Friday, 6 March 2020

Chicherit and Baciuska to disrupt World RX order with newly formed GCK UNKORRUPTED

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition
GCK UNKORRUPTED has become the first team to announce their participation in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

Team owner Guerlain Chicherit and Rokas Baciuška join forces with one aim in mind and that is to shake things up with the World RX front runners.

Having competed in the World RX championship for the last two years with a pair of Prodrive developed Renault Megane R.S.RX Supercars, the new team will field two Renault Clio R.S. RX cars.

The cars have undergone major developments in the off-season including a new engine update from ORECA, new BOS dampers, and significant work was done to improve weight distribution. 

"I won’t pull any punches: we’re here to cause trouble! I’m stoked to be bringing UNKORRUPTED into World RX, and together we will push the limits and not be afraid to ruffle some feathers," Chicherit said. "I’ve spent my whole career taking on new challenges and ‘changing the rules’, and this time is no different."

"I’m already psyched for the season to start, it feels like we’ve been waiting forever. Nothing in motorsport offers a bigger adrenaline rush than rallycross, and ever since my first time in World RX (back in 2015) I’ve had the rallycross bug."

"After getting some of my best results  and performances last season, and seeing all the work and testing that has gone into the Clio R.S. RX for this season, I can’t wait to get started with UNKORRUPTED."

20-year-old Rokas Baciuška completes the GCK UNKORRUPTED pairing for the 2020 season.

Baciuška won the European S1600 Championship in 2018, then joined the World RX field with ES Motorsport LABAS-Gas, before splitting with the Lithuanian team due to contractual issues. Soon after the split, Rokas joined the GCK Academy in a Megane R.S. RX, impressing everyone with his immediate pace. In only his third race, he took GCK’s (and his) first-ever qualifying win and first-ever overnight top qualifier at Loheac RX – a feat he repeated at the next race in Riga (Latvia).

"It’s awesome to be driving alongside Guerlain again – I loved the opportunity to join GCK last year and am super excited to be part of UNKORRUPTED this season," Baciuška said.  "2019 was a massive year for me as it proved to me and to others that I have the speed to compete right at the top of World RX.”

"But in 2020 I want even more. After seeing all the developments on the Clio R.S. RX, I just want to get started and push for the very top."

"I’m no longer the new kid on the block, so it’s time for me to take the gloves off and get to work."

It remains to be seen if GC Kompetition will field the Renault Megane R.S. RX in World RX this season.

Written By: Junaid Samodien

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Nürburgring reveals fast-paced World RX track.

PHOTO CREDIT: Nürburgring
The Nürburgring has revealed its new rallycross track at the circuit's official launch today.

Germany returns to the FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar after a one-year hiatus. 

Based around the Mullenbachsleife section of the Grand Prix circuit, the new one-kilometer track features alternating asphalt and gravel surfaces as well as fast corners and long straights. 

The start line for the World RX track is located at turn six (Nürburgring circuit), the highest point of the rallycross track, heading into a 90-degree right-hander to start the lap. From there the track drops down steeply after turn 2, transitioning from gravel to tarmac, before a second tarmac section at turn three, with the joker lap section positioned around the outside of turn 4, a left-hander followed by another gravel section before reaching the timing line positioned on the back straight. 

The circuit has an elevation change of over 15 meters across the lap and gradients of up to 12%.

"The track looks amazing and we are confident that the racing will be highly competitive and that World RX will become an important date on the German motorsport calendar," Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of motorsports events at IMG, said. "We are particularly looking forward to bringing Projekt E, our new rallycross electric racing series, to the Nurburgring."

Why South Africa needs a Formula E race.

PHOTO CREDIT: Panasonic Jaguar Racing.
The ABB FIA Formula E championship may soon make its way to a second African city (as it was announced today that Jaguar and the City of Cape Town are helping e-mobility to secure a round in the Mother City). In this article, we will look at why precisely this is such a great new opportunity for the City of Cape Town. 

You might not be a motorsport fanatic or even consider yourself as one, but this new thrilling silent form of motor racing could soon see you become a fan soon. Wherever you are on the spectrum, the announcement that the ABB FIA Formula E championship would make its way to South Africa is one of the biggest in motorsport (for South Africa) yet. 

Silently (pardon the pun) creeping into the motorsport fray since 2014, the Formula E championship has been a large investment opportunity for manufacturers and fans alike. While each motoring series (some more so than others) are pushing the technologies of road-legal automation ahead, Formula E should surely be considered as being on the forefront. 

South Africa and Africa has seen the resurgence of international motorsport on local soil in the past few years, welcoming the FIA World Rallycross Championship to Killarney in Cape Town, the Intercontinental GT series to Kyalami in Midrand, the Safari rally to Kenya, the Marrakesh ePrix in North Africa, and the World Endurance Championship for Kyalami in 2021. 

