Engine whizz Basil Green honoured

Basil Green, the architect of the brutal V8 Ford Capri Perana that captivated South African motor sport fans in the ‘60s and ‘70s, has been inducted into the South African Hall of Fame.

hsall of fame

The SA Hall of Fame serves to tell the stories of extraordinary achievers, recognising their outstanding service and overall contribution to sport. In motor sport circles, South Africa has produced numerous famous names that have excelled locally and internationally, including the likes of Sarel van der Merwe, Ian Scheckter, Wayne Taylor and multiple Formula 1 championship-winning designer Rory Byrne – such that they have been honoured by the SA Hall of Fame alongside golfing icon Gary Player, and the country’s most famous and admired citizen, Nelson Mandela.

For 82-year-old Basil Green, the nomination and subsequent formal induction to the Hall of Fame, which took place conjunction with the fourth annual Concours South Africa event, it was a fitting tribute to his decades of dedication and excellence in motorsport and the motor industry in general.

Speaking about his induction into the SA Hall of Fame, Green says: “It is a great honour to receive such an accolade. It’s difficult to put into words what this means to me, particularly when one considers previous recipients such as former President Nelson Mandela. I am truly humbled and grateful to everyone who made this possible, and also to the many people that played a role in our success over the years.”

perana5
Image: classiccarsinrhodesia.co.za

“Basil Green created the era-defining fast Fords that were unbeatable on the track and unmatched on the road, combined with such engineering excellence and dedication to detail that various evolutions of the Perana Cortina, Capri, Escort and Granada were not only approved by Ford, but were officially sold through the countrywide dealer network,” says Neale Hill, MD of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Many of his modifications to standard cars were world-firsts, and Ford even incorporated some of his developments in the production model local line-up.

“Along with the road cars, Basil Green’s exploits in the motorsport arena were truly exceptional and came to define the period, with his multiple championship-winning Capri Perana V8 being the most memorable.”

Such was the dominance of the mighty Capri Perana V8 that its famous Group 5-specification car, number Z181 with its distinctive orange Gunston livery and driven by Bobby Olthoff, won 13 of the 14 races in the 1970 season. It was capable of over 270 km/h on the old Kyalami circuit’s long main straight, and topped the saloon car lap records at every one of South Africa’s circuits, using a highly tuned V8 with a high performance Weber carburettor for each cylinder.

perana1
Image: gomotors.net

With the rules changing from Group 5 rules to the more production-based Group 2 formula in 1971 in an effort to level the playing field, the Capri Perana remained the class of the field, with car number A2 taking the title. Fortunately both cars have been carefully restored and remain part of prized collections in SA, and are used on selected outings at historic racing events.

The road-going Capri Perana V8, on which the race cars were based, was immensely successful, with estimates of around 500 having been built by the Basil Green Motors team. It soon developed a cult following, and the handful of original cars that remain are highly prized locally and internationally, and are extremely valuable.

“When the Capri was introduced by Ford in 1969, we fitted a V6 engine as they were all four-cylinder models at the time, with the V4 being the top of the range,” Green recalls.

“We sent one of our Capri V6 models to Ford for evaluation and engineering approval, and they liked it so much that they started building their own 3,0-litre V6 model based on our car, which was a first for Ford in South Africa, and globally.

“We then looked at what else we could do with the Capri, and ended up with the lightweight V8 engine from the Mustang, sourced from Windsor Export Supply in the US, which was specially built to our requirements,” he adds. “We also changed the gearbox, suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres. The bodies were produced at Ford’s Port Elizabeth plant and shipped to us, where we did the rest of the work.”

perana2
Image: https://fordcapriperanalkl.wordpress.com/

Tested by Car Magazine in January 1971, the Capri Perana was the only Ford-sanctioned Capri V8 in the world, and was the fastest locally produced car in South Africa. It was capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in a mere 6.7 seconds, and reached an impressive top speed of 228.4km/h. New, it sold for R4 450 through Ford dealers with a full factory warranty.

Although the Capri Perana is the most iconic model, it was preceded by several years of top-notch performance modifications for various cars during the 1960s, resulting in the company’s extremely popular, high-quality aftermarket kits being sold locally and exported to the UK. Interestingly, another of SA’s motorsport legends, Willie Hepburn, formed part of the Basil Green Motors team during the founding years and the subsequent Perana era.

The Perana brand was formally introduced with the Ford Cortina Perana in 1967. The name was actually chosen by Basil’s wife, Paddy, and derived from the ferocious South American piranha fish species.

Based on the Cortina Mk2 2000 GT, it was fitted with the renowned Essex V6 engine and drivetrain from the Ford Zephyr, along with upgrades to the suspension, brakes and use of what was then sporty 175×13 radial tyres on distinctive alloy rims. It cost R2 850 out the box, and established an outstanding racing pedigree for the Perana brand, claiming several SA Saloon Car Championship titles. This was followed by the Cortina Mk3 Perana V6 in 1972, which predated Ford’s popular Cortina ‘Big Six’.

perana6
Image: zahistorics.com

Other noteworthy Perana models were the 1969 Escort Mk1 Perana, based on the Escort RS1600, to which Basil Green Motors fitted Ford’s venerable 2,0-litre OHC engine in place of the complicated original 1,6-litre unit used in European markets. It proved an inspired choice, powering its way to numerous local race and rally titles.

