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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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Turned on its head

World rallycross got turned on its head yet again as Andreas Bakkerud notched up his first win of the season in Trois-Rivieres, Canada with neither of the Hansen brothers making the podium.

Bakkerud scored a stunning victory at the World RX of Canada to spice up the drivers’ battle in the World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy with three rounds remaining.

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It was the Monster Energy RX Cartel driver’s first World RX victory since 2016 in Argentina. He had come close twice this year – second in Belgium and Great Britain – but on the daunting street circuit in Quebec it finally came good for the affable Norwegian.

Bakkerud acknowledged the efforts of his RX Cartel crew in finally securing a win that he thought might never come. “We have worked hard as a team and I was hoping and praying that this day would come even though with all the bad luck and near misses we have had this season, I thought it might never happen,” he said.

“We have had some challenging months in getting the team together for the first round in Abu Dhabi. We were so close in Belgium and Silverstone and we were strong until the semi-final in Sweden. Even today, I had problems in the final when I burned the clutch at the start.

“But we have just stuck at it as a team and I’m really pleased for them and all the Bakkerud Blue supporters to finally get the job done.

“It has been nearly 950-something days since my last event win. It was not a race I expected to win to be honest. Canada is not a strong circuit for me. I’m just happy that the car kept in one piece so I could bring home the first win for the RX Cartel.”

The win enabled Bakkerud to usurp Timmy Hansen who was second in the drivers’ standings heading to Canada and close to within five points of championship leader Kevin Hansen.

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Kevin was fifth across the line but was later disqualified from the final after the stewards decided he was at fault in a clash with GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund.

Kevin now leads overall on 143 points with Bakkerud second on 138 and Timmy third with 129.

As for his championship chances, Bakkerud added: “It is so close, the races are very unpredictable. I think it will be a race to the chequered flag in Cape Town (the final round of the 2019 championship in November).

“It is not going to be easy to win the championship. You need some results and some luck. It’s going to be tricky but you never know.”

Trailing brother Kevin by just six points entering the Canadian round, Timmy was the big loser in the championship squabble after crashing in Q2 and a chaotic race four of Q4.

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His Peugeot 208 was severely damaged in multi-car contact and eventually crawled sideways across the finish line where it was retrieved by a recovery vehicle.

The incidents meant he missed the semi-finals and emerged from the World RX of Canada with only four points.

Second to Bakkerud in the final was Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis who went one better than his third place in round five in Hell, Norway.

“It is really nice to be here between these two guys,” he said. “The team have worked really hard. This is my fifth final of the season so we are getting some rewards.”

Third was GRX Taneco’s Timur Timerzyanov, who had pipped Bakkerud for the spoils at Spa-Francorchamps in May. The Russian had earlier wrestled his Hyundai i20 to a semi-final victory despite a broken suspension.

“Actually the car felt better to drive with the broken suspension,” he joked. “In the final, third place was a present for me after Kevin (Hansen) and Anton (Marklund) crashed in to each other after the joker lap. I was lucky today but that’s racing.”

GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit finished fourth to round out an impressive weekend. Marklund was classified fifth following the clash with Kevin Hansen which caused extensive suspension damage to his Renault Megane.

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GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm, who had set the early race weekend pace, and finished as top qualifier, looked set to challenge strongly for overall victory.

However, he paid the price for a costly joker strategy in semi-final one where he finished fourth and thus failed to make the final.

ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider in the Seat Ibiza reached semi-final two but a clash with the Audi S1 of Monster RX Cartel’s Liam Doran resulted in bodywork damage and sixth place. The incident dropped Doran to fourth in the semi when it had seemed a place in the final beckoned for the Briton.

EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo, sporting a ‘just married’ sticker on the rear bumper of his Audi S1 in recognition of the Hungarian’s recent nuptials, celebrated with a race win in Q2 en route to fifth place in his semi-final.

Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuska, in the GC Kompetition Renault Megane, was on the back foot from Q1 after being handed a five-second time penalty for twice hitting track markers. The misdemeanours dropped him to ninth place after Q2.

He recovered to reach semi-final one where he finished fifth after clipping the tyre wall. Fellow GCK squad member Cyril Raymond, of France, was thwarted by mechanical failure in the same semi-final.

Guillame De Ridder’s run of bad fortune continued with the Belgian finishing the event in 14th place overall in his GCK Academy Renault Clio.

After a strong run to ninth in Q3, Oliver Bennett’s interest in the weekend ended in race 3 of Q4 when his Xite Racing Mini Cooper was sandwiched off the line and suffered broken right front suspension.

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It was an eventful outing for Team STARD’s Jani Paasonen. The Finn’s issues began in free practice with contact with one of Trois-Rivieres’ famed concrete walls.

His Ford Fiesta then crabbed its way over the line in race three of Q2 after further contact with a tyre barrier resulting in damage to the right rear suspension. He would eventually finish in last place.

The championship now visits Loheac for the Bretagne World RX of France from August 31 to September 1.

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Wild ride for Eriksson

Wet and dry might work for a vacuum cleaner, but it posed plenty of challenges in the qualifying heats for the Swecon World RX of Sweden, the sixth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy – with clear skies for the final shining on wildcard entry Sebastian Eriksson who finally took the chequered flag.

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A weekend crowd of more than 48 000 turned out at Holjes Motorstadion for the Magic Weekend, a highlight of the world rallycross calendar.

Although heavy rain in the early part of the day made track conditions challenging for the qualifying rounds, the leaden skies gave way to brilliant sunshine and a dry track for Sunday’s afternoon’s final.

Eriksson, who combines engineering and mechanic duties for the Olsberg MSE Team, was making only his fourth appearance at World RX level. In a previous round at Holjes in 2014, he led the final only to be thwarted by mechanical failure with the finish line in sight.

This time it was different. The 26-year-old Swede Eriksson started the final from pole in his Ford Fiesta having won his Q4 race to set the fastest time in the final round of qualifying races. The victory lifted him to P2 overall and secured pole position for the second semi-final which he also won.

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Eriksson, who lives an hour away from Holjes in the forests of Varmland, had previously competed in a Nordic RX event as preparation for this weekend but to take a convincing victory in a step up in class to world level against the best drivers in the sport was an astonishing achievement.

“It is so special to win here,” he said. “This is the race every rallycross driver wants to win so to come here and be able to win it is just amazing.

“It is over a year and a half since I have been in a Supercar so it has been a long time coming. Holjes is very special. The atmosphere around the track is like no other venue I’ve been to, and the race track itself is the best rallycross track there is.”

Eriksson, whose Fiesta was slowed towards the end by overheating, was hunted down by Team Hansen MJP’s Kevin Hansen on the final lap but held his nerve to take the chequered flag.

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“I was leading the final, I started losing power and I could sense the pressure but I just tried to keep it tight and not leave the door open for Kevin,” he said. “I knew Kevin was going to push me hard all the way to the line but I managed to keep it tight.

“The team has done a fantastic job with the car. I didn’t think we would be this competitive but from Q1 the pace was good. After this win, it’s looking good for the future. As for doing other races this year, we will have a meeting next week to plan what we do.”

Despite a last-corner lunge, Kevin Hansen had to settle for second in the final. In doing so, he took over the lead of the drivers’ championship from his brother Timmy who trailed off in last place after a puncture in the sister Peugeot 208.

Kevin now leads the standings on 131 points – six ahead of his elder brother.

The brothers took sibling rivalry to new levels of competitive spirit in their semi-final with Kevin emerging the winner after trading bodywork blows on several occasions.

“The whole weekend has been pretty crazy to be honest. Having changeable weather in the qualifying stages made things difficult,” Kevin said.

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“I had a good battle with Timmy in the semi-final and managed to come out on top which was important for the front row start for the final.

