Thursday, 23 August 2018

PART 1 - 2018 Belgian GP: FIA Drivers' Press Conference.

PART ONE: DRIVERS – Daniel RICCIARDO (Red Bull Racing), Fernando ALONSO (McLaren), Pierre GASLY (Toro Rosso), Carlos SAINZ (Renault)


Q: Fernando, I’m going to start with you. I’ve just introduced all four of you with your current teams, but all four of you will be racing elsewhere next year. You’ve said you won’t race in Formula 1 in 2019. Can you just tell us how you came to that decision?

Fernando ALONSO: Well, it was a decision that probably I started thinking about last year, probably, and then this year, in 2018, there were a lot of changes into the team, with the engine manufacturer changes and things like that, so I thought it was worth staying one more year. I enjoy driving these cars, with the new regulations, with the big tyres, the big downforce, I was having fun and I think this year it was some kind of joy to keep racing and to have another go. But at the same time I made some changes and some priorities into this year, with the Super Season and the WEC championship and other things also, towards this direction and yeah, this year, a couple of months ago I decided that it was the right time, because I feel strong, I feel I’m driving at a good level and I want to say bye-bye to this sport when I feel strong, not when I feel not competitive or I don’t have any place to go and then you say bye-bye. I prefer to take my own decision and find new challenges that maybe Formula 1 cannot offer me at the moment.

Q: Thank you. Daniel, you will also have a new challenge next year, swapping Red Bull for Renault. Tell us how you came to make that decision to move teams next year?

Daniel RICCIARDO: Yeah, it was a long thought process, for sure. I guess I’ve been kind of bombarded with the question already at the end of last year. When Max announced his extension with the team then it kind of turned a bit of spotlight onto me. I obviously took my time with it. By no means an easy decision at all. I guess I got to a point where I felt I was ready for a change. I guess that was the long and short of it. I’m ready for a new challenge and I think just for me personally just some fresh motivation. That sounds easy saying it like that but it wasn’t easy. A few sleepless nights, for sure, trying to come up with the best conclusion for myself but once I made that decision and pulled the trigger I felt comfortable with it and it feels right moving forward for next year.

Q: Thank you. Carlos, coming to you, obviously you are going to replace Fernando at McLaren in 2019, but there was a Red Bull seat available at one stage, so can you talk us through the timeline for what happened with your future?

Carlos SAINZ: As soon as Daniel was announced in Renault, there was obviously a period of time where I didn’t know where I was going to go. I had been preparing my options and McLaren has been one of them for a long time now. I have been in touch with the McLaren management for a year or two now. Because of that I was very calm about the situation. I just had to wait to see what happened and take my own decision. In the end it turned out to be good. I’m about to leave the Red Bull family in a good way. I owe pretty much my Formula 1 career to them. Thanks to them at the moment I am going to McLaren, because they put me into Formula 1 and I have been able to do a career thanks to them. I think I am opening a new chapter next year; my first two-year deal with the team and I just cannot wait.

Q: Thank you. Pierre, you probably had the least stressful break in terms of not having a decision to make, but you will be promoted to Red Bull next year. Twelve months ago you weren’t even racing in Formula 1. Can you believe the progress and how quick it’s been?

Pierre GASLY: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how quick things go in Formula 1, so for sure super excited about this new challenge. Yeah, pretty much I was surprised, like everyone, when I heard the news about Daniel. I had Helmut on the phone, who told me that they would take their time to make the decision. Difficult to disconnect when you know there is a seat available in Red Bull but I just tried to enjoy my break. I was just waiting for a phone call just to know if I will stay with Toro Rosso or jump into the Red Bull seat and Helmut called me to tell me that they made the decision and they want me to race for the team from 2019 onwards. Just super excited about it and it’s a massive step in my career and now I need to stay focused on the coming races, because we are talking about next year but there are still nine races to go with Toro Rosso but for sure it’s going to be a massive jump for me in my career.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Daniel, with the decision to leave Red Bull, how much of that is down to maybe doubting the potential of that partnership with Honda. Obviously it’s a big change for the team and they obviously needed to do a bit of convincing for you, so how much of a factor was that in the call?

DR: There are a lot of unknowns with everything. Obviously even the move where I am going to be next year. There is still a certain amount of risk or unknowns. Nothing was really that clear cut. Sure, Honda still really need to prove themselves at the front. But honestly there wasn’t really one key factor other than really myself and wanting to have a change of scenery I guess. That was probably the biggest, overpowering thing but it wasn’t necessarily the engine deal or this or that or the financials or whatever. It was really just me coming to a point… it’s been five years with Red Bull Racing, or will be at the end of this year, ten years with the company and obviously it’s been amazing and great but it just felt like now is the time to take on something new. So that’s pretty much how my decision came.

Q: (Edd Straw – Autosport) Another question for Daniel. Was Max Verstappen’s presence in the team part of it, in terms of obviously Red Bull have thrown a lot behind him, he’s becoming a bit of a focal point, there were various troubles earlier in the year. Do you feel that for your new challenge you needed to get out of an environment where there was a team that seemed to be building up around Max?

DR: No, is the short answer. I think externally around media and maybe some fans’ perspective as well that might be seen as the case, but honestly, internally, yeah in Baku and that we had an incident and a couple of on-track things, more round ourselves, but as far as equality went within the team, as I said, probably from the outside sometimes people thought that, but honestly hand on heart there was never any concern with that or any sign of that. So it wasn’t, I guess, is the answer.

Q: (Christian Menath – Daniel, can you talk us through the timing of your decision-making, because there has been some confusion about that? Helmut Marko said he was quite sure you were going to sign the contract with Red Bull but then you didn’t.

DR: Yeah, it was all tight with deadlines. It’s not something I knew for weeks or months. It was all pretty much… when it got announced right before the break… obviously Renault was part of my considerations for some time; they didn’t come out of nowhere at the last hour, but yeah, I was really torn, obviously, with what to do and that process took time. At the end, still on the race weekend in Budapest I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing. Did the test on Tuesday and took some time to think about it over the next 48 hours and then came to my decision. It wasn’t easy and there were a lot of factors, variable that I had to try to weigh up, but I think as I said, in my mind the key thing for me personally was that I felt it was time to make a change. This year, particularly the first part of the year, up until Monaco for sure, it was an amazing start to the year for me. There were so many positives. So there was a lot of like good momentum and energy but I guess still at times I was feeling, for whatever reason, I felt personally a little bit frustrated – within myself, not necessarily with things that were happening in the team – and I was just trying to understand why and I guess when I weighed it up a change of setting, a new challenge was probably the answer I need.

Q: (Jerome Pugmire – Associated Press) Fernando, would you at some point in the future consider returning to Formula 1 or is this definitively goodbye?

FA: Right now, I’m thinking it’s a goodbye. But, you know, life changes very quickly. Life has also taught me in the past how things may change, in a couple of months’ time or in a years’ time. As I said in the press release, when we announced the retirement, it’s to leave the door open, because I don’t have the crystal ball to know what is going to happen in the future. As I said, for me it’s a bye-bye, but who knows in the future.

