Thursday, 11 April 2019

2019 Chinese GP: FIA Drivers' Press Conference Transcript.

PART ONE: DRIVERS – Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (Alfa Romeo), Alexander ALBON (Toro Rosso), Romain GROSJEAN (Haas), Sergio PÉREZ (Racing Point)


Gentlemen, I’d like to start with a moment of reflection, given that this is Formula 1’s 1000th race. Growing up and watching the sport, what made you want to become a Formula 1 driver? Romain, if we could start with you, please?

Romain GROSJEAN: Good afternoon. I started watching with my dad, a long time ago. It was the time of the Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost fights and that was pretty exciting to watch. My dad was always passionate about cars and one day he brought me to a race track – not a Formula 1 race – and I saw the cars going and I thought ‘you know what, that’s what I would like to do’. Then, eventually, I was lucky enough to go to the Monaco Grand Prix to watch the Thursday practice and I saw the car and heard the noise of the engine and it was just something very unique and special, a good memory of my life. I remember going to the toilet and DC was there and he said, ‘oh, you go first son’. He still called me son by then! And I said ‘no, no, you go’. Pretty amazing.

Q: Thank you. Sergio?

Sergio PÉREZ: Yeah, for me similar, a similar story. I remember the first race I watched with my dad was ’94 actually, when Aytron had his accident. That was the first race I ever saw. A shock moment, more for my dad than for me. At the time I didn’t understand well what was happening. Obviously from Mexico, Formula 1 is not very big so it always seemed too far, too difficult. It’s been a while since we had a driver, so the history back home wasn’t big. But as a family we always loved the sport and I always wanted to become a Formula 1 driver. At a very young I went to Europe to fight for it. I remember watching so many races, always waking up very early in the morning, because in Mexico the races are very early, six or seven o’clock in the morning. So always on a weekend, when you don’t want to wake up early, I had to, to watch Formula 1. I actually remember watching Kimi back then, at a very young age too.

Q: Thank you Sergio. Kimi?

Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: Yeah, I don’t know what year it was, but it was a long time ago, ‘80s, that’s for sure. I think the first memories were somewhere where Keke was racing when he blew up his tyre or something, maybe Adelaide or something, with the long straight, maybe the last races that he did. So anyhow, obviously I was cheering for the Finnish guys, but I didn’t think that I… maybe you dream when you’re a kid, but once you start doing go-karts and everything I didn’t really believe that it was going to happen, because obviously you need a certain amount of money to get from go-karts to racing. Maybe I believed a bit more when I got my managers helping and then actually got to race in Formula cars and then obviously it went very quickly. I guess it was a dream but not very realistic at that point, but it went fast once it started to go there.

Q: Thank you Kimi. And Alex?

Alexander ALBON: My hero was Michael Schumacher. That was the guy I always looked up to. I was Ferrari mad actually – even if I should say that or not, I don’t know. But I loved Schumacher. I think I was about six. I was a bit like Romain. I was at Silverstone and there was a competition. You had to fill out the top three drivers that you thought would win the race, or finish in that order, so I just put Michael, Rubens and Montoya. For some reason at that race that’s what happened. I think Barrichello was finishing last or something. So no one wrote what I wrote down. I think it was in hospitality at Ferrari. So I won the prize and got to meet Michael and got to meet Rubens. It stuck with me that. I was always a hardcore fan.

Q: Thanks to all four of you. Alex, if we could stay with you. Going well so far, you’ve outqualified your team-mate in Australia and Bahrain. Can you describe the learning curve you’ve been on so far in Formula 1?

AA: Yeah, it’s been steep. Getting in the car in Barcelona, getting up to speed. The speed bit… the cars are so refined now that you do feel quite comfortable with the cars straight away. It’s more the interaction with the team and kind of just extracting performance outside the car, which definitely is a lot about experience. So just being Dany, listening to him really, listening to his feedback, how he communicates with people, it really does help me. But yeah, it’s been going well. Simulator driving, that’s helped a lot as well. But it’s going well so far.
Alexander Albon

Q: And are you doing anything different with your helmet this weekend?

AA: Yeah, so I’ve got a Prince Bira tribute. I thought it would be cool to go back and bring out some of the Thai history in Formula 1. I have a couple of photos, I have his number, well, my number but in his style, because he had the blue and yellow racing scheme. So that’s about it.

Q: Thanks. Romain, you’re a man in need of some good fortune this weekend in China. Just how was last week’s test session in Bahrain? Did you understand why the car’s pace dropped off in the race?

RG: Well, it started with three wheels, which didn’t help, after the contact in the first corners. No, we had some good testing. It was a bit disrupted by the rain, which was a surprise to all us in Bahrain on Tuesday, but we did manage, on Wednesday afternoon, to get some good data and info, some interesting set-ups that we should have been running during the race. I think the car is fast and it’s good. You don’t qualify twice in the top 10 if you don’t have a fast car. I think we just missed something in Bahrain that we found at testing, which is good. I think what we need right now is a bit of luck on our side, and to make sure we go through the race with no incident or no issue and we should be able to have a good weekend.

Q: And anything different with your helmet?

RG: I’ve changed the design, using the F1 1000 logo – that looks really cool - just the full white helmet. Nothing really from the past of Formula 1 but I was not very… I used to throw all my equipment to the bins of the season, but luckily my wife pushed me to keep at least one thing from every year. I know I’ve got one overall per year, from all my racing career, from go-karts to 2019 season, and actually when I look at them now I think it’s pretty cool. I’ve got some helmets back home that mean more than others. My 100th grand prix helmet and obviously being part of race 1000 in Formula 1 is going to be something big, so that helmet is going to go on the shelf and I really like the design that we have produced. It looks pretty classy and really cool to be driven in China.