“In the final I pushed Sebastian really hard. On the final lap I was on his bumper and looking for somewhere to overtake as I thought he had a puncture because he had slowed a bit.

“In the last corner I thought ‘OK, this is it’. I stuck my nose up the inside in the middle but realised I could not make it, so I backed down. Anyway, P2 at home feels amazing in the end with some good points for the championship. It was a really cool event and great weekend.”

In third place was Reinis Nitiss who staged a remarkable comeback after rolling his Hyundai i20 in Q1 on Saturday.

The GRX Set team worked wonders to get their man out for Q2 where he took a race win and fastest time. A third place in the semi-final secured his passage to the final.

It was the Latvian’s first drive in World RX since competing in the opening round in Abu Dhabi. The World RX part-timer struggled to contain his emotions afterwards.

“After rolling the car in qualifying, the first roll in my life, on the most famous rallycross track, I jumped out of the car and thought maybe I need to stop with this sport,” he admitted.

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“But all the mechanics and everyone in the team did an amazing job and people around me helped me get my self-confidence back for Q2. I won in Q2 and got back in the game.

“We were so far down but we bounced back. And that’s why we go racing; for the emotions we get. To imagine being on the podium after the trouble in Q1, I just didn’t believe it was possible. This is the Magic Weekend in Holjes. Maybe magic happened for us.

As for competing in future rounds of World RX, Nitiss said: “There is my home race in Latvia later this year which I really want to be at. I will do everything I can to be there.”

His GRX team-mate Niclas Gronholm, the winner last time out in Hell, Norway, brought his Hyundai i20 across the line fourth but was relegated to fifth after incurring a five second penalty for track limit infringements.

Kevin Abbring, in only his second World RX event in the ESmotorsport – Labas GAS Skoda Fabia, thus inherited fourth place.

Andreas Bakkerud, third in the standings on 109, conceded ground to the Hansens when his Monster RX Cartel Audi S1 suffered a broken driveshaft while leading his semi-final. “It could have been a great final, the car felt good and we had the pace,” the Norwegian said. “It would nice to finally give all of our partners and supporters a win, but it wasn’t to be.”

Monster RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran endured a torrid weekend – much of which he admitted was of his own making. “Overall I made too many mistakes. To compete at a level like this especially here where there are 25 cars entered, you can’t afford to make a mistake because it costs dearly,” he said.

“I was trying to react to the mistakes I was making and trying to find the time back but you cannot find it, everyone is so fast. I had a bit of bad luck with a puncture in Q1, I made a mistake in spinning off the track in Q2 and then in Q3, I was too greedy in the first corner and got pushed off.

“It is just not gone my way at all. This is the first semi-final I haven’t qualified for which is not good for the championship. It’s such a big event as well so it’s not a great feeling but we have to move on and look to get some better luck next time.”

Holjes yielded positive results for Team STARD. Latvia’s Baumanis maintained his consistency by reaching the semi-final as did Finland’s Jere Kalliokoski on his first appearance of the season.

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GRX’s Timur Timerzyanov and ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider were disqualified from Q4 for track limits infringements and failed to make the semi-finals.

In a reference to his disqualification for touching the track limits pole, Timerzyanov, who had wins in Q1 and Q4 and looked to be heading to the semi-finals, commented: “With the track wet and slippery it makes driving unpredictable and there are going to be mistakes. I understand that if you hit a tyre barrier then that is a penalty but touching the track marker poles doesn’t give you much of an advantage.

“It’s a shame because I had good pace in Q1 and Q4 but with no points from the disqualification I had no chance to reach the semis. The speed in the car was good but when the track conditions are changing like they were today, wet and dry, you have to have some luck.”

Scheider also rued his costly disqualification on a difficult weekend overall. “It has been my worst weekend so far. I got spun around in Q1 ended up P16, then I recovered in Q2 to finish P6 overall which was a good recovery to Q3 where I took the lead but spun by myself. Then I got the disqualification from the race win in Q4,” the German said.

