Thursday, 8 April 2021

EKS JC to field Enzo Ide in RallyX Nordic

PHOTO CREDIT: Jan-Kåre Rafoss
Belgian racing driver Enzo Ide will continue his rallycross venture with the newly formed EKS JC team in the full RallyX Nordic season. 

Ide has a successful circuit racing background with a Champion’s title in Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup and several podium finishes in various GT endurance races. In 2018, he made a switch to rallycross and since has competed in selected World RX, RallyX Nordic, and British Rallycross Championship rounds. He finished the 2020 season with a double 2nd place in British Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill and also qualified for Semi-finals at two FIA World RX races.

The 29-year-old Belgian has committed to the full RallyX Nordic championship season in 2021 with EKS JC, in the EKS built and prepared Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro Supercar. 

"I am really happy to commit to a full RallyX Nordic season this year. Last year at Höljes I had good fun, but it was also quite tough. At the time I had very little time in the car and I was not fully ready. It will be different this year, as I have had a chance to adapt to the car and it suits me very well. I feel really excited to get back in the rallycross car, and enjoy RallyX Nordic, which features very nice race tracks and has good competition," Enzo Ide said. 

"I am pleased that I can continue to drive the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro with the EKS JC team. It is important for me to have a good atmosphere in the team, like we always have. It makes me feel comfortable and it helps to improve my result on track, while we still have a good fun in the paddock."

EKS JC Team Manager Joel Christoffersson says the team will begin their preparations with a pre-season test session, in order to be fully ready for the race in Denmark. 

Christoffersson adds that the main goal for Enzo in the RallyX Nordic championship is "to show a consistent and growing pace." 

"If he [Enzo] can continue from where we left last year in Lydden, he will have no problems fighting for the Final and podiums in every race," he concludes.

The championship will consist of four races, starting in May at Nysum (Denmark), that will be followed by rounds at Höljes (Sweden), OuluZone (Finland), and Arvika (Sweden).

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

EXTREME E: Everything you need to know including broadcast times in South Africa.

PHOTO CREDIT: Extreme E.
The electrifying, Extreme E series gets underway this weekend in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, and here's everything you need to know, including the broadcasting times in South Africa. 

So, what is Extreme E all about? It’s quite simple, really. Extreme E is a radical new off-road racing series with an aim to highlight the impact of climate change on some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, such as the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic.

In parallel to the racing spectacle, the series will run a “legacy programme” with the intent to provide social and environmental support for the locations visited by the series. 

The Extreme E series is also a gamechanger with regards to gender quality, as they have mandated that all teams must have a female and a male driver who share equal driving duties. A first of its kind in motorsport these days, which is a real step in the right direction. 

THE SUV (car) – ODYSSEY 21

The ODYSSEY 21 is an electric off-road competition SUV specially designed for use in the Extreme E series, a proposed class of auto racing that only uses electric vehicles to race off-road in remote parts of the world. 

So, let’s dive a bit deeper into the ODYSSEY 21 SUV. The vehicle's power peaks at 400kw (550hp) with an output capable of firing the 1650-kilogram, 2.3-metres wide car from 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds. 

Each SUV comprises a common package of standardized parts, including a powertrain manufactured by Spark Racing Technology with a battery produced by Williams Advanced Engineering. The chassis encompasses a Niobium-reinforced steel alloy tubular frame, as well as the crash structure and roll cage, whilst tyres to suit the extreme conditions will be supplied by Continental Tyres.

ROUND ONE – AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia will host Extreme E's first-ever race, the Desert X Prix, on April 3 and 4 at the breathtaking destination of AlUla. The Desert X Prix circuit map will be revealed on Friday afternoon on the Extreme E social media pages. 

“Extreme E is a much-anticipated racing series being launched to showcase the uncompromising ability of environmentally friendly technology to power automobiles across the most challenging terrains worldwide,” Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E, said.

“We chose to organise our first ever race in AlUla, with the aim to shed light on the threats presented by desertification. The magnificent sand dunes and breathtaking views of AlUla will represent the perfect backdrop to showcase the exploits of the innovative engineering masterpieces and the world-class driving capabilities taking part in the competition.”   

THE X PRIX FORMAT

Each X Prix Race Weekend will include two days of short, sharp wheel-to-wheel action-packed racing, with world-class drivers and teams, and the ODYSSEY 21 electric SUV, with its five formidable racing environments, all firmly in focus.

RACE WEEKEND FORMAT

Two days of racing – Saturday and Sunday.

  • Each team races twice on Saturday, in Qualifying Round 1 and Qualifying Round 2.
  • Semi-Final 1 and Semi-Final 2 (Crazy Race) and Final on Sunday.
  • Each race is two laps – one lap driven by the female and one lap driven by the male.
  • All results based on race finishing position, not race time.

Let’s dive deeper into the weekend format.

The Saturday Race Format: 

  • Four races are held on Saturday:
  • Qualifying Round 1 (two races)
  • Qualifying Round 2 (two races).

Qualifying Round 1, Race 1 will field five cars, and Qualifying Round 1, Race 2 will have four cars competing.

Choice of starting position for Qualifying Round 1 based on a lottery draw.

Saturday event points for each race (to calculate Sunday starting positions):

1st: 4 points

2nd: 3 points

3rd: 2 point

4th: 1 point

5th: 0 point

The top four-point scorers after Saturday’s races qualify for Semi-Final 1 and the remaining five teams qualify for Semi-Final 2 (Crazy Race).

The Sunday Race Format:

  • Three races held on Sunday: Semi-Final 1, Semi-Final 2 (Crazy Race), and the Final.
  • Four cars in Semi-Final 1 and five cars in Semi-Final 2 – the Crazy Race -  and the Final.
  • Choice of grid starting position for Semi-Finals based on points order after Qualifying rounds.
  • The top three teams from Semi-Final 1 and the first and second-placed teams from Semi-Final 2 / the Crazy Race qualify for the Final.
  • The starting position for the Final will be decided by fans through the GridPlay voting system.
  • Standby team for the Final to be the fourth-placed team in Semi-Final 1. 

So, how does the points system actually work in Extreme E? After the Final, points for the Drivers and Teams Championship will be allocated according to the list, below:

1st: 25 points

2nd: 15 points

3rd: 10 points

4th: 7 points

5th: 6 points

6th: 5 points

7th: 4 points

8th: 3 points

9th: 2 points

10th: 1 point

*If a team is disqualified from a Semi-Final or Final they will receive no points for that race.

PHOTO CREDIT: Extreme E

THE TEAMS

There are nine teams and 18 drivers competing in the inaugural Extreme E series, ranging from circuit racing to off-road icons, namely: Sébastien Loeb, Laia Sanz, Carlos Sainz, and Sara Price, etc.

