Thursday, 21 May 2020

French World Rallycross round cancelled

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
The French round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lohéac has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Lohéac was provisionally scheduled to host the second out of the 2020 World RX championship on 5-6 September. 

However, the French round has now been cancelled due to the restrictions imposed by the French government ban on mass events until 31 August due to the continuing health problems due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

“This decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with the FIA, the promoter of the championship IMG, the French ASN (FFSA), and the Sports Association of Rallycross de Lohéac,” the event organizers statement read. 

“The health and safety of all those involved remain the priority. A number of options have been explored in the hope of keeping the event, but unfortunately, it is not possible logistically to apply the social distancing measures required on this site, and no other date is available.”

“We would like to thank our volunteers, fans, public for their continued support and will address the economic challenges that this creates for racing teams, drivers, partners, and suppliers. We will come back even stronger in 2021.”

It remains unclear how the cancellation of the French round will affect the revised 2020 calendar set to begin on 20-23 August in Höljes, Sweden. 

The revised 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar:
Sweden, Holjes | 20 – 23 August
France, Loheac  | 04 – 06 September - NOW CANCELLED
Riga-Latvia, Riga | 18 -20 September
Benelux, Spa-Francorchamps | 2 – 4 October
Portugal, Montalgere | 9 – 11 October
Barcelona-Catalunya, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya |16 – 18 October
Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina | 29 – 31 October [Two Rounds at the same venue]
Germany, Nurburgring |11 – 13 December

Monday, 11 May 2020

UPDATED: Cape Town postponed as the World Rallycross Championship trims 2020 calendar.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media. 
The South African round of the World Rallycross Championship has been postponed following the release of the provisional nine-round calendar for the 2020 season.

Killarney International Raceway joined the World RX roster in 2017, and was originally planned to host round eleven of the 2020 season on November 14-15. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the calendar required some revision which necessitated the need to push the event out by one year.

World RX promoters, IMG has emphasized that the postponement of the Cape Town RX is no reflection on the high quality of the World Rallycross events run at the Killarney International Raceway in the previous years.

The provisional 2020 calendar will see the season start in Sweden on August 20-23 before traversing Europe for seven rounds, with two taking place outside of Europe in the form of a double-header in Abu Dhabi.

With the provisional calendar being condensed into 21 weeks, the lengthy sea-freight logistics to and from South Africa has made it difficult to add the long-haul event into the condensed schedule.

“The 2020 World Rallycross of South Africa has not been canceled but instead postponed to the 2021 season; the two-year extension agreed in 2019 between IMG, local organizer Worldsport South Africa and the City of Cape Town will thus take place in 2021 and 2022,” Killarney International Raceway’s statement said.

Clerk of the Course Arlene Brown has also pointed out that this is probably for the best given that our health authorities are predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic will only peak in about September.

“We will just have to keep our excitement at bay until 2021,” Brown said.

World RX of South Africa promoters, WorldSport SA has expressed their support of the decision.

"We believe the postponement of the Cape Town race is in the best interests of the health of all stakeholders, participants, and spectators – their well-being remains our top priority," Bruce Parker-Forsyth, CEO of WorldSport South Africa said. "Though we’re disappointed that we won’t be able to enjoy the excitement up close this year we’ll soon announce new and exciting changes to ensure 2021 offers a better and more spectator-friendly race weekend.”

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Monday, 4 May 2020

Faultless Quentin Dall'olmo claims World RX Esports victory.

Quentin Dall'olmo leading his younger brother Killian in the World RX Esports Invitational final.
CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross
DiRT Rally 2.0 Esports star Quentin Dall'olmo won the second edition of the World Rallycross Esports Invitational at Montalegre, as Jon Armstrong and Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen completed the podium. 

The Montalegre grid featured several drivers who had competed at the inaugural Esports Invitational, while three new stars joined the line-up, Australian Supercars driver Shane van Gisbergen, FMX motorcycle rider Blake 'Bilko" Williams and Former F1 driver Mika Salo. 

While the inaugural Esport Invitational saw Swedish rally driver Mattias Adielsson claiming top honors, the Montalegre round saw domination from brothers, and this time it was not the Hansen brothers, but another pair of siblings, the Dall'olmo brothers. 

The Dall'olmo brothers lead the charge in the qualifying heats both claiming two Qualifying session wins apiece, but with the fastest times in Qualifying in changeable conditions, Quentin Dall'olmo took the top qualifiers spot in the Intermediate Classification. Killian Dall'olmo and older brother Quentin went on to win their respective semi-finals punching their tickets into the final. 

The final was full of action seeing Killian Dall'olmo jumping the start and opting for an immediate joker lap. While Shane van Gisbergen and Mattias Adielsson made contact exiting the joker lap costing them valuable time to the leaders. But despite starting in pole position, Quentin crossed the line in second place behind his younger brother Killian, but due to the jump start, he was handed a 20-second time penalty dropping him to fourth overall. 

Quentin was declared the race winner with Jon Armstrong in second and Shane van Gisbergen in third. 

"I'm really happy with this victory, it was a perfect day for me. Top qualifier, a semi-final win, and the win in the final is awesome," Dall'olmo said. 