A later effort in 1993, based on the front-wheel drive 1,6-litre Escort XR3, proved exemplary once again, with the hot Perana version boasting almost identical acceleration times and a higher top speed than the Ford Cortina XR6 of the same period. The company also offered tuned 3,0-litre and 3,4-litre versions of the Ford Sapphire in the early 1990s.

Besides the outstanding performance of his fast Fords, Basil Green’s association with the company was firmly entrenched when he was appointed a Ford dealer in 1974. Green and his team won numerous Dealer of the Year awards over the years for his landmark operation in Edenvale, which still proudly carries his name today as part of the SuperGroup conglomerate.

The story behind Green becoming a Ford dealer is an intriguing one, as it involved Ford Motor Company’s global president at the time, Lee Iacocca, who heard of the local team installing the Ford Mustang-derived 5,0-litre V8, as used in the Capri Perana, in the upmarket Granada Mk1 launched in 1972.

“One day Lee Iacocca phoned me and said that he wanted one of the Granada V8s we were building, so one was sent over, only for him to call me back and say the steering wheel is on the wrong side,” Green reminisces. “So it was arranged for a left-hand drive Granada to be sent to us from Germany. We managed to do the modifications in about a week, and it was then flown to America.

“Lee, as he insisted I call him, phoned me a couple of days later saying the car is fantastic and that Ford doesn’t have anything like it in the US,” Green proudly adds.

With the Basil Green Motors team churning out Peranas as fast they could, it all came crashing down when the international fuel crisis hit in 1973-74, bringing an abrupt end to what was a booming business.

“Motor sport was banned and we weren’t allowed to sell high performance cars,” Green muses. “We finished off the remaining cars we had in stock, but we didn’t have a business after that.

“Lee Iacocca contacted the chairman of Ford South Africa and told him to make me a Ford dealer, and we were given the Edenvale and Bedfordview sales areas,” Green adds. “We opened the first dealership in our workshop, put a new car on one of the ramps and added a shop window so we could drive the car out the front. I think we won Dealer of the Year from Ford the following year.

“I then built a beautiful Ford dealership in the main street of Edenvale, called Basil Green Ford, and that is where my long and proud relationship with Ford began.”

Advertisements

The gloves are off in WRX

If ever the expression ‘the gloves are off’ had meaning, it will this weekend in Latvia when the penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy takes centre stage at the Neste World RX.

The three main characters are separated by just two points, so there is all to play for in the Bikernieki forest on the outskirts of the Latvian capital of Riga.

wrx1

Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud rose to the top of the standings at the previous round in Loheac, France. The Norwegian has 160 points and holds a two-point cushion over the Hansen brothers Timmy and Kevin, who are tied on 158.

The 2019 championship as proven to be one of the most closely-fought seasons ever with six different winners from the eight rounds to date. Only Timmy, with three victories, is a multiple winner this year.

The Swedish siblings had been trading the lead of the drivers’ championship standings prior to Loheac where Bakkerud ascended the summit despite a win for Timmy and third place for Kevin in the French final.

press_2019_08_FRA_FINAL_(401)

With just two rounds remaining, all three of the leading protagonists could claim the title – a point not lost on Bakkerud who has called up reinforcements in the shape of Mattias Ekstrom, the 2016 World RX champion.

“I’ve brought Mattias (Ekstrom) with me to be my personal coach to help me go faster,” he says. “Hopefully that can make a difference. The start line in Riga is very slippery which makes it very tough to hit the right revs and make consistently good starts so we’ll focus on that.”

Bakkerud admits he will have his work cut out this weekend against the duel threat of the Hansens.

“Riga has never been my strongest World RX event on the calendar, but I’ve always been a huge fan of going there. It’s been cool to witness the popularity of the sport growing there and also to see all their fans. This year I hope I can go faster at the racetrack itself.”

As for Timmy, Riga is a favourite venue and the Swede believes his Peugeot 208 will be suited to the layout.

press_2019_08_FRA_THANSEN_(203)

“I like the circuit and the car has a good record there. I hope we have a good chance this weekend,” he says.

“It’s a great track for our car. Seb (Loeb) won here back in 2016 and we have always been fast here. Of course I hope to win again this weekend. I will focus on finding a good rhythm on the track to get 100% out of myself all the way from Q1 to the final.”

As for the championship, Timmy is not looking beyond Riga.

“The championship is very close, so it will take a great weekend to stay in the fight. That’s really all I’m thinking about right now, to drive a good race in Riga.”

Kevin, meanwhile, sees the technical character of the circuit as a major challenge and is mindful of the forecast for rain this weekend.