The teams and drivers are listed below:

    • ABT CUPRA XE

DRIVERS: Mattias Ekström and Claudia Hürtgen.

    • ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team

DRIVERS: Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz.

    • ANDRETTI UNITED EXTREME E

DRIVERS: Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings.

    • Hispano Suiza XITE ENERGY TEAM

DRIVERS: Christine Giampaoli Zonca and Oliver Bennett.

    • JBXE

DRIVERS: Jenson Button and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky.

    • Rosberg Xtreme Racing

DRIVERS: Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor.

    • Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing

DRIVERS: Sara Price and Kyle Leduc.

    • VELOCE RACING

DRIVERS: Jamie Chadwick and Stephane Sarrazin.

    • X44

DRIVERS: Cristina Gutiérrez and Sébastien Loeb.


BROADCAST SCHEDULE (South Africa only) 

Friday, 2 April 2021

06:00 to 16:20 - Extreme E – Shakedown (Saudi Arabia) - SSM and SSM Africa

Saturday, 3 April 2021

08:00 to 09:30 - Extreme E - Round 1: Qualifying 1 & 2  - SSM and SSM Africa

13:00 to 14:30 – Extreme E - Round 1: Qualifying 3 & 4 – SSM and SSM Africa

Sunday, 4 April 2021

08:00 to 09:30 – Extreme E - Semi-final & Crazy Race – SSM and SSM Africa

12:00 to 13:30 -  Extreme E – Race – SSM and SSM Africa

[Broadcast Times provided by SuperSport] 

Friday, 19 March 2021

Dakar Rally: A tyre or regulatory issue?

PHOTO CREDIT: Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa.

The world's toughest rally raid, the Dakar Rally has come and gone, but it will always be remembered for two specific reasons. Let’s not keep you waiting. It’s time to dive in...

Winner winner chicken dinner! A phrase often used to celebrate victories. So, with that being said, let’s segue into the first talking point, as to why the 2021 Dakar Rally will be remembered. First of all, the strategic masterclass from Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Edouard Boulanger (X-Raid Mini JCW) is a main talking point. So, why use the word “Strategic Masterclass”? It’s pretty simple! From the outset, the French duo had one goal and one goal only – try not to open the road, and it actually paid off. Despite winning one stage (stage 9), Peterhansel and Boulanger clinched the 2021 Dakar Rally title. 

And, whilst winning will always be remembered... The second talking point or reason why the 2021 Dakar Rally will stay fresh in the minds of fans and drivers is due to one thing: Punctures. The T1 class 4x4 vehicles had more punctures than their two-wheel-drive counterparts, and Toyota Gazoo Racing SA is a direct example of this. The South African run team conducted pre-Dakar tyre testing after suffering from a number of punctures in 2020, but unfortunately, despite the hard work in trying to find a solution. The team had more punctures than expected. 

The Dakar Rally moved to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2020 for what it called “Chapter 3” in the ever-expanding history of the rally raid, which was won by Mini X-Raid JCW’s Carlos Sainz and co-driver Carlos Sainz, whilst Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Matthieu Baumel come out second best. 

The intense two-week rally raid sees competitors traverse through landscapes ranging from deserts, muddy terrain, ravines, and rocky mountain passes in intense heat, whilst aiming not to lose a tenth to their rivals. 

The Dakar is a challenge on its own… throw in a global pandemic, and it became a lot harder but thankfully, the Saudi Arabian government made it a bit easier for the event to take place in 2021. 

Having had a taste of the Saudi Arabian conditions in 2020 and its landscapes. Each team had an idea of what they could introduce or change on their vehicles for the 2021 edition. And, after coming out second best to Carlos Sainz in 2020, Al-Attiyah set his set sights on the overall victory in 2021, but work had to done to find a solution for the punctures that the team suffered in 2020. So, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA conducted pre-Dakar tyre testing with Giniel de Villiers and Nasser Al-Attiyah. The team was quite confident that they had found a solution are were ready for the 2021 Dakar. 

Unfortunately, it was not to be. The three-time Dakar Rally winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah brought his Toyota Hilux home in second-place yet again. The Qatari driver made it clear that this crew (co-driver and team) made no mistakes over the course of the two-week event, and despite claiming five stage wins, it was not enough for the overall win. 

Speaking after the Dakar, Al-Attiyah made it clear that the current sporting regulations clearly favour the two-wheel-drive buggies. 

“This is the second year that we are fighting, and losing against the buggies. We need to have fair rules,” the three-time Dakar Winner said. “No matter how hard we push, without speed along we can not close the gap. The buggies have been winning for five years against the 4x4 car because the rules have been done in their favour. I hope that organisers will change it, otherwise, we won’t be interested in coming [back].”

"It is not a question of where the buggy is better and where the 4x4 is better. The rules are not fair, just that. Not only because of the wheels, there are many things. I am not the one who has to change it, but everything is very clear,” he concluded. 

Having had a top speed disadvantage a year earlier, the FIA announced that T1 class vehicles, including Toyota and Mini X-Raid would be limited to 180km/h for 2021 after lobbying from Toyota. 

A slight step in the right direction for Toyota’s fight against the mighty buggies, but their 2021 campaign would be rather deflating. Deflating? Why, was it deflating you ask? Well, Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers led the charge but not a positive charge. Rather a deflating charge. The South African picked up more punctures than you can count on your hands over the two-week event. 

In total, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA had 106 punctures over 12 stages, with an average of 26.5 punctures across the four-car team. Is that even possible? Unfortunately, it was a reality for the team. Is it solely related to the tyres? It is a regulatory issue? Or is the landscape to blame?

Well, we can rule out the landscape. Why? Because these the routes are pre-planned by the ASO and the cars are built around regulations for the specific championships or series.

Henk Lategan, Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver films an explanation of the difference between 4x4 and Buggy tyres.
Video Supplied By; Brett Cummings

In recent years, 4x4 vehicles were the way to go. However, there has been a recent shift to two-wheel-drive buggies. So, let’s discuss this a bit further. Peugeot was the first manufacturer to introduce buggies. The Frenchman manufacturer introduced the 3008 DKR buggy in 2017, which powered Peterhansel and Sainz to victory in 2017 and 2018. And, ever since then we have seen a growing field – Mini X-Raid JCW, Century Racing, Bahrain Raid Xtreme to name a few teams. To add to the conversion, Audi announced their intentions to enter the Dakar Rally in 2022 with alternative power. Can you guess the concept for their entry? Yes, you’re right! They are building a buggy. 

It’s pretty clear that buggies are the way to go, although 4x4 vehicles can still hold their own against the buggies. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
There is a clear difference, from regulatory rules to the difference in tyres between the 4x4 vehicles versus the 2-wheel-drive buggies. The 4x4 has a larger footprint compared to the taller wheels on the buggies.