Q: Sergio, it hasn’t been the easiest of starts for the team in 2019, though you did finish in the points last time out. Are there any underlying issues with the car and if there are, what are they?

SP: I think the upgrade that we brought to the start of the season, given that we didn’t have enough to test or to work on it, I think that put us on the back foot at the moment in the midfield group. We scored points in Melbourne and now in Bahrain. At the moment we are not fast enough, we are not where we want to be, but I think we have proven in the past that it’s a very long season. It doesn’t matter where you are now, it’s where you get to by Abu Dhabi. We are understanding our issues, we have a lot of work to do and I’m pretty sure we will meet all of our targets for this season.

Q: And your helmet design for this weekend?

SP: My helmet design didn’t change much. I just wanted to put the 1000 race logo on my helmet just to… it’s obviously very special as a driver to race here, at such a special venue for Formula 1, it’s a very special weekend also. I want, as Romain said, to remember this weekend in many years, to look at this helmet and remember that I was part of the 1000th race in Formula 1.

Q: Kimi, great start to the season for you and Alfa Romeo, points in both of the opening two races. Can you tell us, what are the strengths of this year’s car and has the performance so far changed your goals for the season?

Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: No, it hasn’t. I didn’t really have any goals, so it’s pretty hard to change them. I can’t really talk about last year’s car. Obviously I did a test but it’s one track so from my side it’s hard to say what is better on this car than the one they had last year but for sure they did a good job over the winter from the car that I drove in Abu Dhabi in the tyre test to the one we have now. Obviously there’s a lot of things to improve still and it’s a never-ending story and an ongoing thing to try to make it better, holding more downforce and stuff like that – but yeah, I think in general it’s quite a good, solid package and we understand it pretty OK and they seem to have good guys on all areas to bring new stuff. It never comes fast enough but that’s a normal issue in any team you go to. Yeah, I think the basis there is to make it faster all the time, so keep it up and see what we’ve got when we get to the end of the year.

Q: Anything different on the helmet design to celebrate 1000 races?
Kimi Raikkonen

KR: No. I wanted to have an open-face helmet but there were some regulation issues…!


Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines / Checo, you say your helmet design hasn’t changed much but I’m hearing from an insider that your helmet has actually changed. Do you have a different brand for this race?

SP: Yeah, in that regard yes. I’ve moved to Bell. I’ve been in a long term partnership with Schuberth which I’m very thankful for, I think it’s a fantastic helmet. Now I had the opportunity to change and I think Bell is also a fantastic helmet. I’ve tried it, and it’s my first race with them now. I started my career in Formula One with them and now I’m going back to Bell.

Q: (Steven Wade – AP) Kimi, we see that this summer you’re going to break an F1 record for the most races contested, how do you stay motivated? You’ve had tremendous success already, how do you stay motivated and stay on top of your game?

KR: I don’t know really. I don’t have any special things that I try to motivate myself. It’s become more of a hobby for me lately than anything else and probably that’s why it’s more fun again, so, yeah, I always try to do the best that I can. Some days it goes a bit better than others – but that’s how it goes when you do a lot of racing. Some days it’s a bit more tricky than others. It’s never really been an issue. A lot of people think so but, y’know, everybody has the right to say what they think. I just try to do what I can and hopefully… when I feel myself that it’s not what I expect from myself then obviously I try to find a new hobby after that.

Q: (Michael Butterworth – Xinhua News Agency) To all four drivers, keen to know your thoughts on the Shanghai circuit and if there are any particular features or characteristics that make it especially challenging or unique?

AA: Well, it’s my first time here, so a little bit hard to say but just coming from watching videos and being on the simulator it just seems like there’s about a thousand lines you can do here. A lot of corners leading onto other corners so it seems like there’s a lot of different styles, pushing entries or pushing exits. So yeah, it seems to be a really technical track. So, it’s interesting for the drivers, that’s for sure.

KR: I think it’s a nice track. It’s been the same since I came here the first time but some good overtaking opportunities and quite good fun to drive.

SP: It’s quite a long circuit: long straights, very long corners, like Turn One which is quite hard when you first get here. First lap it’s always very hard to reach the apex because it’s so late in the corner that it kind of gets you. Also, the wind is very difficult here. So it’s quite a unique place, I’d say. Normally good racing and a nice feeling on one lap – it’s definitely a circuit I enjoy.

RG: It’s a good circuit. One of the challenges is to get here on time in the morning. Racing it quite fun, as Kimi said. Qualifying laps are always good and then in the race the challenge is to look after your tyres, especially the fronts with those long corners: Turn One, Turn Seven-Eight, 13. That can really make a huge difference if you’ve used your tyres too much or not. Then you can have some really good racing. It’s a pretty good place to come.

Q: (Stuart Codling – Autosport) Question for Alex. The 2021  technical regulations are currently taking shape and are under discussion. The desired outcomes are for a more level playing field, for there to be more overtaking opportunities. Do you think that reducing the amount of data capture would provide that – or would it actively be a problem for drivers, such as you, who are just coming into the sport? Would it be a disadvantage?

AA: To promote overtaking? I wouldn’t say reducing data would effect overtaking. On my side at least, data is just for getting lap-time, it wouldn’t be a tool to affect passes, no.

Would if make your job harder if there were no data?

AA: In general, yeah, I would say so. I think data now in Formula One is huge. Especially for me, it’s a fast-track to get getting up to speed and even just about getting performance. It’s definitely something I use a lot, I compare with Dany quite a lot. I think some drivers look at data more than others. I’m a driver that looks at data quite a lot. Just to get up to speed. I’m using it a lot right now. For passing or overtaking, no.

Q: (Velimir Jukic Avto-Focus) Question for Kimi. They say you are slower for each kid by about one second. How are you compensating for this now that you have two seconds slower conditions to drive?

