|PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool|
Amongst them is Timmy Hansen, the driver who has finished runner-up to Kristoffersson in each of the past two seasons. The two Swedes clashed at Montalegre last September and have engaged in countless close battles since – with many more surely in prospect over the coming months.
Hansen's younger Kevin Hansen will also look for an upturn in form this season, as they pilot two fresh-looking Peugeot 208 RX1es.
Finishing third in the standings in both 2021 and 2022, last year's Portuguese winner (round 5), Niclas Gronholm returns with the Construction Equipment Dealer Team and will look to complete the hat-trick this weekend.
His team-mate for the upcoming season is history maker Klara Andersson, who became the first female to reach the podium in World Rallycross last year. Having concluded her rookie season with arguably her finest performance to date, the young Swede aims to build upon her impressive progress.
Another newcomer who firmly established himself among the elite in 2022 was none other than Gustav Bergström, who claimed three consecutive podium finishes and is now targeting the next step.
Kristoffersson's team-mate Ole Christian Veiby in the sister VW, has his sights solidly set on breaking his World RX duck following an accomplished comeback that yielded top three results in half of the rounds, despite suffering from more than his fair share of ill fortune.
"It feels good to be back with something familiar. Last year everything felt new to me," Veiby said. "I'm getting closer to Johan, so it would be nice to even win a race this year."
Fresh from the rally-raid championship, Guerlain Chicherit returns after reviving an automotive icon - the Lancia Delta Integrale, which made its World RX debut in the season finale at the Nürburgring and proved to be competitive straight off the bat.
Chicherit is lining up two Lancias with the Special ONE Racing team in 2023, he will be partnered by none other than WRC legend Sébastien Loeb, who returns following four seasons away from the grid. During his previous stint in the World Rallycross, the Frenchman achieved two victories and 15 further podium appearances from 36 outings.
Completing the field in 2023 is two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport SEAT Ibiza RX1e – another championship returnee. The German – a veteran of 42 World RX starts to date – is renowned as a tough competitor on the track.
With the field firmly poised to take the fight to Kristoffersson, we are without a doubt in for an electrifying season.
Speaking at the post-season test in Portugal last week, Johan said: "The new car is faster and so much more fun to drive. This year we will see tighter racing and more takeovers."
These words are rather ominus for his rivals... let the racing begin!
PRE-SEASON TESTING - FASTEST TIMES IN PORTUGAL:
DAY ONE: Johan Kristoffersson (best lap: 40.229)
DAY TWO: Ole Christian Veiby (best lap: 39.772)
DAY THREE: Johan Kristoffersson (best lap: 38.959)
Portugal’s picturesque and historic Montalegre track formed part of the original FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar back in 2014, and its undulating layout and unpredictable weather has produced many breathtaking battles over the years.
The 945m track is located 1,000m above sea level, requiring engines to be finely tuned to deal with the altitude. From a long start/finish straight, drivers brake hard for the first corner – a tight right-hand hairpin – before taking a little bit of kerb as they flick through the left-right chicane that follows.
A fast left-hander then leads downhill into a right as the surface turns from asphalt into the loose and sandy gravel that characterises Montalegre before a steep uphill climb precedes another left followed by a long, fast right-hander. The final section of the lap is marked by a tricky surface change and a series of chicanes – inviting drivers to brush the barriers on both sides, but without getting too close...
2023 FIA WORLD RALLYCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP: ENTRY LIST
Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS) - VW Polo RX1e
Sebastien Loeb (Special ONE Racing) - Lancia Delta Evo-e RX
Timmy Hansen (Hansen World RX Team) - Peugeot 208 RX1e
Niclas Gronholm (CE Dealer Team) - PWR RX1e
Kevin Hansen (Hansen World RX Team) - Peugeot 208 RX1e
Guerlain Chicherit (Special ONE Racing) - Lancia Delta Evo-e RX
Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS) - VW Polo RX1e
Gustav Bergstrom (Kristoffersson Motorsport) - VW Polo RX1e
Klara Andersson (CE Dealer Team) - PWR RX1e
Timo Scheider (ALL-INLK Munnich Motorsport) SEAT Ibiza RX1e
ROUND 1 - WORLD RX OF PORTUGAL (Portguese time).
HEAT 1: 13:30
HEAT 2: 15:30
HEAT 3: 10:30
HEAT 4: 13:00
SEMI-FINALS and FINALS (from): 15:00