, driving as a hobby instead of as a factory driver is a huge difference," he said. "In Holjes for example I had the coolest rallycross race of my career on Sunday, and then another fantastic Sunday in Riga."

Despite finishing second in the championship, Ekström believes that the season went better than expected, and he is very proud to see how KYB developed shock absorbers that are capable of winning races and potentially championships. 

"I think it [the season] went better than expected to complete the season despite Coronavirus. We had a little trouble with some things, but that's also part of the rules of the game. It's fun that there are sponsors and companies who are willing to invest even in tougher times, especially since a lot of things have been quite last minute," he said. "I am also very proud to see how KYB has developed shock absorbers that can win the World Championship."

A return to top-flight rallycross was never on Mattias Ekström agenda in 2020, as he became a test driver for the CUPRA e-racer programme, in addition to competing in the full 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship. It was also announced that the Swede will be the male driver for the ABT CUPRA XE team in the 2021 Extreme E series. 

Having fully committed to the Extreme E series, Ekström has ruled out a return to the World Rallycross Championship in 2021. 

"A year ago I said that the chance was zero that I would return to rallycross, but I had to jump in and it was full push again. So if I said no a year ago, I must say no again. In 2021, my priority will be Extreme E,” he said.

Can we really rule out Mattias Ekström from a return to World RX? It's quite simple... No! Mattias has a competitive fire burning within him, and if he is given an opportunity in a top-flight car or team. He will undoubtedly grab the opportunity with both hands. So, it's not the end just yet! 

Written By - Junaid Samodien.