“Riga is a tight and technical track, which is quite fun and complex: you could call it our Monaco Grand Prix,” he says.

press_2019_08_FRA_KHANSEN_(203)

“It’s important to take a very precise line and look after the tyres carefully: in other words not too much sliding with the throttle wide open. The main thing is to make sure that you are spending more time moving forwards than moving sideways.

“What’s going to make it particularly complicated this weekend is that we’re expecting quite a lot of rain, so it’s going to be even more important than usual to keep everything clean and tidy. It’s a nice day today, so it seems quite hard to believe, but it’s fairly common in Riga to have mixed conditions, so we need to be prepared for everything.”

Local hopes at World RX level rest with Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Reinis Nitiss, who drives one of three Hyundai i20s for GRX Taneco alongside the Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov.

Baumanis’s consistent performances this season have propelled him to fifth in the standings on 120 points. He has appeared in five finals and reached the podium twice – third in Norway and second in Canada.

wrx4

For Baumanis, who has a best finish of fifth in 2017 in Riga, adulation and expectation comes in equal measure. “After a year we are back in Riga, one of the most important – and the most stressful events on the calendar for me,” he said.

“The atmosphere is fantastic and makes it very special for me and my fans. This will be the fourth year in Riga so obviously everyone knows the track by now. I hope to do my best for the home fans. I can’t wait for Saturday morning to get going.”

Nitiss, who makes his third appearance of the year after featuring in the opening round in Abu Dhabi and finishing second in Sweden despite rolling his Hyundai i20 in Q1 on Saturday, is also looking forward to his home race.

He has fond memories of clinching the Euro RX title at this venue last year.

“Home events are always more challenging – you have all your friends and fans in grandstands cheering for you, so naturally the pressure grows,” he says.

“Bikernieki is an iconic, old-school motor sport complex with so much racing history. For me the relatively new rallycross track has a special meaning – I have been involved in the making of the circuit and was one of the very first drivers to try it out even before it was fully completed.

“It is hard to describe the feelings that hit you when you see all the people in the grandstands standing up and cheering for you.

“With a limited racing programme this year, the stakes are high – but I know that together with the GRX team I have the speed. It’s proven by the fastest lap in Abu Dhabi and the podium finish in Sweden.

“To succeed in my home race, I will need to focus even more, prepare even more and be calmer than ever, not to overdo it, but to keep my head straight and aim for the best result.”

Gronholm, fourth in the standings on 135 points despite missing two rounds this year through illness, finished fourth in last year’s Riga final, his best result of the season.

“Once again, we showed great pace in Loheac, especially on Sunday when we were really up there, but the final didn’t go our way. Last year here was my best race of the year, so I think we can expect a good race for us,” the Finn said.

“There will be a lot of Finns cheering for me and our team so I want to deliver and show them what we can do.”

Another incentive for GRX is the teams’ title, according to team manager Jussi Pinomaki.

“The fight for P1 in Teams’ championship is still wide open and we will focus on every detail to succeed in this race.”

There is added spice to the weekend with comments by ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider after the previous round in France. At the centre of the German’s ire was Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuska, who reached his first World RX final at Loheac.

press_2019_05_NOR_SCHEIDER_(203)

Scheider was aggrieved by the GC Kompetition driver’s aggression in their semi-final, claiming the contact he had with the Renault Megane cost him a place in the final.

“Everything went well, until in the semi-finals once again an over-motivated stupid boy has messed up my clear entry into the final,” was the German’s view on social media.

Scheider was mighty with his launches in Loheac – recording a reaction time off the line of 0,75. He was P3 overnight after day one and P6 overall after Q4 but the contact with Baciuska in the semi-final ended his participation for the weekend.

Doubtless he will look to put that right in Riga in an upgraded Seat Ibiza which he believes is now capable of mixing it with the front-runners.

GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund, second in Loheac, aims to keep the momentum going for the French squad.

“The Bikernieki track was where I had my first test with the GCK Megane RS RX after the race weekend last year. Hopefully we can bring the good momentum from the last races in to this round. I’m really looking forward to racing in front of the Latvian crowd,” the Swede said.

GCK team boss, Guerlain Chicherit, is seeking a strong all-round performance from the team in Latvia.

“With Latvia RX the last race in Europe of the FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar, I’m really looking forward to bringing the team of five cars and drivers to the Latvian crowd and race in front of all the fans before heading to South Africa,” he said.

“It’ll be an exciting weekend of race action with some awesome fights for sure. We look to continue to up our performance from the last races and bag strong points for GCK.”

GCK Academy’s Cyril Raymond, meanwhile, is focussed on the Bikernieki circuit’s technical challenges.

“Latvia RX is one of the hardest circuits in the calendar for me. The track is really picturesque especially when you are driving in the forest but very technical. Our Clio will be more efficient on this type of track,” he said.

His team-mate Guilaume De Ridder goes in search of a long overdue change of fortune as does Britain’s Oliver Bennett who has completed repairs on the Xite Racing Mini Cooper after an off in Q4 at Loheac.

Sweden’s Robin Larsson, who clinched the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Loheac, joins the World RX grid for Riga.