With both Formula E and Formula 1 (potentially) also being on the cards for the continent, Africa can again see itself at the forefront of the motorsport world. 

Here are a few reasons as to why the Cape Town ePrix will be in such high demand: 

    1. Cape Town as a world-leading city 

Cape Town has already set its targets for being a world-leading city. In many regards, this goal has already been reached. Not only does Cape Town see an annual increase in the influx of tourists, but it has also shown its strong citizen camaraderie by fighting off a complete drought. 

Except for being one of the happiest cities, with its lush beaches, sunshine and heaps of tourism activities, the City of Cape Town now aims to become the first city in South Africa to climb out of the Eskom darkness. For this to be done, governing bodies and the private sector will have to cooperate in creating new clean energy sources. 

Bringing clean motorsport to the streets of Cape Town will not only bolster the image of Cape Town but also stamp a firm aim as to what the city is aiming to achieve. 

    2. Manufacturer investment in South Africa 

In the world of motor manufacturing, both China and India are seeing exponential growth in car manufacturing plants. There are numerous reasons for this significant growth, which we will not delve into at this moment. 

However, South Africa is also seeing more and more investment, with brands like Volkswagen, Isuzu, Nissan and Mercedes recently investing more into their local plants. 

A racing series, luring 9 manufacturers (currently racing) and many others also watching, South Africa can not only see a boost in its local development but also potentially a surge into the development of alternative production to internal combustion engines. 

    3. Economic boost for the city and South Africa 

Again, many would state that an electric racing event will not lure as many spectators and tourists as many of the current championships in the country. Yet, Formula E is at the pinnacle of manufacturers’ involvement. 

Not only will it lure die-hard manufacturer teams, but also spectators, hoping to combine the beauty of Cape Town with an action-packed form of street racing. 

The ABB FIA Formula E championship not only significantly boosts the international image of a city (as has been proven during the last 6 seasons), but also combines the best of both worlds. 

It showcases the potential of silent autonomy within cities, whilst also providing close thrilling racing.  

In addition to the economic investment that comes with the Formula E championship, job creation is another benefit for South Africa. Returning year after year, Formula E will increase both annual and seasonal employment, whilst also creating new jobs across a number of industries.

    4. Taking new leaps towards city-friendly mobility 

Whilst the City of Cape Town is certainly aiming for this, South Africa is yet to see a true paradigm shift into electric mobility as seen in many other European countries. Electric and alternative sources for mobility will not only create fewer emissions and less of a financial burden on the consumer’s pocket but can ultimately change how we view current cities as a whole. 

Combined with new forms of energy sources and consumption, the cityscape as we currently know it can completely change. 

    5. A truly close championship 

The ABB Formula E championship has always seen very close racing. Even in its silence, the championship is much livelier than many other forms of open-wheel racing formats. 

Porsche and Mercedes joined the championship in season 6, joining the likes of Mahindra, BMW, DS (Citroen), Nissan, Audi, NIO, Andretti Autosport, and Jaguar. With this, the championship also sees a star-studded line up from the worlds of Formula 1 and endurance racing. 

While all the teams have similar parts on their GEN2 cars, teams still have the freedom of tweaking some parts in order to give them the edge. 

The competition has been extremely close during the past six seasons, with only Jean-Eric Vergne (DS Techeetah) managing to win two championships. 

All five of the previous championships have come down to the wire, with all of them being decided within the last race weekend of the season. 

Last year saw the first eight races with different race winners, while the 2019/2020 season has seen five different individuals, winning the first five races. Jean-Eric Vergne became the first driver during the fifth season to break the streak in 2019, by winning his second race of the season in Monaco. Whereas pole position is somewhat a given in other open-wheel racing formats, this season alone has only Alexander Sims race from pole to win in Diriyah and Da Costa from pole to win in Marrakesh. 

The announcement that the ABB FIA Formula E championship will be making its way to Cape Town, is a truly marvelous new development. It will bolster the motorsport image and economy of South Africa alike. 

We are certainly looking forward to this! 

Written By: Franco Theron (PedalFest SA) & Junaid Samodien.

e-Movement declares intention to host Formula E in Cape Town.

PHOTO CREDIT: e-Movement/Jaguar Racing.
The Cape Town Formula E Bid Company, e-Movement has today confirmed its intention and plans to host an ABB Formula E race using a street circuit in the heart of Cape Town.

Last year the City of Cape Town announced that they had been approached by a Cape Town Consortium to host a Formula E championship event in the Mother City. A feasibility study was soon launched following the announcement. 

Momentum soon gathered when Iain Banner, Chairman of e-Movement announced at an FIA World Rallycross Championship press conference that they "will" the ABB FIA Formula E championship to Cape Town. 