So, in order to get a better grasp of the main talking point “the punctures”, we spoke to BFGoodrich, and asked them a few questions.

As the number of punctures became a big talking point of the 2021 Dakar Rally, were there any specific issues with the tyres that led to so many punctures? And, how would BFGoodrich explain the increase in punctures seen this year?

“The 4x4 cars and 2wd buggies have differing rule sets which can ultimately affect performance. This includes, but is not limited to weight, wheel and tyre size; and suspension travel,” BFGoodrich said. “The AWD cars utilize a 800mm diameter tyre and are limited to 280mm of suspension travel. Whilst the 2wd buggy has a 940mm tyre and no suspension travel limit. In addition, there is a 270 kg weight difference between the cars again favoring the buggy.” 

Taking it one step further, Toyota GAZOO Racing SA highlighted odd circle-shaped punctures on their tyres over the course of the Dakar. Has BFGoodrich found a cause of these punctures or where they solely linked to the rocky terrain? 

In response to the question, BFGoodrich said: “The Saudi terrain proved extremely rocky and the smaller AWD tyre combined with limited suspension travel highlighted the vehicle limitations.” In other words, the terrain and limited suspension travel could be the cause of these punctures. 

So, with the 2022 Dakar Rally on the horizon. Can we expect any changes? Well, BFGoodrich says they are “working with both manufacturers and sanctioning bodies” on a way forward. 

Having heard from Al-Attiyah among other drivers. They believe that tyres aren’t really to blame. So what do the two-wheel-drive buggies have that the 4x4 vehicles do not? 

Well, the buggies have a slightly wider wheel width, and an inflation-deflation system that they can control from the cockpit. Wait! There’s more… the buggies also have greater suspension travel compared to the 4x4 vehicles, which is a bonus on rocky terrain. 

Whilst it’s easy to place the blame on a tyre supplier, and in this case, it’s BFGoodrich. We need to remember that they are given a set of guidelines/regulations, and they construct the tyres and compounds around those set guidelines. So, if we solely blame the tyre supplier then we are completely misguided.  

Having said that it is rather deflating to put so much effort into building a race car only to have it lose valuable time and drop out of the fight due to punctures. So, moving away from it being a tyre supplier issue. There is only one thing it could be. Yes, you guessed right! There’s a clear regulatory issue, which solely rests with the FIA. 

There are currently talks ongoing behind the scenes between the ASO and the FIA regarding an increase in the size of tyres supplied to the 4x4 vehicles, but will we see the introduction of these tyres in 2022? That we do not know as yet. However, we have learned from a reliable source that 4x4 manufacturers/teams are currently modifying their vehicles to accommodate these “bigger tyres”, and with that being said we could get that confirmation closer to the time.

Will we see changes to the sporting regulations in 2022? That remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the ASO and the FIA acknowledge that the current regulations do in fact favour the two-wheel-drive buggies. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Solberg has many reasons to smile after a spectacular WRC debut.

PHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Solberg Media
Oliver Solberg has many reasons to smile after delivering an outstanding performance at the Arctic Rally Finland over the weekend. 

Despite a seventh-place finish on debut, the 19-year-old Swede's performance on board the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was nothing short of spectacular. Mistakes are to be expected from rookies, but Oliver handled it like a seasoned professional. 

With one stage to go on Sunday afternoon, he was on course for a top-three finish in the Wolf Power Stage, however, it was not to be as he spun in the final corner, which meant he lost sixth-place in the overall rankings by 1.2 seconds. 

Directly after the rally, Solberg was quick to thank Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Andrea Adamo for the opportunity to make the step up to the WRC’s top flight.

"I don’t think I actually have the words to tell you how this feels," Oliver Solberg said. "It’s really unbelievable and the biggest thing I did in my career. To Andrea, to everybody in Hyundai Motorsport, and to the 2C [Compétition] team I just want to say thank you. 

"When Andrea talked about me doing this event, I was so excited. But at the same time, I was wondering a little bit in my mind, what will happen? How will it be?"

With a rallying career that started in 2017 (4-years-ago), Oliver answered all these questions and then some with his dynamite focus and quite astonishing speed. Having completed a couple of runs in the shakedown session to build his understanding of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, he was bang on the pace from the get-go and was fourth fastest overall as early as the second stage. A day later, on Saturday morning, he went one better and bagged a top-three stage time. 

"I knew it would be complicated to understand the aero," he said. "But I was quite confident I would be happy at this speed. I didn’t expect to make these sort of times quite so early in the rally. It was just so much fun."

PHOTO CREDIT: Oliver Solberg Media.
Solberg reveals that he was told by Andrea Adamo (team principal) that he had no pressure and had to make sure he was smiling. "I am smiling more than I ever did before now," he says.

Having raced an R5 rally car for 3 years, the Swede was quite impressed by the overall grip and power of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. 

"The Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was fantastic to drive, so much grip, so much power, and just so incredible to drive. When I was in the car and really in the middle of the event, I was just driving and not thinking so much to what everything really meant," he said. "But when I was between the stages and we were stopping behind [Sébastien] Ogier to change wheels and work on the car before the stage, I did stop a little bit and think: “Wow! This is just incredible – I’m here and I’m fighting with the world champion!"

"There were a couple of times when I was a little bit frustrated, like in the last stage. I made a spin near the finish and that cost me a sixth place. Sixth would have been nice, but I will take this result – in the top five on six stages out of 10. This is so much more than I could have dreamed of. It’s amazing. It’s unbelievable."

Hyundai Motorsport Team Principal Andrea Adamo has been left satisfied with his rookie's incredible progression throughout the event.

"I guess he enjoyed it a lot," Adamo said. "I think he has had an amazing rally, much better than what everyone expected."

"I think he did what we asked him to do – to enjoy, to enjoy it in the end. But in the end, I think he enjoyed to spin a bit in the snow. It’s good you know, I think he gave us all a breath of fresh air that is needed in the WRC world. So it’s good."

There is no doubt that Oliver will return to the World Rally Championship in the not too distant future, it's just a matter of which manufacturer will sign him up. 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

JC Raceteknik and EKS join forces for 2021 and beyond.

PHOTO CREDIT: JC Raceteknik.
Reigning FIA World Rallycross Teams' Champions JC Raceteknik have announced a merger with Mattias Ekström's EKS for 2021 and beyond.

The merger between the two Swedish squads comes off the back of a successful 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship campaign, which saw Mattias Ekström get the late call-up to replace Janis Baumanis at KYB Team JC. 

Whilst Ekström claimed two wins on course to claim second place in the drivers' championship. The Swede later announced that will not return to the World RX championship in 2021, as he aims to focus solely on the Extreme E series.

The two-time DTM Champion and 2016 World RX Drivers' Champion Ekström established the EKS RX in 2014 and went on to win both the Drivers' and Teams' titles in 2016.

