Palpable tension

Tension hangs heavy in the air as teams prepare for round 2 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy in Barcelona this weekend following the dramatic events of the opening round.

Events on the Yas Marina track and in the stewards’ room conspired to hand a maiden World RX victory to Kevin Hansen in the Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208.

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That was after two of the leading protagonists – older brother Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud in the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 – had a high-speed coming together in Q3. Timmy’s Peugeot suffered event-ending damage while Bakkerud was disqualified for his part in the incident.

Timmy’s mechanics have worked tirelessly in the time since Abu Dhabi to have the No.21 Peugeot re-built, including repairs to the chassis and reconstructing sections of the roll cage in readiness for Barcelona and the Circuit de Catalunya.

There is spice to the battle between Norway’s Bakkerud and the Hansens, as witnessed in the pre-event press conference in Abu Dhabi. That carried over to the race track and is likely to continue this weekend.

The 1.135km rallycross layout at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona includes turns 11-15 of the Formula One track and comprises a 60-40% split of tarmac and gravel.

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So, the leaderboard entering the Spanish round, has Kevin at the top of the pile with 30 points, Niclas Gronholm, the provisional race winner in Abu Dhabi prior to a three-second penalty in the final, second on 26. The Finn drove strongly all weekend in his GRX Taneco Hyundai i20 including a semi-final win en route to the final.

Kevin clinched the Euro RX Supercar title at Barcelona in 2016 so knows his way around the circuit.

Team STARD Ford Fiesta driver Janis Baumanis and Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza are locked together on 20 points and likely to be among the challengers this time out.

Germany’s Scheider was the top qualifier in 2017 eventually finishing second to Mattias Ekstrom in the final. Barcelona was also the scene of Scheider’s World RX debut in 2015.

Hungary’s Krisztian Szabo, made an impressive World RX debut in Abu Dhabi, in his EKS Sport Audi, with fourth place. He lies fifth in the championship.

Liam Doran took his Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 to a first World RX podium in Abu Dhabi, and is likely to be a contender again. The Briton prepared for the second round of World RX with victory in a Group B Retro Rallycross Championship race at Lydden Hill on Easter Monday.

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The 19-car field will also feature cycling royalty in the shape of Sir Chris Hoy. The six-time Olympic gold medallist will pilot the Xite Racing-prepared Ford Fiesta.

Following a recent test at Pembrey in Wales, Hoy, who has competed in the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016, and European Le Mans and British GT racing, is relishing the latest motorsport challenge.

“I want do the best job I can, make the most of the opportunity and have as much fun as I can and just soak up the experience,” he says.

Oliver Bennett will combine mentoring duties for Hoy with racing the Xite Racing Mini Cooper, repaired after a roll in Abu Dhabi.

GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund narrowly missed the final at Yas Marina Circuit and will look to go make amends while the GCK Academy duo Cyril Raymond of France and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder will take learnings from their maiden World RX outings in the Renault Clios.

ESmotorsport – Labas GAS’s Rokas Baciuska, will look to build on the semi-final placing of his World RX debut in Abu Dhabi. Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov, partnering Gronholm in the GRX Taneco squad in the Hyundai i20, has a Barcelona podium on his CV from 2016 and is expected to run at the sharp end.

Hungary’s Tamas Karai will be at the wheel of the Karai Motorsport Audi A1 while Frenchman Herve Knapick competes in a Citroen DS3.

Also joining the line-up in a second Team STARD Ford Fiesta is the former works WRC driver and European Championship competitor Jani Paasonen, of Finland.

This weekend also sees the start of the RX2 International Series and the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 the training ground for the next generation of World RX stars.

Barcelona is start of a busy few weeks for World RX. After Spain, there is one weekend’s break before Spa-Francochamps makes its debut in hosting the World RX of Benelux on May 11-12 with Silverstone’s SpeedMachine Festival to follow on the weekend of May 25-26.

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Author: Colin Windell

Colin Windell is an apprentice retiree, petrolhead, rock music addict, lover of fine food and has been writing about cars for more than 40 years.

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