Larsson will be at the wheel of a JC Raceteknik Audi S1 along with fellow Audi drivers Bakkerud and Monster Energy RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran and EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo.

Larsson, who competed in World RX in 2014 and 2015, said: “I’ve obviously raced in World RX before, but it will be a little special to make this jump when the World RX drivers are in a really tight fight in the championship.

“It will be exciting to see how we stand against the World RX guys now. I think you can raise your own level even more when you are fighting to keep up, so maybe we can close the gap more too. The goal is to at least make the semi-finals, and use this as a good event to check our pace.”

There is another outing for Matvey Furazhkin in the ES Motorsport – Labas GAS Skoda Fabia following his World RX debut at Loheac the previous round.

“The weekend in Loheac was one of the best of my career. The level of racing was impressive. The car felt really competitive and working with such a professional team is very motivating,” the Russian said.

“Now we are preparing for the Riga event and the main goal for this race will be to improve results from the previous race weekend. I can’t wait to be in the car again and push the limits.”

Norway’s Pal Try makes his third start of the season in the second Team STARD Fiesta alongside Baumanis.

Next stop – Cape Town.

Nail-biter for Lichtenburg

With just 23 points difference between the two top teams, the Lichtenburg 400 – round 5 of the 2019 South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) – is going to be a nail-biter with the added bonus for spectators of being able to see ex-F1 ace Fernando Alonso in action.

Victory on last month’s Bronkhorstspruit 400 moved Toyota Gazoo Racing SA’s Henk Lategan and navigator Brett Cummings to within a hair of winning the 2019 title. There is still some work to be done for the Toyota Hilux crew over the remainder of the season, and a good result in this weekend’s Lichtenburg 400 will be crucial to the pair’s success.

Bronkhorstspruit 400-156

Lategan/Cummings are 23 points ahead in the overall championship, with Ford’s Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable in second place. Toyota Gazoo Racing teammates, Shameer Variawa and Juan Möhr have moved up into third place, after recording consistent results in the four previous rounds.

However, with 30 points on offer for victory, Lategan/Cummings are not assured of the title just yet, and scoring maximum points in Lichtenburg will be their main aim this weekend.

Defending champions, Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, driving an identical Toyota Hilux, find themselves in fourth place on the log, after disappointing results in the last three rounds. Their hopes of securing the 2019 title faded after the Toyota 1000 Desert Race, and were dashed after failing to score meaningful points in Round 4. A good result in Lichtenburg, however, could still elevate them in the overall standings.

“It will be an interesting weekend for the team,” says Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “Henk and Brett could potentially secure the championship; Giniel and Dennis need to push for maximum points; and Shameer and Juan could, with a bit of luck, move up to second place in the overall standings. So, there’s a lot going on for us this round.”

Bronkhorstspruit 400-107

Add to that the team’s preparations for the upcoming Rally of Morocco, where De Villiers will be competing alongside new navigator; as well as the overall preparation and testing of components for the 2020 Dakar Rally, and it is clear that the Lichtenburg 400 will be a busy round for the team.

As if the SACCS title chase, Dakar testing and Morocco preparations aren’t enough, the team will also facilitate a further training session for two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner, reigning FIA World Endurance Championship title holder, two-time Formula 1 World Champion, and winner of the 24-Hours of Daytona, Fernando Alonso.

As such, Alonso and his navigator will be taking part in the Lichtenburg 400 as a non-competitive entry, in order to experience more varied terrain, as well as the pressure of a race.

Harrismith was originally scheduled for this fifth round, but exceptionally dry conditions and a high risk of fire in the area resulted in the organisers having to move the race to the North West town at short notice.

There has been a common thread running through the Class T championship this season, as the Castrol Ford Cross Country Team’s Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable have made the top step of the podium their own with a clean sweep of five victories (including the two separate races that made up the Botswana Desert Race in June).

lance-woolridge-and-ward-huxtable-2_880x500

As the reigning champions, the crew has been untouchable in the Neil Woolridge Motorsport (NWM) built and run Ford Ranger (T34), putting them on the brink of a second consecutive title this year. A finish in the points in either of the two closing rounds will hand them the Class T crown.

“We’ve had an amazing year so far, with Lance and Ward performing faultlessly throughout the season,” says NWM team principal Neil Woolridge. “The hard work that has been put into developing the Ranger this season has certainly paid off, and it reflects the long hours and dedication of the team as a whole.

“It’s a pity that we won’t be racing in Harrismith, as it is much closer to our home base and our many supporters from KwaZulu-Natal who normally come to the race, but the change in venue is completely understandable following an exceptionally dry winter.

“The sport relies on the support of local farmers for us to race on their land, and the potential of a fire would be devastating for their livelihoods.”

lance-woolridge_880x500
Lance Woolridge

The race weekend will start with a qualifying race on September 13, from the Lichtenburg showgrounds, which also serves as the Designated Service Park (DSP) and race HQ. The main event will get under way at 8 am on Saturday morning. Fans can follow the race via the RallySafe application, which is available for both iOS and Android devices.

