|PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool|
|Guerlain Chicherit going wheel-to-wheel on the Lancia's debut. |
PHOTO CREDIT: GCK Motorsport
With unfinished business and clear goals for victories, Chicherit formed a new team – Special ONE Racing, and brought nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb on board to race the team’s second car.
The French squad immediately showed promise making the finals with Loeb in round 1, but in order to go a step further Chicherit admitted that they needed to unlock a bit more speed.
Having appeared in the final on three occasions this season, Special ONE Racing had their eyes firmly set on a podium finish at the British round of the championship, but sadly, it was not to be.“A fire broke out on Sébastien Loeb’s car. The fire quickly spread to Guerlain Chicherit's car and then to one of the team's two workshop trucks. None of the three vehicles could be saved from the flames despite the intervention of the fire brigade,” the Special ONE Racing statement said.
|PHOTO CREDIT: _rallycross_ [Instagram]|
A stewards document released on Saturday evening explained that the fire broke out at 8.43am on Friday morning, with “video evidence showing that the fire was initiated at the battery of the car while it was in the team area charging, but it is not clear why this happened. It was evident that only extremely quick thinking by the team members saved them from injury.”
The FIA immediately launched an “urgent investigation into the root cause of the incident with the cooperation of the Kent Fire service, the Lydden Hill track staff, and the championship promoter”, while battery supplier Kreisel will provide technical assistance.
The World Rallycross Championship organizers then announced that “the investigation has not progressed far enough to determine a root cause for the fire”, and therefore “permanently stop round four of the RX1e championship for safety reasons.”
All the teams were kept informed about the progress of the investigation and fully supported the cancellation of the United Kingdom race [round 4].
CE Dealer Team’s Jussi Pinomäki said: “Safety is, and has always been, the number one priority and we fully support the decision of the FIA to halt the World RX race weekend in the UK for a thorough investigation to be completed.”
Whilst 14-time European Rallycross Champion Kenneth Hansen adding that: “We need to learn from what has happened and benefit from it.”
“We are sad not to have been racing this weekend, but we don’t want to risk anything. I think we can come stronger from this – not just us but the whole championship,” he said.
Having lost a large portion of its equipment and cars, Special ONE Racing made the heartbreaking announcement that “without its two cars and a large part of its equipment they will not be able to enter in the last four rounds of the 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship season.”
“Our thoughts go out to the team who have lost their two racing cars and all other equipment. We know each other well and have good cooperation between the teams. Everyone knows how much time, money, and work has gone into producing the cars,” Tommy Kristoffersson, team principal of the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS, said.
“It is clear that it will be discussed, but it must be remembered that it is the first time an accident of this kind has occurred. Accidents and incidents have occurred in all types of series. Motorsport always involves a measure of risk,” he added. “Motorsport has always been a driving force in the development of the automotive industry. We compete under extreme conditions with extreme types of materials and all mistakes and errors are carefully analyzed. Let's hope that something good comes out of this in the end as well.”
The next event in the FIA World Rallycross Championship is set to take place in Mettet, Belgium in two weeks. At the point of publishing this article, there have been no updates regarding the investigation. The current intention of all teams and the organizers is for the event to go ahead as planned unless otherwise communicated.