Having stopped rallycross operations in 2018, the EKS squad returned a year later but not as an entrant, instead, they would provide maintenance and support to the Monster Energy RX Cartel who hired two Audi S1's for the 2019 season. 

In 2019, JC Raceteknik acquired a 2017 specification EKS Audi S1 Supercar, which they raced in the European Rallycross Championship with Robin Larsson at the wheel. Larsson went on to win the championship and thus earned a seat in the World Rallycross Championship for a one-off round.

Following the completion of the 2019 World RX season, JC Raceteknik announced the acquisition of two Audi S1 Quattro's and entered them in the World RX championship in 2020. Having announced their line-up, things soon changed due to the coronavirus pandemic seeing Mattias Ekstrom make a surprising return alongside Robin Larsson for the season. The Swedish duo went on to win the teams' championship for KYB Team JC.

"I founded the EKS team in 2014 with an ambition to win races and championships, and we achieved that in 2016, by winning Driver’s and Team’s titles. And during the 2019 & 2020 JC Raceteknik have taken our cars to the top of Nordic, European and World championships," Mattias Ekström said.

Joel Christoffersson believes that a shared mindset and attitude are the main reasons for the collaboration between JC Raceteknik and EKS for the foreseeable future.

"Me and Mattias share the same mindset and attitude for the sport. This is one of the main reasons why our cooperation has been so successful so far and that has become a solid foundation for joining forces for the future," Joel Christoffersson, the founder of JC Raceteknik, said.

The newly founded collaboration between the two Swedish teams will be headed up by Joel Christoffersson as Team Principal from his base in Kil, Sweden.

"From now on Joel will take care of all the EKS and JC Raceteknik joint racing projects – rallycross, rally, cross karts, and anything else we come up with," Ekström said.

The 42-year-old champion adds that EKS JC is evaluating the future of electric racing and aims to run electric cars in the near future. 

"We are also looking into the future of electric racing and sooner than later there will be a race car in our workshop that is purely driven by electricity," the Swede said.

Christoffersson has confirmed that the EKS JC will return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2021, but has not confirmed the driver line-up as yet.

"For 2021 for sure we want to focus on FIA WorldRX and we want to win not only the Team’s title, but a Driver’s one as well. We are also looking into more projects to expand our operation in multiple disciplines," he said.

Ekström will drive a Skoda Fabia R5 in the newly rebranded EKS JC team in the Arctic Rally Finland World Rally Championship round at the end of this month. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Kenneth Hansen encouraged by initial talks with new World RX promoter.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
14-time European Rallycross Champion and Team Principal of Team Hansen, Kenneth Hansen has been left encouraged after initial talks with the new FIA World Rallycross Championship promoter, WRC Promoter. 

WRC Promoter has assumed the responsibilities for managing the World Rallycross Championship from 2021, replacing outgoing promoter IMG, and is set to oversee the championships transition to electric-powered vehicles in 2022. 

Team Hansen who have competed in the FIA World Rallycross Championship since the series inception in 2014 has welcomed WRC Promoter to the championship and they are looking forward to working together as rallycross moves into a pioneering new era. 

"We are happy that WRC Promoter has been chosen as the new promoter of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Having seen the work WRC Promoter has done since taking over the World Rally Championship, we are confident the championship has a good future ahead of it," Kenneth Hansen said. 

Having had initial discussions with WRC Promoter, Hansen believes that the new promoter will steer the action-packed series in a positive direction in the coming years.

"They are planning a long-term commitment to our sport and, from our initial conversations, we are encouraged they will take the series in a positive direction."

"By remaining on track introduce to electric vehicles in 2022, we believe the championship is going in the right direction to become bigger and more successful in the future," he concludes. Motorsport has always been closely aligned with the car industry, and by adopting an electric formula, World RX will remain relevant for years to come."

World RX race-winner Kevin Hansen has also been left impressed by how WRC Promoter added value to the World Rally Championship, and he believes that they can take the sport to new heights. 

"WRC Promoter has created huge value for rallying the last few years, so having them onboard is the best news for rallycross in a long time," Kevin Hansen said.

Hansen adds that WRC Promoter will be able to give himself and his rivals the international recognition that they deserve. 

"I’m young, eager, and hungry to win a world championship, and going for the title now with WRC Promoter in charge should give myself and my rivals the opportunity to become stars worldwide while trying to win it."

"I’m really looking forward to the electric revolution coming in our championship and what the future holds."

The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship is set to get underway on 22-23 May at Spa-Francorchamps.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Rosenqvist tips FIA RX2e to illuminate the international rallycross scene.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA RX2e Championship.
ABB Formula E and INDYCAR SERIES race-winner Felix Rosenqvist has high hopes for the new FIA RX2e Championship – describing the discipline as ‘the perfect format’ for electrification.

Rosenqvist has forged a deserved reputation as one of Scandinavia’s most successful – and versatile – motorsport drivers. Having won both the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and iconic Macau Grand Prix.

The Swede stepped up to Formula E for the 2016/17 campaign with Mahindra Racing, a team run in large part by QEV Technologies.

From two seasons in the all-electric single-seater series, Rosenqvist achieved three race wins, four more podium finishes, and an impressive third-place in the overall championship standings. 

The 29-year-old has since gone on to establish himself as a front-running competitor in the INDYCAR SERIES with Arrow McLaren SP, after securing ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours in 2019, and retains fond memories of his time spent working with QEV in Formula E.

"That was a really special period in my career," he said. "We had a lot of fun together. As an electric series, the software is the biggest factor in Formula E, and that is unquestionably QEV’s strength."

"All the guys at QEV are ultra-professional, and what really struck me was just how passionate they are about the technology. For every problem we encountered, they rapidly found a solution and they would spend countless hours working to extract every last thousandth-of-a-second.

"Since then, they have turned from a comparatively small operation into a much bigger one, with experience and success in a range of disciplines and on both the racing and road car side – and I have no doubt that they will make a similar success out of RX2e. Rallycross is obviously something new for them, but at the end of the day, like any other type of motorsport, it’s still about going fast and doing so in an efficient manner," he adds.

"Indeed, with its succession of short, sharp bouts, rallycross is in many respects the ideal arena for electric technology, and Rosenqvist is swift to point out the benefits not only from an environmental standpoint but on the performance side too, predicting faster races and eye-watering acceleration from the new FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series."

Founded in 2013, QEV Technologies is one of the Pioneers when it comes to electric mobility. The Spanish firm was involved in Formula E from the outset, propelling the likes of Nelson Piquet Jnr to the title with NEXTEV during the series' inaugural season in 2014/15 before partnering with Mahindra Racing. 