KR: Maybe I somehow go faster at the same time to compensate it! I don’t think that kids make any difference. There are an awful lot of stories based on nothing in F1. I didn’t ever feel that there’s something happening on my driving when our family got bigger – but I don’t know. I guess it depends from people to people also. Sometimes it might have an effect but at least on our side, on my side, I don’t feel it. Obviously the life changes a lot outside of racing but yeah, pure driving they didn’t really effect on my side.

I might just through that to Checo and Romain…
Sergio Perez

SP: Similar to Kimi I think it doesn’t…. Formula One drivers are all normal, when we’re driving we don’t think we have family, we have kids, we just want to go as fast as we possibly can. I think outside of racing it changes, you sleep a lot less looking after your kids! All of a sudden a Formula One race weekend becomes a holiday, because you’re able to sleep longer, and so on – but it’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t really affect at all. If it takes one second it means in the past we were really quick! Because we have a couple of seconds in th pocket, it means a lot.

Romain, anything to add?

RG: No, no. I think what the boys said is the truth. It changes you as a man back home. It changes your whole life and perspective and probably helps you more than it slows you down. When you’ve had a tough weekend and you come back home, it doesn’t matter, they love you and you love them more than anything, so it puts things in perspective. But yeah, with three kids now, three seconds off the pace, my goodness… quite happy to be qualifying in the top ten!

Alex, any children we don’t know about?

AA: No!

Q: (Julien Billiotte – AutoHebdo) How do you think Formula One will look for race number 2000 in forty or fifty years’ time? Will car racing still exist and what kind of cars could we see on track? Or would you like to see on track?

RG: Actually I already answered that question. It’s a tough one. I’ve got no idea what the cars are going to be like in forty, fifty years. The only thing I would say is that I hope there is still going to be a driver driving the car because that’s where the emotion goes. If you hold a football game with just robots it’s not going to be much fun so I hope there are going to be drivers.  Technology will be very different, I’m sure, but the sense of racing has been here since 1950, the first F1 race where the guys driving at their best, trying to overtake the guy in front of them and going as fast as they could with what they had and oversteer was oversteer back then and understeer is back today so I think the feeling was the same so I hope the guys would have as much fun as we do have today.

SP: Yeah, same. Technology these days is developing scarily so I really hope that in the future we still have the drivers and that they are able to have as much fun as we do or because I think things are going to change massively. I really hope that things change the same, at least. Obviously they were will be very different, I think, probably they might be electric in a couple of years -  I hope in many more years. For the drivers, they will still be important. I don’t know if it was in the past but these days the driver is less important, the driver can make less of a difference and it’s now all related to the team so I think for the future and for the time that I’m here I can see a different Formula One where the driver can make the difference instead of the team.

KR: Yeah, it’s impossible to know what will happen. Probably there will be racing, some sort of racing, who knows what? It’s been 1000 races so I don’t think it’s going to disappear suddenly somehow but who knows? We’ll find out.

AA: Yeah, same as them. As long as we have a job or the future racing drivers have a job then I’m happy.

Q: (Zoran Zivkov – Top Speed Magazine) When you look at the past and history, if you’d had a time machine, in which period, in which era, would you like to come back?

AA: I haven’t really thought about that. I’d say old school, 1950s. I want to see how the sport was back then. I know it’s dangerous so maybe I will bring my HANS device with me and we will see but I think that kind of racing is cool and I’d like to try it out.

KR: I’ve gone back for the second one any more. I guess in the past, I would look at seventies, sixties, late sixties, seventies. For sure it would have been more fun, more relaxed, more pure racing but obviously much more dangerous but that’s normal at that time.

Q: We saw you with a James Hunt helmet a few years ago, didn’t we?

KR: Bit more than a few years but yeah.

SP: Yeah, I think that 1960s, 70s, those times were good fun. The driving looked very dangerous of course; for the driver, it depended on the risk you took that maybe made the difference. I think it’s something that all my career I have missed. Always the difference is made by the cars and not so much by the drivers. I think back then it was good fun. It looked really good. Also the atmosphere was really relaxed. I think these days Formula One is too posed. I wish it was a bit more relaxed and people enjoying themselves more.

RG: Yeah, not going that far (back). I’m really in love with ’93, ’94 and then 2005 and 2006. I wish that Kimi was back then: yeah, you were racing. I love the cars around that time and they looked amazing and there was a tyre war as well which was quite fun to watch from outside, I thought, and refuelling and the cars looked really really cool in mid-2000. I drove a 2007 car, it was quite good then.

Q: (Duan Yiyi – Titan Sports) Kimi, no matter which team you are in you always seem to be the fans’ favourite here in China, so from your perspective what characteristics do you have to attract so many fans in China?

KR: I have no idea. You should go and ask them. I think generally in Japan, China we Finnish people seem to have a lot of fans. It’s great, especially here. I cannot go anywhere but that’s a part of… the other side of the fans. I’ve always had a lot of fans here, since the first time we came here so I’m happy about it. I don’t know the reason. I guess you would probably get the answer if you go and ask some in front of our hotel, you can ask them there. Or at the airport.

Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines, You may have noticed that in Bahrain McLaren was sponsored by an e-cigarette brand, Vipe. Particularly the three fathers there, how do you feel about this? Do you feel it sets the right sort of example for your children?
Romain Grosjean

RG: Oh dear. I’m going to dig my own oar. Right. I think you want to watch on Netflix, because they are our friends now, whatever content you can. I am the first one to tell my friends to stop smoking and I’ve actually achieved that a few times and I’m quite proud of that. I think e-cigarettes are maybe less bad. I think if they want to sponsor Formula One why not. I’ve been with Total for many many years which is an oil company in France or worldwide and we’ve actually done some amazing experiences together and you could say that oil is actually not good for the environment and so on but I think companies like Total are trying to do a lot for the environment and just producing oil. So I think, in the end, I don’t know much about e-cigarettes to be fair, but if it’s better for health reasons, if it’s less smelly as well… You know, we just came up the stairs and it smelled of cigarettes like hell. Same when you leave an airport. First thing you do when you go out of an airport, everyone is smoking his first cigarette and it stinks.  If this year it can be better somehow then great. If it’s better then why not and if it helps our sport then great.