“Nevertheless, it was a bad weekend. We were competitive in the wet and good in the dry conditions. If I recalculate the weekend, we could have been top eight and chasing a spot in the semis for sure and possibly the final.”

Sebastien Eriksson’s Olbergs MSE team-mate Kevin Eriksson, who won the 2016 World RX of Germany event, reached the semi-finals while Ulrik Linneman, the first driver to race a Honda Civic Coupe Supercar in World RX, also caught the attention of the stewards. The Dane was disqualified from Q3 when the data logger on his car was found not to be connected.

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Best of the GC Kompetition squad was newcomer Rokas Baciuska who ended the event eighth overall just ahead of Sweden’s Anton Marklund, who was looking to make amends for losing his final victory in Norway due to a post-race scrutineering issue with the Renault Megane RS.

Guillaume De Ridder, who has endured a spate of misfortune over the past three events, had another difficult weekend. The Belgian reached the semi-final in Spain but the GCK Academy driver has finished well down the order thereafter.

In the quest for a change of fortune, he even applied a four-leaf clover sticker to the inside of his Renault Clio RS. At Holjes, his luck was well and truly out and he ended the weekend 20th overall – a victim of clutch problems.

GCK Academy’s Cyril Raymond rolled his Renault Clio RS on landing after the jump in Q4 but did manage a win in Q1.

GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit was handed a five second penalty in Q1 for unsportsmanlike behaviour and failed to reach the semi-finals.

Hungarian rookie Krisztian Szabo, in the EKS Sport Audi S1, missed the semi-finals for the second consecutive event while Oliver Bennett damaged a sub frame on the Xite Racing Mini Cooper and had to have parts flown in from the UK to make it into day two where he was hampered by further mechanical trouble.

The Pailler brothers Jonathan and Fabien, representing Pailler Competition, France’s most successful rallycross outfit, had mixed results on their debut in Holjes in a pair of Peugeot 208s, raced by Timmy Hansen and Sebastien Loeb in the World RX of 2016.

Jonathan climbed as high as 13th place, first reserve for the semi-finals, after steady results in the earlier rounds. He was rewarded with four world championship points. However, Fabien’s fate was sealed with a 30-second penalty for missing the joker lap in race four of Q3 and dropped to 16th overall.

As for the other newcomers for Holjes, Sweden’s Philip Gehrman Volkswagen Polo reached as high as 11th in Q4 but he and Norway’s Kjetil Larsen also in a Polo for Hedstroms Motorsport left the event without a point to show for their efforts.

Sebastian Eriksson became the fifth different winner in sixth rounds of a highly-competitive 2019 World RX season.

Kevin Hansen claimed victory in round one in Abu Dhabi and there have been wins for Timerzyanov in Belgium and Gronholm in Norway. Timmy Hansen is the only dual winner – in Spain and Great Britain.

The championship now visits Grand Prix De Trois-Rivieres in Canada for round seven on August 3-4.

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Spectacular jump to podium top step

Timur Timerzyanov claimed an emotional maiden world championship victory to add yet another name to the top step of the podium in what is turning out be a dramatic FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy – and which might see the final decider at the South African round in November.

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The World RX of Benelux at Spa-Francorchamps, the third round of the series saw Timerzyanov throw caution to the wind in his chase for the victory with Andreas Bakkerud, the Monster Energy RX Cartel pole-sitter second and Timerzyanov’s GRX Taneco team-mate Joni Wiman third.

Timerzyanov’s victory came after 64 race starts in World RX. He provided plenty of drama in pulling off two stunning airborne passes over the jump in a pulsating performance en route to the final.

The emotional Russian struggled to find the words to accurately sum up his feelings after his World RX breakthrough.

“I still can’t believe that I have practised for this moment 64 times, it feels unbelievable,” the Hyundai i20 driver said. “This is my life. Every day I wake up in the morning and I only think about rallycross. It’s in my blood.