The ABB Formula E championship has grown from strength-to-strength since it's inaugural round in Beijing in 2014, and to date, the championship has seen some of the biggest manufacturers, namely: Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Mahindra, etc. signing up. 

While Formula E entered its sixth season this year (2019/20), the championship will gain world championship status from the 2020–21 season.

Iain Banner, Chairman of e-Movement, confirmed that positive progress has been made following the feasibility study. “The objective of the study was to assess the suitability of Cape Town as a possible venue for a round of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship in future seasons," he said. 

"Three possible circuit layouts have been identified and we are now in the process of exploring these possibilities with the City of Cape Town and other interested parties."

“As a starting point, the preliminary track layout and how it fits into the existing fabric of the precinct – as well as the future development proposals around the identified track – were all key factors in assessing the City of Cape Town’s suitability.

“The primary objective was to design a suitable circuit layout that will have minimum impact on the City, require minimum construction work, cause minimum disruption to general public and traffic, and, crucially, leave a lasting legacy”.

Banner added that the proposed event will simultaneously anchor a renewable energy week, comprising a major conference and exhibition in an industry which is poised for rapid growth over the next decade.

JP Smith, Cape Town's Mayco Member has welcomed a positive outcome of the feasibility study. 

"The event is so much more than an E-Prix - it provides an opportunity to position the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape region as the pioneering renewable energy hub of South Africa," Smith said.

"The event would not only showcase the natural beauty of our City but such an event places Cape Town at the forefront of alternative and green energy initiatives, and serves as a catalyst for attracting investment and the creation of employment in a sector for which major growth is projected in the foreseeable future".

In addition, e-Movement has announced that they secured the backing of Jaguar South Africa as Founding Partner for the initial stages of the project in Cape Town, as a potential Formula E candidate host city.

“Partnering with e-Movement to bring this premier motorsport event to South Africa, will assist in showcasing the tangible efforts Jaguar has made in infrastructure and carrying the momentum of all Electric Vehicles on a local level," said Lisa Mallett, Marketing Director: Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and Sub-Sahara Africa.

"We look forward to introducing South Africans to our Panasonic Jaguar Racing Team and reaffirming that racing is in our blood - even when powered by electricity. We wish the entire project, including the broader alternative and green energy activities associated with this event and the simultaneous Energy Week proposed by the Bid Company, success."

Written By: Junaid Samodien

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Formula 1 to return to SA with F1 Fan Festival in March.

Formula 1®, together with Heineken® have announced the sport’s return to South Africa with an immersive fan festival.  On 29 March 2020 the Heineken® F1 Joburg Festival, in partnership with Gauteng Province, will treat Johannesburg residents to a thrilling fan event, and live car run featuring three F1 teams.

The Festival will give fans the opportunity to see 2019 Formula 1 World Championship runner-up Valtteri Bottas and F1 legend David Coulthard tear through the streets of Sandton as they bring the Grand Prix atmosphere to the heart of the city.

"We are excited to announce that F1 will be heading to South Africa this season, with the Heineken® F1 Joburg festival. South Africa has a very special place in Formula 1 history and we remain committed to returning to South Africa in the future," said Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing and Communications. "The festival will be an incredible opportunity for the people of Johannesburg to see F1 up close and personal, with live car runs, fan experiences and incredibile live music acts."

The amazing exhibition will be a must-see for Gauteng and all African F1 fans, who will be immersed into the world of F1, as the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Renault F1 teams roar above the reef at Africa’s first-ever F1 festival.  The day will be packed with fun-filled activities catering for all; including a fan zone featuring interactive activations such as the ‘DHL esports Challenge’ and the ‘Pirelli Pit-Stop’ Challenge along with spectacular car displays including supercars, SA Karting, F1600 and historic single-seaters.

Formula 1 legend and former Formula 1 World Championship winner, Jody Scheckter will also make a rare appearance in his 1979 title-clinching Ferrari as F1 marks its return to South Africa.

"I’m delighted that Formula 1 and SAGP have come together to bring an F1 Festival to South Africa for the first time and I am very excited to be involved in what promises to be an amazing spectacle on the streets of Joburg, South Africa has a long history with F1 and the Festival will provide a chance for fans to get up, close and personal with the sport," Scheckter said.

The Heineken® F1 Joburg Festival will be broadcast live on SuperSport and will feature live track activity starting at 1:30pm with the main F1 Live car run commencing at 3:30pm. From 5pm, Festival-goers will be treated to live music, with the festival closing at 8pm.

Tickets are available from Computicket from just R60 for a general admission ticket and can be purchased here:  

*NB - grandstand tickets will be made available at a later date. 

Friday, 7 February 2020

SuperSport confirms live motorsport coverage for 2020.

