Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Petter Solberg's World RX team clinches second consecutive title, as he returns to form.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden clinched their second consecutive FIA World Rallycross teams’ title in Buxtehude, Germany. Solberg’s team has faced some of the fiercest and closest competition in the history of rallycross for a second year running.

The team needed 55 points to clinch the title in Germany, and the points were secured after a strong performance in the semi-finals. 

“World champions again! That’s a fantastic thing to say," said Solberg. "We came here with one goal and one objective and we did it. I’m so happy for my team, for Volkswagen Motorsport, for Volkswagen Sweden and all of the partners and sponsors – we achieved this together guys."

The three-time FIA World Champion claimed first place in Q1 and did not have an easy run after that registering third overall in Q2, fifth in Q3 and eighth overall after Q4. 

In semi-final 1, Solberg clinched second by 0.529s behind his team mate Johan Kristoffersson. The Norwegian's upturn in speed returned at the Circuit of the Americas, where he nearly clinched his first win of the season. “On a personal level, I’m so happy that I continued to pick up my speed from Texas," said Solberg

The final was red flagged and the race was restarted. Petter got off to the perfect start, but exited Turn 1 in fourth place. He later retired due to an overheating engine. "What happened in the final, when I retired with a technical issue, it’s disappointing, but it doesn’t stop me knowing I have the speed and the fight to be at the front," the Norwegian says. "That’s so important to me."

The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden formed in 2017, claiming eight wins in its debut season. Seven wins for the eventual champion Johan Kristoffersson and one win for team owner Petter Solberg. In 2018, at the first test in Silverstone, PSRX Volkswagen Sweden were not favorites, but Kristoffersson went on to clinch victory at the season opener in Barcelona and has won every single event to date, apart from the World RX of Belgium

“We have to celebrate four titles in two years – that’s unbelievable when you think about where we were, with no team and no car just 22 months ago!," he adds. "I am so, so proud of what PSRX Volkswagen Sweden has done."

After celebrating with his team, Solberg will be heading to Rally de Esapaña [WRC of Spain] where he will be driving for Volkswagen Motorsport. “For me, I’m going back to rallying next week. I drive the Polo GTI R5 for Volkswagen Motorsport at Rally de Esapaña in Tarragona," says Solberg. "I go there to enjoy my first rally in six years with no pressure and no expectations."

Solberg sets his sights the top step of the podium in Cape Town, at the season finale: "After that, it’s south to Cape Town for the last race of the season… and I want that one. I really want that win!”

A weekend of thrills and spills for Team Peugeot Total.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross. 
The World RX of Germany served up plenty of drama, with both senior Team Peugeot Total drivers unable to progress beyond the semi-finals, but the teams junior driver Kevin Hansen secured a spot in the finals with his impressive pace. 

Kevin Hansen, progressed through to the Final in Germany, but the young Swede’s race came to an abrupt end when he crashed heavily on lap 3, bringing out a red flag. Conscious and moving, he was then taken to hospital for medical checks. Up to that point, he had put in a brilliant performance to go through to the final.

“Obviously you don’t aim to finish the weekend in hospital, so today [Sunday] didn’t really go according to plan," said Kevin Hansen. "Up to then, things had actually been going really well."

The young Swede showed impress pace in his Peugeot 208 RX, and at times slightly faster then his teammates who were driving the improved 208 RX Evo.

"We were generally fast throughout the weekend, and although we got caught up in traffic a few times, especially at the first corner, our progress was pretty good," says Hansen"I think we made some good starts; I’m proud of that."

"In the Final, we started on the back of the grid and got up to 3rd. So definitely a case of what might have been today [Sunday].
Kevin's team mates were unlucky in Germany. After Timmy Hansen won the final qualifying heat (Q4) on Sunday in style, securing a solid top 3 position overall.. Unfortunately, he got caught up in a turn 1 incident and was forced to nurse his car slowly to the finish line.

"I guess you could call it another weekend of highs and lows, except there were more lows than highs," says Timmy Hansen. "But starting on the front row of the Semi-Final, we obviously had the potential to go all the way today, yet it wasn’t to be."

Hansen draws from his experience in the sport. He knows that some times things do not go your way. "When we have disappointing weekends like this – while still being so close to our ultimate goal – it only makes us all the more determined to succeed," said Hansen.

Damage on Timmy Hansen's Peugeot, after all World RX is a contact sport.
PHOTO CREDIT: Peugeot Sport 
Underlining the reputation of rallycross as an unforgiving contact sport, Sébastien Loeb was unable to complete Semi-Final 2, after hitting a barrier trying to overtake a competitor and breaking his front right suspension. 

“The track is quite complicated, because it does not have many overtaking opportunities, which means that it's hard to get out of the traffic," explains Loeb. "We had the potential, but if you’re stuck in the middle of the pack you can’t use it and anything can happen." 

The Peugeot Total 208 RX Evo cars showed impressive straight line speed and traction off the slow corners, but being in the wrong place at the wrong time meant they weren't able to exploit the full potential of their cars.

"The car actually felt good this weekend, but the circumstances worked against us again," the Frenchman says. "But I’m still very motivated to keep working hard with Team Peugeot Total, and I really look forward to what’s coming in the future.”

Monday, 15 October 2018

Niclas Grönholm take fourth place in the World RX of Germany.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
After an eventful World RX of Germany, GRX Taneco's Niclas Grönholm claimed fourth place, while teammate Timur Timerzyanov was disqualified.   