Q: (Jacquelin Magnay – The Australian) Daniel, you’ve talked about needing a new challenge and wanting a new challenge, what was happening in Red Bull that made you so unloved, and in terms of the contract negotiations, did they have a right of reply at all and did you go back to them?

DR: I never said I was unloved. That wasn’t the case. As I said, there was no real highlight other than probably the routine sometimes if you… we don’t have a nine-to-five job and we’re not going to the same office everyday. But I guess many years of more or less going to the same factory or whatever, that kind of routine, I felt like at time my enjoyment of the sport was becoming a little bit, I don’t know, dulled down, a bit numb at times, and I just thought part of the routine was causing that. I’m still… I think Fernando just touched on it, I’m discovering myself in life and it’s changing pretty rapidly. How maybe I thought 12 months ago is not how I think now but I guess part of that process and touching a little bit on the routine I think was something that I felt was… I don’t want to say getting the best of me, but was having a little effect on me. I think to be clear, and I’m probably going to get asked loads of questions about it, there was no falling out, no bad blood or anything with anyone in the team, with the bosses, or anyone at all. I know the contract stuff, I think people assumed I was pretty much done with Red Bull and ready to sign, but I’m pretty sure I always just said I was close to doing something but I never really said it was going to be 100% with Red Bull, so there wasn’t anything that changed overnight that caused this decision and that’s pretty much where it was. And there was another part?

Q: (Jacquelin Magnay – The Australian) The right of reply?

DR: There was like back and forth over the last few months. In the end, the deal and that, I think we had all come to a happy place with and it was then just up to me. I knew what was in front of me so…

Q: (Livio Oricchio – Carlos, are you disappointed that Red Bull chose Pierre instead of you. Pierre, how do you think you will be in battle with Max next year ?

CS: Yeah, I think it’s impossible to be disappointed to be leaving a team to go to McLaren. It’s one of the dreams I had as a kid and to be joining McLaren in the future, it’s impossible to be unhappy. Yes, I’ve been part of the Red Bull family for a very long time and I always said that Red Bull was one of my main objectives but as a racing driver, the McLaren family pushes you a lot to that and it is impossible to be disappointed with that and I think that pretty much covers it.

And Pierre, going up against Max next year?

PG: I think it’s pretty exciting. I think Max is one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment. Of course I am only in my first season in Formula 1 and I’m still taking experience, but I think there is a great opportunity ahead of me. I have a really good relationship with Max. I know him a really long time; we raced together in karting. I think as a team we have the potential to do great things together and yeah, I’ve worked with the team for a couple of years now. For sure, I will have things to learn in the first few races and the first months, because I’m still quite new in Formula 1. But my long-term target is to be the best in the sport and if I want to be the best I will have to fight against the best. I think Max is one of the best drivers on the grid at the moment, so I take it as an amazing opportunity to drive next to him.

Q: (Abhishek Takle – Mid-day) A question for Daniel again. You were talking about the routine and about needing a change in environment. You were obviously earlier in the season linked to drives at either Mercedes or Ferrari so you had begun to think about life beyond Red Bull. Then when that didn’t happen… when you think about life outside the environment you are in, does that make the environment you are in a little less appealing and you want that change more?

DR: I don’t know. I feel like… I don’t feel my presence in the team this year has changed. I think it’s probably shown particularly on Sundays. The desire and everything is still 100% there. The desire to race and be the best – that certainly hasn’t diminished. I don’t think so. I don’t think anything changed, really, over the process. It was more me, when I was away from the track, away from the sport, just laying in bed at night, more things were running through my head. I think just asking myself more questions; what I want and where I see myself… something like that!

Q: (Marco Conseco - Marca) Question for Fernando. What kind of car are you going to leave for Carlos at the end of the season?

FA: Well, I think he will drive next year’s car so I guess that hopefully there is going to be more performance in it and a better car to achieve better results. That’s our aim at the moment in the remaining nine races with the team; prepare the 2019 car the best way we can and so I don’t know exactly how the car will be or what performance Carlos will find – but what is 100 per cent sure is the team is an amazing team, as Carlos touched on before. McLaren is an amazing organisation, the second-best team in the history of the sport. This is something you will feel immediately when you come to the factory, when you enter the MTC, you meet the people, the engineers, the design office, the mechanics. Everyone is committed and determined to put McLaren back on the top. That’s something that, you know, if quite special when you join this kind of organisation. That will be the first feeling; the first moment of joy and hopefully the second will be in the Barcelona test.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC Sport) Question for Fernando. Fernando, you talk about new challenges that Formula One can’t offer you. Do you mean winning? Winning one particular race? Would you have stayed if you could have had a competitive car, and what do you feel about the fact you’ve not been able to get a competitive car despite your obvious abilities?

FA: I think the challenges are, year, probably bigger than the challenge that I can find here for next year. The triple crown is something that I’ve been saying for a couple of months now – or years – that to be the best driver in the world there are two possibilities: winning eight World Championships in Formula One – quite unlikely now for me – or the second is to master different series and different cars. The sportscars, I think I’m doing quite OK at the moment; so I’m happy with the performance we’re seeing there, and in the Indy 500 I felt competitive also last year, and there are other series that can put you in a different level in motorsport if you can win with different cars and in different series. The possibilities for next year here. They’ve been a few, or a lot. It depends on how you look at it. I did not stay because, as I said also last week, winning now, there are probably only two teams which they can win. They continue with their drivers for the following years. And the Formula One we are seeing now maybe is not the Formula One I dream of when I was a kid, or when I joined in 2001. That’s a bigger reason. As Daniel said before, when you come to the same place for many years and you repeat the same thing, see the same people, there is one day that maybe you don’t get so emotional about the challenges. That’s the reason why.

Q: (Oliver Brown – The Telegraph) Question for Daniel. Daniel, this week, Helmut Marko’s quotes seemed to indicate that the team felt rather blindsided in the negotiations. That you had indicated to him and Mr Mateschitz that you would sign on the Tuesday after Hungary, and you called on the Thursday. I just wondered if you could convey how difficult a conversation that was in the circumstances – and how he took the news?

DR: Yeah. I wasn’t laughing, trust me. It wasn’t like that. It’s tough. I mean they’re not calls that… I don’t like letting anyone down, you know what I mean? So, it’s like… not many people get satisfaction, I guess, out of letting others down. It was OK. It was a call I had to make. One which for sure made me a little nervous. It went OK. When speaking to Helmut he was understanding, I think, in many ways of course. He’s known me for ten years and I think he’d sensed at times some frustration or maybe something changing in me, so I don’t think it completely surprised him, but sure, he was a little bit disappointed that I was moving on. From my side, of course, it makes me sad to move on but it was nice to know that I was wanted there and they wanted to keep me – but it was all very calm and respectful. So it was all I could ask for.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, Question for Fernando. Fernando, you say the fact that only two teams currently really have a chance of winning influenced your decision, and that Formula One today isn’t what it was in 2001 when you joined – but if you have a look at the record books, your first six years in Formula One, there were only two teams capable of winning, namely Ferrari and then after that Renault with yourself – so how much of a factor was it that you aren’t in a winning team? How much of a role did that play in your decision?