SuperSport has confirmed that it will broadcast the record 22-race Formula 1 season in 2020. The F1 coverage will include SkySports F1 feeds and additional supplementary programming as per the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

In 2017, the South African pay-tv broadcaster announced a long-term deal with SkySports, which included the broadcasting of the race build-up and post-race shows, as well as Ted’s Notebook, and other supplementary programming. 

However, it remains unclear if SuperSport instead to broadcast any of the SkySports F1's supplementary programming live [Press Conferences, F1 Show, Paddock Live, etc].

In addition to the confirmation that F1 will remain on SuperSport, the broadcaster has also confirmed other motorsport championships that will be broadcast in 2020:

    • MotoGP
    • World Rallycross Championship
    • Virgin Australian Supercars
    • FIA World Endurance Championship
    • Le Mans 24
    • F2 Live & F3 HL

Plus SuperSport’s usual motorsport magazine shows, ie Paddock Pass, F1 Insights, Mobil 1 The grid & many other highlight shows.

The list provided does not include the Verizon IndyCar Series, and it remains unclear if SuperSport will broadcast the series in 2020. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Abbring joins GCK for 2020 FIA European Rallycross campaign.

Kevin Abbring will return to supercars competition in the 2020 European Rallycross season with GC Kompetition, driving a Clio R.S. RX. 

The 31-year-old's motorsport career started off in rallycross in the Dutch Ford RST series, where he went on to win the 2005 and 2006 championships before moving to the Dutch Rally Championship in 2007. He impressed with class wins in both the WRC and IRC and made his top line WRC debut with Hyundai in 2015, scoring points and winning stages at the highest level of rallying.

After a decade in rallying, Abbring returned to rallycross making his World RX debut in Hell, Norway, with ES Motorsport where his debut appearance in dreadful conditions was nothing short of exceptional. He claimed a fourth-place finish in Norway and repeated that feat at the Swedish track in Höljes

The Dutchman will compete in his first full-time RX championship, and he is keen to get his first taste of the car.

"I’m very pleased to work with GCK, and engineering company FORS, from 2020 onwards! GCK is not only the team with arguably the biggest potential, it’s also a team with extremely experienced and motivated people, with whom I worked closely in the past," said Abbring. 

"The team has invested a lot in the car and our main focus now is to bring those pieces together and find the optimum balance. I can’t wait to get our test programme going and get a first taste of the car."

GCK has always been a team to push for sustainable motorsport developments and that is something that Kevin is equally passionate about.

"Guerlain and GCK have been leaders in the drive to find sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions in rallycross, as well as other motorsports. For me, it is a great opportunity to work on a sustainable future with a team that has a strong focus on future motorsport developments," he adds. 

"It also offers me the opportunity to fight for a championship again and that’s my key focus! I have a lot of respect for Guerlain and the team and I am proud to be part of GCK."

Guerlain Chicherit, the team owner of GC Kompetition, is excited that Kevin Abbring will join his team for the 2020 European RX championship. "I’m super stoked to have Kevin represent GCK in European Rallycross," he said. "Kevin has enormous talent and is super committed to the sport. I look forward to working closely with him and supporting him through our pre-season testing and the season to push for the Championship title."

GCK has also made several changes and developments behind the scenes over the off-season, including the appointment of Paul Bourion as General Manager. Bourion has more than 25 years’ experience in the motorsport industry.

Meanwhile, FORS have also reinforced their support to GCK through the recruitment of a new engineer, Sébastien Lessoneur who worked as Technical Director for Hyundai Motorsport, EKS Audi and ES Motorsport more recently on their rallycross programme. 

Following today's announcement, it remains unclear if the GCK Academy will remain in the World Rallycross Championship or move to the European Rallycross Championship.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Exploring the world of aerodynamics in the World Rallycross Championship.

“Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines.” - Enzo Ferrari.

Ironically, Enzo Ferrari’s F1 cars were among the first to feature an aerodynamic winglet in the 1960s. Since then, aerodynamics became one of the most important elements in the design and construction of racing cars. 

In 1968 aerodynamics would change the world of motorsport as we would know it. Colin Chapman, the founder of the Lotus team, introduced the Lotus 49 at the Monaco Grand Prix featuring high mounted aerofoils on the rear suspension. By the next Grand Prix, Lotus, McLaren, Ferrari, and Brabham cars would all feature some form of rear wing, while Lotus and Ferrari went one further and added a winglet to the front of their cars.

Having seen the advantage of aerodynamics on the performance of a race car, efforts began in earnest to develop front and rear wings to increase cornering speeds without reducing top speeds as a result of drag on straights. As the 1968 Formula 1 season developed teams experimented with wings of many different shapes, sizes, and heights.