“I have been asked to go to circuit racing and I said ‘no’ because rallycross is the only thing I want to do. I love this sport. There’s so much action, so much adrenalin.

“In the final, I was planning to just hold the guys behind and then at the first corner everything opened up for me. I saw a gap and I thought ‘this is my chance’ and I took it.

“I really didn’t know what to do when I was leading. It’s the first time I have been there in a final. I just tried to concentrate on my race and control my driving.

“I had so much fun this weekend, The circuit is really something special and it suits my driving style. You can really fly on the gravel section and going up Eau Rouge is awesome.

“Now I am looking forward to the SpeedMachine Festival at Silverstone in less than two weeks.”

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It was also the first World RX victory for GRX, the team overseen by former WRC icon Marcus Gronholm.

Bakkerud followed up his third place in Barcelona with another strong weekend in the Audi S1. He had his chances in the final but was delighted that it was Timerzyanov who took the spoils.

“Argentina 2016 was my last win and I had one little finger on the trophy but if there was one guy who I would want to win this weekend if it wasn’t me, it’s my good friend Timur,” he said. “Of course I would have loved the win but he really deserved it. He is a true character of the sport.

“My race was OK but I overshot the first turn with Joni (Wiman) and went wide, then I saw Timur’s yellow rocket coming through and that was the end of the story.

“After a bad start in Abu Dhabi, two podiums in a row feels good. We are finally winning some qualifying heats. We need to take it step by step. We started late getting the RX Cartel together but now we’ve found a much more organised way of working and I’m sure things will continue to improve for us.”

Wiman, entered in the event as a wildcard, was drafted in as a late replacement to score teams’ points for GRX in place of Niclas Gronholm, who was recovering from illness.

He was the revelation of the weekend in only his second World RX event, his last being four years ago.

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In the final, the Finn was caught up in the first-corner melee and dropped to last position but recovered with a clever tactical drive.

“This is my second ever world championship event and to get to the podium is a great feeling,” he said.

“I started the weekend quite slowly but went flat out today. After the semi-final win I was quite confident that I could be competitive in the final.

“I tried to go for the win in the first corner but I got stuck in the wall for a while and I was lucky to recover. A first and third for the team is really nice.”

Timmy Hansen, so dominant in Barcelona, at the wheel of the Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208, was fourth in the Spa-Francorchamps final ahead of Latvia’s Janis Baumanis in the Team STARD Ford Fiesta.

Bakkerud’s Monster Energy RX team-mate Liam Doran, despite setting the pace on Saturday, had contact exiting Eau Rouge in the final, came to grief at the Raidillon hairpin and finished sixth.

Kevin Hansen bumped door panels with Doran over the jump on the final lap of the first semi-final and was denied a spot in the final by a tenth of a second. The clash resulted in his Peugeot grinding to a halt after nudging the wall at the finish line.

Mattias Ekstrom, the 2016 world rallycross champion battled his way to the semi-final in the JC Raceteknik-prepared Audi S1. However, a coming together with Timmy Hansen at turn one in the second semi-final relegated the 40-year-old Swede to the rear of the field.

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GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit was another to engage in aerial combat over the jump – with EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo in Q4 – meaning the Frenchman missed the semi-final cut. Fellow GCK team members, Anton Marklund and Cyril Raymond did make it through as did Szabo.

Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Seat Ibiza finished fourth in the first semi-final, just ahead of Szabo.

Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett took his Mini Cooper to a race win in Q4 but narrowly missed a semi-final spot as did GCK Academy’s local hero Guillaume De Ridder, who was hampered by mechanical trouble in the Renault Clio RS.

The trio of Belgian newcomers to World RX at Spa recorded mixed results despite being cheered on by their raucous compatriots.

Enzo Ide in his maiden World RX outing at the wheel of the JC Raceteknik Audi S1 and Gregoire Demoustier in a Peugeot 208 were off the pace most of the weekend.