"I felt a little bit of pressure because I didn't want to make the same mistakes that I did at Barcelona-Catalunya (I was leading the overall standings and then I crashed in the semi-final)," he said. "But it was good I knew that I have the best pace alongside my brother, we had the same speed each time. So, I had to be careful with the start and contact with others, and then use my pace to win. I drove safely each time and I'm really happy with my management of the races it was better than the first round."

For the final, the Dall'olmo brothers opted for different strategies with their sights firmly set on a one-two finish, but that was not to be with Killian's jump-start.

"For the final, I was on a different strategy to my brother to make a Dall'olmo one-two so there was less pressure on because we won't crash into each other, but it was important to make a good start because all the drivers in the final were very fast," Quentin adds. "Sadly he jumped the start so I knew that he got 20 seconds of penalty so I drove safely to take the win it was useless to attack Killian, especially in the wet conditions when it's really hard to keep the grip."

"Playing against such great drivers in real life is awesome and different, so it's really cool! I am looking forward to the next event. It's awesome for us Esports drivers to play against theses famous professional drivers!"

Junior WRC driver and DiRT Rally 2.0 development driver Jon Armstrong delivered a strong performance to make the semi-finals with fourth in the Intermediate Classification. In the semi-finals, he survived a duel with Henrik Krogstad to book himself a place in the final and was classified second.

The stand-out performance came from Australian Supercars Champion Shane van Gisbergen who claimed two qualifying heat wins. In the thick of the action throughout qualifying, van Gisbergen shone on the gravel surfaces as well as the asphalt and made it into the final on his rallycross debut.
Shane Van Gisbergen crossing the finish line on two wheels.
CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross.

In the final, van Gisbergen and Mattias Adielsson (Catalunya race winner), had a race-long fight for position, but when penalties were applied, it was van Gisbergen who took the last place on the podium.

Reigning DiRT 2.0 Rallycross World Series Champion Killian Dall’olmo faced a few setbacks including a puncture in Q3. He won semi-final two and led the final from start to finish, but was classified fourth after a jump start (20-second penalty). Adielsson was handed a 10-second penalty for contact with van Gisbergen and he would finish at the tail end of the field in fifth-place. 

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen was denied a place in the final by van Gisbergen who pulled off a bold move on the inside of Hansen when he slid wide at Turn 1's right-hand hairpin in the semi-final 1.

Timmy slipped further back after being handed a five-second penalty and was eliminated along with Czech Esports star Lukas Mateja and GC Kompetition's Rokas Baciuska, who picked up a penalty for track limits. 

In the second semi-final, Henrik Krogstad and Kevin Hansen were eliminated. The latter received a five-second penalty. Adielsson progressed to the final as the fastest third-placed driver after the semi-finals. 

Among those eliminated in the qualifiers were World RX drivers Matvey Furzahkin, Oliver Bennett, Renis Nitiss, and Timo Scheider. Including current Formula E championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa, who loved his World RX Esport debut, saying: "This is carnage, but I love it!"

Former F1 driver Mika Salo was also eliminated along with World Endurance Championship driver Nicki Thiim, Fail Race, Conner Martell, and X Games star Blake "Bilko" Williams who was unable to compete due to connection issues.

The next World RX Esports Invitational will be announced in due course.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

World RX calls upon star racers to join next FIA World Rallycross Esports invitational

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Esport Invitational Broadcast Images
A day that should have seen the start of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship, after a highly entertaining and competitive 2019 season, rather saw a few of its main championship contenders compete with a star-studded Esport line-up.

Eight World RX drivers including the defending (2019 champion) and 2017/2018 World Champion joined 12 Esport drivers and racers from other motorsport disciplines. Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Johan Kristoffersson, Andreas Bakkerud, Oliver Eriksson, Kevin Abbring, Oliver Bennett and Timo Scheider signed up for the challenge to race the likes of Nicki Thiim, Henrik Krogstad, Cohete Suárez and Esport sensations, Killian Dall’olmo (the 2019 DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion), Quentin Dall’olmo, Alex ‘FailRace’ Day, and Jon Armstrong.

Racing in a mixture of dry and wet races, the Dall’olmo brothers managed to top the timing sheets in the qualifying heats. While the Hansen brothers would also use their wealth of racing experience, and time in the simulator practicing to good use when they competed at the head of the field with Timmy Hansen claiming a fifth-place finish in the final.

Kevin Abbring, who recently joined GCK, also made a promising start. The Renault Clio driver has been kept very busy in the last few weeks, building and selling racing simulators, and with minimal practice on the DiRT 2.0 game, he impressed many displaying strong pace from the get-go. 

The Dutchman managed to beat Kevin Hansen in the penultimate corner of their semi-final to progress to the final. It was Swedish rally driver Mattias Adielsson, who claimed a fantastic win. Racing in Mattias Ekström’s 2019 Belgium RX livery. The Swede had arguably one of the best simulator rigs, a full-motion simulator.

Commenting after the final, Adielsson said: “It means a lot to win this race. It’s the first time that I have competed in esports rallycross and it’s the first time that I’ve raced in a World Rallycross event. I am super stoked to be honest it was a big fight all the way up to the top.” 