It took years for these aerodynamic designs to be regulated by the motorsport governing body, the FIA, but today, aerodynamics has become an important element of motorsport in the pursuit of an extra tenth of a second.

So, what is downforce?
Downforce is a downward force created when air moves through and over parts of an object (car). The force pushes the car into the asphalt increasing the resistance between the tyres and the road thus allowing the car to take corners at higher speeds while the driver remains firmly in control.

Formula One laid the groundwork with the introduction of various aerodynamic devices (ie. aerofoils (wings), diffusers and ground effect) in motorsport. Things soon changed when other motorsport categories: WRC, Touring Cars, Endurance, etc. incorporated aerodynamically shaped bodywork on their race cars. 

While other motorsport series captured the imagination of engineers and car designers, the 1982 World Rally Championship season captured the hearts of motorsport fans. 
1982 saw the introduction of the Group B regulations in WRC which created some of the fastest, most powerful, and most sophisticated rally cars ever built. However, after a series of fatal accidents, the Group B era was banned by the FIA. 

The monstrous Group B rally cars could no longer compete in the WRC championship and soon found a new home on the rallycross scene. Group B cars ruled the world of rallycross, but with regulation changes for the 1993 season, the Group B era was over. 

What is Rallycross? 
Rallycross is a mixed discipline combing rallying and circuit racing, held over a short lap that alternates from asphalt to gravel.

The FIA World Rallycross Championship launched in 2014 and saw 26 permanent entries battle for glory over the course of twelve rounds starting in Portugal. Since the championship's inception in 2014, it has grown from strength-to-strength.  

As the championship gained popularity, new teams signed up and in 2018, GC Kompetition founded by freeskiing champion, rally and stunt driver Guerlain Chicherit joined the championship. The French team fielded two Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercars, built by Prodrive. 

The 2019 season saw GC Kompetition claim their best result – a second-place finish at Round 8 in France. 

While many motorsport categories shy away from engaging with fans, GCK is like no other. They strive to “Change the Rules” whether it be in the paddock, business or with fans. Thankfully, we were granted the exclusive opportunity to chat with GC Kompetition about aerodynamics in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

Junaid Samodien: Why do World Rallycross supercars need downforce?
GC Kompetition: How important downforce is depends on which circuit we are racing at - on some circuits the effects of aerodynamics are negligible, but in places like Canada it is important to ensure maximum stability and maximum top speed down the main straight. It is also vital for lateral balance through fast corners, for example in Loheac and Holjes. Their downforce is created by the rear wing which makes the car easier and more stable to handle.

JS: When did aerodynamics become important in RX?
GCK: Aerodynamics always makes a difference in motorsport, even if it's a smaller impact in World RX compared to other series. For sure when we design the car, the aerodynamics are not the first thing we think about - the initial focus is on the things that make the biggest performance gains such as the dampers, engine, brakes, etc. So these parts are developed first to make sure the backbone of the car is where we want it to be. But then, of course, the aerodynamics comes after and we work very hard to ensure our car is as good as it can be in this way.

This became even more important when Canada came on to the calendar, and suddenly aerodynamics had a shift change in importance. It is not possible to perform well in Canada if your aero isn't up to scratch - and we had possibly our strongest performance of the year in Canada which shows our work on our aero performed how we hoped! With Canada back off the calendar next year, for sure this will have an impact on how we design some of the key aerodynamic features of the car in 2020.

JS: How does a World RX team develop an aero package?
GCK: The car design is initially done on CAD, and it is possible to simulate the aerodynamic efficiency and impact 'virtually'. Then the ideal situation is to have a day or two in a wind tunnel at 1/1 scale - which is what we did with the Megane RS RX as part of its development. From here we can see if there are any issues that need changing, and fine-tune areas such as the joints between panels/doors, etc so try and make them as aerodynamically 'smooth' as possible to reduce drag.

JS: How much downforce can a World RX supercar produce?
GCK: Around 200kg.

JS: How is downforce generated on a WRX Supercar?
GCK: In various ways, but the main ones are via the front and rear splitter, and of course the big rear wing. The rear wing is especially designed with lateral stability in mind with the winglets running vertically down the main plane. 

JS: With the current freeze on aerodynamic development. How can a team tweak its aero package for a race weekend?
GCK: During the season we cannot make significant changes, so the work has to be done at the start of the season to make sure the aerodynamic package is well balanced to work across the whole year. However we can tweak some small things on a race weekend which can make a big difference, for example, the ride height, but this also affects driveability in other ways e.g. you could lower ride height to increase aerodynamic efficiency, but this could hurt on the rougher dirt or gravel sections and make the balance much worse.

JS: What areas can teams develop over the course of a season?
GCK: Many mechanical areas like dampers settings, engine management, tyre management, but in terms of aero, not much.