WRC veteran Francois Duval, replacing Rokas Baciuska in the ESmotorsport – Labas Gas Skodia Fabia, had contact with Raymond in Q4 resulting in a DNF and ending his slim hopes of advancing to the semi-finals.

Pal Try in the Team STARD Ford Fiesta found the going tough on his return to action after sitting out the Barcelona round but the Norwegian did manage to record a race win in Q3. Frenchman Herve Knapick was at the tail of the weekend race standings in the Citroen DS3.

Despite missing the final, Kevin Hansen maintained his championship lead. He is on 69 points with a nine-point buffer to his older brother Timmy. Timerzyanov’s win moves him to third place on 53 points.

In the team’s standings, GRX have closed the gap to one point to Team Hansen MJP with Monster Energy RX Cartel third with 94.

After a typically wet and wild day Spa-Francorchamps Saturday, the sun shone on the famed circuit for Sunday’s final.

A crowd of over 17 500 turned out during the course of the weekend and a packed grandstand created a gladiatorial atmosphere on final day.

Nathalie Maillet, the CEO of Spa-Francorchamps, was delighted with the celebrated circuit’s inaugural world rallycross event. “At Spa-Francorchamps we want to do thinks the right way,” she said.

“We took a risk in building the whole rallycross infrastructure and with the investment we have made, but you can see from the big crowds that have come here this weekend and the spectacular racing, that we made the right decision.

“We have developed a festival atmosphere here. SpeedMachine in the UK was something that seduced me when I first spoke to IMG about bringing world rallycross to Spa-Francorchamps and we are replicating the SpeedMachine atmosphere here.

“We started the track build only in January so with more time to perfect what we have the potential for next year is huge. I am very pleased to have IMG as a partner so we can grow this world championship event together.”

Revenge is sweet

Sometimes revenge is truly sweet – and Timmy Hansen rebounded from a season-opener crash in Abus Dhabi to take the top step of the podium after the second round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Catalunya at the weekend.

He kept a perfect score to emerge with a clean sweep of wins. It was also his first World RX victory since taking the honours at the Canadian round in 2016.

Hansen was delighted to turn his fortunes around after the disappointment of Abu Dhabi.

“We had to work incredibly hard and put all our resources in to re-building my car from Abu Dhabi. The mechanics worked day and night and got the car here in good condition.”

“Honestly, I just wanted a good, clean weekend but I started with a win in Q1 and Q2 and won all four qualifying races. I think it’s only the fourth time that’s been done and only the third time anybody has the perfect weekend so I’m really happy to be in the history books.

“I really worked hard on my starts this weekend. You have to be super focussed to get a good launch with a rallycross car but we did it all the way through. And I’m really looking forward to building on this result.”

Timmy’s younger brother Kevin finished second in the final after holding off a hard-charging Andreas Bakkerud in the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1. The Norwegian opted for a last-lap joker lap but still emerged behind Kevin at the run to the flag.

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The siblings, in a pair of Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208s, had laid down a marker with back-to-back one-twos in Q1 and Q2 – Timmy pulling rank over Kevin.

Second place in Spain enabled Kevin to retain his overall leadership of the championship after he was promoted from second to first place in the UAE following a penalty for Niclas Gronholm.

“I am really pleased with this result. To get second place is very satisfying. I tried my best against Timmy but he was just too fast in the final,” he said.

“I don’t think about the championship too much. It’s nice to be leading and to know that I’ve been competitive so far. I am really enjoying the car and the whole feeling at the moment and I hope to keep this momentum going and keep a smile on my face.”

Bakkerud, who was disqualified after being at fault for the crash with Timmy Hansen in Abu Dhabi, was relieved to be on the podium.

“It’s been hard to play catch-up. We are still struggling from the crash in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “We are still working on the car step-by-step but we are getting there.