Felix competed in the ABB FIA Formula E series for three seasons with Mahindra Racing and has worked closely with QEV Technologies through the years. 

"Electric technology has progressed hugely over the past seven years – just look at how much quicker Formula E cars are now compared to back then – and all of that progress can be filtered into RX2e," he said.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA RX2e Championship.
Rosenqvist believes that the short sharp nature of rallycross is perfect for electric technology. "Weight has been the biggest limiting factor, but electric motors are getting lighter all the time and in any case, you can get away with carrying a little bit more weight in rallycross because the races are shorter and you have a lot of power available. Rallycross could almost have been tailor-made for electric technology – it has the perfect format."

"I think the RX2e car will definitely represent a step forward in performance terms. People always talk about the acceleration in an electric road car – well guess what, it’s exactly the same thing in a race car. You get crazy acceleration out of an electric motor – you can exit every corner flat-out, which is incredible," the Swede said.

"A few years ago, everybody was dead-set against electric technology, but the world is changing fast and the fact of the matter is that whoever doesn’t get on-board with it now is going to be left behind. This is the future, and I’m really excited to see the RX2e car in action..."

Thursday, 11 February 2021

World RX - The dawn of a new era.

PHOTO CREDIT: World RX Media
An exciting future lays in wait as the WRC Promoter GmbH has been announced as the new promoters of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

One could easily associate the World Rallycross Championship with a thrilling novel that you could find at your local bookstore. But, associating a motorsport series with a book seems wrong on so many levels. So, why are we making this association, you ask? It's mainly due to IMG's tenure at the helm of the series. The former promoters built the championship from the ground up and whilst there were challenges along the way they pushed through and concurred. This makes for an incredibly exciting story don't you think?

As "chapter one" draws to a close, the reader sort of formulates an idea of what the future holds within in a story, and it develops it can only better from thereon, which is quite similar to the news that Red Bull are new promoters of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

Chapter Two we will see the short, sharp, and action-packed series transition from combustion engines to EV technology, and whilst the USP (Unique Selling Point) of World RX is its loud combustion engines, a push to green energy will see the sport transition to buzzing electric power from 2022.

Whilst the era of pulsating anti-lag will soon come and go. The dawn of a new era is upon us, and it's within our hands to adopt it or move on. No-one likes change including us, but as time moves on, change is necessary. It's a game of being relevant or get left behind. The world is going electric and so will rallycross in the coming years. 

The future of motorsport is electric. So, why an electric future? It's mainly because vehicle manufacturers have begun phasing in electric energy into production vehicles as they aim to become carbon neutral in the near future. The go-green or electric future has seen manufacturers enter the likes of Formula E, etc. to develop and design new forms of technology for everyday use and this is something that will be introduced in all forms of motorsport sooner than later. 

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX Media.
But, as we usher in a new era, we need to take a look back at where it all began back in 2013 when IMG became the promoter of FIA Rallycross (a 20-year deal). A year later, rallycross shifted to FIA World Championship status and the rest is history. 

World Championship status saw rallycross move to new territories within Europe and further afield to the likes of North and South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This move saw the championship grow from strength-to-strength. 

Its global expansion saw a handful of manufacturers joining the series from Volkswagen, Peugeot, Audi, and Ford supporting some of the biggest names in motorsport - Ken Block, Sebastien Loeb, and Mattias Ekstrom to name a few. 

As time evolved and a move to electric became known the atmosphere slightly changed, and as soon as manufacturer involvement came, it went as the championship announced its push to electric-powered cars, but due to a delay to the implementation of electric rallycross, which was set to be introduced in 2020. A number of manufacturers announced their withdrawal after the 2019 season. Some citing a delay of the electric push and others suggesting that it doesn't fit into their sustainability plans. 

Whilst the 2019 season was a bit of an unknown due to withdrawal from the manufacturer teams, we soon saw independent teams era, but there is no doubt that the 2019 season will go down in history as the closest and most thrilling season ever witnessed, as Timmy Hansen was crowned FIA World RX Champion based on a countback of event wins rather than championship points. 

The puzzle pieces fell into place for the 2020 season, but then the coronavirus pandemic struck leading to a delayed and rather compact season, but when it eventually got underway double World Champion Johan Kristoffersson came out on top to claim a third world title. 

2021 will be a transitional year as Red Bull enter the series, with a different approach and mindset, but their knowledge should not be underestimated as they have been a promoter of WRC for some years now. So, their knowledge and no-how will be welcomed in a push to further grow the World Rallycross Championship. 

But in the same breathe as being genuinely excited about the WRC Promoter GmbH's involvement, we should actually applaud IMG at the same time for its bold and successful strategy of growing rallycross globally. 

Some of their decisions might not have gone down well with the fan base whilst others were simply forward-thinking. Many fans would agree that the free online live streams lead by Neil Cole, Laura Winter, and commentators Andrew Coley and Dan Rooke brought them a lot closer to the sport compared to many other motorsport series. It's something we can truly be thankful for! 

As we usher in change... We need to remain open minded, as the new promoter will have to learn a bit about the sport before implementing change. So, 2021 will be a transitional year but they have the potential to take World RX to much bigger heights than before, and we can't wait!

Will anything change on the commentary or broadcasting front? We certainly hope not, as Andrew Coley (lead commentator) and Dan Rooke are an incredible duo in the commentary box, along with lead TV anchors Neil Cole and Laura Winter.

As for the future of World Rallycross, we spoke to three-time World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson to get his viewpoint on the future of the sport, and he firmly believes that the new promoters should immediately start working towards the electric future of the sport, as he believes its crucial. 

"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," he said. "So, that teams can prepare for 2022, I think is more crucial."

The three-time World Champion went on further to say that the new promoter should make the cars more extreme and difficult to drive when the sport makes the transition to EV technology in 2022. 

"If and when it goes electric, I think it's very important that the cars should be extreme, difficult for the drivers to control and faster than current cars," he adds. "With the lack of anti-lag sound, the fans need something extra to make it exciting!"

The future is here, so let's embrace it!

Written By - Junaid Samodien

New promoter confirmed for the World Rallycross Championship.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX Media
The WRC Promoter Group has been announced as the new promoters of the FIA World Rallycross Championship ahead of the 2021 season.

In October last year, the FIA launched a tender process in the search for a new series promoter after IMG relinquished its role as World RX promoters after 8-years. 

The FIA's collaboration with the WRC promoter has seen the group reach a multi-year agreement beginning in 2021. 

So, who is the WRC Promoter Group (GmbH)? The German-based company was founded in 2013 in a collaboration between Red Bull Media House and KW25. 

“We are pleased to be aligning with WRC Promoter as we build towards a ground-breaking electric future for the FIA World Rallycross Championship," Peter Bayer, Secretary-General for Sport, FIA said. 