A special 'Thank You' to GC Kompetition and Ian Reynolds (Roots Management International) for assisting in the compilation of this story. 

Written By- Junaid Samodien
Pictures By - Wiebke Langebeck/GC Kompetition
Video By - GC Kompetition
Co-Editor - Franco Theron

Monday, 20 January 2020

Gundersen makes step-up to Euro RX with JC Raceteknik.

RX2 race winner Ben-Philip Gundersen will make the step-up from Supercar Lites to Supercars for the FIA European Rallycross Championship this season with Swedish team JC Raceteknik.

The 25-year-old Norwegian competed in the Supercar Lites support category, winning the title in RallyX Nordic and finishing second in the RX series standings last year. He has also claimed his first FIA European Championship title in the TouringCar class in 2016. 

Gundersen will now go into battle for the European crown this year with the same team that won the Euro RX and RallyX Nordic titles last season. 

"It feels fantastic to have this opportunity. Since I started competing in folkrace as a 15-year-old, I have dreamed of racing in Supercar at this level and I’ve been working on that goal ever since. Now I’m here and I’m very excited," Gundersen said.

"Together with JC Raceteknik, I have achieved good results in Supercar Lites. We’ve had a good collaboration, so now I have this opportunity to take the step up in Supercar, it definitely feels right to continue on this road together. We know the car is good, so it will be an exciting season."

"Regarding our goals, this is firstly a learning year," he admits. "Even though Supercar Lites is the best school you can go to, to prepare for the highest class, it’s still very different from driving a Supercar. I expect many of the other drivers to have raced Supercar before, so it will be hard competition. I think it will be sensible to get a feel for everything in the first race, to compare with the other European drivers and then take it from there. I think our goals will evolve over the course of the season."

JC Raceteknik Team Principal Joel Christoffersson believes that Ben-Philip Gundersen has "great potential" to do well in Supercars.

"We have worked for a long time on the goal of having Ben-Philip in Supercar in 2020, so being able to take the step up to Euro RX together is great," said Christoffersson.

"Over the two years he has been racing with JC Raceteknik, we have watched him develop the whole time and he clearly has the correct pace to take make this step. We have done some testing and I can see great potential in Ben-Philip in Supercar."

"Of course, this will first and foremost be a learning year, but Ben-Philip is a winner, you can see that in his eyes, so we will work to fight at the top and aim to make it to the podium.”

Written By Junaid Samodien
Photo Credit: JC Raceteknik

Czech teenage Dan Skocdopole joins Hansen-supported Yellow Squad for 2020 RX2 campaign.

PHOTO CREDIT: #YellowSquad 
The #YellowSquad has announced that Dan Skocdopole will drive for the team in the World Rallycross Championship feeder series, RX2 this year.

Founded by World RX brothers Kevin and Timmy Hansen, the #YellowSquad announced its intention to enter RX2 late last year, after joining forces with Swedish outfit Team Färén – with the aim of discovering and developing the sport's next superstars.  

“This is incredible for the team! To have our first driver confirmed so early in the season really drives us all at the workshop to prepare as well as we can," said Kevin Hansen, Team Principal of the #YellowSquad. "We believe that RX2 is a perfect step for Dan at his age, as the car and competition demand hard, detailed work."

Skocdopole is an experienced and successful go-karter who had made a name for himself by winning the Czech championship title in 2015, before going on to claim the WSK KRS World Series championship in 2016. 

He made his rallycross debut in 2018 in the Italian Rallycross Championship, driving a Skoda Super1600 and also competed in the German RX championship last year, where he claimed his first victory. 

The Czech teenager is the team's first RX2 driver, and as well as racing in the RX2 series, Skocdopole will also race in selected rounds of the Scandinavia-based RallyX Nordic Supercar Lites championship. 

"I’m really excited to be joining #YellowSquad in RX2 this season! It’s a dream come true to be working with Kevin and Timmy, who have proven themselves to be two of the best rallycross drivers in the world," said Skocdopole. "It will be a big test for me in RX2 as I know the competition will be very tough, but I feel this is a good step in my career to take and I am ready to get going in Barcelona."

"My first test went really well last year and I think I am starting to get to grips with the RX2 car. It is a very reactive car and it demands a lot from the driver to get the most out of it," he said. "There will, of course, be a lot of lessons to take on board this season but I am looking forward to getting out on track." 

The 16-year-old Czech driver tested #YellowSquad's RX2 car at Kalvholmen Motorstadion near Karlstad, close to the team’s base in Götene, Sweden and instantly left an impression on the team.

"Dan impressed us during his test," said Kevin Hansen. "Timmy [Hansen], who is Head of Driver Development, and Eric [Färén], our Team Manager, were very happy with the day together and the connection Dan and the team had was great. This is a very important point."