New leader in WRX series

There is a new name atop the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy after the title chase was emphatically put through the equivalent of a meat grinder during the World RX of France at the weekend – and Andreas Bakkerud is the new leader.

press_2018_08_FRA_BAKKERUD_(401)

Team Hansen MJP’s Timmy Hansen took an emphatic victory in round eight of the series, leading home GC Kompeition’s Anton Marklund with younger brother Kevin Hansen third in the second of the team’s Peugeot 208s.

wrx2

The overall results from the weekend meant Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud rose to the top of the drivers’ standings despite a fifth-place finish in the final.

The Monster Energy RX Cartel driver now sits on 160 points with the Hansen brothers tied on 158. Timmy’s victory was his third of a season, which has produced six different event winners with eight of the 10 rounds completed.

In the final, Timmy took advantage of a gap which opened up when Bakkerud’s Audi S1 and the Hyundai i20 of GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm went wide in a squabble for the lead at turn one.

Meanwhile, Kevin and Marklund, who started on the back row of the grid, engaged in battle with GC Kompetition young gun Rokas Baciuska of Lithuania.

After his joker lap, Marklund emerged in second place behind Timmy while Kevin produced a spirited drive to pip Baciuska by inches at the joker lap merge.

press_2019_08_FRA_ATMOSPHERE_(306)

Timmy’s victory was a dramatic response after he missed the semi-finals in the previous round at Trois-Rivieres, Canada. The Swede also left the opening round in Abu Dhabi with a paltry points tally after heavy contact with Bakkerud in qualifying.

 

 

“This weekend has been amazing. From a championship perspective I’ve taken two big hits with nearly no championship points from two races – Abu Dhabi and Canada – so I’m very happy with the result and the position in the championship,” he said.

“Coming here to Loheac where we have so much support from the French fans is special. The Peugeot is very good around this circuit.

“I was feeling very comfortable all weekend. I needed a perfect Q4 to get the pole for the semi-final which I got, then I was all-in for the final where Andreas (Bakkerud) and Niclas (Gronholm) opened the door for me.

“It was so nice to come out in front and concentrate on my own driving. I had such a good gap that I was able to take in the incredible atmosphere.

press_2019_08_GER_RX2_FINAL_(201)

“As for the championship, it’s exciting to be in the middle of this fight. It’s going to be an interesting end to the year. It is me, Kevin and Andreas all racing for our first world championship. Who grabs it is down to whoever is able to put it all together for the last two rounds and perform best under this pressure.”

Fellow-Swede Marklund, who was third at Silverstone in round four and first to the flag in Hell, Norway in round five, only to be deprived of the win due to a technical infringement, was delighted to reach the podium at the home race of the French GC Kompetition squad.

“I know how much this race means for the team, so it’s great to be able to reward everyone with this second place,” he said. “The Renault Megane was strong all weekend and I had some great pace in the final. Starting from the back row in the final is not easy so I was glad to be able to reach the podium eventually.”

Kevin Hansen, who led the drivers’ championship by five points over Bakkerud ahead of Loheac, had struggled in qualifying and only just scraped through to the final after a brilliant recovery drive.

press_2019_08_FRA_ATMOSPHERE_(211)

“It was a really tough weekend for me. I had a lot of bad luck in the qualifying rounds and I have no idea how I got to the final to be honest,” he said.

“I was sure on the last lap of the semi-final I was not going to make it to the final. In the final I didn’t quite have the pace to keep up with the other two Swedes. I pushed really hard in the joker lap and managed to just get out ahead of Rokas (Baciuska) to finish third. I just had to fight. I am a rallycrosser, I never give up.

“It’s great that the championship fight is so tight. We have to work together as a team to get the edge on Andreas, but realistically I just have to do my own thing and hope it is enough.”

En route to fourth place in the final Baciuska became the first driver from the GC Kompetition team to win a qualifying session with the fastest time in Q2 on day one.

GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit was delighted with the team’s overall performance – with both Marklund and Baciuska making the final.

“This was the second time in a row we have put two cars in the final so the team is getting stronger. Rokas (Baciuska) made a very small mistake on the last lap on turn five which cost him just a few tenths and the chance to put his nose in front of Kevin (Hansen).

“We have to acknowledge the Hansens did an amazing job on the strategy by protecting each other. This is something we still need to learn. We are not at that level yet but we are quick learners.

“For me personally the weekend was a bit frustrating. I had the speed but I had some contact in qualifying but that’s motorsport. We have two more races before the end of the season and I really want to be on the podium. I think I have the pace to do it so it is just a question of putting everything together.”

wrx1

Guillame De Ridder’s run of back luck continued although he did manage to grab a consolation win in Q4. “

“It’s good for the mind to finish with a victory here in Loheac. Now the focus is on the next round in Riga,” the Belgian said.

Fellow GCK Academy driver Cyril Raymond finished 15th overall much to the disappointment of his countrymen.

ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider narrowly missed the final after a stunning last-ditch effort in semi-final two placed him fourth ahead of Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov and Britain’s Liam Doran in the second Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1.

Finland’s Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen, showed an impressive turn of speed on his return to World RX in the GRX Taneco Hyundai i20. He finished third overall in Q1 after day one but had to settle for fourth in semi-final one. EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo and Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis were fifth and sixth respectively in the same semi-final.

It was a torrid weekend for Britain’s Oliver Bennett. His Xite Racing Mini Cooper ended in the gravel trap after a spin in Q2 and he suffered a second DNF in Q4 after heavy contact with Chicherit and finished well down the order in the overall standings.

“It all went downhill from Q2 really where we had the initial contact and ended up in the gravel,” he said. “Then in Q4, I thought I was clear into turn one but got a shove from the left side which triggered a catalogue of events and I was a passenger from then on. Luckily, the damage looks worse than it is. Onwards to Latvia now.”

With just Latvia ahead of the last race of the season in Cape Town in November, the Mother City looks set to host an epic final.

Colin Windell is a Brand Ambassador

WRX of South Africa

Ooh La La time in France

With just 14 points separating the top three drivers there will plenty of ‘Ooh La La’ at the high-speed Loheac Circuit in France for the Bretagne World RX of France this weekend.

From seven of the 10 races so far there have been six different event winners, no shortage of incidents and a host of surprises and Team Hansen MJP’s Kevin Hansen (143 points) maintains a five-point gap over Monster RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud (138) with Timmy Hansen third on 129.

wrx5

On paper Timmy looms as the man to beat in France. He won in Loheac in 2015 and is a five-time qualifying race winner at the venue. He will look to make amends for an indifferent performance at round seven in Canada.

“It’s been a while since we have won a race – the last time was Silverstone – but I think we have good chances in Loheac,” he says.

“It is a good circuit for us: the car has been developed and tested on circuits like this, and it is like a second home being there. We spend so much time in France and the French fans really embrace us. We feel really welcomed when we go there, so I am excited.

“I like those situations like we had in 2015, when I win the qualifying, get pole position, make a good start, get out front and drive my own race.

“It is a new year, new challenge, so I have to be focused again and do everything I can to drive fast, make good starts and take the right decisions.”

Trailing brother Kevin by just six points entering the Canadian round, his Peugeot 208 was damaged in multi-car contact in Q4 which cost him a place in the semi-finals.

According to Kevin, Canada was an aberration which Team Hansen are keen not to repeat.

“We were not the Team Hansen I am used to in Canada, which is fine and that is why we are here: we are here to learn, improve and be better. We are up for the challenge to really compete for race wins and the championship,” he said.

“I think we became a bit lost in the lead we had in the championship and were a bit safe, so now we have learned from that and we can go back to the way we were. We are fast as hell, we work the hardest with the fewest people, and we are the best rallycross team in the world with the two best drivers.

“In Loheac we will just aim to come back to that, enjoy it and make it work like we did at the beginning of the season with the correct focus.”

The main beneficiary in Canada was Bakkerud in the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1. The Norwegian took victory in Trois-Rivieres and leap-frogged Timmy in the pecking order.

wrx2

Bakkerud, whose win in Canada was his first of the 2019 campaign, was the Euro RX winner in 2013 and has reached the last three World RX finals in Loheac – finishing runner-up in 2016 and 2018. He carries momentum in to Loheac but expects another tight tussle.

“I cannot wait to come back to Loheac. It is probably the biggest event we have on the calendar if you count the people around,” he said.

“Also, we have seen how close the championship is, with six different winners in the first seven races. I think Loheac will be the same. There are a few French drivers who can come and mix up the World RX field and make a big part of how the championship is going to end this year.

“I’ve had ups and downs in Loheac also. My biggest up is the win in 2013, and my lowest point where probably last year when we should have won, but did a wrong joker strategy and ended second behind the ‘unbeatable’ Johan Kristoffersson.”

Niclas Gronholm, fourth in the standings on 115 points despite missing two rounds this year through illness, is part of a GRX Taneco three-card line-up for France.

Gronholm and fellow GRX regular Timur Timerzyanov are joined by Finland’s Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen in Hyundai i20s.

Timerzyanov lies sixth in the title chase on 102 points in a season highlighted by a maiden World RX win at Spa-Francorchamps in round three.

Heikkinen has wins in Belgium in 2014 and 2015 on his World RX record and there is also a reappearance for the French Pailler brothers Fabien and Jonathan following their previous outing at Holjes in a pair of Peugeot 208s. Fellow-Frenchman Herve Knapick campaigns his Citroen DS3.

GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit is looking to maintain the team’s recent momentum and impress on home soil.

wrx4

“We’ve shown massive improvements race on race and now it’s time to show what GCK is capable of in front of our home crowd,” the Frenchman said.

“Loheac is a highlight of the season for me and it’s always incredible to race in front of so many awesome fans – we’re all determined to show them some unforgettable race action this weekend.”