Niclas Grönholm banked P5 in Q1. In Q2, he claimed seventh place overall. Meanwhile his teammate, Timur Timerzyanov had a challenging start and ended Q1 in 15th place. The second qualifier got off to a flier but a mistake in the joker lap, saw Timur hit the concrete barrier putting an end to his session. 

“So disappointing after such a good start! I got stuck in the traffic so the joker was the best option.But I hit the wall and damaged the car so that’s it for today [Saturday],” said Timerzyanov.

With a clean slate on Sunday, Timur was ready to make amends for his Q2 error. He won the Q3 heat and was ranked 12th overall. 

The Russian showed incredible pace in Q4 and pulled off a superb overtake on Kevin Eriksson. He moving him up the standings from 19th to 14th overall. However, he was disqualified from Q3 for having accidentally changed his car’s setting, which sent him to the bottom of the table in 20th place. 

GRX Taneco's Timur Timerzyanov
PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
So, despite some great driving, it was a weekend to forget for the Russian. “It’s not what we were hoping for,” said Timerzyanov. "On the first corner, Cyril Raymond and I nudged each other and in my haste to right the car, I accidentally touched a button that changes the settings, which is not allowed. Rules are rules." 

With one round to go, the Russian targets a better result. "I’m just looking forward to the last round of the season. I’ll prepare as best I can to try and get a good result in Cape Town,” he concludes.

Niclas Grönholm’s consistency earned him fourth and sixth place in the qualifying heats, and sixth place overall meant a second-row slot in the semi-final. “Everything has gone well up to now," said Grönholm. "We haven’t had any issues so far, so I’ll apply the same tactics in the semi-final.”

Having negotiated the first corner with the leaders in the semi-final, Niclas dropped a few places and in the end claimed third place. 

The final was red flagged due to an accident involving Kevin Hansen, but, unperturbed, the Finn took fourth place for the third time this season. “Overall, it was a good weekend!," says Grönholm. 

"Qualifying for the final and finishing fourth is a good result, but I admit I was hoping for better. I really wanted to be on the podium this time, but it wasn’t to be. We’ve got one race left to go and I hope I’ll be able to finish the season in style,” he concluded. 

EKS Audi Sport first double podium of 2018 in Germany.

Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud in second and third in Germany celebrated the first two podium finishes in a single event for EKS Audi Sport in the 2018 season. 

Ekström only had to admit defeat to World Champion Johan Kristoffersson by 1.849 seconds.

The two EKS Audi Sport drivers created a good base for the final races: On Sunday, Mattias Ekström won the third qualifying session and placed fourth in the intermediate classification while Andreas Bakkerud with consistent performances was in second position. As a result, Bakkerud and Ekström started to the semi-finals on the front row. 

In the final, Andreas Bakkerud claimed an early lead at Turn 1, but later dropped behind Kristoffersson. Bakkerud and Ekström were in second and fourth when the race was stopped due to an accident involving Team Peugeot Total's Kevin Hansen. Following the restart, Mattias Ekström clinched second place ahead of Bakkerud.

“We’re happy about having finished on podium with both Audi cars,” said Ekström. “We’d been hoping for victory and came very close, but not close enough. The competition was very strong once again."

"However, there’s one more race to go. We’re continuing to work hard and fight," he adds. "I believe in this team and we’re going to give our all to close the season in South Africa with a victory and runner-up finish."

Ekström heads to South Africa leading the battle for second in the drivers' championship. There is only 7 points splitting the Swede and fourth place, Petter Solberg. 

REPORT: A thrilling final in Germany sees PSRX Volkswagen Sweden crowned as teams champions.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
The penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship took place at the Estering in Germany, where record breaking Johan Kristoffersson claimed yet another victory, and his team PSRX Volkswagen Sweden secured the World RX Teams’ Championship.

Four drivers set quickest times in the four qualifiers, and it looked like Team Peugeot Total brought the strongest package to Germany [stronger straight line speed], but it was Kristoffersson who took the overall TQ (top qualifier) in the Intermediate Classification.

The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver then won the final to claim a 10th victory [8th in a row this season]. While EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom was quickest in Q3 and started on the front row of the grid for the final. He finished second. Andreas Bakkerud joined his teammate on the podium, the Norwegian taking his joker on lap four to secure a double podium for the team.

“It was a really tricky final but first of all I’m very happy that we are Teams’ Champions. I’m very, very happy to win of course but also that I proved the homework that I’ve done really paid off,” said Kristoffersson. “This track is very challenging and there is always hard fighting. The first corner is always crucial, the launches are crucial so I’m very happy to be able to win on this track.”

The battle for second in the drivers' standings is only heating up with one round to go in Cape Town this season. Ekstrom’s second place at the Estering, has strengthened his position in the battle for second in the World RX Drivers’ Championship. “We’re happy about having finished on podium with both Audi cars,” said Ekstrom. “We’d been hoping for victory and came very close, but not close enough. The competition was very strong once again. However, there’s one more race to go. We’re continuing to work hard and fight. I believe in this team and we’re going to give our all to close the season in South Africa with a victory and runner-up finish.”