"The test conditions couldn’t have been trickier, with a lot of rain and mud. But Dan really had a lot of skills and this showed he was able to control the car and work with the team to improve every time he was on track," he added. "We are looking forward to the preparations we and Dan have planned before the first race in Barcelona."

Dan Skocdopole and the rest of the #YellowSquad team will be undertaking an extensive pre-season programme, which will include more time in the car as well as specific fitness and media training in preparation for the start of the season at Barcelona in mid-April.

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Photograph Credit - #YellowSquad 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Is WRC heading for third straight nail-biter?

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
News on the world of rallying has certainly blown up in the last few weeks after Estonian Ott Tänak (Toyota Gazoo Racing) managed to overhaul six-time World Rally Champion, Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Racing) to claim his first WRC title. 

The World Rally Championship season finale in Australia was canceled due to severe fires in the region, while both championships were decided, the news kept flowing as the 2020 season is already shaping up to be an even more dramatic year of rallying.

As the 2019 WRC season ended, Hyundai Motorsport set the rallying world alight with the news of Ott Tänak signing a shock deal with the manufacturer for two years. The Korean manufacturer named their line-up for the 2020 season, as Thierry Neuville would join the team in a second car, while Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo would share a third car at selected rounds. 

With the cancellation of the 2019 Australian round, Hyundai (who led the manufacturers’ championship at this point) where crowned manufacturers' champions for the first time in WRC, after a very close battle with Toyota Gazoo Racing. The 2018 winners only trailed Hyundai by a mere 18 points. 

All seemed poised for Hyundai to hit the ground running in 2020 and lead out the (now) champion less Toyota and Citroen. An extremely close season tussle was set to close and become a season, dominated by Hyundai. 
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.

The rallying world, would, however, take yet another shock turn, in only one month when Citroen announced that they will withdraw from the World Rally Championship to focus on a new motorsport programme that will see Peugeot return to WEC from 2022 due to the new Hypercar regulations, as well as focusing resources on an electrified series. 

While Ogier was left without a seat for the 2020 season. Tänak’s departure from Toyota opened the door for the six-time WRC champion. Rumors immediately began circulating, as sources linked Ogier to Toyota, including speculation that Elfyn Evans would again join forces with his former Ford (MSport) team-mate at Toyota Gazoo Racing. 

The speculation soon ended, when Tommi Mäkinen (team principal) and his team announced the signing of Ogier and Evans as well as another young star, poised for victory. Kalle Rovanpeä, the WRC-2 Pro driver, will join the Toyota squad as the reigning WRC-2 champion, having won five of the thirteen rounds this year. 

While Toyota ended the contracts of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, the turn of events foreshadows a very exciting 2020 campaign. 

Latvala will get back behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris for two events in 2020 – Rally Sweden and Rally Finland, but the Finn has set his sights on three additional rounds yet to be announced.

The three leading championship contenders (Tänak, Ogier, and Neuville) were found in three different teams in the past two years, but the two dominant teams (Toyota and Hyundai) will now feature all three of the title contenders. 

Between these three drivers, they shared 92% of all the victories this year, with only Dani Sordo claiming a single victory in Sardegna. Tänak dominated the season taking six victories in 13 rounds, while both Neuville and Ogier took three wins apiece. 

It’s quite rare to see the domination that Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT has shown this year, with four manufacturers fighting for the title. Toyota started the year as defending manufacturers’ champions and ended it having fielded the fastest car and the fastest crew in Tänak and co-driver Jarveoja.

Despite ending the season on a high with Tänak and Jarveoja wrapping up the WRC drivers’ title with one round remaining, Toyota were still in the hunt for the manufacturers’ title but due to the cancellation of the final round in Australia, Hyundai Shell Morbis WRT were crowned manufacturers' champions. 

The Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Tänak and co-driver Jarveoja won almost one in every three special stages in 2019 regardless of the surface – snow, ice, gravel or asphalt.

Impressive isn’t it? Well, guess again. Ott’s success was not the only factor to highlight Toyota’s dominance this season. Kris Meeke (co-driver Sebastian Marshall) and Jari-Matti Latvala (co-driver Miikka Anttila) were the fastest on 107 special stages in total. 

Hyundai Motorsport secured their first title in the highly competitive 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, after five years in the championship. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
The 2019 season might have got off to a good start for the defending World Champion Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia who claimed the first win of the season in Monaco and kept a pretty consistent scorecard with 3 victories and five podium finishes. Ogier grew seemingly impatient with Citroen who appeared to lag behind in the development of their C3 WRC car, but slowly developments were brought to their car in 2019. 

Ogier and Ingrassia claimed the 2019 World Rally Championship Wolf Power Stage award this year by a single point from world champions Tänak and Jarveoja.