FA: Well, I think definitely it plays a part of it. If you are in one of those two teams, probably you keep going, even if you don’t enjoy or if you enjoy the races or the trips or the amount of years you’ve been doing the same thing, that’s for sure. Yeah, Formula One has always been a sport that dominates with one team or two teams and the package is way more important – but yeah, there have been different seasons and different years where we had a little bit more freedom of strategy, of choices, or tyres. Even if one team was clearly dominant that season and World Champion at whatever part of the year, there have always been some races with heat, with cold, with wet, with Inters, it provides some action. Same with strategy. In 2004 I think I won zero grand prix but I was in a couple of pole positions, or podiums of whatever because we chose to run light fuel on Saturday, so a gamble for the race. There has been always a little bit of action. Maybe now it’s not the same. It’s nothing to compare. All my comments are not to compare those seasons against these years recently, or other series compared to this series because normally my words have been taken to compare different series, or different seasons and say that I’m wrong. Probably I’m wrong. It’s my decision and I’m happy with that.

Q: (Inaudible) Question for Daniel, and also a bit for Pierre. Daniel, Max called you a lot of times the best team-mate he ever had. I think you two were very happy together – at least in the Red Bull movies – are you going to miss him next year and do you have any advice for your neighbour how to treat the Dutch boy?

DR: Well, if he starts calling Pierre the best team-mate he’s ever had then my heart will be broken. I’ve said it a few times, for how competitive we are as people, I think we managed very well this team-mate rivalry. I guess out of X amount of races we came together twice, so not perfect but also not bad. It’s been good. I’ve enjoyed certainly having a strong team-mate and everyone here who knows racing knows that I’ve got also a strong team-mate next year with Nico. And with Pierre, I think firstly he owes Helmut a drink – but he also owes me a drink. Even two. But look, it’s a similar position to where I was in 2014, coming from Toro Rosso into the big team. It’s exciting, it’s fun. I know what he’s feeling and it’s an awesome feeling, so just role with it. He’s been doing very well this year. The boys are quite mature at young ages these days, so I think he’s going to be fine.

Q: (Inaudible) Question for everyone but Fernando. To touch on the predictability to leave Formula One as well. I was wondering if you three agree with him on some level and if it would ever be a reason for you to quit the sport?

CS: yeah, well, I think at my age and with the motivation I have, it’s extremely unlikely. I feel at home in Formula One. It’s a dream come true to be racing in Formula One, first in a team like Renault and then moving to McLaren. About the predictability, I think it is predictable, Formula One, probably too predictable, as Fernando has said. I truly believe the new bosses, Liberty Media, are going to make an effort to change that. I think it should be more down to the driver and what the driver can make as a difference. I’m not here to compare to any other sport but I think that would make Formula One a lot more attractive and a lot more fair also on the sportsmen that we are sitting down here. I’m going to put a vote of confidence in Liberty because I really believe they are going to do an effort on that and maybe one day that might attract Fernando back. I’m going to trust that.

Pierre, your thoughts on Formula One at the moment?

PG: Pretty similar to Carlos. I mean I’m still really young, exciting and super happy to be in Formula One – but it’s true at the moment it’s a bit too predictable. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, top six most of the time and then after we battle for the seventh place and that’s the best we can do every weekend. I think definitely for all drivers will like to fight all with each other and also for the show, I think people at home like to see 20 cars. I think it’s probably impossible but at least ten cars fighting for the podium or the win. As Carlos said, I think Liberty Media knows there is something to do there and they are trying whatever they can to improve it. I think it’s quite a long process, so we need to give them time – but on my side I’m just super excited. I’m just starting my career in Formula One and I’m living an amazing moment at the moment, and amazing time at the moment. Yeah. Bit different to Fernando but definitely if they can do something to close a bit the pack altogether, that will be great.

Daniel, you’re clearly further into your career than either of those guys. What are your thoughts?

DR: They said it well, for sure. We’d all love more cars to be fighting up at the front. That’s the truth. I think as well, if you’re in a winning car now it makes it harder to win but it also gives you more satisfaction to win. If you’re overcoming eight opponents as opposed to two or three, I think the joy and all that would be emphasised. It would be welcome, and I know it’s easier said than done but for sure if we’re asking for what we’d like, then if all of us could battle it out, because we all got here with talent and whatever and we’re all, I’m sure, pretty close so it would just be nice to see really who is the best.

Q: (Jerome Bourret - L'Équipe) Question for Pierre. As you mentioned, switching to Red Bull is a massive step in your career. What is the biggest challenge you will face there next year and how are you going to prepare for it?

PG: Well, for sure next year I’ll be in a top team, so fighting for much better positions that I am at the moment. It means more pressure from the team, more responsibilities, and I think that will be the main thing. I will have a really strong team-mate also next to me – but yeah, you know I’m always excited with challenges. As I said, I think all of us in Formula One, we all want to be the best in the sport and to be the best you need to fight against the best. So, I’m happy to take the challenge. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me and I think the most important thing. As I said, I’m still in my first season in Formula One so I still need to take experience, still need to learn a few things and I know I can improve myself in a couple of areas so I just need to focus on myself, keep developing myself and after just be fast on track. That’s the most important thing. As long as you’re fast and competitive and delivering what the team expects you to do on track then everything is fine. I know my goals and I don’t really need anyone to tell me what I need to do. I know I need to deliver on track, and I’m a competitive guy, I’m not satisfied if I don’t perform well, so I just need to focus on myself and deliver next year.

Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports F1) To Daniel – because you’ve been left out for a while – you said in an FIA press conference a couple of years ago that it was about championships for you, you were ready to win championships. What have Renault sold you and said to you that make you feel that you’re still a man that can win championships in Formula One?

DR: I know exactly the interview that was. I think it was after Monaco 2016. I remember it clearly and it’s still the case. Look. Obviously next year, begin realistic, it’s unlikely. Unlikely, I think, is a fair word. Mercedes and Ferrari are the ones doing it consistently, obviously we’ve been able to win some races this year but in terms of really fighting for a championship it’s hard to deny Mercedes and Ferrari looking at next year. So, yeah, their short to medium-term plan looked really encouraging. I think what they’ve done in the last two years, the progress they’ve made, it encouraged me and developments they’re making at the factory, and yeah, I think what they’re doing with their finances, where they’re spending basically, and the way they’re doing it, showed me that they want to win and they want to try to get there as soon as possible. Obviously, every team wants to win, or try to make it happen – but I saw some really good signs with what they showed me in their presentation and the way they… also their honesty as well. Not telling me we’re going to win in Melbourne next year – as much as I’d like that – but the reality of that, it’s still going to be a bit of a process but a process which is moving forwards pretty rapidly.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

FIA World Rallycross Championship postpones the introduction of electric cars until 2021

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media 
The FIA World Rallycross Championship has postponed the introduction of electric cars until 2021. The decision has been taken to allow adequate time for all manufacturers the possibility of competing to develop their plans. 