Andreas Bakkerud has to date secured his sixth podium of the season. “It’s been a crazy weekend as it always is here in Estering. It’s always exciting and there’s always a lot of stuff that’s unpredictable,” he said. “Both myself and Mattias qualified for the front row of semi-final two, he had a fantastic start and beat me in the semi. I was second in the first start of the final then in the restart I managed to stay behind Johan and Mattias and finished third. It’s a great feeling for the whole team that both EKS Audi Sport cars finished on the podium.”
PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com

GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm qualified sixth in the Intermediate Classification and finished fourth in the final. While Petter Solberg was quickest in Q1 on Saturday and won the Monster Energy Supercharge Award for having the fastest reaction time at the start of the final. He retired with the technical issue [overheating] on lap five and was classified fifth. 

The final initially had to be stopped and then was re-run when Team Peugeot Total’s Kevin Hansen crashed out on lap 4. Hansen was taken to hospital for precautionary checks and was later discharged. He was classified sixth.

Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Olsbergs MSE’s Kevin Eriksson finished fourth in the semi-finals and didn’t progress to the final. Eriksson’s OMSE team mate Robin Larsson finished fifth in semi-final two but Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb retired after a racing incident with Eriksson. GC Competition’s Anton Marklund retired from semi-final one after first corner contact. Team Peugeot Total’s Timmy Hansen was later disqualified from the semi-final for the incident. The Swede had earlier set the quickest time in Q4.

GCK’s Guerlain Chicherit was first reserve for the semi-finals in 13th, Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier was 17th, Chicherit’s team mate Liam Doran disqualified after Q1 for accidentally pressing launch control at Turn 1 and was classified 19th, while GRX’s Timur Timeryznov was also disqualified for accidentally changing his cars setting during the race and thus he ended the event 20th.

Friday, 12 October 2018

World RX to race at iconic Spa-Franchorchamps in 2019

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross.
Belgium’s legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will join the FIA World Rallycross Championship from 2019 in a new five-year deal, with the quickest rallycross drivers on the planet set to tackle one of the most iconic corners in the sport – Eau Rouge.

“We are thrilled to be able to confirm our new agreement with Spa-Francorchamps," said James Taylor, Vice President, Rallycross at IMG. "If you ask any motorsport driver or fan to name their favourite circuits, Spa would be up there every time. Some of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport have won at this iconic venue, from Ayrton Senna to Michael Schumacher and Jim Clark, and now some of rallycross’ finest are set to add their names to that impressive roll call."

The Spa FIA World Rallycross of Benelux date and track layout is due to be revealed later this year. The event will take place on a purpose-built track incorporating Eau Rouge – a fast, challenging corner whose fame has gone down in motorsport folklore.

With today's announcement its quite evident that promoters IMG are aiming to grow the sport internationally, having added Circuit of the Americas (Texas) and the 2019 season opener in Abu Dhabi.   

The traditional Rallycross circuits are making way for bigger international venues, which will not go down well with traditionalists, but the rights holders have a bigger picture in mind. Growth and making the event more fan friendly (additional space). Earlier this year, World RX promoters IMG parted ways with RUMESM to host the World RX of Belgium, at the purpose built Mettet circuit. 

The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is delighted to welcome the Benelux round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship next year," said Nathalie Maillet, CEO, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. "Rallycross is a new discipline for our circuit and fits perfectly with our strategy, which consists of welcoming major new events and new fans, while continuing to nurture our existing ones. It also underscores the international appeal of our circuit and proves that our committed diversification efforts are paying off.”

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Team Peugeot Total aim to maximize their full potential at the Estering.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
Team Peugeot Total returns to competition at the penultimate round of the FIA World RX championship this weekend in Germany. The Estering track should suit the Peugeot 208 WRX Evo.

Estering track is fast and contains a lot of variety in terms of speeds and grip, as well as many challenges for the drivers. The circuit is 952 metres long and contains a 60-40% asphalt to gravel split, with the track width varying between 10 and 16 metres.

“Germany is quite challenging. It’s a track where you fly a lot because there’s not much grip at all, either on the asphalt or the gravel, and this makes it particularly tricky," said Loeb. "It’s reasonably narrow but it's interesting."

Sébastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen kept up Peugeot Total’s track record of progressing to the Finals, last time out in the United States. They were classified in 5th and 6th respectively. 

The Estering may not be the Frenchman's favourite track, but he aims to maximize the full potential of his Peugeot 208 RX Evo. "To be honest it’s not my favourite place, but I hope with our latest evolutions that the car will be competitive there and we can get a result," says Loeb. "As usual, the objective will be to have a clean weekend from the very start and avoid running in traffic: this is the real key to success in rallycross."

Loeb's teammate Timmy Hansen really had a tough weekend at the World RX of USA, and has dropped out of contention for second place in the championship after taking a second engine penalty, which sees him 30 points down, from his teammate Loeb. Despite the difficult weekend in the United States, Hansen is ready to go racing. 

"After the weekend in the United States, where it’s very difficult to overtake, Buxtehude will be a bit different; anything can happen," said Timmy Hansen. "I’m looking forward to being there: it’s the sort of place where you throw the car into the corner, get on the throttle, throw up some gravel and enjoy yourself." 

Timmy sets his sights on victory in Germany: "I was second in Germany last year, so it’s clear that there’s only one way to improve!”

After his promising performance in the USA, Timmy's younger brother and Peugeot Total's junior driver Kevin Hansen is eager to join his teammates in the Final once more this season. After securing a place in the final, in the last 2 years Kevin is raring to have another opportunity to prove himself.

"I’ve been in the Final for the last 2 years there, so I really have a good feeling with the place and I hope to do well again now," said Kevin. "Traditional gravel like you have in Germany is much looser, so you have to slide the car more and be quite aggressive with it: that’s great fun!”