"The FIA and WRC Promoter have reached a common vision on how to work together for the benefit and the growth of rallycross. Our respective teams are working on a long-form agreement, look forward to commencing work on the 2021 championship and to the move of the sport towards a bright, more sustainable, and greener future."

"We have worked extensively with the company as the promoter of the FIA World Rally Championship for a number of years and we anticipate they will bring the same energy and dynamism to the promotion of rallycross."

The new series promoters will have an almighty task ahead of them, as they will be responsible for the championships transition from combustion engines to EV technology in 2022. 

In addition to announcing the new promoters today, the FIA has added that WRC Promoters Group has committed to investing in the World Championship and in particular the development of the future electrification of the rallycross as a whole. 

"World Rallycross sits on the verge of an innovative and pioneering future. We see strong growth potential in all areas and WRC Promoter is delighted to be at the forefront of a series focused on sustainable technology and e-mobility," Jona Siebel, Managing Director, WRC Promoter, said.

"Rallycross provides breathtaking thrills and spills and we will build new foundations to create an engaging and progressive platform for our global audience and partners."

The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship (RX1) season is scheduled to start at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on May 22-23. The season-opener will be supported by the new FIA RX2e series. 

The WRC Promoters Group will be responsible for the new RX1e electric FIA World Rallycross Championship which is set to debut in 2021. The new era of World RX will feature four-wheel drive 600hp Touring Cars (bodies) with performance levels that will be capable of exceeding the current combustion engine Supercars. 

In January, the FIA launched a tender proposal for the promotion of the FIA European Rallycross Championship, encompassing the EuroRX and Super1600 championships. However, for 2021 the European Rallycross Championship will remain under one umbrella with the new WRC Promoter Group. 

The FIA has also stated that the submissions for the 2021 FIA European Rallycross Championship from 2022 to 2025 are currently being considered.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Three double-headers and a super Swedish showdown to decide RallyX Nordic title fights.

PHOTO CREDIT: RallyX Nordic.
Finland rejoins the RallyX Nordic schedule in 2021 with a double-header weekend at OuluZone.

Despite the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, RallyX Nordic bucked the trend in 2020 with a tremendously successful season. Not only did the series stage the first major international rallycross event of the year last summer – Höljes’ ‘All-Star Magic Weekend’, attracting some of the biggest names in rallycross and rallying, namely, Johan Kristoffersson, Niclas Grönholm, Timmy Hansen, Oliver Solberg and Thierry Neuville.

Over the course of the campaign, NEP Sweden produced more than 43 hours of cutting-edge, live high-octane action, state-of-the-art drone footage and privileged behind-the-scenes insights (all of which can now be viewed for free here), taking viewers right to the very heart of the events during a period when trackside attendance was strictly off-limits.

In addition to keeping fans royally entertained – with pulsating title fights in every class rooting them to their seats season-long – it also ensured competitors enjoyed unprecedented levels of exposure and their sponsors benefitted from unparalleled return on investment, at a time when value for money was arguably more important than ever.

With five classes on the agenda – the pre-existing Supercar, Supercar Lites, CrossCar/Crosskart and CrossCar Junior categories joined by Open 2WD in 2021 – and interest already running at record levels, everything is set for another spectacular season of RallyX Nordic competition as bumper grids are anticipated across the board.

The 2021 campaign will get underway with a Danish double-header at Nysum – scene of last year’s title-decider – on 1-2 May, while Sweden’s iconic Höljes circuit plays host to rounds three and four a few weeks later (13-16 May). 

Finland makes a welcome return to the calendar on 5-6 June with the double-header contested at OuluZone in the north of the country, before Arvika in southern Sweden brings the curtain down on proceedings with a single-header showdown on 13-15 August.

“We are delighted to confirm Finland’s return,” said Jan-Erik Steen, CEO of RallyX Nordic promoter, RX Promotion. “We have always maintained a good relationship with the Finnish event organisers, and it was a shame we were not able to go there last year due to scheduling difficulties.

“As we said at the time, it was very much our intention to reinstate Finland to its rightful place on the RallyX Nordic calendar, and to have reached an agreement to race at OuluZone is fantastic news for all concerned. Together with Nysum, Höljes and Arvika, we are confident we now have all the ingredients for an exciting, varied and thrillingly unpredictable season ahead.”

2021 RallyX Nordic Calendar

May 1-2           Rounds 1/2 Nysum, Denmark    RallyX Nordic only

May 13-16        Rounds 3/4 Höljes, Sweden    RallyX Nordic and Swedish Championship

June 5-6          Rounds 5/6 OuluZone, Finland   RallyX Nordic only

August 13-15  Round 7         Arvika, Sweden    RallyX Nordic and Swedish Championship

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Lategan to undergo shoulder surgery following Dakar injury.

PHOTO CREDIT: Toyota GAZOO Racing South Africa.
Henk Lategan has confirmed that he will undergo shoulder surgery on Tuesday (today).

Having made their debut at the 2021 Dakar Rally, Lategan and co-driver Brett Cummings had a lot to learn. And, coming from a cross country background, the South African pair has the necessary experience, but the Dakar is a whole different ball game with its long and challenging sandy dunes, etc. 

Lategan and Cummings overcame a few hurdles in the opening stages and brought home a superb second-place finish on stage three, immediately followed up with a third-place finish on stage four. A rather impressive result. However, a day later they would retire for the Dakar. 

PHOTO CREDIT: A.S.O/Dakar Rally.
The South African duo were forced to retire from the 2021 Dakar Rally after a heavy crash near the start of stage five. Henk and co-driver Brett were the third car to start the 456km-long stage between Saudi capital Riyadh and Al Qaisumah. Whilst they got off to a good start, they hit a ditch 19km's into the stage rolling their Toyota Hilux. 

Fortunately, the pair escaped any serious injuries. However, Lategan was flown to a hospital with a suspected collarbone fracture and was later released from the hospital. 

Henk confirmed on Monday evening that he will undergo surgery on his shoulder. 

"(I'm) going in for surgery on my shoulder," Lategan said. "The dislocation at Dakar is a bit worse than we first thought. Hopefully, I will be back in action soon!"

Written By: Junaid Samodien.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Casale dedicates Dakar result to his father.

PHOTO CREDIT: BUGGYRA Racing.
Ignacio Casale, a name associated with a lot of success in cross country racing, including the world's toughest race, the Dakar Rally. 

The Chilean drivers' adventure started over 12 years ago alongside his father, competing in the trucks category. The father and son duo claimed a 26th-place finish, a result that earned Casale a wildcard entry for the 2011 Dakar Rally, and thereafter the rest is history. 

He returned to the Dakar Rally in 2011 in motorbike category in where he finished 40th overall. The following year he moved over to the quads category and claimed a strong fourth-place finish. 