Fellow Frenchman and GC Academy driver Cyril Raymond, a Euro RX winner at Loheac, believes his Renault Clio will be suited to the sweeping track layout. “I’m really excited to race at home. It will be a big challenge to be in the final but I’ll do my absolute maximum on track.

“I think the Clio has very good potential on this circuit. It’s the most important weekend of my RX life,” he said.

Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder, something of an adopted Frenchman, is also looking at Loheac as a home race. “I am really looking forward to Lohéac because it’s like a second home event for me since I have been living and working in Paris for three years now,” he said.

“I love reuniting and being supported by both Belgian and French fans in Brittany. On top of that, I love the track and it suits me quite well, looking back at our domination in RX2 there last year.

Sweden’s Anton Marklund, a consistent performer this season and Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuska, who is aiming for his first final appearance since joining the French outfit in Norway, complete the five-car GCK line-up.

Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis, second in Canada, will look to extend his run of final appearances – five out of seven to date. He is joined in the second STARD Ford Fiesta by Finland’s Jani Paasonen.

Bakkerud’s Monster RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran, and ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider in the Skoda Fabia will doubtless look to avoid the contact they had in their semi-final in Canada to go one better in France.

wrx3

Britain’s Oliver Bennett has reached a semi-final this year and is due a change of fortune in the Xite Racing Mini Cooper after sustaining suspension damage in Q3 in the previous round. The same can be said for EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo who was fifth in his semi-final in Canada.

A total of 51 Supercars will feature in the Loheac weekend, with a capacity 30-car field in Euro RX Supercar.

Colin Windell is a Brand Ambassador

WRX South Africa

WRX is down to the wire

With just three rounds left in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, this weekend’s tussle at Trois-Rivieres in Canada is going to be vital for all drivers in the chase for championship points.

What makes it even tougher is the course is a 1.37 km high-speed run on a street layout complete with flanking concrete walls.

c1478ede-b451-4e29-9aa5-4bced69ed647

The Swedish Hansen brothers, Kevin and Timmy head the drivers’ standings with 131 and 125 points respectively. In third place on 109 points is Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud, still chasing that elusive first victory in 2019.

After round six in Sweden at the start of July, Kevin said he was set for a battle to the wire.

“To lead the championship by just six points is nothing and with Timmy as my team-mate we will continue pushing and at the end of the season we will see who had the most luck and who did not,” he says.

press_2019_05_NOR_THANSEN_(301)
Timmy Hansen

Meanwhile, Timmy is relishing the challenge of Trois-Rivieres.

“Canada is one of my favourite circuits of the year, because it is a really complete rallycross track. You have asphalt, you have gravel, you have a bit of everything. The asphalt and gravel are in two distinct sections and there is a jump between each section so you really have to switch from one mode to the next,” he says.

“The asphalt section has the highest top speed of the year, and it is somewhere that you have to use all the road, getting as close to the walls as you dare, and that is where you can really make up time. So you need to be quite brave!”

So far the 2019 season has produced five different event winners – including a stunning success for Swedish wildcard Sebastian Eriksson at the Swecon World RX of Sweden. Only Timmy (Spain and Great Britain) has won twice this year.

Having recorded victory in Canada in 2016 and finished second last year, Timmy enters the weekend as favourite. He proved in Sweden, when he rebounded from as low as 16th in qualifying to reach the final, that he can put things right when it matters.

Kevin competes in the same machinery as his brother for the first time in his career and takes momentum from Sweden having finished second in the final to regain the championship lead.

press_2019_06_SWE_KHANSEN_(201)
Kevin Hansen

As for Bakkerud, he has been a bumper-length away from victory most notably at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps where he was pipped by Timmy Hansen and Timur Timerzyanov respectively.

Bakkerud was second to Timmy Hansen in Canada in 2016 and a finalist in 2015 where he finished fifth. The Monster Energy RX Cartel driver was disadvantaged by the changeable weather in Sweden and his Audi S1 was brought to a halt by a broken driveshaft in his semi-final.

“I am hoping to put the bad luck of Sweden behind me,” he says. “Canada is always a challenge so I am looking forward to it.”

press_2019_04_GB_ATMOSPHERE_(305)

Niclas Gronholm, the winner in Hell, Norway, is currently fourth in the chase on 96 points despite missing the rounds in Belgium and Great Britain through illness.

The GRX Taneco driver believes his Hyundai i20 will be up for the job in Trois-Rivieres. “I am really looking forward to the race in Canada – I think we have a good car for the track,” the Finn said.

“I like racing at Trois-Rivieres even though it is very tricky in some places and since this is a street circuit, there is no room for errors. It has been a long break from racing now, my ‘batteries’ are fully charged and motivation is high.”

GRX Taneco team-mate Timur Timerzyanov, the winner of round three in Belgium, is also looking forward to spreading the World RX gospel.

“Rallycross for North America is still a relatively new thing and I am glad that we can show Canadians how exciting it is,” the Russian said.

“There is always plenty of action and great racing at Trois-Rivieres, with sudden weather changes possibly mixing up the field even more.”