While Citroen exits the World Rally Championship in 2019, there is fresh speculation that Citroen is open to the sale of 2020 homologated Citroen C3 cars to a private entity. The 2020 homologated Citroen’s will include the evolution package tested ahead of Rally Spain. 
With the departure of the second most successful manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship having amassed 8 world Championships, with five consecutive titles with Sebastien Loeb. The long winding road of success is now open to the three remaining manufacturers – Hyundai, Toyota, and Ford.

Three new rounds are joining the 2020 WRC calendar (Kenya, Japan, and New Zealand), most of the field will head into unknown territory. It will, therefore, be a very challenging, but exciting season. 

We are already on the edges of our seats, waiting for 23 January (Monte Carlo) to arrive.

Written By: Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Is South Africa back on the international motorsport map?

FIA World Rallycross action at the Killarney International Raceway.
PHOTO CREDIT: Franco Theron/Galimoto Media.
Motorsport in South Africa is on an upward trajectory. The country has a variety of local categories from karting to Global Touring Cars, Motorbike racing, drifting and drag racing. But things changed for the better in 2017 when the FIA World Rallycross Championship announced a round of the international series in Cape Town (Killarney International Raceway). 

South Africa last hosted an FIA-sanctioned world championship event in 1993, and the announcement of the FIA World Rallycross Championship would put South Africa back onto the international map. 

While Cape Town returned to the international stage in 2017, the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Midrand also took center stage in the rebirth of South African International Motorsport. This after undergoing renovation after being acquired in 2014 by Toby Venter CEO of Porsche SA. The Kyalami was awarded an FIA Grade 2 certification meaning the circuit could host international motorsport apart from Formula 1 which requires Grade 1 certification.

In 2018, it was announced that the Intercontinental GT Challenge would return to the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit to host the “Kyalami 9 hour”, an event that awakened global interest in South Africa after a spectacular race. Live stream statistics for the Kyalami 9 Hour was off the chart - becoming the number one watched motorsport live stream on YouTube in 2019.

Having seen the success of the Kyalami 9 hour, rumors quickly circulated that the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) could be heading to the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in the not too distant future, but those rumors were silenced when the ACO announced the provisional 2020/21 WEC Calendar with South Africa included and scheduled to host the opening race of the 2021 calendar year on 6 February 2021. 

South Africa has a broad array of talented drivers racing in international motorsport series: Jordan Pepper, Kevin van der Linde, Saul Hack and David Perel in GT Racing. Tasmin Pepper competes in the women-only WSeries. Sheldon van der Linde and Jonathan Aberdein compete in the DTM series. The Binder brothers Brad and Darryn Binder have competed in the MotoGP feeder championship in recent years, but in 2020 Brad Binder will take the step up to MotoGP, while Darryn Binder will remain in the Moto3 championship. Stuart White has also represented South Africa in the French Formula 4 championship and became a Sauber Motorsport supported driver earlier this year. 

2020 will also see more African Dakar entries, with no less than 9 entries. While Donovan van de Langenberg, unfortunately, had to rule out his 2020 Malle Moto charge (due to an accident earlier this year), the Cape Town based rider is set to aim for the title in 2021. 

Hennie de Klerk, the 2018 Dakar rookie champion, will also take on the Dakar, aiming for even more of an improvement in new Red-Lined, Nissan machinery. Joining him in the car category will be the 2009 winner, Giniel de Villiers, aiming for a second title. 

The Formula K circuit in Benoni, Johannesburg.
In the motorbike and SSV category, Ross Branch, Aaron Mare, Stuart Gregory, Kristen Landman, Wessel Bosman, Graeme Sharp, and Conrad Rautenbach, is set to charge the first stage on 5 January. 

In addition to all these positives, a world-class Grade A certified CIK (Commission Internationale de Karting) and FIA circuit named ‘Formula K’ was launched in Benoni, Johannesburg. The Formula K circuit is the countries only track eligible to host world championship go-karting events. 

While motorsport interest is growing in South Africa, the country could soon welcome the (FIA) ABB Formula E championship in Cape Town. The City of Cape Town announced earlier this year that they are considering bringing Formula E to Cape Town and that a feasibility study will be conducted before any decision is made. eMovement, however, the company in charge of the feasibility study are certain that Formula E will come to Cape Town soon. 

While South Africa is seeing a growth in international motorsport interest, the FIA once again introduced the Kenyan-based, Safari rally after an 18-year absence. This investment is sure to see more growth in the local rallying industry. 

Over the past three years, motorsport in South Africa (Africa) has once again taken to the international stage, largely by virtue of the FIA and Jean Todt wanting the sport moving across global borders and truly making it a world series. 

This continuous collaboration with the likes of the South African government, City of Cape Town and the private sector will once again see the return of the golden motorsport years for South Africa. 

Written By – Junaid Samodien and Franco Theron.