The series will continue to run the current internal combustion engine (ICE) Supercars in 2019 and 2020. Beyond 2020, these ICE Supercars will remain an important part of the rallycross weekends, as the World Championship becomes an electric series.

Manufacturers will now have until 29th March 2019 to confirm their commitment to the electric format.

“We are on the verge of an exciting new era for motorsport. Electric cars are increasingly important to all areas of mobility, and rallycross is the perfect platform to demonstrate the incredible performance capabilities of electric cars in a fun, competitive and cost effective environment,” said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President, Motorsports at IMG. “A huge amount has been accomplished in a relatively short time since the first formal meeting in June 2017. A completely new type of rallycross car has been conceived and defined, and so it is worth waiting a little longer to secure the best possible field of competitors. We believe that fans new and old will love what will be a thrilling addition to their favourite events.”

The cars will be based on a carbon fibre monocoque chassis supplied by Oreca and will use batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering. Each car will be powered by two 250kW motors which manufacturers will develop. Manufacturers will homologate their own bodies for the cars which are designed to accept scaled versions of B or C segment production vehicles.

Independent teams can also enter the championship, either with cars supplied by manufacturers or using their own drivetrains and bodies developed from an FIA approved base design.

There will be opportunities at a number of 2020 World RX events for manufacturers and independent teams to showcase their electric vehicles.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Petter Solberg: "Nothing really worked for me on Sunday."

PHOTO CREDIT: PSRX Volkswagen Sweden. 
The 2018 World Rallycross Championship has not been the easiest by any stretch of the imagination, with Petter Solberg having all the bad luck imaginable. Engine issues, incidents with fellow competitors and mechanical failures. 

Can the Norwegian turn around his luck in the second half of the championship? 

Solberg showed exceptional speed on Saturday qualifying and was third quickest in both qualifying rounds – but it was in Q2 where we saw the Norwegian smash the lap record in Canada. His new lap record of 46.959s.

Petter troubled the final top spot at the first corner, but ultimately lost out on the joker and came home a frustrated fifth. 

“Fantastic weekend for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden. Fantastic." said Solberg“But… I’ve got to admit, I do feel a little bit frustrated with this weekend. I felt I could have come away from Canada with a little bit more. But the big thing is the performance of the team and, of course, Johan. It was a great job." 

Solberg was happy with the pace of his Polo R Supercar, but rues his position in the immediate classification on Saturday. "We were maybe a little bit unlucky not to be higher up in the standings on Saturday night, but I was confident for Sunday," he adds.

The Norwegian lined-up alongside his teammate in semi-final 1 and finished in third place, which booked him a place in the final. He would have to start on the back row alongside Sebastien Loeb. Petter opted for a fast strategy, but taking the joker lap on the opening lap, did not pay off for him. He finished the final in fifth place, a mammoth 4.038s behind his teammate and race winner Kristoffersson.

“In the end, nothing really worked for me on Sunday. I took the joker and just missed out on the position coming out; I got half a look up the inside of a car and it just didn’t work," explains Solberg. “But, you know we work as a team and it’s a big congratulations to Johan. He was fantastic today (Sunday) and, of course, it’s a very big congratulations to Volkswagen Motorsport – the Polo R Supercar was on incredible form."

Teamwork makes Kristoffersson's dreamwork.

PHOTO CREDIT: PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.
It was all to play for at the 2018 World RX of Canada, with fellow competitors bring rafts of upgrades. Could Johan Kristoffersson claim his fourth straight win? It was all to play for! 

On Saturday, Johan struggled with traffic and qualifying position, and ended the day in ninth overall. 

The Super Swede turned it all around on Sunday to further strengthen his World Rallycross Championship defense at the Trois-Rivieres circuit.

“Did you think I’d left my race pace on the beach? Me too! Seriously, Saturday was tough. I had bad traffic, I couldn’t really make things work for me. I was so frustrated on Saturday night," said Kristoffersson.

In order to improve on Sunday, Johan took advice from teammate Petter Solberg. The Swede was able to unlock more speed and went on to claim the top qualifier spot after Q4 [Qualifying 4].

"But, you know, that’s where having a team-mate like Petter Solberg really comes good. I felt I was losing a little bit in the gravel sections, so I sat down with my team-mate and we talked through everything in the car and in the driving. He helped me and on Sunday morning I did what he told me, came off the beach and back to the races!"

The Swede was wary of his rival Team Peugeot Total's Timmy Hansen starting alongside him in the final. Hansen put in quick starts in qualifying and the semi-final rounds, and Johan knew that he would have to be perfect.

"Sunday was fantastic. I had to push really hard in the semi-final, I knew the Peugeots would be right there and quick again," the Swede said. "The final was good, there was a bit of a challenge at the first corner, but once we got through there in front then I knew things were looking good."

“I won here last year and I’m so glad to be able to leave Canada with that winning feeling again. This is a great result for me and for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden and thanks again to Petter.” 

Kristoffersson leads the championship by an eye watering 55 points from his nearest rival Sébastien Loeb.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Timmy Hansen: "We’ve still got a lot of work to do"

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport. 
Timmy Hansen and Sébastien Loeb both stepped onto the podium for Team Peugeot Total in Canada, with Timmy securing second place. 

It has only been the second outing for the Peugeot 208 WRX Evo, which had made its debut in Sweden last month. 

“This was only the 2nd time that we were driving this car after introducing it in Sweden and I have to say I was much more comfortable with it here this weekend; we did some good work at the test in Riga, so I felt a lot more confident," said Hansen. "We had a good weekend generally."

The Swede qualified in second place for the final behind Johan Kristoffersson. The Peugeot 208 WRX Evo Supercar looked to be the car to beat in Canada. The overall speed and starts were a strong point for the Team Peugeot Total squad. 

"During the final I didn’t make a perfect start. Despite that, we still managed to end up 2nd out of the 1st corner,"  he explains. "After that I didn’t want to take any big risks, because it’s been a while since we’ve been on the podium." 

Hansen admits to driving cautiously in the final to ensure that he finishes on the podium. "I really didn’t want to have a puncture or anything, so through Turn 5 in particular I was really safe every lap!," he explained. "We got through the race well and I don’t think Johan, who won, managed to pull out too big a gap in front of us so we can see that this new car is starting to get faster."

"We’ve still got a lot of work to do and it’s only going to move forwards from here.”

Kevin Hansen: "I’m growing in confidence all the time and my feeling with the car is great."

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport 
Kevin Hansen, an independent FIA World Rallycross entry with Team Peugeot Total backing has been incredibly impressive this season. His performance in a older spec (specification cars) 208 RX Supercar has been nothing short of superb. 

The young Swede received an upgraded Peugeot 208 RX Supercar (raced by his brother and Loeb at the start of the season) in Sweden, and he is learning to set-up the new car. 