The consistency of Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis has brought rewards with the Latvian holding down fifth place overall (89 points) after appearing in four of the six finals to date. The highlight was third place in Norway.

press_2019_06_SWE_BAUMANIS_(202)

Bakkerud’s Monster RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran has rued missed opportunities this year. He has made the podium once (in Abu Dhabi) from four finals. The Briton lies seventh with 76 points, two behind Timerzyanov, and is seeking redemption this time out.

“I’ve struggled a bit at the more traditional rallycross tracks – Norway and Sweden – and I’m looking forward to Canada which is a different style of track. Hopefully it will bring a change of fortune,” he said.

ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider, a semi-finalist in Canada two years’ ago, believes Trois-Rivieres will mostly be all about horsepower.

“Canada is an engine track. It has the longest and quickest straight on the calendar,” he said. “But you also need good aero and mechanical grip for the dirt section which is quite rough. I think the Seat will be suited to the track and we have a small upgrade for Canada so I’m optimistic.”

The five-car GC Kompetition squad are also likely to feature strongly, according to team boss Guerlain Chicherit. “In Holjes we showed competitive pace and found some consistency. Canada is an exciting track for both the Meganes and the Clios and a really fun event to be at,” he said.

EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo and Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett are also looking to overcome the disappointment of finishing down the order in Holjes due to mishaps and mechanical failures.

World RX Statistics from Circuit Trois-Rivieres:

World RX event #68 (Round 7 2019)
Circuit length:
1370m (the longest of 10)
Average speed (lap record): 105.0 km/h (3rd fastest of 10)
Lap record: 46.959 by Petter Solberg (2018)
Joker lap record: 49.727 by Petter Solberg (2016)
Difference normal/joker: 2.77 (4th longest of 10)
4 laps record: 3:20.947 by Petter Solberg (2016)
6 laps record: 4:57.692 by Petter Solberg (2016)

DID YOU KNOW?
Petter Solberg is the sole track record-holder at Circuit Trois-Rivieres; the fastest ever World RX driver at a single lap, a single joker lap, a four laps qualifying race and a six laps finale race.

Solberg is the only driver to have achieved all records at not only one but two circuits. He’s also the sole record holder at Lydden Hill.

At the new circuit layout in Barcelona the Hansen brothers have all track records – Kevin the single lap record and Timmy the three others.

Colin Windell is a Brand Ambassador

WRX of South Africa

Hectic action expected

It is ‘even stevens’ in the Falken Polo Cup as South Africa’s most robust form of track racing gears up for another two races this weekend at Zwartkops Raceway, Pretoria with Jeffrey Kruger and Bradley Liebenberg equal on 125 championship points.

Current champion Kruger was the first to show his cards when he took three race wins in the first five races of the year held at Dezzi Raceway and Zwartkops.

dsc_7912a_880x500

His good form also included two more podium finishes as well as the additional points that a driver earns for pole position during qualifying and setting the fastest lap during a race. After those first two events that included the five races at Dezzi Raceway and Pretoria’s Zwartkops Raceway, the momentum swung in the direction of young Liebenberg who qualified on pole and won a race in Cape Town.

He followed it up with a clean sweep in Port Elizabeth that consisted of pole position, three race wins and points for fastest laps in two of them. The result is a tie at the top of the championship points table with 125 points each.

“I can’t wait for Zwartkops,” says Liebenberg. “Jeffrey is very strong there but I love the circuit and we have done some testing that was very positive. We will not know until we get there, but I am expecting a tight race on Saturday.”

dsc_3163a_880x500

Defending champion Kruger had a similar view: “Zwartkops is the home circuit for most drivers in the field so I expect a number of them to be very quick. Having said that, we will also do our homework to ensure we have good pace. It is going to be a great fight with the whole field including Bradley.”

The duel between Kruger and Liebenberg is by no means the only exciting battle in the Falken Polo Cup field. Behind them, four drivers are separated by only seven championship points, with a further four drivers also still within striking distance just a few points back.

Third on the standings is Capetonian Jurie Swart (74 points) thanks to a popular victory at his home track earlier this year. He is closely followed by Chris Shorter (73) points with young Natalian Clinton Bezuidenhout (70 points) a further three points adrift with Keegan Campos (67 points) occupying sixth at the season’s halfway mark.

There is not much daylight between the top six and the next group that consists of Jason Campos (54 points), Volkswagen Motorsport’s Jonathan Mogotsi (49 points), Matt Shorter (46 points) and Capetonian Dario Busi (44 points).

dsc_5970a_880x500

“Just looking at that crowded championship points table tells a story,” says Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport. “It is a very good reflection of what happens on the racetracks when a field of 20 identical cars all fight for the same piece of tarmac. The result is a crowded racetrack and an equally crowded points table which is exactly what people want to see and one of the reasons that the Falken Polo Cup is so successful.”

The fight between Liebenberg and Kruger, as well as 20 other equally determined and talented drivers is set to commence on Friday, July 26. The all-important qualifying session as well as two races are scheduled for the Saturday of the event.