GRX Taneco have high hopes and targets a spot in the final.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
Privateer entry, GRX Taneco are entering the final phase of there World Rallycross Championship apprenticeship campaign.

The two Hyundai i20 Supercars’ debuts main focus was always about development and the Finnish team has comfortably fulfilled its expectations by qualifying for the semi-finals every round. 

However, after qualifying for the final on three occasions, culminating in Niclas Grönholm’s fourth place in Latvia, the team is now looking to build on the gains made over the season.

The Estering track is famed for its fast, narrow straights and tight bends. With 60% asphalt/40% dirt track, anything can happen – its one of the shortest tracks at 925 metres in length. The lap record stands at 35.227 seconds, set by Johan Kristoffersson. 

Timur Timerzyanov already has four European Championship and four World RX races at the Estering track under his belt. His best result came in 2014 when he placed seventh in the World Championship round.

"Germany is one of the traditional Rallycross venues. It is an unusual track with very narrow portions and many tight corners," says Timerzyanov. "The team has worked hard to get the cars ready since we returned from the US. We need to score some points this weekend and I am determined to do my best to achieve this."

Grönholm on the other hand will be competing in the World RX of Germany for the third time. Fifth overall in 2017, he will pull out all the stops in his quest for a place on the podium in the penultimate race of the season. "The Estering is a circuit I both love and dread!," says Grönholm.

The Finn highlights the difficulties of the Estering track. "I have always enjoyed driving here, but when there are five cars on the starting line, the narrowness of the track exacerbates the difficulties and the opportunities to overtake are extremely limited," said Grönholm. "On the other hand, it is a circuit where anything can happen which promises lots of thrills for the drivers and the fans."

"I hope to come through the qualifying rounds unscathed as I have my eye on a podium place and I’ll do my utmost to get there."

PREVIEW: The ‘Gloves are off’ in Germany as four drivers battle for the runners-up spot.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver Johan Kristoffersson clinched his second consecutive drivers’ championship in the USA last time out, and now all sights are firmly turned towards the fight for second in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, as Germany’s Estering welcomes the penultimate round of the 2018 season.

The Buxtehude track is the oldest on the World RX calendar – having hosted international events since 1973 – and while one of the shortest laps on the schedule, it is also one of the fastest with a long downhill run between turns one and two. The 2014 edition witnessed the closest finish in rallycross history, with just five thousandths-of-a-second separating the top two at the chequered flag.

The 2014 round was won by two-time World RX Champion Petter Solberg, who is one of four drivers currently in a tight tussle for the overall runner-up spot. The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver and team owner – who has two further podium finishes to his credit at the Estering – was on fine form in Texas just over a week ago, topping the intermediate classification, winning his semi-final and only narrowly missing out on victory to team-mate Kristoffersson.

Solberg was similarly Top Qualifier in Germany [Hockenheimring] 12 months ago, meaning the Norwegian is one of the pre-event favourites, while a number of his rivals also have cause to fancy their chances at World RX of Germany.

Last year’s winner Mattias Ekstrom is two points ahead of Solberg in the title table and has been consistent this season. The other two contenders in the fight for second -  Andreas Bakkerud and Sebastien Loeb – have tallied 11 podiums between them this year so can never be discounted, although the Frenchman has yet to reach the final at the Estering. 

Just nine points cover second-placed Ekstrom down to fifth-placed Loeb in the overall standings – setting the stage for a battle royale.

Intriguingly, newly-crowned champion Kristoffersson has never reached the podium in Germany in four previous starts, with the Buxtehude event the only one on the current calendar he has yet to win – and the only one last year in which he didn’t progress through to the final. The Swede will be determined to overturn that trend this weekend – while his adversaries will be eager to capitalise at what could be regarded as the Volkswagen driver’s ‘bogey’ track.

Swedish siblings Timmy and Kevin Hansen – both competing for Team Peugeot Total, the latter as an individual entry – have been evenly-matched in recent rounds, although Timmy has fallen out of contention for the second-place battle due to engine change penalties that he received in Latvia and the USA. Timmy finished second in Germany last year, and will require a similarly big result this time out and a significant slice of bad luck for his rivals if he is to keep his runner-up hopes alive. Younger brother Kevin has made it into the final in both of his previous World RX of Germany starts and will be targeting a hat-trick.

GRX Taneco Team’s Niclas Gronholm finished fifth in the World RX of Germany last season and has been one of the stars of 2018, sitting seventh in the standings, while team-mate and former Euro RX Champion Timur Timerzyanov is keen to conclude the campaign on a high note over the remaining two events.

GC Kompetition will field a three-strong stable of Renault Megane Supercars for the first time in World RX, with team owner Guerlain Chicherit joined by both Liam Doran and Anton Marklund, who debuted for the team in Texas last month. Doran boasts the best record of the trio in Germany, winning there in 2012 on his way to the runner-up spoils in Euro RX.

Two other drivers with excellent form at the Estering are Olsbergs MSE pairing Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson. Eriksson produced a spectacular ‘round the outside’ first corner move to snatch his maiden World RX victory there two years ago, while Larsson took the chequered flag third in 2014.

“Germany two years ago was without doubt the best moment of my World RX career to-date. It’s always special to win, but to do so at the absolute pinnacle of the sport and against the very best drivers in the business is an incredible feeling," said Eriksson. "The first corner was the key for me. I had visualised the start in my head so many times, and when it came to it, I swallowed some brave pills and just went for it – and it paid off!"