SP: Yeah, Romain did a good job with that one.

KR: No, I have no issue. I don’t see the connection that if my son sees advertising on any of the… doesn’t matter if it’s alcohol or cigarettes, something, I don’t believe that that affects his choices whatsoever. That’s my belief on that. Did it affect my choices when I have seen them in the past? Rules are rules, whether you can do it or not, that’s not my business but I have no worries.

RG: … point that Kimi’s bringing in, because we watched Formula One when there was a lot of cigarette advertising on the cars: Williams, Jordan, Ferrari, McLaren. I’ve never smoked all my life but I’ve been watching a lot of races so I don’t think there’s any connection there.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Solberg announces retirement from the highest level of motorsport.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Three-time FIA World Champion Petter Solberg has announced his decision to step back from the highest level of motorsport with immediate effect. 

The Norwegian icon will compete in a selection of events this year in a Farewell Tour. 

Solberg has had a superb motorsport career in where he claimed a World Rally Championship and two FIA World Rallycross Championships in 2014/15.

“I want to say straight away that my helmet stays on my head,” said Solberg. “I’m not hanging it up. I will still compete in some big events this year and in the future. But I am retiring from world championships. Last year’s World RX Championship was the last one for me."

The 44-year-old Norwegian was hospitalized following a first-corner crash in Latvia (in 2017), where he broke two ribs and his collarbone. Following an X-ray, it was discovered that one of his lungs were producing too much iron. Solberg explained that he suffered from a lack of energy, he noticed some changes in eyesight and he started shaking. 

Following Solberg's diagnoses, he noticed that he could race competitively, but would struggle with tiredness and fatigue after climbing out of his race car. He contemplated finding a replacement for the 2018 season but ultimately decided to continue in the championship.

“Honestly, it’s because the time is right," says Solberg. "I had some sickness for the last couple of years which made me think about what I really wanted to do, but I recovered from that a couple of months ago. My fitness and energy are all back now and I’m ready for a new challenge."

Solberg reflects on his time in the FIA World Rally Championship.

“The years I spent with Subaru in WRC, I will never forget them. These people were – and remain – like family to me. We shared some special, special moments," he adds.   

“But it’s incredible how 20 years have gone in a flash. It feels like yesterday that Colin [McRae] and Carlos [Sainz] were shouting at me for asking too many questions when I joined the Ford World Rally Team in 1999!"
Solberg leading Timmy Hansen at the 2018 Gumtree World RX of SA.

“Volkswagen’s decision to take a break from World Rallycross was also a factor in my decision, but I have some serious ambitions for the future and I want to start working towards those," said Solberg

The Norwegian's Farewell Tour will begin in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, then move to Norway's biggest hillclimb, and Gymkhana GRiD World Finals in September. 

“I start with two hillclimbs – the first is one of the most prestigious events in motorsport, Goodwood’s Festival of Speed and the second is very, very important to me and to my family in Norway, it’s Norges Råeste Bakkeløp," says Solberg.

“Next we have the Gymkhana GRiD World Finals on September 7th; which is going to be just amazing with so many people. Technically, this is some of the toughest driving you can do, you have to be so precise all the time." 

“There are more surprises to come this year and they’re good ones." 

Solberg reiterates that he is not hanging up his helmet completely.

“It’s important to understand I will continue to do big events into the future, all around the world. And I want to do these things, this is where the passion is for me – I love to give people the big smile and make sure they enjoy themselves," explained Solberg. "My driving makes people smile and that’s why I never stop."

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Mattias Ekström outlines EKS' involvement in 2019 World RX season.

The Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 Quattro's
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Former World Rallycross Champion Mattias Ekström has outlined his team's involvement in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship

Ekström has confirmed that EKS Sport driver Krisztián Szabó, and the Monster Energy RX Cartel drivers Andreas Bakkerud and Liam Doran will compete in the 2019 World RX championship in three Audi S1 EKSRX Quattro Supercars.

The Swede has also revealed that the Audi S1 EKSRX Quattro Supercars have been updated. "These cars have gotten some updates, rebuilt and is ready to race again and hopefully to continue the success story of the Audi S1," said Ekström.

The Former World Champion announced his departure from the World RX championship at the end of the 2018 season. 

"I told you that it was my last race as a full-time driver in WorldRX and later EKS told you that this is was the end of our WorldRX chapter," said Ekström. 

"Our plan was to sell the cars and support the new owners," he adds. "Until today we have not sold any of the three 2018 spec cars and EKS have decided to rent them out."
EKS Sport driver Krisztián Szabó.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media

EKS will provide support to the three drivers in 2019.

"They want the cars to run as fast as possible and for this, we will supply technical support and use the experience that we have collected over the last years," says Ekström.

"The ambition of the drivers is to become World Champion and this makes me and the EKS team members really motivated to support them in the best possible way. We hope that all three drivers are going to challenge for race wins, podiums and hopefully one of them can become world champion," he adds.

The EKS team will act mainly as technical support, logistics and personal support for the drivers and their partners. 

Ekström has made it clear that "when it comes to budgets, partners, partner service, PR, social media and event service, the drivers are responsible for their own part."

The three Audi S1 EKSRX Supercars will use EKS and KYB developed dampers this season.