While the inaugural FIA World RX Esports Invitational event lasted just shy of 3 hours, it certainly entertained many YouTube and Facebook viewers and bringing with it, the same culture, found during traditional World RX race weekends.

Yogi joins World RX eSports Invitational Coverage. 
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Esport Invitational Broadcast Images
The reason for this is simple. Not only did Andrew Coley (World RX commentator), once again entertain the fans with stellar commentary, but he was also joined by the ever-entertaining Neil Cole. From Coley turning nostalgic with a special appearance of Yogi his dog to the appearance of his Lego Millennium Falcon, to Cole having a banana live on-air and keeping the realism with regards to race penalties; the race had it all.

It must be said that the inaugural World RX eSports Invitational can be regarded as a success with a combined audience of 250,000 views on the various FIA World Rallycross Championship platforms – YouTube channel and Facebook pages. 

Keeping its realism, the World RX race felt very similar to a real race weekend. Similarly, it also kept its competitive edge as each of the 19 drivers delivered action, a key characteristic which many other series’ miss.

Several racing series’ have been trying to keep the fans entertained during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some being more successful than others. NASCAR, IndyCar, and Australian Supercars base there eSports series around the iRacing platform, while Formula 1 and World RX are using the Codemasters developed games. And, while iRacing is a better platform for realism, the Codemasters Dirt 2.0 game offers a similar form of realism. 

What set the FIA World Rallycross eSports Invitational apart from the others was the involvement of the top 3 drivers from the 2019 season, as well as the double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson. 
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Esport Invitational Broadcast Images

2019 World RX runner-up Andreas Bakkerud said, “The production was good (of World RX eSports Invitational). It was a lot of fun, crazy weather both dry and wet. Very, very competitive and all the guys did a great job. I think everybody enjoyed it quite a lot. I found it very, very hard because I didn’t have much practice but if there is going to be anymore races then I am definitely going to practice more.”

Whilst being a “fun” event, it was also dealt with in a professional manner. This surely creates the feeling of more realism.

Killian Dall’olmo, the 2019 DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion finished second behind the event winner Mattias Adielsson but feels that he deserved the race win in Barcelona. “I am happy because I preserved myself in the qualifying rounds with a victory in semi-final 1,” he said. “Finishing second doesn’t bother me because despite being World Champion, I completely forgot about my title and I was as concentrated as possible. However, I am a little disappointed because I think that I deserved the (overall) victory. But this does not matter because I am already focused on the second event and I aim to achieve a good result for the team.”

More importantly, the current e-racing platforms, which give us a level playing field for different racers across the board. One race might see drivers/riders from Formula 1, endurance racing, Nascar, Indycar, rallying, and even MotoGP. Only “The race of champions” tests this on an annual basis. Apart from this, we don’t see different racers compete on a level playing field.

It is for this reason then that Coley and Cole called out on the likes of Max Verstappen, Valentino Rossi, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, Sheldon- and Kelvin van der Linde, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso, to join the second round of the World RX eSports Invitational at Montalegre, Portugal in a weeks’ time.

The World RX Esports Invitational has opened a new challenge and one which might be very interesting for any motorsport fan. Will we see an even more star-studded race line-up in Montalegre?

Written By - Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien

Monday, 20 April 2020

FIA postpones World RX electric switch to 2022

The FIA has today announced its decision to postpone the electrification implementation plan for the FIA World Rallycross Championship by one year to 2022, due to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Motor Sport Council approved the decision by an e-vote, with full support from IMG, the promoter of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, as well as the approved suppliers of the electrification kit Kreisel Electric and GCK Energy, the supplier of energy. 

"While the current situation has made it necessary to defer the switch to electric by one year to allow competitors further time to adapt and to invest, the FIA remains committed to a new horizon for World RX," said FIA President Jean Todt. "This will create the most cost-effective environment and demonstrate the rapidly developing performance capabilities of electric road cars in this FIA championship."

The FIA World Rallycross Championship was set for a phased-in introduction running electric and ICE cars together, to begin with before switching to fully electric cars by 2022. Instead of a phased-in approach which had initially been announced, we are likely to see the full implementation of the electrification plan in 2022. 

The FIA Junior eRX Championship, which is set to also begin in 2021 will go ahead according to plan.

"At this stage, plans for the new FIA eRX Junior championship remain unaffected by this decision and work towards the electrification of this category will continue for 2021, with a complete car supply and championship organisation on an all-inclusive arrive and drive format," said Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of Motorsports Events at IMG. 

Kreisel Electric the official supplier of the electrification kit was set to unveil the first prototype in March (this year), with the first kits going on sale by 17 April.

The electrification kit includes two 250kW motors on each axle, two inverters and a 52.62kWh battery with an innovative cooling system, which is capable of producing 680 horsepower

Philipp Kreisel, CEO of Kreisel Electric supports the decision to postpone the first World RX electric racing season to 2022.

Having officially been announced as the electrification kit supplier for the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Kreisel Electric is nearing completion of its electric rallycross kits. 