The 20-strong entry list is completed by Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis, Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Gregoire Demoustier, Briton Oliver Bennett in his unique MINI, home hero Rene Muennich for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport, Norway’s Kjetil Larsen and reigning RX2 International Series Champion Cyril Raymond.


Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Solberg sets his sights on victory at the Estering.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
Last time out in Texas, its safe to say Solberg is back! The Norwegian was quick all weekend, and was on the brink of claiming his first win of the season, but it was not to be after sliding wide. His teammate clinched victory! 

Solberg heads to Germany, a circuit where he claimed victory in 2014, by the smallest of margins: +0.005s. “I won at this track in 2014 and I really like it," said Solberg

The Estering track in Buxtehude, Germany is 925m in length, with 60% being asphalt and 40% gravel. "There’s a lot of gravel in there and it’s quite technical," the Norwegian explains. "We’ve seen in the past that it suits our car quite well – but it also suits the Audis." 

In 2017, Solberg returned to racing at the Hockenheimring, with a broken collarbone following his crash in Latvia. "It was the first race back after the crash in Latvia and I was competing with a broken collarbone," says Solberg. "For sure, it was a little bit painful, but the result was incredible and a real boost for me."

The Norwegian went to finish fourth in the final. 

Can he do one better this year? Or, even claim victory? Solberg certainly thinks so, he targets a win this weekend. 

“I want to go for that win this time," says Solberg. "I’m feeling confident, I showed good pace in America and with my training back on track now I’m feeling much more like myself. I feel strong again."

Petter is in a thrilling race for second in the championship, with nine points separating four drivers. Mattias Ekström second, with 204 points, Solberg two points down on him with Andreas Bakkerud a further two behind while Sébastien Loeb starts the weekend on 195 points.

“A win would be the perfect way to chase second place and the silver medal," says Solberg. "I know [Mattias] Ekström, [Andreas] Bakkerud and [Sébastien] Loeb, they’re all going to be strong. They have all got good speed at this track, but we’ve been strong in the past.”

World RX Champion Kristoffersson aims to help Solberg secure second place in the championship.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIAWorldRallycross.com
Two-time FIA World Rallycross World Champion, Johan Kristoffersson is primed and ready to go racing in Germany. The Swede aims to help his team-mate Petter Solberg seal second place in the World RX championship. 

Kristoffersson's record breaking run continued in Texas, with nine wins in a season (and counting). The Swede has never secured a podium finish at the Estering track, and he aims to change it this weekend. “I never made the podium in this race, so that has to be my number one aim for this weekend," said Kristoffersson.

The Swede is aiming to remain focused, despite all the media interest since successfully defending his second title. 

“It’s been a little bit crazy since we won the championship in America, with a lot of media and a lot of interest," says the Swede. "I’m looking forward to getting back in the car and driving again."

"It’s nice to go there without the pressure of the championship on my shoulders, but at the same time there is a different pressure now – we want to win the teams’ championship as well!"

The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team arrives in Buxtehude, Germany with a 79 point lead ahead of nearest rival EKS Audi Sport. The teams championship can be wrapped up this weekend in Germany. “It would be fantastic to do that at Volkswagen’s home race in Germany," says Kristoffersson.

Kristoffersson has often credited team-mate Solberg for helping him improve over a World RX weekend, and after successfully defending the championship, he now aims to help Solberg secure second place. 

“I want to help Petter in his race for the silver medal," said the World Champion. "He has been such a good boss and team-mate all year – but I have a feeling he’s got something good for this race in Germany; Petter is always super-quick at this track.”

Ekström returns to Germany where he claimed his maiden World RX title in 2016.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
EKS Audi Sport heads to the penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship (World RX) in Germany. 

Mattias Ekström has very special memories of the Estering race track in Buxtehude.

In 2017, Ekström won the German World Rallycross Championship round in Buxtehude; and in 2016, the Swede claimed his one and only World RX title at the German circuit. “It's one of the venues on the World RX calendar that I have the best memories of,” says Ekström. "The Estering will always have a special place in my heart."

The short 925-meter track – particularly the hairpin bend after the start-finish straight has impressed Ekström the most. “It's a fantastic corner,” says the Ekström. “You approach it at high speed, pull the handbrake hard and slide sideways. It's the most spectacular spot on the Estering and one of the best on the World RX calendar.”

Overtaking is virtually impossible, and this makes the start at the Estering crucial. The entrance to the Joker Lap, where the track surface changes from tarmac to gravel, is especially tricky. Because the passage ends just before the finish line, the winner at the Estering is often only decided when the checkered flag drops. 

In 2015, Ekström finished just 0.005 seconds behind race winner Petter Solberg. It was the most closely-contested finish in the history of the World Rallycross Championship.

The current battle for second place in the drivers’ championship is heating up. With two rounds left, Mattias Ekström 204 points, Petter Solberg 202 points, Andreas Bakkerud 200 points and Sébastien Loeb 195 points are separated by just nine points. 

“Obviously, we all want the runner-up title,” says Andreas Bakkerud. “It's good to know that in recent years Audi has always done well at the Estering.”

Sunday, 7 October 2018

2018 Japanese GP: FIA Post-Race Press Conference.

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull Racing)

(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Lewis, congratulations, another dominant display. You were enjoying that.