"The dampers have reached a high-performance level which was confirmed during the last race 2018 as both EKS cars were using the dampers that entire race weekend," said Ekström.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Hansen wins after Gronholm receives penalty.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Text - Junaid Samodien

Niclas Gronholm crossed the line first in the final of the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship but received a three-second time penalty after an incident with Kevin Hansen on the penultimate lap. Hansen claims his maiden World RX win.

The young Swede has dedicated his maiden World Rallycross win to his team, family, and brother following a late team entry to World RX after Peugeot's withdrawal from the sport in 2018: "This win is for the amazing team! This win is for my family! This win is for the Hansen brothers, Timmy and me!" 

“It feels completely crazy,” said Hansen. “I took the start in the final and led about five laps and then after turn 10, Niclas gave me a tap and I nearly spun and lost the lead."

“A win in the stewards’ room is not the perfect way. It has been a great job by all the guys in the team to get the cars here and prepared. But this one is for Timmy as he should have been on the podium.”

Niclas recovered well from a poor start in the semifinals but claimed victory to progress to the finals. The Finn would start on the front row alongside top qualifier Kevin Hansen in the finals.

Gronholm had a slightly stronger start compared to Hansen who held a lead into turn one, and after the first lap, they began to inch away from Scheider, Doran, Szabo, and Baumanis.

The Hyundai driver had very strong pace through the corners. And on the fourth lap, Gronholm tagged the back of Kevin Hansen causing the Swede to run wide, allowing Gronholm through to take the lead of the race.  

“It was not an intentional hit but sometimes the stewards look at things differently to us so I have to accept it, move on and fight back in Barcelona,” said Gronholm.

Monster Energy RX Cartel's Liam Doran claimed third place and secured his first World RX podium finish.

“This result is from pure determination and nothing else," said Doran. "I started off poor to be completely honest, struggling with the setup of the car a bit."

“I just got my head down. I got into the semis by the skin of my teeth but you never give up until you get to the end.”

While Team STARD's Janis Baumanis claimed fourth place, ahead of Krisztian Szabo, and German Timo Scheider finished in sixth place with an issue.

Andreas Bakkerud failed to qualify for the final after causing a collision with Timmy Hansen in Q3, and ultimately being disqualified from the session. While Timmy Hansen, on the other hand, had chassis damage as a result of the heft impact. 

Friday, 5 April 2019

Timmy Hansen takes overnight TQ in Abu Dhabi

Sweden's Timmy Hansen is the top qualifier on day one at the World RX of Abu Dhabi, after claiming wins in both qualifying heats and setting the quickest time in Q2.

Hansen started on pole position in Q4 race one and remained in lead into Turn 1 ahead of Andreas Bakkerud. Bakkerud using an alternative strategy was able to jump Niclas Gronholm and hammer in some quick lap times to catch the Swede, but with a different joker lap strategy, Hansen remained ahead of Bakkerud in a close first corner move on lap four. 

“I took both my starts and from the lead could control the race, even though Andreas was very close at one point. When I came out of the joker in Q2 we were side-by-side but I could carry a bit more speed because I’d taken the joker so I just squeezed by," said Timmy Hansen.  

Bakkerud was second quickest and Reinis Nitiss (GRX Set) put his puncture of Q1 behind him to win his race and be third in the second qualifier. 

Timmy Hansen claimed the overnight (TQ) top qualifiers spot with Monster Energy RX Cartel's Andreas Bakkerud second and Team Hansen MJP's Kevin Hansen is third on day one.

"Overall it has been a perfect day, I think it’s more than we could have expected after everything that’s happened and how hard we’ve been working to get here. Now we’re finally here everything is running perfectly," said Hansen.

“I must say that Timo Scheider was impressive today and all three of the Hyundai’s were very fast, so they haven’t been on the lazy side this winter!” he concludes.

Anton Marklund won his races in Q1 and Q2 and is fifth quickest overall, behind Niclas Gronholm. Rookie Rokas Baciuska was seventh in only his second ever qualifying race in World RX. While Janis Baumanis recovered from a slow start in Q2 race two to be eighth quickest.

Britian's Oliver Bennett failed to start Q2 due to an electrical servo issue. 

The GCK Academy did not have the easiest start to the season with issues for both drivers. Belgium's Guillaume De Ridder suffering from a cooling issue after his radiator fan broke off and punctured a radiator in the morning practice session. While Cyril Raymond had to contend with punctures ruining his day. Both drivers are languishing at the tail of the field on day one. 

FULL World RX of Abu Dhabi OVERNIGHT STANDING (below).
Information Source: FIA World RX media

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Bakkerud on Q1 pole position for World RX of Abu Dhabi

The Q1 Grid Draw for the World RX of Abu Dhabi has taken place at the Yas Marina Circuit today. 

Monster Energy RX Cartel's Andreas Bakkerud will start on pole position for the first qualifying race of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship. Team STARD’s Pal Try and Xite Racing's Oliver Bennett will also start in race one.

GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit will start on pole position in race two, next to Kevin Hansen. 

GRX Taneco’s Timur Timerzyanov will start next to his teammate Reinis Nitiss in race three, while Timmy Hansen will take pole in race four.

Full Q1 Grid:

Andreas Bakkerud
Pal Try
Oliver Bennett

Guerlain Chicherit
Kevin Hansen
Timo Scheider
Cyril Raymond

Timur Timerzyanov
Reinis Nitiss
Guillaume De Ridder
Krisztian Szabo
Anton Marklund

Timmy Hansen
Niclas Gronholm
Janis Baumanis
Rokas Baciuska
Liam Doran

Red Bull is bringing Formula One to the streets of Cape Town.

Image Copyright - Red Bull Content Pool
Multiple Formula 1 race winner David Coulthard is set to give Cape Town a taste of Formula 1 on 2 June 2019. 

The Scot is set to thunder down the streets of Cape Town in the 2011 F1 World Championship winning Red Bull Racing RB7 (showcar).