A year later in 2013, Casale made history when he won stage 7 to become the first Chilean rider to win a stage in the quad's category and went on to finish second overall in the classification. 

In 2014, he went one better and won 13 stages on course to win his first of three Dakar Rally's. He returned to defend the title in 2015, but unfortunately, it didn't go according to plan as he retired due to a mechanical issue.

He then returned in 2016 but was forced to withdraw due to an injury, but a year later he returned to seal a second title on a quad bike. 

Having reached a lot of success in the quad category, Casale moved to the SSV category in 2018, but it didn't go to plan as he withdrew after stage six due to a mechanical issue and returned a year later on a quad bike to claim a third Dakar title in the quads category.

Would he return in 2021? Yes, he did! The Chilean made the switch to the Trucks category where his Dakar adventure started over 12 years ago as earlier mentioned, and he finished 9th place in the overall standings. A result he would later dedicate to his father. 

"I would like to dedicate my 9th place to my father. It was with him when I did my first Dakar in a truck 12 years ago," Casale said.

Casale's move from the quads category was quite a surprise for many, but little did we know that he was in talks with the Buggyra Racing team since 2019. 

Being realistic the Chilean set the goal of achieving a top 10 finish in the truck category which he successfully achieved in 2021. 

The Chilean claimed his best result of the 2021 Dakar Rally on stage 8, a fifth-place finish.

"Big thanks also to the whole family for their support and the whole Buggyra Racing team. It is the best Dakar team I’ve ever had," the Chilean said. "My navigator Álvaro (León) did a fantastic job, and co-driver David (Hoffmann) as well. He had lots of patience with us. It’s very emotional. Thanks to everybody!" 

Written By - Junaid Samodien.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Dakar 2021: Stage 9 - The horror stage... for some.

PHOTO CREDIT: X-Raid Mini JCW.
Written By: Franco Theron - NamWheels

Edited: Junaid Samodien 

Honda edging towards number two? 

An eight stage win for 2021 as all of their title rivals lost time or retired, certainly now means that Honda can comfortably take their second successive Dakar win. 

Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Honda), yesterday extended his 1 second lead over Toby Price (KTM) to 1:06 minutes. Suffering a cut to his rear wheel, midway through the marathon stage, Price had to nurse his tyre back to the liaison yesterday. 

With the 9th stage said to prove trying for navigation, Price stormed into the stage, leading after the first checkpoint. Cornejo Florimo soon bested the Australian at the next check, but was soon beaten by his teammate, Ricky Brabec (Honda) at the third check. 

Struggling with navigation, the overall leader lost some time to Price and his Monster Energy Honda teammates, but soon again jumped into the lead of the stage as Kevin Benavides dropped time, with Ricky Brabec losing almost 21 and a half minutes before the halfway mark. 

Drama soon erupted as Price came to a standstill in the stage. Meanwhile, Daniel Sanders and Sam Sunderland were also losing significant time, potentially bringing an end to KTM’s overall 2021 contention. 

As Honda continued their attack, news came through that Price had crashed at 155km and broke his collarbone. Was this the final blow for KTM in 2021? 

With Cornejo Florimo now able to rest somewhat, Benavides soon took the stage lead, with Van Beveren slightly catching up throughout the stage. At the same time, Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna), who was also setting quick times during the stage, had to be airlifted to the hospital after a crash. 

Kevin Benavides held a steady 2 to 3 minute gap over Cornejo Florimo as the stage progressed, whilst van Beveren now moved into 3rd after Luciano Benavides’ crash.

Ricky Brabec took the lead at waypoint 4 (PK121) but lost over twenty minutes when he stopped to help the injured Toby Price. Price's teammate Sam Sunderland also stopped to assist. At the end of the stage, the A.S.O handed some time back to both riders. 

Kevin Benavides would win the stage with Ricky Brabec finishing in second, but it would ultimately be Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo and Honda claiming a 1-2-3 finish as their main rivals fell today. 

Cornejo Florimo now takes a 11:24 minute lead from Kevin Benavides, with Barreda Bort following 14 minutes behind the duo. This is the largest gap we have seen all race long. 

Will Honda make it a historic 1-2-3 on Friday? 

From bad to out for Branch 

After suffering three falls and mechanical problems during the first leg of the marathon stage, Ross Branch (Yamaha) lost all hope for overall contention. Dropping to 15th position overall on stage 7, the Botswana-born rider fought his way back yesterday to overtake his much more experienced teammate, Adrien van Beveren. 

Today, Branch again started very strong, clearing teammate, van Beveren in the early stages. However, his engine soon cut out, meaning that the Yamaha leader (up till this point) had to be forced into retirement. 

Yamaha now only has van Beveren to fight for stage wins. 

A bad day indeed for Southern Africans and Yamaha. 

Peterhansel on the verge of victory number 14?

The start of the 9th stage saw much the same as we did yesterday, with the Toyota of Nasser Al-Attiyah and the two Mini’s of Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz fighting one another with mere seconds between them. 

Opening the road today, Al-Attiyah edged the two Mini’s, but only 6 seconds separated the trio. Come the second checkpoint, Peterhansel jumped into the hot seat, while the other two kept within 10 seconds. 

As the stage progressed, first Sainz lost over 5 minutes, with Al-Attiyah soon following to almost lose 6 minutes to Peterhansel before the midway point has been reached. 

The speculation came in that Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah were playing a strategic game with one another to not lead the stage and let the rival make a mistake. All this meant that the likes of Mathieu Serradori (Century Racing) Yazeed Al-Rahji (Overdrive Toyota) and Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing) steadily started catching up. 

Progressively losing time to Peterhansel, Al-Attiyah had already lost 10:20 minutes to the leaders just past the midway mark of the stage. Finishing the stage, the Qatari had lost 12 minutes in total. The overall gap has therefore grown to almost 18 minutes, while Sainz is a further 42 minutes adrift.  

Rather, it was Serradori, who started to lead the stage after 320km as Peterhansel evidently held his word not to open a stage for the 2021 edition. De Villiers also managed to pass the times of his teammate and would finish the stage in third position. 

However, towards the end of the stage, Serradori’s car ground to a halt, propelling Peterhansel back into the lead, with De Villiers in third and Brian Baragwanath in fifth.

To rub salt in Carlos Sainz's wounds after navigational issues in week one. The Spaniard had to contend with brake issues today which cost him over 20 minutes, and his hopes of defending the title have slipped by the wayside (+01:02:25 behind). 

Today’s stage might just have been the final plot twist.  

Monday, 11 January 2021

Dakar 2021: Stage 8 - Toyota and Honda make it 7 out of 9 .

 PHOTO CREDIT: A.S.O/Dakar
Written By: Franco Theron - NamWheels

Motorbikes: 7th stage win for Honda

The stage from Sakaka to Neom today saw the battle between the KTM’s and Honda’s resume as Toby Price, Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, and Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) all set the timesheets alight. 