"We have nearly completed the development of the electric race kit, and have put a lot of energy and passion into this project, it is disappointing that we won't be able to see the electrified World RX cars next year," Kreisel said. "Nevertheless, we are absolutely convinced that by remaining unified we can make the electrification of World RX a huge success when it does happen."

Saturday, 18 April 2020

World RX goes virtual at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was set to host the opening round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship this weekend, but instead, it will be the venue for the inaugural World RX Esports Invitational on Sunday, 19 April 2020 (tomorrow). 

The opening round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship was postponed due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. 

In collaboration with Codemasters, using the DiRT Rally 2.0 game, the World RX promoters will stage the World RX Esports Invitational which will feature a host of star names in World Rallycross, GT and WRC races, including YouTubers and some of the biggest names in Esports. 

The 2019 World RX Champion Timmy Hansen would have preferred to go racing in Barcelona this weekend but feels that esports is better than nothing. 

"I think starting the season with esports isn’t exactly what we hoped for," he said. "I wanted to be in Barcelona this weekend, but esports is better than no racing at all! The excitement of racing and being on the start line is nice."

"When you actually race online it is very different to real racing where you only have one chance and you have to put your four laps together. I’m missing the adrenaline kick and rush that you get from driving a race car."

The 27-year-old Swede is aware of the challenges ahead of his debut in sim-racing.

"I’ve done no sim racing before this and I haven't played much at all so this will be a big challenge for me. I have no idea how competitive I will be," he said. "I'll try to get some practice before the race, but I know a lot of guys have a lot more sim-racing experience than I do. I hope I can qualify for the semi-finals. It will be fun to be racing against fans, but I think the sim racers will most likely be too fast for me."

Timmy will be joined on the Esport grid by younger brother Kevin from the Team Hansen RX team. 

Kevin has modest expectations for his World RX Esports debut. "I’m really excited about Sunday’s race. I have been practicing in the simulator for about a week now and have really enjoyed it. My goal is to be best of the non-gamers!" he said.  

"It's very different from all the games I’ve played, so now I’m trying to do as many races as I can, whether that's racing or rallycross. I’m trying to get into the sim-racing experience and the spirit of that and to be ready for Sunday. Dirt Rally 2.0 is tricky and different from real life in many ways compared to the real 208 WRX."

The Hansen brothers will race a pair of Peugeot 208 RX supercars in the event, which will run to a similar format to real World RX, with four qualifiers, semi-finals, and final format on Sunday. The top 10 drivers at the Intermediate Classification will progress to the semi-finals.

The Peugeot 208 is the car of choice for many participants, with two-time World RX Drivers’ Champion Johan Kristoffersson, making his return to the sport in a Peugeot for his DiRT debut.

Kristoffersson believes that putting in hours and doing some homework will put him and others in good stead for the Esports invitational this weekend. When speaking to Andrew Coley in the official World RX press conference, the Swede admitted that he hasn't improved a lot in practice, however, he has set his sights on beating reigning World RX champion Timmy Hansen. 

"It would be nice to beat the World Champion, but not the World Champion in DiRT. The World Champion in Rallycross," he said.

Super1600 ace Marius Bermingrud will also line up in a Peugeot 208, along with former Esports World Champion and real-world rally driver, Jon Armstrong, and Americas Rallycross podium finisher in 2019, Cabot Bigham will also take the wheel of a 208.

Andreas Bakkerud will compete in the Audi S1 he tied on points at the top of the World RX Drivers’ Championship with last season. One of his 2020 GC Kompetition team-mates, Dutchman Kevin Abbring, will compete in a Renault Clio R.S. RX.

Abbring admits that he has not had a lot of time to practice in his simulator because he is currently building simulators rather than using them. "I have put in some practice but we all miss competition obviously," he said. "I will put in as many laps ahead of the event, as I need to feel confident and to feel comfortable in the simulator."

Oliver Bennett will appear in his regular Xite Racing Mini and RX2 International Series double champion Oliver Eriksson will race an OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta MK8. His former RX2 rival, Henrik Krogstad, who will race for Yellow Squad in 2020, will drive a Renault Megane.

Germany’s Timo Scheider has reason to be confident ahead of the inaugural World RX Esports Invitational, he made his World RX debut at the Catalunya circuit in 2015, and took the TQ (top qualifier) position in 2017 on his way to a first World RX podium, in P2.

The former DTM champion is new to sim racing, however. "I never did sim racing before I started with one event recently. I am looking forward to some competition even though I am not an expert at this kind of racing."

Scheider joined the Hansen brothers and Killian Dall'ollmo, DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion in a practice session yesterday. 

"Timmy, Kevin (Hansen) and the World Champion (in DiRT) already showed (me) what the benchmark will be, so I am confused a bit about my performance somehow, but there are some issues and that is always the case with racing drivers," he said. "I am getting there and I will spend more hours (on the simulator). I am really looking forward to meeting those guys back on the line even though it's different."

Outside of the World RX contingent, Spanish rally driver Cohete Suarez will race a Renault Megane, and World Endurance Championship driver Nicki Thiim, from Denmark, will drive an Audi S1. Swedish rally driver Mattias Adielsson will also make his first rallycross start, also in an Audi. 

