Situations vacant

by Hal Ridge |

With just a couple of days to go until the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill, England (Mar 31 – Apr 1), teams are putting the finishing touches to their cars after a winter of hard work. Alongside the headline acts of World and European champions in the Supercar category, Super1600 and TouringCar also have a rich vein of talent and champions chasing glory.

Both the 2012 champions from Super1600 (Andreas Bakkerud) and TouringCar (Anton Marklund) have moved up to Supercar for 2013, leaving the crowns to be won be a fresh face this season. Headline acts in the TouringCar category for rear-wheel-drive cars will be 2010 champion Derek Tohill back in his re-worked Ford Fiesta, and 2012 debutant Robin Larsson. Son of former double European Supercar champion Lars, Larsson only contested a part season in 2012 but was on the pace from the off, taking event wins in his stride as if he had been racing in the European circus for years. Tohill too visited the top set of the podium in 2012. The Irish driver tested his re-developed car at the Lydden Hill two weeks ago at the opening round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship, which should stand him in good stead this coming weekend.

Czech driver Roman Castoral is back for another crack at the TouringCar title in his self-built Opel Astra. Himself a former European champion in the Grp N category, Castoral knows what it takes to succeed and achieves remarkable results with arguably one of the smallest teams in the paddock. Regular front runner Koen Pauwels will be busy this season, running his own ex-Knut Ove-Borseth Ford Fiesta in TouringCar alongside the supercar of Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme. Swede Daniel Lundh will be as entertaining as ever in his Volvo C30, now with experience under his belt expect to see him on the podium in the early part of the season. David Nordgaard heads to Lydden Hill with his Ford Focus hoping a good result can secure enough backing to contest a full season.

Potential upsets in TouringCar come in the form of Norwegian pairing Torlief Lona and Anders Braten, both driving Ford Fiestas. Relative unknowns to the championship but both in capable cars, their progress will be watched with keen interest by many.

Get Set?

Super1600 will be a hotly contested affair in 2013, with a large number of drivers capable of making the podium. As with the last few seasons, the team to beat will be Finnish outfit Set Promotion, run by Jussi Pinomaki. Russian event winner Ildar Rakhmatulin returns to the squad to drive a Renault Twingo, alongside fellow countryman Timur Shigaboutdinov, who makes his second appearance at Lydden Hill this weekend. Reinis Nitiss will drive a Renault Clio for the team, replacing his self-run Peugeot 206. Also driving a Set -Clio, Kevin Erikkson moves to the European stage for four events. Son of OMSE boss Andreas, Erkisson has previously competed in ‘Folkrace’ in his native Sweden.

Eric Faren is hoping that after a year learning the circuits and his Citroen C2 he can challenge for wins and the title. Dane Ulrik Linnermann was arguably Andreas Bakkerud’s biggest title threat over the last two seasons, and returns with his self-built Peugeot 207. Austrian Christian Petraovitz has been a front runner for a number of years in his VW Polo, can 2013 be the year that he manages to break his duct and claim his first win at European level?

Having competed in the first round of the World Touring Car Championship at Monza last weekend, Rene Munnich returns to rallycross behind the wheel of his Skoda Fabia II, joined by his partner Mandie August in a similar car. Ralph Wilhelm is the third German on the list at the wheel of his Renault Clio. Also in a pair of Skoda Fabia II’s, Sergej Zagumennov and Vadim Makarov both contest the championship in Rolf Volland engineered cars. Czech team Blue Engineering are back, fielding a VW Polo for highly regarded Latvian Ernestas Staponkus. Czech driver Ondrej Smetena has replaced his aging Ford Puma for this season with a Ford Fiesta, and is another who when on form can spring a big suprise.

With more drivers expected to join both classes as the year progresses, those that strive most to be winners in Super1600 and TouringCar will have their work cut-out in 2013.





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