Winning the stage yesterday, Ricky Brabec (Honda) struggled to keep the pace of the leading trio as Price held the slightest of margins over Cornejo Florimo and Barreda Bort. Finishing the stage yesterday, Cornejo Florimo led overall by 1 second over Price. 

With a new rule, seeing riders only allowed 6 tyres, Price had to patch his wheel in a very innovative way, whilst also setting blistering stage times. This is why the Australian is a 2-time Dakar winner. 

As the stage progressed, Brabec started to lose time as Cornejo Florimo overtook Price, leading the latter by a mere 7 seconds after waypoint 8 (PK307), extending his lead as the stage progressed. 

The Chilean would win the stage by 1:05 minutes, extending his lead over Price to 1:06. With only four stages remaining and Cornejo Florimo opening the stage tomorrow, the 2021 Dakar Rally is too close call. 

Xavier de Soultrait (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) also saw a promising 2021 race and started today’s stage in 4th overall. However, medical assistance was deployed at the 267km mark as the rider crashed heavily and therefore had to retire from the race. 

After a horrible day yesterday, seeing him fall 3 times, damaging his bike in the process, and taring apart his knee guards, Ross Branch (Yamaha) held a steady pace as the top Yamaha today as the rest of the top 15 were spread widely in the standings. 

Branch finished 11th, some 9 minutes behind the stage winner. Whilst losing time to the leaders, the Botswana rider did manage to climb up two spots in the overall rankings as de Soultrait retired and Van Beveren fell behind by 15 seconds. 

Losing Franco Caimi due to a broken engine; the third of their five riders today, Yamaha only has Branch and Adrien Van Beveren left to fight for stage victories. 

Cars: 7th stage win for Toyota 

The first marathon section yesterday, saw Yazeed Al-Rahji (Toyota Overdrive) win the stage in the latter part as Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini JCW) evidently ran into problems, yet still managed to extend his overall lead over the Toyota of Nasser Al-Attiyah. 

Today, however, the Qatari launched onto the stage, leading both Mini’s and Al-Rahji by mere seconds. However, at the waypoint 4 (PK161), Peterhansel started edging Al-Attiyah once again, while Sainz slightly trailed the two upfront. 

The top-three would keep on trading times, staying within seconds from one another as Al Rajhi started to fall behind the likes of Cyril Despres (Abu Dhabi Racing).  

Towards the end of the special, Al-Attiyah distances Peterhansel, while Sainz stayed in a close second. Yet, the Toyota’s gap to Peterhansel was not sufficient to drastically reduce the overall lead. The Qatari won the stage by 52 seconds over Sainz, while cutting 3:03 minutes into Peterhansel’s lead. 

Opening the road once again tomorrow, Al-Attiyah will hope to cut down the 4:50 minute deficit to Peterhansel. 

Shameer Variawa and Giniel de Villiers also held their heads high today, constantly racing within and around the top 10 stage times. However, de Villiers' charge was hampered by punctures once again. 

Having reached the bivouac with 1 minute till cut-off at 1 am, Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) spent the night working on their car and started the stage 51st, but gained time as they also raced their way to 12th-place today.

Edited By: Junaid Samodien. 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Dakar 2021: Stage 7 - Al-Attiyah and Branch loses out.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool. 
Written By: Franco Theron - NamWheels

Edited: Junaid Samodien

The seventh stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally was one to forget for Yamaha's Ross Branch and the Toyota Gazoo Racing's Nasser Al-Attiyah. Rather, it was a victorious day for Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Honda) and Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini JCW) as they now have a firmer grasp on yet another title. 

Honda’s continue to dominate stages as Price extends overall lead 

The Honda’s of Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec continued their normal stage attack as Cornejo Florimo and Toby Price (KTM) held a steady attack pace to extend their overall lead. With five stages remaining, the Honda and KTM squad are ensued in their heated battles to take the overall victory. 

Benavides then lost around 10 minutes to his teammate just before the finish, elevating Xavier de Soultrait (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) and Jose Cornejo Florimo (Honda) ahead. The KTM’s of Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders were also once again on the attack and constantly kept within the top 5 times. 

The 2020 winner, Brabec won today’s stage, Cornejo Florimo, Sunderland, Sanders, and de Soultrait followed. 

Yet, Cornejo Florimo crossed the line to now lead the overall standings by a mere 1 second from Price. Sunderland follows, some 2:10 minutes back, with de Soultrait hot on his heels, only 23 seconds back. 

Once again the gaps are extremely close, with the top 4 now only separated by 2:30.  

Yamaha’s title hopes were somewhat diminished today as Ross Branch crashed very early in the stage. Although he was fine, his bike needed repairs. The Botswana rider, therefore, lost 42 minutes to the stage leaders. 

However, with the Honda’s and KTM’s seemingly on the attack for the second week, it will be a tough ask, with not much time left to do so. He will now have the same task as Carlos Sainz (X-Raid Mini JCW) had early in week 1; with a mammoth task to claw back more than 41 minutes. Teammate, Adrien van Beveren, attacked harder today but also lost considerable time to the stage leaders. Although now the leading Yamaha rider, the Frenchman is 38 minutes behind the leaders.  

Peterhansel extends lead 

After extensive work was done to the Toyota GAZOO Racing SA Hilux's during the rest day yesterday, all eyes were on Nasser Al-Attiyah to see if the Qatari would be able to claw back the odd 5 minutes to Stephane Peterhansel. 

Yet, Peterhansel managed to hold his own today as the Frenchman more than doubled his lead over the Toyota. 

The stage would again follow the same proceedings as that of stage 6 as a Mini would again lead the stage with Yazeed Al-Rahji (Toyota Overdrive) in second place, fending off the second Mini. This time around, however, Peterhansel led the stage, with Carlos Sainz chasing in third. 

Towards the end of the stage, the situation quickly turned as Al-Rahji took the lead of the stage, while Al-Attiyah gained some 5 minutes on Peterhansel to trail the Frenchman by 1:30 in the stage. All eyes were on the finish line. 

Al-Rajhi reached the finish line, 1:15 minutes ahead of Sainz, while Peterhansel finished 48 seconds behind Al Rahji, putting two more minutes into his overall lead over Al-Attiyah. Was this strategic gameplay to allow Al-Rahji to open the road tomorrow? We should soon find out! 

Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) had a torrid day as the South-African pairing ground to a halt at the 33km mark after hitting a hidden rock in the soft sand and broke a rear suspension linkage. SRT's Mathieu Serradori tried to provide some assistance but he did not have the required part. At the time of publishing this article, Baragwanath and Perry are still on the stage trying to make it to the bivoauc. 

Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) also lost time today and finished the stage in twenty-second place.