Kevin ended the opening day at the World Rallycross of Canada in fifth place behind his brother Timmy Hansen. On Sunday morning, the Swedes pace was strong and he secured a place in the second semi-final.

“I had a really good start in the semi-final, I was almost first down to Turn 1, but then I tried to get through on the outside and I got stuck there: it’s not easy!," Hansen explains. "So I was bumped down and then I jokered and came back into the middle of another big fight, where I was starting to make some progress."

Kevin later retired from the semi-final with engine issues. "Unfortunately, on the next lap my car began to slow down with an engine problem and then I had to stop, so it was game over," he adds.

"From my point of view I’m very happy with my driving: I’m growing in confidence all the time and my feeling with the car is great.”

Sébastien Loeb happy with podium after an up and down weekend.

Sébastien Loeb ahead of his teammate Kevin Hansen.
PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport.
Sébastien Loeb dominated the opening day [on Saturday] at Trois-Rivieres by winning both Q1 and Q2 in his new Peugeot 208 RX Evo. The Frenchman went on to secure a podium finish, and moved to second in the drivers' standings. 

Team Peugeot Total debuted the new 208 RX Evo Supercar in Holjes, Sweden. The car showed promising pace in the hands of Loeb and Timmy Hansen, but both drivers' felt that there was more pace to be unlocked. The team took the opportunity to further test the new evolution at the official test in Riga, Latvia. 

The Peugeot 208 RX Evo was the car to beat after its Saturday qualifying performance, but Loeb rues a weekend of ups and downs. 

“For me it was an up and down weekend, as is often the case in rallycross," said Loeb. "We had a perfect day on Saturday but today wasn’t as good: this morning I had a contact with Mattias Ekstrom and then in the semi-final I made a mistake, which was my fault, and that meant that I was starting the final on the 3rd row – which is never easy."

The Frenchman's mistake meant that he would start behind his teammate Timmy Hansen and polesitter Johan Kristoffersson. But, in the end Loeb was happy that he secured a podium finish.

"Still, to start on the 3rd row and then end up on the podium is not bad, so in the end I am happy about this team result and to share the podium with Timmy," says Loeb

Even though the Frenchman missed out on a win, he feels that there are positives to take out from the Canadian round. "We’ve carried out plenty of evolutions on this car since driving it for the first time in Sweden and the progress is clear to see: we’re fighting against the top factory cars now and we've made up some positions in the championships," he explains. "So it’s been a very nice battle all weekend and I’m happy to be on the podium at the end of it.”

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa returns in November.

Johan Kristoffersson, 2017 FIA World Rallycross Champion leading the way with Table Mountain as the backdrop
The FIA World Rallycross Championship will return to the shores of Cape Town, South Africa on 24 and 25 of November 2018

Following on from 2017’s hugely successful event that saw almost thirty thousand people attend, this year’s races are only the second time the Gumtree World Rally Cross of South Africa has played out in Africa. 

The reception and atmosphere will undoubtedly be as highly charged and exciting as it was last year when South Africans from all walks of life lived up to their reputation for being extremely passionate, hospitable and vocal supporters. 

“It’s very important for us to come to South Africa,” said Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG. “This is the only FIA World Championship to have a round stage in sub-Saharan Africa. We felt the country was right for a World Championship – I can’t think of any better place in the world to visit in November than Cape Town.”

Rallycross is something special. Incredibly special. Ask Formula 1 Champion Jenson Button, who said, “These cars are awesome, what you dream about as a kid”. And he’s right. These amazing, brutal, ferocious supercars are equipped with an astounding 600bhp, allowing them to accelerate from 0 - 100km/h in less than two seconds. That’s fast. Faster than Formula 1 cars. No wonder Jenson dreams of rallycross.

World Rallycross is also the fastest growing motorsport in the world, with year-on-year increases in everything from Social Media followings to TV audiences, media attendance and merchant sales. But most important is that live attendance has shot up by 225% in five years, which means the people across the globe are catching on to the pure entertainment and utter excitement of seeing all of these magnificent motoring beasts battle it out in the flesh.

Driver entries are also on the up, and the big names will be out to play in Cape Town. Current World Champion Johan Kristoffersson will be joined by hard-racing track heroes Sebastien Loeb, Peter Solberg and Mattias Ekström. With twenty-five hugely popular drivers in all, fans will be spoilt for choice, both of whom to support and in the different driving styles on display. 

South African rallycross Driver Mark Cronje describes the event as “Unpredictable and massively entertaining. If you want to come and watch a proper motorsport event, this is the place to be.”

This is going to be a weekend of all-out, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, wouldn’t-miss-it-for-the-world and action-packed entertainment. Also on the bill will be the RX2 category and local disciplines of motor racing, as well as loads of additional entertainment on and off the track. So go on, satisfy your need for speed and head on over to the Killarney International Raceway. The sun will be out, the engines will be roaring, and the cars will be very, very fast.

World Rallycross SA – Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa

Killarney International Raceway

Saturday, 24th November 2018 – Sunday 25th November 2018

Tickets: R220 – R750

Hospitality tickets from R2500


For more information go to:

Grönholm RX reinforces fourth position in team standings.

After the summer break, the FIA World Rallycross Championship returned to action in Canada. The GRX Taneco team worked hard to improve the performance of their Hyundai i20 Supercars during the summer break, and set their sights on securing a position in the finals, but for the seventh time in a row, both drivers made the semi-finals.

Timur Timerzyanov did not have the cleanest of weekends and was 13th overall after Q1, he made a good start in Q2 and was in the lead when he hit Jérôme Grosset-Janin’s car which was blocking the track..  

“I had a hard time this weekend! I couldn’t avoid Jérôme Grosset-Janin’s car in Q2, then made a mistake in Q3," said Timerzyanov. "I lost a lot of time, but I dug deep and managed to make up the lost time to qualify for the semis.”

Meanwhile, Niclas Grönholm made a strong start with fourth place in Q1.

“Considering the mediocre practice, my Q1 time was a surprise,” said Grönholm. “I kept apace with Mattias [Ekström] and banked a reasonable time. It’s always a boost to make a good start.” 

The Finn was eighth in Q2 and had climbed to sixth by the end of day one.   

On Sunday morning, Timur Timerzyanov got the day off to a flying start by taking the lead in Q3. However, a mistake at the end of the second lap cost the Russian time and he dropped to 13th in the standings. 

“It’s so frustrating! It’s the second time I’ve lost an advantage this weekend. I made a mistake and hit a wall. I managed to get going again but the damage was done,” the Russian said. “I’ll have to go all-out in the last round to make the semis. I’ll give it all I’ve got!”  

The Russian clinched his best result of the weekend: eighth place in Q4, which put him 11th overall and earned him a place in the semi-finals. 

Having finished sixth then fifth place in the day’s qualifying rounds, Niclas Grönholm stood seventh overall in Q4 and went mistake-free in Q4, clinching a second-row start on the semi-final grid. 