Coulthard is synonymous with the glitz and glamour of F1 racing and will add this iconic experience to an illustrious career which includes 13 race wins and 62 podium finishes.

"Formula 1 is a global sport, but with a finite number of countries on the racing calendar, it is down to our show car team to travel farther afield and share the speed and sound of our sport with as many fans as possible," said Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner.

Red Bull Racing has taken the thrill of Formula 1 to cities like Hanoi, Tokyo and Mexico City and returns to South Africa to excite more fans in 2019. 

“We received an incredibly warm welcome when we first took our show car to Cape Town back in 2011 and we are delighted to return this year, powering the car down Cape Town’s iconic Grand Parade on June 2nd,” said Horner. “South Africa has a great heritage in F1, stretching back to 1962, and we look forward to seeing fans, old and new, turn out in force to witness the spectacle."

Speaking at the Bahrain GP about the Cape Town showcase Coulthard said: “I’m super excited to be in Cape Town in June for the Red Bull Circuit event."

"I’ll be driving the Formula One car, demonstrating the power, energy and excitement of what Grand Prix can bring," said Coulthard. "I haven’t been to South Africa since we were in Kyalami in 2011, so I’m delighted we’re bringing Formula One back to Cape Town."

The Red Bull Cape Town Circuit on Sunday, 2 June 2019 is shaping to be a scintillating spectacle of speed and precision for the whole family. 

Red Bull Cape Town Circuit important information:

WHEN: Sunday 2 June 2019
WHAT TIME: 12h00 - 17h00

HOW MUCH: General access is free! Limited grandstand tickets going on sale, end of April

WHERE: On Darling Street in Cape Town between Christian Barnard and Adderley Street.

PREVIEW - World RX returns with a desert duel in Abu Dhabi

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship is back! The winter break has come to an end and testing is complete. The focus now switches to the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi for the opening round of the 2019 season

The World RX of Abu Dhabi will also be the first time a round has been held at night with the semi-finals and final on Saturday evening under floodlights.

As a debutant track, the Yas Marina Rallycross Circuit presents a level playing field for the drivers and teams.

There are plenty of challenges in the purpose-built 1.2 kilometer rallycross circuit featuring 63% asphalt and 37% gravel, a series of wide tarmac areas, tight turns including a hairpin and a formidable jump, all within the circuit’s famous Formula One circuit stadium section.

The quality, depth and multi-national mix of the competitors suggests a fierce battle from the moment the lights go green at Yas Marina.

What's new for the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship? 

There are a number of changes and additions to World RX in 2019.

The most significant change to the sporting regulations is the grid order from Q2 onwards. Q1 will be dictated by the pre-race draw, but for Q2, and Q3 the race order can be reversed by a random draw. Carried out at the end of the last race of Q1 and Q2 the draw will decide if the race order is as usual (fastest cars last) or reversed so that the fastest cars will race first.

At each event, a Driver Assistant to Stewards will be present. A number of experienced rallycross drivers will take up the role over the 10 round season, starting with 2015 FIA European Rallycross Champion Tommy Rustad this weekend in Abu Dhabi. There has also been a specific code of driving conduct for rallycross added to Appendix L of the FIA Regulations.

Within a number of minor changes to the technical regulations, Race Nets will now be used in all World RX cars. These will be visible when onboard views are shown and are triangular nets that pass each side of the driver and are connected to the dashboard. The Race Nets have been introduced to increase driver protection by offering better restriction on the movement of limbs in the event of a crash.

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross championship entry list and drivers

The 2019 entry list features 16 permanent drivers in six teams and four individual entries representing eight automotive brands with drivers from 11 countries.

The defending World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson is not competing in 2019 following PSRX Volkswagen Sweden's withdrawal, meaning none of the permanent drivers in World RX 2019 have won an FIA World Championship title. We will crown a new FIA World RX drivers’ champion this year.

Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud looms as a championship favourite. Third in the overall standings in 2018, Bakkerud starts as the highest-placed finisher from last season. Alongside the Norwegian in the Audi S1 will be Liam Doran code-named "The British bomb".

The Hansen brothers, Timmy and Kevin, will run a pair of Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars for Team Hansen MJP, the first time the Swedish brothers have competed in equal machinery. Timmy and Kevin, may be one of the youngest line-ups on the grid, but they have both been competing in high-level rallycross for the last six years, and Timmy has started in every World RX race ever – all 61 of them.

Team STARD will campaign the all-new Ford Fiesta RXS for Janis Baumanis. He will be partnered by Pal Try in Abu Dhabi. Try will feature in at least three rounds in 2019.

GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund makes a full-time return to World RX after focussing on European racing for the past two years. The Swede will partner team owner Guerlain Chicherit in Renault Meganes.

In the build-up to the season opener, Marklund has been helping with the development of the Megane and the Renault Clios to be shared by GCK Academy drivers Cyril Raymond and Guillaume De Ridder.

Marcus Gronholm’s GRX Taneco squad comprises three Hyundai i20s for Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Gronholm. Abu Dhabi will be the first of a number of selected appearances for Reinis Nitiss of GRX Set. All three drivers completed the final pre-season test in Germany recently.

Oliver Bennett returns to build on his 2018 programme. His Xite Racing Mini Cooper has been subject to a programme of development and testing over the winter. 

Timo Scheider begins his first full-season campaign in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza. The German squad has been quietly going about pre-season testing. 

EKS Sport driver, Krisztian Szabo twice the European Super1600 Rallycross Champion, joined Bakkerud and the 2016 World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom on the frozen wastelands of Scandinavia ahead of the season.

Rokas Baciuska is the least experienced of this season’s rookies. The reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion for Super1600, Baciuska will be at the wheel of ESmotorsport’s Skoda Fabia, which has completed well over 1,000 kilometres of testing this winter.

Let's go racing! 