Lewis HAMILTON: I loved it. I was actually very, very happy. I think the whole weekend's been very strong from the team, it's a great 1-2 from Mercedes, it a true showing of the great strength in depth we have as a team. This track is the best track in the world. I don’t know why they don’t make tracks like this anymore but every second of the run it was just great fun. I was able to look after my tyres the way I wanted and just managed the pace. It’s really weird – obviously I have been racing a long, long time, but the happiness I have inside is as high as always. It’s a great feeling.

Q: Well just looking at your tyres, you don’t seem to be too bad on blistering, so you were just able to manage, but we did hear that you had some engine issues earlier in the grand prix, so it wasn’t all plain sailing?

LH: Yeah, I asked the team but they said it was OK. But really, these guys here you see at the track, the guys back at the factory, these guys work so hard to create this… this beast, and I’m so proud and grateful to have the chance to do what I do with it. I’ve been racing a long, long time now but, as I said, it feels like one of the first.

Q: If you win in America in two weeks’ time and Sebastian is not second, you will win your fifth world title.

LH: Honestly, I’ll take it one step at a time. Each week you have a positive weekend and you go to another grand prix and you’re not sure how you’re going to fare and how you’re going to perform, because there are still gaps in between, but I think we have gone from strength to strength this year as a team, so I really hope that we can… Austin is usually a good track for us, so I can’t wait to unleash this beast there.

Q: Congratulations, Lewis, great drive. Valtteri, you were absolutely setting the pace in Russia but it looked like you struggled a little bit more on this circuit and you had some real tyre management to do at the end against Max.

Valtteri BOTTAS: Well, yeah. Initially during the race, everything felt good, I knew what I had to do and I was really just executing the plan. The pace felt good. But at the end of the second stint I had some blistering, which made it a bit more tricky, but anyway, for me the job was to get to the finish line in P2.

Q: We heard from Lewis that he had some engine management issues early in the grand prix. Did you have anything like that or was it just the tyre blistering that was your main concern?

VB: Not really, no. No issues. We managed to save the engine to save the engine a bit because the pace was so good. But no issues otherwise.

Q: Max, you’re pretty consistent here in Japan: third straight podium. It was very close with Valtteri at the end, but you locked up into the hairpin on the last lap. So did the opportunity slip away?

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, we didn’t really have a chance, but in general I think to nurse the car home with the damage I had on the floor, we did a great job. The strategy initially was a bit tricky, with the supersoft tyres, but then once we got the soft tyres on it was actually working really well, and you could see that near the end we had the pace, even with the damage, so I’m happy about that.

Q: You had two incidents with the Ferrari drivers. First of all with Kimi, and you got a five-second penalty for that, which we heard on the radio you weren’t happy about, and then a failed attempt from Sebastian to overtake you down into Spoon. Take us through those two?

MV: Yes, I braked a little bit too late into the chicane, so I did everything I could to get back onto the track and I think I did it in a safe way, because I was not crazy-fast onto the track, but Kimi chose the wrong line in the chicane. He could have also just waited for me to come back on the track. We touched a little bit, but I think it’s really ridiculous those five seconds. But anyway, we managed to survive that and then even before the pit stop, the touch with Sebastian – in that corner you can’t overtake. I even gave him space, but he understeered into my car. It’s a shame, but still happy to be on the podium.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you talked a bit about coming back stronger for the second half of the season and that you imagined having this run-in but you’ve been dominant, especially compared to Sebastian. You’ve not made mistakes, he’s been making mistakes. Are you surprised at how he’s faded from the title picture?

LH: Well, what I meant is that you have to set your sights high and so naturally, as you come into the season, you set the goal high, set the target high. When we got to mid-season we got that win going into the break and then again, really pushing to make sure that we come back even stronger so again, set the bar high. That’s what we were hoping to achieve, it’s not always the case, it’s really not always the case that you achieve your target but I think we have through really great hard work from everyone. In terms of Sebastian’s performance… Of course, I didn’t expect… Up until the mid-part of the season they were very strong and then we obviously got to Monza and then after that they were still quite strong from Monza, Singapore and then at Singapore was when it really started to tail off. I definitely hadn’t anticipated that they would tail off as they have. Not only have they lost a lot of performance, lost performance… just performances have not been coming in the same as they had before, as strong as they were before. I don’t really have an answer for that and it’s not something I’m really focused on. I’m sure Sebastian could tell you why. We’ve just been focusing on trying to do the best job we can and maximise the potential of our own ability, that’s all we can do.

Q: (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Valtteri, how much are you hoping that Lewis will win the championship already in Austin to get more normal circumstances for the last three races to challenge him?

VB: You know of course I’m still able to challenge him. It just depends on the situation like the race in Russia so I’m still trying everything I can to keep upbeat for every race and trying to challenge. I felt yesterday in the qualifying it was really getting better and better for me and it was pretty close in the end between us. Today, after the start, I knew what was going to be the case. We had to bring one-two home and that was it. There are not that many races left and at some point I would guess he’s going to get the title hopefully and then we will see.

Q: (Andre Venema – Formula 1 Magazine NL) Max, speaking of penalties, do you think Vettel deserved a penalty as well, for what he did to you?

MV: Well, I’m not the one who makes the rules. I think otherwise a lot of penalties would have been avoided anyway in Formula One. I think it’s a similar scenario to what I had in China with him. Of course, we didn’t spin off the track but he drove into the side of my car. I think we could have been a bit more careful.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) At the moment, we have a lot of situations where you’re having to either avoid or manage blistering. I just wondered… on that phenomenon, is that more of a problem this year? How bad is it and how much are you having to manage it over the course of this season?