Joining the professional drivers will be YouTuber Jimmy Broadbent, who will race a Ford Fiesta MK8. He will be accompanied on the grid by fellow YouTuber, FailRace.

Pre-event qualifying was also held to find the three fastest rallycross Esports racers to join the field. From over 8,500 entries, the Czech Republic’s Lukas Mateja was third and will race a Peugeot 208, just like France's Dall’olmo brothers Killian, the DiRT Rally 2.0 rallycross world series champion who has recently signed for SET Esports, and Quentin, who topped the timesheets in the qualifying session.

"I'm super excited to join this event it's amazing to race with all these famous drivers who have real experience in motorsports," said 20-year-old Quentin.

"It's an amazing opportunity to race with the World RX drivers and the other professionals. These are the drivers that we follow each weekend when they race so to drive with them is awesome. I think I will be competitive enough to race for the win but like we know, it is rallycross so it isn't always the fastest who wins."

The defending World RX champion Timmy Hansen speaks very highly of the Killian Dall'ollmo, the DiRT Rally 2.0 World Series Rallycross Champion. "He is in another league", the Swede said. "We have been racing together (practice), and in Barcelona, we have put in the most practice - he is not that far ahead, but still that much ahead that if he doesn't crash. He will win."

The World RX Esports Invitational will be streamed live from 15:00 to 17:00 CET/CAT on Sunday, April 19 and will be shown on the World RX YouTube channel and on the Facebook page.

Written By: Junaid Samodien
Photo Credit: DiRT Game 2.0

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW - Former World RX Champion returns with sights on a third title.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kristoffersson Motorsport
Johan Kristoffersson, the most successful World Rallycross driver to date, has set his sights on yet another title, after confirming his full-time return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2020.

The 31-year-old Swede’s motorsport career is nothing short of incredible having claimed titles in both off-road and circuit racing, namely: the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, International Superstars Series, Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia, FIA World Rallycross Championship and the Monster Energy Gymkhana Grid.

After a record-breaking run having won 11 of 12 rounds in the 2018 World RX championship, he was left without a seat following the withdrawal of PSRX Volkswagen Sweden at the end of the season. In 2019, Kristoffersson joined the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) where he claimed three race wins including an incredible fightback from 22nd place to win in Malaysia. His plans to continue in the 2020 WTCR championship were cut short when Volkswagen Motorsport ended its factory-supported internal combustion engine programme in November last year.

While the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Once the 2020 season gets underway we are sure to witness a thrilling season having seen a closely fought title decider in Cape Town last year.

Johan Kristoffersson post-race celebrations in Cape Town.
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien
Speaking to Junaid Samodien (Slipstream SA), Johan Kristoffersson explained how he is preparing mentally and physically after a one-year hiatus from World Rallycross, saying, “I'm preparing more or less similar to any other season. But of course, there are some small adjustments in the preparation to suit rallycross. The start is very crucial in rallycross and this is one example of where I will put some more effort into before 2020 season.”

“Since 2015, I’ve been competing in more than only one category in motorsport (racing, rally, rallycross) per season. I’ve always had the philosophy of driving a lot, even if it’s competing in different categories, which is positive for a driver. But in 2020 I will only focus and put all my effort into World RX (WRX),” he adds.

In 2020, Kristoffersson will return to the World RX championship as an individual entrant with the assistance of his long term partners: Volkswagen Sweden and Bauhaus in a hired Volkswagen Polo GTI RX similar to the one that took him to the title in 2018. I asked Johan how did the opportunity arise to return to the World RX championship in a Volkswagen Supercar. 

“I originally planned to continue with Sebastien Loeb Racing and Volkswagen Motorsport in WTCR for 2020 season, but as Volkswagen decided to pull out from the championship I had to find another solution,” he said. “I evaluated many different options, and a return to World Rallycross was one of them. After many discussions with Volkswagen Motorsport, and with a great partnership with our long term partners Volkswagen Dealers in Sweden and Bauhaus, we finally found an agreement to rent the Polo WRX I used 2018 to run in our private team Kristoffersson Motorsport. We spent many hours getting that equation together.”

With an ever-evolving championship, and a one-year hiatus from the sport. Johan Kristoffersson will return to the championship in a car that he is very familiar with the Volkswagen Polo GTI RX. The development curve in motorsport is rather steep, and in most motorsport championships cars receive upgrades on a regular basis. This is slightly different in World RX with a fixed aero package for the season. So, in order for a driver to be successful, he or she would need a strong car (overall package). I asked Johan what changes have been made to the Volkswagen Polo GTI RX to comply with the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship regulations.
PHOTO CREDIT: Franco Theron/Galimoto. 

“It’s minor changes,” he said. “Nothing will affect the car in a negative way in terms of performance. On the other hand, I hope we have found some small things making the car a bit faster.” 

“The WRX championship was tighter than ever in 2019 and we definitely need to be 100% ready and prepared if we want to fight for the championship title 2020,” he adds.

The Swede displayed his versatility when he claimed two titles in a single year. In the 2018 season, he not only set records on his way to the 2018 World RX crown, but he also went on to win the TCR Scandinavia Touring Car Championship. 