However, despite battling hard, the Finn didn’t make the final and had to be content with fourth. Timur Timerzyanov started from the back of the grid yet clawed back to a sixth place finish. 

Grönholm was not particularly happy with his semi-final race. “I’m disappointed with my semi-final," he adds. "I got off to a bad start and then had steering issues, so I wasn’t in the running for a place in the final."

Both GRX Taneco drivers are happy with the performance of the Hyundai i20 Supercars, and aim to come back stronger in France.

Monday, 6 August 2018

A weekend of highs and lows for EKS Audi Sport.

PHOTO CREDIT: Audi Sport Media.
It was a weekend of highs and lows for EKS Audi Sport at round seven of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Trois-Rivières, Canada. Mattias Ekström qualified for the final and took fourth place, while teammate Andreas Bakkerud could not make any further progress after sustaining damage in the semi-final. 

At the Trois-Rivières round, the Audi S1 EKS RX quattro featured improvements to the suspension and the engine. 

Ekström occupied second place overall at the end of day one (Saturday). 

After a racing incident between Mattias and Sébastien Loeb’s (Peugeot), the Swede was unable to finish Q3 (on Sunday). With an impressive second place in the semi-finals, the Swede clinched a place in the final, but missed the podium there by 1.2 seconds.

From third on the grid, Andreas Bakkerud had a rocket start in the second semi-final and advanced to the front of the field. “Unfortunately, Sébastien Loeb touched the rear of my car which resulted in damage to a suspension component,” said Bakkerud. Even with the damage, the Norweigen did not give up. Lap-after-lap, he struggled to get into Turn 1 but impressively fought his way across the finish line in fourth position but missed out on making it into the final.
Andreas Bakkerud suiting up for the semi-final.

After six days of testing, EKS Audi Sport arrived in Canada on a stronger footing. The team worked on launches (starts) and testing upgrades, which helped both drivers close the gap to PSRX Volkswagen Sweden (championship leaders). “We had a really good base,” said Ekström

“For instance, we strongly improved our starts since the beginning of the season. Obviously, we’re disappointed about not being able to take home any trophies from the first overseas race of the season, but the gaps here were very small and the competition worked hard as well so that a few small mistakes had major consequences," he added. "We need to continue to prepare at full throttle in order to strike back in the next race at Lohéac.”

In four weeks’ time, World RX will return to Europe for round eight of the championship at Lohéac (France).

Super Swede Kristoffersson stages daring fight back to claim victory.

Unstoppable Kristoffersson celebrates his victory in Canada.
Super Swede Johan Kristoffersson stormed to victory at Trois-Rivieres, round seven of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, in Canada. 

The World RX Drivers’ Championship leader staged a daring fight back from two difficult qualifiers on Saturday [ninth overall] to take maximum points by winning in the Intermediate Classification, winning semi-final one and the final.

Team Peugeot Total’s Timmy Hansen joined Kristoffersson on the front row of the grid for the final and finished second, in front of team mate Sebastien Loeb in a double-podium for the French team. 

Petter Solberg started on the third row of the grid for the final next to Loeb and finished the race fourth in front of EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom. Team STARD driver Janis Baumanis made his first final of the season and secured the Monster Energy Supercharge Award for having the fastest reaction time at the start of the final in his Ford Fiesta Supercar.

Kristoffersson and the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team extended their leads in the Drivers’ and Teams’ Championships respectively. “I had a very poor Saturday, I really had to dig deep for this victory. I had some traffic in Q1 and again in Q2. This morning I tried to find the rhythm but couldn’t – I wasn’t really feeling comfortable in the car on the gravel section in warm-up, so big thanks to the team and Petter who helped me so I was able to focus on the driving and compare myself against Petter on the gravel section,” said Kristoffersson. “I had a good launch in the semi-final but I didn’t have the greatest launch in the final, but Timmy didn’t either. From there on I had quite a clear gap from lap one. Peugeot were really threatening us this weekend so I need as many points as I can. It’s nice to take another victory here in Trois-Rivieres.”
Johan Kristoffersson leads Timmy Hansen in the World RX Final.

Hansen’s second podium finish of the season moved him into second in the World RX Drivers’ Championship, tied on points with Loeb. “I must say I was much more comfortable in the new Peugeot 208 this weekend than in Sweden, so I was able to push from the beginning. The semi-final was just crazy, Bakkerud managing to take the start from the second row was not in our plan but I took the joker in the right moment to win it. In the final I managed to get out second behind Johan,” said Hansen. “I had a big moment on lap one and I wanted to play it safe after that because it’s been a while since I was on the podium. We have a lot of work still to do and it’s going to keep going forward from here. It’s been a good weekend and I’m happy to share the podium with Sebastien.”

Frenchmen Loeb was the overnight top qualifier on Saturday but had a more challenging time on Sunday. “For me it was an up and down weekend, like often in rallycross. Yesterday was a perfect day, I won Q1 and Q2 with a good rhythm and the car was perfect,” he explained. “Today was not as good. I had contact with Ekstrom in Q3 and ended second overall. I didn’t have a very good start in the semi-final and then in the last corner I made a mistake. To start on the last row of the final and to finish on the podium is not too bad. I’m happy to share the podium with Timmy for Peugeot.”

GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm finished fourth in semi-final one ahead of Olsbergs MSE’s Kevin Eriksson and GRX’s Timur Timerzyanov. EKS’ Andreas Bakkerud took the lead of semi-final two at the start from the second row but damaged the left-rear suspension on his Audi S1 and finished the race fourth as Team Peugeot Total’s Kevin Hansen and Olsbergs MSE’s Robin Larsson retired. GC Kompetition’s Jerome Grosset-Janin and Guerlain Chicherit had a challenging weekend and finished 13th and 15th respectively. Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier was 14th.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Team Peugeot Total look to confirm performance of the 208 WRX Evo in Canada.

PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport.
The evolved Peugeot 208 WRX, which had made its debut in Sweden, heads to the 7th round of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship this weekend. Circuit Trois-Rivieres has been a happy hunting ground for Peugeot in the past, the team now looks forward to confirming the full potential of the Peugeot 208 WRX EVO Supercar

The Canadian round will be an opportunity for Timmy Hansen and Sébastien Loeb to claim the 1st major result for the Peugeot 208 WRX EVO, which showed great potential on its competition debut in Sweden.

Sébastien Loeb will be particularly motivated to do well, following two races with mixed fortunes in Norway and Sweden. His objective will be to do better than the 3rd place he managed in Canada in 2017. “The goal for me in Canada is to confirm that progress and I think we can be in the fight for the win," said Loeb

The Frenchman believes that the team need work on race starts. In a number of races this season, Loeb bogged off-the-line or nearly stalled. He believes that progress can still be made in this department. 

"We’ve still got some progress to make when it comes to the starts, and that’s actually a key part of the challenge in Canada, which starts off with one of the longest straights of the year," he explains. "This means that you’ve got to get away well and have good acceleration." 