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Guerlain Chicherit sets clear objectives for 2019 World RX season.

Inspired to create something different, innovative and of exceptional quality, GCK was founded by former freeskiing Champion and motorsport driver Guerlain Chicherit.

The GCK brand encompassed his selection of unique, luxury ski and summer chalets in some of the most coveted holiday destinations, called GC-Kollection. While GC-Kreativ was also formed with the aim of producing unique, award-winning and thought-provoking designs and interiors.

Guerlain Chicherit took a step up to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2018 with his own team GC Kompetition driving two Prodrive built and developed Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercars. 

The GC Kompetition team was formed with an approach to "changing the rules". Changing the rules in what way? Essentially the team strives to be different and to change in the rules within the paddock, on track, and amongst its fans.

The four-time freeriding world champion holds the record for becoming the first man in history to complete an unassisted backflip in a car. Having had a successful skiing career, the Frenchman made the switch to motorsport having amassed several starts and claiming three stage wins in the Dakar Rally.

Chicherit made his World RX debut in the JRM Mini RX Countryman in 2015 in preparation for a full-time programme with his own two-car GC Kompetition team in 2018. 

In 2018, Chicherit achieved a personal best finish of fifth place in Portugal and 11th overall in the drivers' championship. 

The GC Kompetition team also claimed their first podium in 2018 at Round 6 in Holjes, Sweden with former driver Jérôme Grosset-Janin.

With more experience in 2019, the team will be looking to improve in their second season in the World RX championship and will continue to run the Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercars, driven by Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship is set to be a humdinger with no factory teams and no defending champion. It's all to play for and with GCK on the rise, we took the opportunity to interview GCK team owner and driver Guerlain Chicherit
GC Kompetition - Anton Marklund and Guerlain Chicherit and the GCK Academy - Cyril Raymond (left) and Guillaume De Ridder (right)
PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Junaid Samodien: What are your expectations for your second season in World Rallycross?

Guerlain Chicherit: My expectations are pretty high. Last year was like a big year for us because we came with a brand new team and brand new cars. It was my first season in rallycross, so much to learn, and I was more confident at the end of the year with some really good times, but I was not able to put everything together and to confirm a proper good result as I was expecting, but I think we are clearly ready for 2019. And, we want to fight for the top position on every race (weekend) and that is the clear objective that we have with the team.

JS: What are you or GCK doing differently to win this season?

GC: What we did differently. We know the tracks now, that a big difference. We know the sport, and we learn a lot from last year with the cars. So, we knew what we had to change on the cars, and that is what we did. We have been working the whole winter to make some big evolution on the cars, with a new engine and fixed the problem we had at the starts because the launch was our big problem last year. So, now it looks like to be okay. 

Also, we completely changed the front. The front of the car was completely changed to have much more aggressive steering. Not power steering, but traction on the front (axle), that was the weak point of the car last year. So, all of this looks to be fixed, but you know its always easy to be super fast on the test when you are driving on your own.

Guerlain Chichert's 2019 World RX livery.
PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition
JS: The 2019 GCK livery is rather unique. What inspired the change?

GC: I always like to be different and have my own design. I don’t like to follow what the others are doing and I don’t want to be like a proper typical motorsport design or livery like we did for the last fifty years. I try to be much more lifestyle and from where I am coming from. So, just try to change the rules all the time.

JS: GCK has moved from Prodrive to GFORS. Is there any specific reason for the switch?

GC: Yes, so it has a lot of reasons. First of all, GFORS are in France, and it was much better for me to follow and keep up with the team, and in terms of cost efficiency it was also much better. To work with Prodrive in UK it's always super expensive because you always have to cross... Take the boat and plane all the time. So, it was not easy. And especially because this season we launched a second team with the Clio, its was much more efficient for me to have all my cars managed by the same team because its a lot of saving at every post. 

But, do not forget without Prodrive this car could not exist. So, it does not change the fact that these cars are still for me the best Rallycross cars ever built, and I hope that we will show this year that these are the best cars on track, and we will see that. But without Prodrive it could not happen. 

You know GFORS is a really, really good team. Well experienced for fifteen years of rallycross. They have really good experience, but clearly this team could not design this car, because this car is really amazing, its really a masterpiece and I really want to say thank you to Prodrive one more time, and let’s see what goes on in the future that is maybe not finished. Maybe we will work with Prodrive again, let’s see. 

JS: GCK has entered four Renault R.S. RX Supercars for the 2019 World RX championship. Two Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercars and Two Renault Clio R.S. RX Supercars. Would your team approach Renault Sport for factory support in the future?

GC: For sure, I would love to have the support from Renault because I think we are doing a pretty good job, the cars are looking good and the team is looking good. What is missing at the moment are the results, but we are working on this and I think it's coming soon. So, let’s see what's going on for the next few weeks or months for the first race, but we are pretty confident. 

But to not be fully factory supported it also gives me much more flexibility and for the livery and all this I can.. You know GCK can decide exactly what we want to do. We want to be different, we are different. If you are, supported by a factory there are so many rules and you can not do everything you want. And, it works like this for me. I like to be independent, but if Renault wants to help one day. For sure, they are more than welcome. 

JS: In 2021, World Rallycross could switch to electric rallycross. Do you see this switch as a benefit for you (the GCK team)?

GC: First of all, 2021 is not confirmed yet. So, let’s see what’s going on, but if the electric (switch) is confirmed. Yes, that is a big change and we are going to follow this direction. We want to go, but its not my decision to confirm this change or not. But, if the electric is happening there is a big chance that GCK will be there because we didn’t come to Rallycross only for two or three seasons. The plan is to be there for the long term. 

I love motorsport. Especially fall in love with rallycross that is really what I like in motorsport. These cars are really big monsters like they are coming from another planet (laughs). Those cars are really amazing!