While for many, it takes time to adapt to a racecar. Johan developed a very unique adaptability skill, as he has raced many different cars throughout his career. In 2019, he tested a number of cars and also competed in the WRC-2 class. But just how difficult it would be for Johan to switch from a 350bhp WTCR (2019) front-wheel-drive car to a 2020 specification 600bhp four-wheel-drive rallycross car.

“When I won my two world titles (World RX) in 2017 and 2018 I drove a similar car to the WTCR back home in the Swedish championship. I’m used to driving different cars on different weekends,” he said. “I think the starts in rallycross will be the most difficult to adjust quickly too.”

“The cars are very powerful and with amazing acceleration from a standing start. It’s difficult to always be at the right place at the right time when everything is happening so quickly, but I will do my best to get into 2018 mode as quickly as possible.”

With a global stay at home orders in place worldwide due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many motorsport championships have launched eSports leagues or races. The World Rallycross Championship is one of them. The championship has announced the launch of the ‘World RX Esports Invitational Championship’ to kick-off on 19 April on the Codemasters Dirt Rally 2.0 pc platform. 

Esports is a great platform to sharpen one’s skills and for racing drivers to learn new circuits, with some companies developing sophisticated Esports simulators that replicate a similar feel to being inside a real cockpit. 

I asked Kristoffersson if he relies on a simulator to sharpen his skills: “The 2019 season in WTCR on all the different tracks was new for me. So, I did some simulator training with Volkswagen Motorsport before every event to learn a bit about the track and be as prepared as possible going into the weekend,” he said. “But to be honest I haven’t done many hours in a simulator in my career.”

Last month, the FIA World Rallycross Championship announced that the Swede will join the driver line-up for the Esports Invitational. So, I asked him if he had played Dirt Rally 2.0 before, and what are his thoughts on the game?

“As I will join the eSport WRX race in Barcelona I would have to start practicing by now,” he said. “But, until today I haven’t done ONE lap on Dirt, so I better get going, haha! I don’t even have a simulator rig yet.”

In addition to asking him about the World RX Esport Invitational. The two-time World Rallycross Champion believes that Esports is a cost-effective way for young drivers to start their motorsport careers.

“I think it's good and a cost-effective way for young drivers to start their career, and for any racing driver to practice and sharpen their skills,” Kristoffersson said. 

With so many motorsport championships recently streaming or broadcasting eSports series/races. Many racing drivers globally have opted to compete in these various races and challenges. And, because Johan does not have a simulator rig as yet. I asked him if he watched any of the recently streamed races. “Normally there is no spare time for anything else other than the preparations I do for my own races. So honestly, I barely watch any other motorsport series other than what I'm currently driving myself at the time.”
The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination with such a close field, as seen in 2019, but who better than Johan Kristoffersson to take on the might of the Hansen brothers, Andreas Bakkerud and Niclas Grönholm, etc.?  

A very special 'Thank You' to Johan Kristoffersson for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. I’d also like to thank Zandra Björkholtz (KMS) for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron (Pedal Fest SA)

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Baumanis joins KYB Team JC in two-car World RX entry.

Former Euro Super1600 Champion Jānis Baumanis will compete in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship this season with newly-formed KYB Team JC alongside Robin Larsson. 

Having driven for team STARD (Ford Fiesta) since 2016, the Latvian driver will switch to an Audi S1 Supercar in 2020. Last year, Baumanis claimed his best results in the World RX championship with a third-place finish in Norway followed by a second-place finish Canada. 

"I’m excited for a new season with a whole new team. JC Raceteknik and Robin showed last year that they had a good pace in Euro RX, so this year I think we will be even stronger with two good cars in World RX," said Baumanis "I can’t wait to get into the latest spec EKS Audi with the latest shock absorbers from KYB. Robin definitely knows the car better than me, but hopefully I can be near his pace as soon as possible."

"My previous seasons in World RX have been pretty tough. After four years of driving a Ford I’m very excited to change to Audi, it will be a big step that will be quite challenging for me."

Jumping into a new car is always a challenge, but the Latvian is ready to face it head-on.

"During the first races there will of course be a bit more focus on the learning process in the new car, but then the goal will be to start from the front of the semi-finals," he said. "Of course, the dream is to win. I know it will be difficult, but with fast cars and a good team, there is always the opportunity to make it happen."

Having already announced that reigning European Rallycross Champion Robin Larsson would race under the JC Raceteknik banner as a permanent individual entry. The World RX teams have agreed to allow Joel Christoffersson's team JC Raceteknik to expand into a permanent two-car team for the 2020 season. 

"This will be brilliant for the whole team, and benefit our Euro RX drivers too. It’s thanks to the approval of all of the other teams in World RX we were allowed to enter both Janis as driver and KYB Team JC as permanent entries, and we are grateful for that," said Christoffersson.

"Being able to start with two drivers in the World Championship feels fantastic, this has long been a dream for me. Thanks to KYB we will start as KYB Team JC and we will continue our technical collaboration with EKS. This investment is a good opportunity for all parties that allows us to develop together."