“Three times in a row I have been on the podium in Barcelona so obviously I Iike it here. But I have to say the Hansens have been the dominant team this weekend – especially Timmy, he has been superb, so congrats to him.”

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Gronholm finished fourth in the final to maintain his second place in the championship on 48 points, eight points behind Kevin and 10 ahead of Timmy.

Cyril Raymond was impressive all weekend in the GCK Academy Renault Clio and his fifth place in his first World RX final, was just reward. The Frenchmen finished ahead of the Team STARD Ford Fiesta driver Janis Baumanis.

The GC Kompetition squad had an improved performance from Abu Dhabi by getting Guillaume De Ridder and Guerlain Chicherit to the semi-finals along with Raymond.

Liam Doran, third place last time out in Abu Dhabi, had a mixed weekend in his Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 but made it to the semi-final as did Timur Timerzyanov in the GRX Taneco Hyundai i20.

Hungary’s Krisztian Szabo had a last-corner spin in the EKS Sport Audi in the second semi-final but scored 10 points in another solid weekend for the World RX newcomer. ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider had a troublesome semi-final in the Seat Ibiza in finishing fifth ahead of Szabo.

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British driver and former Olympic champion Sir Christopher Hoy thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of World RX – picking up world championships in the process.

“I’ve had the best experience of my motorsport career so far,” he said. “I’ve done the Le Mans 24 Hour, I’ve raced GT cars, historics and Caterhams, but honestly nothing compares to the sheer exhilaration of a world rallycross car.

“I take my hat off to the guys competing in this series, it really is cut and thrust competition. I’m so honoured to be given the chance to compete in an FIA world championship – and to come away with points.”

Hoy’s Xite Racing stablemate Oliver Bennett showed flashes of pace in the Mini Cooper as did ESmotorsport – Labas GAS’s rookie Rokas Baciuska in the Skoda Fabia.

The championship now moves to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the World RX of Benelux on May 11-12.

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.

Hoy makes rallycross debut

Swopping two wheels for four and pedals for petrol, six-time Olympic cycling gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy will make his World Rallycross debut in Catalunya, Spain on April 27.

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In the second round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, the 43-year-old will be at the wheel of the Xite Racing-prepared Ford Fiesta alongside Oliver Bennett and the Xite Racing MINI.

“I am really looking forward to competing in the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Barcelona. Driving a rallycross car has always been on my bucket list, but to actually race against the world’s best will really be something special – and a huge challenge,” he says.

“I will be testing next week with Oliver Bennett and his Xite Racing team, and learning all I can ahead of my World RX debut in Spain.”

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Torben Olsen, the Managing Director of World RX for IMG, the series promoter, said he is delighted Hoy is joining the World RX ranks for Barcelona.

“To have a world class sportsman of the calibre of Sir Chris entering the FIA World Rallycross Championship is quite a coup for the series”

“I have admired his commitment and professionalism as a multiple Olympic champion. I am sure we can expect he will bring the same level of dedication and competitive spirit to World RX as he did in becoming one of the greatest cyclists of all time.”

The Scotsman’s cycling roll of honour includes six Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver and 11 world championship titles as well as gold medals in Commonwealth Games competition.

He was awarded an MBE in 2005 and received a knighthood in 2009 for his services to sport.

Since his retirement from competitive cycling in 2013, Hoy has taken on a number of motor sport challenges – most notably the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016 in the LMP2 class. He has also competed in European Le Mans and the British GT Championship.

Hoy has support from Dayinsure, the title sponsor of the World RX of Great Britain, and Cooper Tires for his debut in World RX.

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Also joining the 19-car grid for Barcelona will be Finland’s Jani Paasonen in the Team STARD Ford Fiesta. Paasonen has previously competed in European Rallycross Championship events.

Hungary’s Tamas Karai joins the field in the Karai Motorsport Egyesulet Audi A1 while Frenchman Herve Knapick’s Citroen DS3 brings the total of automotive brands to nine for Catalunya.