LH: Honestly, I think Pirelli have done a really good job this year. The cars are faster than ever before, we have more downforce than ever before so there’s more force going through the tyres. And so every time they improve the tyres, we improve the car and we pretty much have a similar issue of blistering, but they do have the lower gauged tyre which we used earlier in the year on which we didn’t see any blistering. I’m not really sure why they didn’t continue using that for the year but I’m sure that’s probably something they will engage in next year. We have definitely not been able to go flat out all the time and we are having to manage temperatures in order to make a one stop race work -  the loss in the pit lane is so big you want to always try and make sure you do a one stop. But I don’t particularly have a problem with it. I think it takes skill and management to keep the pace up and lose as little as possible whilst still keeping the tyre alive. Would we prefer to have no blistering? For sure, if we could keep pushing the whole way and not having rear overheating, that would definitely enable us to follow for longer and race for longer but that’s something that they are constantly trying to battle, I’m sure.

VB: I think we had to do a lot of management at pretty much every race this season and especially at the last few there have been issues with the blistering. Once we are getting to a certain temperature, we know it’s going to happen at some point, so then we’re just not pushing to go over those temperatures and trying to manage. At some places, like today, when it’s hot, in this high energy track, laterally, it’s pretty difficult and it does feel at times that you are completely cruising round which is not ideal. You know there’s so much potential in these cars and my thinking is if everyone did one stop today, if you do one stop pushing flat out it would be more fun but that’s the issue for everyone now. The cars are quicker than ever. I was involved in some of the testing for next year’s tyres a couple of weeks ago and I’m sure they are pushing flat out and hopefully it’s going to be a bit better next year.

MV: I think like Lewis said, it was well explained.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

2018 Japanese GP: FIA Post-Qualifying Press Conference.

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)
2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)
3 – Max VERSTAPPEN (Red Bull)


(Conducted by David Coulthard)

Q: Lewis Hamilton, your 80th – 80th! – pole position. Not the smoothest of sessions for anyone but once again a great strategic play from Mercedes, and you delivered when it counted.

Lewis HAMILTON: The team have done an amazing job this weekend, and the call that we made to go out for Q3, which is probably the most difficult call – you saw all of us fumbling and kind of trying to figure out what to do – the team just were spot on with it and gave us the opportunity to grab this pole position. While it was a bit of an anti-climax, because we didn’t get to do the last lap, it’s still… it’s my 80th, I can’t believe I have 80, and I couldn’t have done it without the team. We worked so hard on this car to refine it, to improve it in all areas. And even in ourselves, and how we function, the processes that we go through, our communication, everything. And so, it’s really just such an honour to race for this team, for the guys and I’m just so thankful. Big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory. I’m so proud to be on this journey with them. I never in a million years thought I would get to 80.

Q: It was a great pole and it's a fantastic statistic to get that 80th. I’m sure you haven’t not noticed that your main competitor for the World Championship had a difficult qualifying, and he’s going to be starting at the bottom end of the top ten. That just adds to the momentum for this championship.

LH: It definitely does. I just saw it in here. It is so difficult out there to make the right call but I think that’s another real big difference that we as a team have made this year. Every team has smart people but ultimately, when it comes to being under pressure, making the right decisions, the right calls, that’s why we are the best team in the world. And rightly so, they deserve that.

Q: Valtteri. A week’s a long time in Formula One. We came off the disappointment of Russia. It’s been pretty close between you and Lewis in outright pace through free practice but in the end, he’s had that little edge. So, how does second place feel? I assume not as good as you felt after the qualifying in Russia. And how can you convert this tomorrow?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Yeah, sure, you know as a team it’s absolutely perfect. The team was really reactive again. We did the right decisions with the rain. Obviously, a real shame for everyone that it started raining but tomorrow should be some sun. I think for me, honestly Practice three this morning was very difficult. I didn’t find the car good at all, so we made some changes to build up the confidence. Q2, I was the quickest. Q3, just had that one lap, which was not quite perfect in the middle and the last sector. So I was waiting for the second run – but anyway, it’s not a bad starting position.

Q: Just how difficult was it in that last run in qualifying. We could see the Ferraris getting on the kerb at Spoon and running off the circuit. Is that somewhere where you just went below the car under normal conditions.

VB: Yeah, you know you need to calculate the risks here. When it’s wet like this you can’t use the kerbs but you still need to be absolutely on the limit. So, I did enjoy that. I just know there was a couple of corners where I could have done a better job – but yeah, let’s see tomorrow.

Q: Finally, coming to a man who’s probably as happy as the pole man. Third place, that’s like a pole for Red Bull Racing with the, let’s say, inefficiency of power you have on this race track.

Max VERSTAPPEN: Yeah, absolutely. I think realistically, normally we would be pretty close to Ferrari but it would be hard to beat them – but we made the right call in Q3. Of course, very happy to be third. A shame we couldn’t give the fans a really cool Q3 but, y’know, it’s great to see them over here. They’re so passionate about Formula One. Even when it’s raining, they just stay. When it’s dark and the mechanics are working on the car, they’re also staying on the grandstands. It’s quite crazy to see – but in one way also it’s amazing.

Q: You podiumed here last year; this puts you in a perfect position to do the same again.