"I think Robin and Janis will be a strong duo. With Robin, we had a very successful season last year and he comes with good experience in the Audi," he adds. "Janis is new to us, but he is a fast driver with previous experience of World RX. I think both will benefit from each other and together push forward to improve. We aim to fight for a podium in both the Teams’ and Drivers’ championships.”

Baumanis and Larsson will drive the latest-specification Audi S1 Supercars built and prepared by Mattias Ekstrom's EKS squad. 

Larsson sees JC Raceteknik's two-car entry as a positive. "It’s great for JC Raceteknik to enter World RX with a two-car team," he said. "We will get some more support from EKS and with two Audis on the track being able to compare data, it’s positive for everyone."

"Not only will we be racing for ourselves, but there’s the teams’ championship to fight for too. During the first races, we will be able to see how we stand up against the other teams. It would be nice to have good results right away and be able to participate in the championship, I’m sure there are going to be many wonderful fights."

"Of course, there will be tough competition with many fast drivers, but that is why we do rallycross," Larsson adds. "During the first races, we will be able to see how we stand up against the other teams. It would be nice to have good results right away and be able to participate in the championship, I’m sure there are going to be many wonderful fights."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Friday, 20 March 2020

History made by the Riwald Dakar Team with first hybrid off-road truck.

PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team.
Gert Huzink from the Riwald Dakar Team fielded the first hybrid off-road truck at the 42nd edition of the world's toughest race; the Dakar Rally.

Riwald, a Dutch recycling company run by Gert Huzink and brother Ewald are responsible for the innovative idea of racing a hybrid-powered off-road truck at the Dakar Rally.

In 2019, after months of working on and developing the off-road truck in partnership with ZF and MKR Technology. The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition was unveiled, and after weeks of testing, it was ready for action.

The C460 Hybrid Edition went toe to toe with diesel-powered juggernauts over the course of 12 stages. The lightweight off-road truck weighing in at 8.5 tones includes 700-kilo hybrid technology that produces an additional 20 horsepower.

History was made when the Riwald Dakar Team #507 hybrid off-road truck set off for it’s first Dakar Stage. The team ended stage one in 42nd place but steadily improved as the rally-raid progressed. On the 10th stage of the rally, the team secured a fourth-place finish, which saw the team climb up to 24th overall at the end of the Dakar Rally.

Speaking to Junaid Samodien (Slipstream SA), Gert Huzink driver of the #507 Hybrid truck explained where his and the teams Dakar Rally story began, saying, “Our first Dakar was the 2012 edition. In the first three years, we were a car-team with the former Mitsubishi Factory Team. We bought the cars and started our semi-professional Dakar team with 3 drivers (Bernard ten Brinke, Erik Wevers and myself) After three years we switched to trucks.”

The Dakar Rally is the world's toughest race. But why would anyone sign up to compete? So, I asked Gert why his team opted to compete in the Dakar over any other motorsport category. “We have chosen the most difficult rally because for us it was the challenge to show that we can finish this tough rally,” he said. “After competing for several years the goal is, therefore, to finish as high as possible. Dakar must be hard and stay hard in order to continue to meet this challenge.”

The Dakar has always been a particularly demanding laboratory for constructors looking to innovate. Today, rally-raids act as an exceptional test bench for all forms of technology including hybrid and electric vehicles, as seen with the all-electric Acciona Dakar entry.

Being the first team to enter the rally-raid with hybrid power. Where did the idea come from to build and race a hybrid truck? “Because we live in a world where sustainability is becoming a daily and important issue and we (as Riwald Recycling company) think highly of these subjects,” Huzink said. “Therefore we want to show that the toughest rally in the world also can be driven in a sustainable, greener and environmentally conscious way and also compete for the top 10.”

While it is all well and good to have an idea to build and construct a new vehicle, lots of testing is often required to ensure that there are no failures or at least failures can be solved before the event.

The Renault C460 Hybrid Edition underwent thorough testing, Huzink said, “A new truck obviously should be well-tested and because the Netherlands is not suitable for this heavy-duty-testing, we do it abroad. This takes lots of time and a lot of budget, but it is necessary to get as much information from our trucks and drivers as possible.”

“We try to enter three races a year besides the Dakar Rally,” he adds. “With the new hybrid project, we have previously done a lot of testing activities to test the new parts on longevity. In general: all rally's during the year are tests for us as a team and for the truck as well. In total it costs us 10 weeks a year and for us as a semi-professional team that’s obviously a lot!”

The Riwald Dakar Team has a number of partners who have assisted in the construction and development of their hybrid-powered truck but has Renault had any involvement in the development of the hybrid powertrain. Gert Huzink says that there were a number of partners involved in the project including “leader and co-inventor Mario Kress of MKR Technology who works closely with Renault, ZF and Eurol Lubricants.”
Gert Huzink #507 powering ahead of Kamaz-Master teams Dmitry Sotnikov #507
PHOTO CREDIT: Riwald Dakar Team

Being a creation of Mario Kress in collaboration with ZF, Euro Lubricants and the Riwald Dakar Team, I asked Gert Huzink how is the power/energy harvested and deployed over the course of a Dakar Rally stage.