And, on electric they will be even more amazing in terms of performance, maybe a little bit more to be honest boring for the fan, but its a question to compensate with something else. Maybe find a more aggressive track. Maybe more jumps, something has to change, you know. The track will have to change or the rules have to change and to give it back to the fans. Again, I can just say what I think. It is not my decision, but let's see. I can confirm that if it is becoming electric, we will probably be there. 

Thank You to Guerlain Chicerit for answering my questions. Also, a big thank you to Nini Mikolajski and Roots Management International for assisting with the interview.

Interview and Text By - Junaid Samodien 
Sources: GC Kompetition and FIA World Rallycross Championship (media) 
Image Sources: GC Kompetition and FIA World Rallycross Championship (media)

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Grönholm RX Taneco ready to beat the heat in Abu Dhabi

GRX Taneco drivers: Reinis Nitišs, Niclas Grönholm, and Timur Timerzyanov.
Grönholm RX Taneco is ready to beat the heat in Abu Dhabi. The Finnish squad will field a three-car line-up, with the team's two permanent drivers: Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Grönholm, while the team’s development driver, Reinis Nitišs will pilot the third supercar.

The new Abu Dhabi rallycross track is built within the Formula 1 complex at the Yas Marina circuit and for the first time in World RX history, the race is planned to take place under artificial light.

"Abu Dhabi with its brand-new track and night race will be an amazing experience for all of us," said Niclas Grönholm

The Finn is ready to take a step forward in 2019. "I have been working to become a better athlete in every aspect, improvements have been made on the car and the whole team has taken yet another step forward," he adds.

Timur Timerzyanov is also raring to go racing in his new updated Hyundai i20 Supercars, as he believes the new i20 Supercar suits his driving style. “I feel that me personally as well as the car and the team are in the best shape to fight for every point in Drivers’ and Teams’ championship," said Timerzyanov

"I have been preparing for this season mentally and physically and I am ready to push through the whole 10 rounds for the best result,” he adds.

The 1.2 km Yas Marina RX circuit is 63% tarmac (including a series of Turns 5-6-7 of the F1 track), and 37% of hard gravel surface that also features the track’s only jump. Even though the race will take place in a late afternoon, it is expected that the air temperature will be well above 30 degrees Celsius, making the conditions in the racing close to extreme.

Despite the optimistic talk from the GRX Taneco team drivers. Team Principal Marcus Grönholm believes that the true pecking order will only be confirmed in the first qualifying session.

“We feel confident about our achievements. But we also know, that only the first Qualifying rounds of Abu Dhabi will paint us a true picture of where everybody stands in terms of performance," said Marcus Grönholm.

The 2018 Euro RX Supercar Champion Reinis Nitisš joins the GRX Taneco team as their development driver and will compete in selected World RX rounds.

“For sure I am happy and excited to get back in the World RX game for the season opener and it’s hard to imagine a more spectacular place for it than Abu Dhabi," said Nitisš. 

"I will not only try to show my best performance here, but I will also do my duty of helping the team to find the right set-ups as fast as possible so we can give our competitors a run for their money."

The season opener World RX of Abu Dhabi will get underway on Friday, April 5 with a Free Practice session before the Q1&Q2 races, and will continue on Saturday, April 6 with Q3&Q4 rounds, Semi-finals and Final.

ESmotorsport reveals striking new livery for 2019 World RX season.

PHOTO CREDIT: ESmotorsport – Labas GAS
The Lithuanian team ESmotorsport – Labas GAS has today revealed their striking new livery for their inaugural FIA World Rallycross campaign. 

ESmotorsport-Labas GAS are fully prepared for their inaugural season after completing over 1,000 kilometers in testing in 2018 with multiple drivers testing the new Skoda Fabia WRX Supercar.

Team founder and former rallycross driver, Ernestas Staponkus is confident that their young rookie driver Rokas Baciuška is capable of success. 

Last year, the young Lithuanian won European Rallycross Championship in Super1600 category, and this season he will become the youngest driver on Supercar grid.

Baciuška has selected 14, as his World RX Supercars race number. 

According to the Rokas, the number brings luck to him. "I won my first championship title in Baltic karting championship when my kart number was 14," said Baciuška. "This number brought me success in the last year at the European Rallycross Championship in the Super1600 class too."

Let's take a look at the new Skoda Fabia WRX Supercars and its 2019 livery.

PHOTO CREDIT: ESmotorsport – Labas GAS

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

World RX series promoters haved revealed the all new electric series - Projekt E

The FIA World Rallycross series promoters IMG have today announced a new electric series titled Projekt E.  

The Projekt E concept will see electric-powered cars competing on the same weekend as the traditional Supercars.

The full electrification of the FIA World Rallycross championship failed last week when series promoters IMG required at least three manufacturers and one specialist supplier in order to pass the switch to electric rallycross.

“In terms of the strategy for introduction of electrification to rallycross, we have been in discussions for nearly two years with a number of manufacturers," said Torben Olsen, the Managing Director of World RX for IMG. "Ultimately it emerged that the manufacturers were not yet ready to commit in sufficient numbers to make a fully-electric World Championship a reality."

“Our aim is to showcase, by 2021 at the latest, future mobility and relevant technologies in the tough, competitive environment of rallycross with production-based vehicles that consumers can relate to," said Olsen.

"However, we believe that Projekt E is a positive step forward to deliver on our 2017 pledge."

The new-look race weekend format will allow rallycross fans to enjoy the traditional internal combustion engines – and get a glimpse of the future for production-based cars. 

Projekt E enables us to embrace emerging technologies, remain relevant, and show that electric cars are fast and fun,” said Olsen.

The FIA and IMG will be revealing more information at a later stage about the format for Projekt E and the electrified cars which will line up on the grid.

TEXT - Junaid Samodien.