Loeb believes that the Canadian round of the championship will confirm the performance of the 208 WRX Evo: "Last year, we were a bit lacking in engine power and so we were often behind at the first corner. This year, the race will be a good indication of our performance with the latest technical evolutions, especially when it comes to the engine. But we’ll only have the final verdict at Trois-Rivieres!”

Timmy Hansen won in Canada in 2016, a victory that he described as “one of the most unexpected of my career”, which underlined his determination and ability to make the most of any opportunity. 

“I’m very happy with the new Peugeot 208 WRX and the result that we so nearly had in Sweden. To be at this level in the 1st race with the car just shows the extraordinary potential for the future, and since then we’ve been working very hard to address some of the things we learned in Sweden," said Hansen. "As for Trois-Rivieres, it’s a place that I love: a proper rallycross circuit right in the middle of the town with a fantastic atmosphere. It’s very fast, so you need a good engine, and I think we have that.”

Kevin Hansen will drive the 2018-specification Peugeot 208 WRX, previously raced by Sébastien and Timmy started the season with. 

“In Sweden I started with the initial 2018-specification car, and although I thought it would feel quite similar to the car I had been driving until then, in fact there were a few things that were quite different, especially with the set-up," said Kevin Hansen. "So Sweden was a bit of a learning experience for me, and by the end I thought that we were really getting somewhere. Now my goal is to continue that progress in Canada: I feel we’re getting better all the time.”

Team Peugeot Total are currently 3rd in the provisional Teams’ Championship, just 6 points off 2nd place. In the drivers' standings, Sébastien Loeb is the leading Peugeot driver in 4th (48 points off the lead) while his team mates Timmy and Kevin Hansen are 5th and 7th respectively.

GRX Taneco sets sights on the finals in Canada.

The GRX Taneco team heads to Canada, in fourth place in the 2018 FIA World Rallycross championship (with 121 points), but the team has now revised its target for the second part of the championship as it hopes to qualify for the final of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières

Located 140 kilometres north-east of Montreal, the Circuit Trois-Rivières is 60% asphalt and 40% gravel. It is also the longest in the Championship with a 1370-metre layout. The lap record stands at 48.009 seconds, set in 2017.  

Timur Timerzyanov will be competing in the race for the fifth time, while Niclas Grönholm will be making his third appearance there. The Russian even managed to climb onto the third step of the podium in 2014, while Grönholm’s best result on the Canadian track – P12 – came two years later. 

“The race [in Canada] is run on quite a different circuit to what we have had so far. It is a long track with a long straight and tight turns between the walls," said Grönholm. "It’s quite an unusual setup in Rallycross but that doesn’t bother me. It should be a great race and I really hope to secure a good result to get the second half of the season off to a flying start.” 

Timur Timerzyanov used his summer break in a very different way to the other drivers. He got married...

"I’m now rearing to go! The Canadian track is one of my favourites. I finished on the podium on my first appearance there in 2014," said Timerzyanov. "Since then, I’ve always had good pace and hope to put in a solid performance this year. It’s a very fast circuit with long straights which promise some impressive peak speeds."

Both drivers have been improving their performances in the Hyundai i20 Supercars, and Timerzyanov hopes to be competitive this weekend.

"The team has done a lot of work to get the cars ready during the break and I know we’ll be competitive.”

Petter Solberg: "We found more small steps with the car that will help us from Canada."

Two-time FIA World Rallycross Champion, Petter Solberg has not had the season that he had hoped for... The Norwegian has shown his speed in the Polo R Supercar, but has not had any luck thus far. Solberg's highest finish was second in Mettet, Belgium.

After a horrid weekend for Solberg in Silverstone, he finally gained some luck finishing third in Norway. But, the Norwegian looked ahead to the up coming summer break... 

During the summer break, Petter and his son Oliver entered the Norwegian Hillclimb event. Oliver Solberg beat his father and claimed a new hill record. "I was competing against Oliver for the first time and he beat me. He set the new hill record in the [Citroen] Xsara," explains Solberg

The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team were soon off to Riga, Latvia for the World RX test.

“It’s been a really good time since the last race in Sweden," said the Norwegian. "The test went really well in Riga, we found more small steps with the car that will help us from Canada."

Petter admits that PSRX Volkswagen Sweden heads to Canada with small improvements following the test in Latvia. 

“I don’t think there are any big steps forward in development with the Polo R Supercar now, but what we did at the test is try different solutions for the tracks we have coming in the second half of the year," said Solberg. "They’re all quite different in their nature and we need to make sure we’ve maximised the potential from the set-up."

Nothing changes in Kristoffersson's approach ahead the Canadian round.

Johan Kristoffersson, heads into the second half of the FIA World Rallycross championship, 40 points ahead of his nearest rival.. Despite the Swede's advantage in the championship, he admits that "nothing changes". 

“Nothing changes. The feeling is the same for me like it is at every race: I start again from zero. I go to Canada and I want to score the best points possible," said Kristoffersson. "Yes, we have this lead and I’m really happy that the lead is bigger than it was after round six last season, but it doesn’t mean anything. No job is done yet."

The Swede has five wins under his belt, and entered the record books when he claimed a 'clean sweep' in Norway, but he admits that: “One bad weekend and everything is completely open again."

“The plan is the same: to push as hard as possible and to look to control the weekend as much as possible," explained Kristoffersson.

Johan is under no illusion that the 2018 World RX of Canada will be easy, but he knows what it takes to WIN in Canada. The challenging street circuit boasts 60% asphalt and 40% gravel.

"I like Canada, it’s a fun place and an interesting track. Driving on a street circuit is always really demanding, there’s zero room to make a mistake. We won here last year and a repeat of that result would be really special for me," said Kristoffersson.

The 2017 World Rallycross Champion is not focused on beating his current record, but is rather focused on claiming his second championship.

“People have been talking about the potential for beating records [for event victories in a single season – Johan currently has five, the record (his record) stands at seven from last year] but I’m really not thinking about that at all," explains Kristoffersson"I know people probably don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s true. OK, you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t think to it a little bit, but it’s a very small bit. The focus is on the championships, that’s what the season is all about for me and for the team.”

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

PREVIEW: World RX drivers' are set to unleash street fighting skills in Canada.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sutton Images.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship will resume after its summer break this weekend (4/5 August) with its first long-haul trip of 2018, to World RX of Canada at the popular Trois-Rivieres street circuit.

Since the most recent outing at Holjes in Sweden at the beginning of July, the World RX drivers and teams have spent a month recharging their batteries in preparation for the second half of the campaign and a renewed push for glory.

Trois-Rivieres has hosted high-profile international motorsport events since 1967, with the rallycross circuit – combining a section of the original street course with the nearby hippodrome – inaugurated in 2014.

Defending champion Johan Kristoffersson leads the way as a 15-strong field heads across the Atlantic for round seven of 12, and the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver has form in Canada, having won there last year en route to his first world title. The Swede returns as the man to beat, but with his rivals redoubling their efforts to rein him in, he will need to remain firmly at the top of his game if he is to maintain his current championship charge.