“Each new development is always exciting and certainly in a Dakar Rally as it is challenging to start driving hybrid!” Huzink said. “Power is created by an electric motor that is powered by the gearbox from ZF and that power is stored in an additional 300-kilogram battery pack.”

“When we wish to use it it will be converted as additional horsepower.”

How much additional power is created by the electric motors? “The electric motor can add more than 200 horsepower extra,” he adds.

“It is unique that the batteries are not being charged the normal way, but by driving! When we hit the brakes or we have a decent, we charge the accumulators by means of the electric motor. We benefit the whole stage from this hybrid technology.”

Huzink adds that the hybrid technology adds to the overall fuel efficiency of his off-road truck: “This also brings fuel savings with about 30% and of course fewer emissions to the environment.”

Being the first to enter the Dakar Rally with hybrid power, how does it compare to the standard diesel-powered entries. He said: “The C460 is a completely new truck and therefore more innovations beyond the hybrid system. This brings several advantages over our previous truck.”

“In total: it's good progress and we see also that our average speed has gone up, especially the direct power of the electric motor when we turn out of corners. That's the biggest difference.”

The Riwald Dakar Team and MKR Technology entered into a three-year partnership with the aim of achieving a top-three ranking within the three-year timeframe. With four top-ten finishes in 2020, I asked Gert how he would assess the teams first-ever Dakar with a hybrid-powered truck.

“With every new project it's always 'wait and see' how the first race will end,” he said. “Also therefore for us it was exciting, our ambitions are always high and it is a pity that we encountered trouble with one driveshaft on the first day.”

“The days to follow we had to prove our hybrid truck is one of the fastest trucks in the field. We've managed to do that, so we're happy with that. All in all this one big learning process and we are eager to show more of our hybrid truck, the C460.”

Having seen the benefits of competing with hybrid power, and two diesel-powered trucks in 2020 under the Riwald Dakar Team banner. I asked Gert if we could potentially see a full fleet of Riwald Dakar Renault Hybrid C460’s in 2021.

“The goal will be to see more and more hybrid trucks at the start of a rally like Dakar in the future,” he said. “But because we are an amateur team that will be done step-by-step. We've made way for more hybrid trucks in different rally's and also in the normal road as well.”

Having entered it’s first Dakar with hybrid power, the Riwald Dakar Team can only get stronger after learning about the limitations and potential issues it may have had in 2020.

We can not wait to see the return of the Riwald Dakar Team in 2021!

A very special 'Thank You' to Gert Huzink for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to the Riwald Dakar PR team for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Photograph Credit and Copyright - Riwald Dakar Team

Saturday, 14 March 2020

F1 Joburg Fan Festival Postponed - all you need to know.

PHOTO CREDIT: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Formula 1 has today announced that due to the ongoing global situation regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) the Heineken F1 Joburg Festival due to take place on 29 March has been postponed "to protect the safety of all fans and participants attending the event."

Formula 1, together with Heineken, SAGP, and the Gauteng Province are committed to bringing the event to South Africa and any decision on rescheduling will be made at the right time from a public safety perspective.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport's Valtteri Bottas, as well as former F1 driver David Coulthard, and Renault F1 Team were set to attend the F1 Fan Festival.

Due to the global outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) the 2020 Formula 1 season-opener in Australia was canceled after a McLaren team member tested positive for the virus. Formula 1 also announced the postponement of the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix citing that the 2020 season could start at the end of May. 

"Following the announcement from the World Health Organisation categorising COVID -19 as a pandemic earlier this week, we have made the unfortunate decision to postpone the festival," Ellie Norman, Director of Marketing & Communications said. "Our fans health and safety is paramount and whilst we know this decision will be disappointing for our fans we believe this is the right decision at this time."

"We would like to thank all our partners and those involved in making the event happen, and we are fully committed to returning to bring the excitement of F1 back to South Africa."

Warren Scheckter, CEO of SAGP added that "Hopefully, it won’t be long before circumstances are such that we are able to reschedule the event, and we look forward to working with Formula 1 and Gauteng Province in our continued efforts to bring Formula 1 back to South Africa."

All fans who purchased tickets for the event will be offered a full refund. Tickets can be returned at any Shoprite, Checkers, Checkers Hyper, Computicket outlets or House & Home stores for full refunds until April 13, 2020.

All uncollected tickets and print at home transactions made via Call Centre and Web will be refunded automatically and will reflect within 3-7 working days.

For all ticket queries, contact COMPUTICKET on 0861 915 8000

Written By - Junaid Samodien.

Friday, 13 March 2020

World RX season opener in Barcelona postponed.

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak has caused many events to be canceled or postponed internationally, and now the FIA World Rallycross Championship season-opener has also been postponed. It was set to be held at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona on 18/19 April.

"In light of the Generalitat de Catalunya’s decree to currently suspend all live sporting events in response to the evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation, this year’s World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona on April 18-19 has been postponed," the World RX statement said.

"This decision was made after careful consideration and consultation with the FIA, the Spanish ASN, and the local event organizer, as the health and safety of everyone involved remains the top priority."

"We are looking into an alternative date for the event in conjunction with the local event organizer. We will provide further updates as we have them."