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.

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. 

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.

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.