MV: Yeah, I didn’t expect to start third. Of course, we have a bigger chance now to be on the podium.

Q: And with the Ferrari cars being behind you, there could be a scenario that they come up, catch you. You wouldn’t want to get in the way of the World Championship battle, would you?

MV: Is it still a battle? Not sure.


Q: Well Lewis, let’s start with that number, that tally of eighty pole positions. What does that mean to you?

LH: It’s been an incredible year but that number, I just thought… never in a million years did I think I would be at a figure like that. It just makes me think of all the great years that I’ve had, quite a few of those I was with McLaren, I think at least 20-odd or so I think might have been with McLaren and there were even times when we didn’t have championship-winning cars at the time but the last six years with this team has been incredible and I’m just so proud of everyone and just so grateful for everyone’s hard work which has enabled me to go out and exploit my own abilities. You see today, they just did such a great job in terms of timing, in terms of… Today there were no mistakes made, even though there was a lot of pressure on still, as there always is in qualifying. Everyone was cool, calm and collected and did the job collectively as a team so it’s really an amazing journey to be on with this team. That’s not the end, eighty is not the end but that is a milestone I’m very proud of.

Q: Lewis, you say the team was very cool, calm and collected but what was that session like from inside the cockpit?

LH: It started out OK but then you look out of the garage and you can see that it’s raining, spitting but it’s very humid. Saw a couple of cars spin. It was very very difficult to know whether the track was going to be dry or whether it was going to be wet. We obviously haven’t done any practice in the wet and it looked like it was going to be wet for Q3 so it’s definitely not a great feeling when you go into Q3, knowing that you’ve had the pace, obviously, to be at the front and then know that you’re… that mistakes can come in those tricky conditions, depending on how hard you push. But we’re all in the same boat. We remained in the garage, we said we should probably sit here and wait for someone else to go out first. The Ferraris pulled out of the garage on the inters and I honestly didn’t think it was the right decision. Obviously we made the right decision as a team and yeah, it was a bit of an anti-climax because we couldn’t do that second lap but we all tried going down into turn one and I wish you could see what we could see going into turn one because you come out of the last corner, there’s no rain on your visor then bit by bit, one spit, two spits, ten spits and by the time you get to turn one you’re not quite sure if it’s wet or dry so I tiptoed in there and I was lucky I did that because obviously other people went off.

Q: Valtteri, if we could come on to you please; let’s talk about the pace of the Mercedes car, particularly in Q2 when you were fastest on the soft tyre and Ferrari are going to be on the supersoft and yet you were still quicker than them.

VB: Yeah, well first of all I want to say congrats to Lewis for today’s pole and especially for the 80th, it’s a big number and really big respect for that. But the car was so quick until… well, so far this weekend it’s been very quick and today as well, both of the tyre compounds, supersoft, soft, it was enjoyable to drive in qualifying, for me less so in practice. I honestly struggled a lot in practice, I didn’t feel the car was stable at all. I was struggling just to find confidence with it really but bit by bit in qualifying it was better and better and Q2 felt pretty good and obviously came down to one lap in Q3 where I missed a little bit in sector two and three. I enjoyed it, but I also want to say for everyone in our team, I think everyone now, from today, in that kind of session, everyone should be really proud what we did, first of all with the car that we have but how the team worked today, every single decision was right and everyone was calm. It might look weird from the outside that it’s a hectic session and so on but everything was so calm inside and we were just sticking to our plan and making the right choices so really enjoyed that.

Q: Max, coming on to you, Valtteri said that he wasn’t happy with his car in practice, and I think that was the same with you as well. How much progress did you make with it during qualifying?

MV: Yeah, so after yesterday when I was really not happy with it, I think today was definitely a lot better. It’s difficult to find a good compromise because we’re losing quite a lot on the straight, can go lower on downforce then it evens out a bit more… well, evens out, it’s a bit better on the straight, little bit slower in the corners so at the end of the day it didn’t really matter what wing we put on the car, I think the lap time was actually quite similar but I felt a bit happier with a bit more downforce. I think qualifying we just tried to be as close as we could to Ferrari. I think it was all looking quite good and then we made the right decision in Q3 so that’s why we are third.


Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis and Valtteri, you both mentioned the calmness with which Mercedes acted under today. Do you feel like you see the best from your team under pressure? We saw more mistakes from Ferrari and Seb today when it mattered.

LH: Absolutely. Naturally, I think, with experience that does come but that is an area… pretty much the same group of guys have all been together for quite some time and definitely at this point of the year, you would hope that you were more knowledgeable and more able to be a little bit better at making decisions, so I definitely think the team’s been much more… been able to be focused and still on it but in a calm manner.

VB: I think that I really agree. I haven’t been in this team… only less than two seasons but what I’ve seen, I think today was one of the best days as a group, I think.

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Max, you mentioned the progress you’ve made, especially from yesterday. Do you think that the fact that the gaps will get smaller from one lap pace to race trim, do you think you can take the fight to Mercedes tomorrow or will it more be looking in the mirrors?

MV: I honestly don’t think we can take the fight. I just tried to be as close as I can. I didn’t even remember last year in qualifying but I think we were also quite far off. In the race it was not too bad so I’m hoping for the same tomorrow but yeah, definitely Ferrari, with Kimi starting behind me, he will try to put some pressure on and I think Sebastian will come through the field so yeah, we just have to try and make sure we have the right strategy tomorrow.