EKS Audi Sport’s Andreas Bakkerud is Kristoffersson’s closest pursuer in the points table following a consistent run over the opening half of the season, during which the Norwegian made the final in every event and tallied a trio of podium finishes. He also placed second at Trois-Rivieres in 2016, so knows his way around the challenging 1370 metre track.

Two-time champion Petter Solberg (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden), Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud’s EKS team-mate Mattias Ekstrom are blanketed by just five points from third to sixth in the standings, and all four have reason to fancy their chances this weekend.

Solberg won the inaugural World RX of Canada and returned to the podium there last year. Having seen his scintillating speed all too often undone by ill-fortune in 2018, the Norwegian will be determined to break into the winners’ circle for the first time this season.

Loeb is sure to enjoy plenty of support from the partisan French-speaking crowd, while Hansen triumphed at Trois-Rivieres two years ago and has looked increasingly strong in recent rounds as – like Solberg – he bids to score his first victory of the campaign. Much the same can be said for 2016 title-winner Ekstrom, who can be counted upon to be a leading contender wherever the championship travels.

Hansen’s younger brother Kevin will be behind the wheel of a third Peugeot 208 WRX and will be competing in Canada for only the second time, but the young Swede has been quietly impressive thus far this season and has reached the final in each of the last three events.

GRX Taneco Team pairing Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov have been going from strength-to-strength in the Hyundai i20 and both looked to be potential podium threats four weeks ago at Holjes before punctures scuppered their challenge. Notably, the Russian placed third at Trois-Rivieres in 2014.

The World RX Supercar field is completed by Team Stard’s Janis Baumanis, Olsbergs MSE duo Robin Larsson and Kevin Eriksson, Gregoire Demoustier for Sebastien Loeb Racing and GC Kompetition team-mates Guerlain Chicherit and Jerome Grosset-Janin, with the latter having claimed the Renault Megane RS’ first trophy with third place in Sweden.

As was the case at Silverstone in May, the World RX competitors will be joined this weekend by their Americas Rallycross Championship counterparts, including heavy-hitters of the discipline Ken Block, Scott Speed and Tanner Foust and former Formula 1 World Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve.

The French-Canadian – who contested a part-season of World RX in 2014 – was born less than 200km from the track and is the son of the late Gilles Villeneuve, whose legendary exploits earned him hero status both in his native Quebec and all around the world. Trois-Rivieres was where Gilles made his name in Formula Atlantic back in the mid-1970s – and the springboard that shot him towards F1 superstardom.

Jacques Villeneuve, 1997 Formula 1 World Champion, said: “Trois-Rivieres has always felt like my motorsport home, so it’s once again a pleasure to be back. Rallycross has grown exponentially since I last raced these amazing cars, and it’s good to be part of a sport on the rise. I am grateful for the opportunity to be racing a works Subaru and will do everything in my power to help the team in its Americas Rallycross endeavour.”

James Taylor, Vice President, Rallycross at IMG, commented: “After the summer break, I think it’s fair to say everybody is ready to go racing again and kick-start the second half of the season in style. There is no better place to do that than Trois-Rivieres, which has been a consistently popular fixture on the calendar since the World Championship was launched in 2014. As a venue, it is steeped in motorsport heritage, and the knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans really appreciate the spectacular show that World RX brings to town. With the addition of the third round of the Americas Rallycross Championship – and its star drivers like Jacques Villeneuve and Ken Block – there’s no question that we are in for another fantastic weekend of motorsport entertainment.”

Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe, said: “The tyres really do go from the rough to the smooth here, with a jump added in for even more action. The quick Tarmac sections really work the tread compound and we can easily see temperatures in excess of 100°C in the tread, but the quick transition to a fine dirt helps to keep the temperatures under control.”

Americas Rallycross Championship (ARX)
The tantalising title fight in the inaugural Americas Rallycross Championship (ARX) is set to intensify at Trois-Rivieres, as Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team-mates Scott Speed and Tanner Foust lock horns for the third time this season. Foust drew first blood in the series curtain-raiser at Silverstone, before Speed fought back last time out at Circuit of The Americas to leave the pair separated by a single point in the classification. Other leading protagonists will be Hoonigan Racing superstar Ken Block and Subaru Rally Team USA stablemates Patrik Sandell and Chris Atkinson – while former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve will undoubtedly be the crowd’s favourite as he makes his ARX debut in a third Subaru WRX STI. Steve Arpin (Loenbro Motorsports Ford Focus RS RX), Rene Muennich (Team Stard Ford Fiesta) and Oliver Bennett (XITE Racing BMW MINI Cooper) round out the entries.

RX2 International Series
The scrap for supremacy in the RX2 International Series is reaching fever pitch, after Guillaume De Ridder cut early-season championship leader Oliver Eriksson’s advantage at the summit of the standings to just six points at Holjes with his second victory from four rounds in 2018. The Olsbergs MSE pairing have been the class of the field to-date this year, but impressive rookie Henrik Krogstad is keeping them very honest in third, as is his JC Raceteknik team-mate Ben-Philip Gundersen, who won the Mettet curtain-raiser. Fifteen drivers will take to the track this weekend, and with eight of them podium-finishers in the World RX feeder series, the scene is set for a spectacularly close battle.

Joining the World RX support package for the first time, the ARX2 field at Trois-Rivieres will be headlined by round one podium-finishers Conner Martell (Dirtfish Motorsports), Christian Brooks (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing) and Cole Keatts (Peters & Keatts Racing). The Canadian event takes the form of a big points-paying double-header, with separate rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

EKS Audi Sport heads to Canada with detailed improvements.

EKS Audi Sport heads off to the second half of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross season at Trois-Rivières, Canada, 45 points behind teams' championship leaders, PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.

The two Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro's will feature detailed improvements to the suspension and engine. These improvements were tested at Höljes and Riga. 

The street circuit in the Franco-Canadian city of Trois-Rivières 125 km north-east of Montreal. The circuit is 60 % asphalt and 40 % gravel. It measures 1.370 km (Joker Lap: 1.455 km).

“Canada has the longest straight of the season on which we’re more than 200 km/h fast,” says Mattias Ekström. The Swede views the braking in front of the subsequent turn as a true challenge: “It’s a real humdinger because we arrive there at such high speed. I like the track even though I haven’t scored big time there yet.” 
The updated EKS RX Audi S1 Quattro being tested in Latvia.
PHOTO CREDIT: Motoru Sports Latviski

Ekström suffered a lot of misfortune at previous rounds in Canada. Having started there three times, he made it into the final once. The Swede’s best result was sixth place in the 2015 season.

His teammate, Andreas Bakkerud, heads to Canada as the runner-up in the World RX [40 points behind Kristoffersson] and has been on podium once at Trois-Rivières, in 2016. 

“Even so, I haven’t really unlocked all the track’s secrets,” said Bakkerud. “Confirming my speed from the season’s first six races in Canada will be no mean feat. After a four-week break, I’m now all fired up again to contest another race. I know that EKS has always been fast at Trois-Rivières.”