If round six of RallycrossRX in Sweden was highly anticipated, then if anything round seven at Loheac, France is even more so.
While Holjes has been a highlight in the European Championship for years, Loheac makes its first appearance in the series since 2001. Despite its absence from the sport’s biggest stage, the round of the domestic French Championship held at Loheac has always been one of the must-visit rallycross events.
Coupled with the success of past events at Loheac, the addition to the regular RallycrossRX entry list of one of the biggest names in world motorsport, Sebastien Loeb, and one of the most highly-regarded names in the World Rally Championship, Kris Meeke, an event that was already going to be big is set to be a spectacular.
Kenneth Hansen, who incidentally won the event last time the European championship visited Loheac, more recently competed at the circuit during a round of the French Championship six years ago. He remembers the event well, and holds it in high esteem;
“My feeling about Loheac is that you go to an area of France that has a lot of genuine motorsport interest. For example, when we were there last time it was for a round of the French Championship in 2007. We were loading the car maybe three hours after the event, and we had 200 people watching us. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in Europe. There’s massive enthusiam for rallycross there, and for motorsport generally. I think we will see enormous spectator numbers, also because of Sebastien [Loeb]. Having so many spectators in one area will be amazing.”
With most drivers in the European championship having never raced at the French venue, many have already travelled to Loheac over the course of the season to test their cars and learn the circuit. Hansen Motorsport tested at the circuit earlier in the season, giving rallycross newbie Timmy Hansen to opportunity to get to grips with the track;
“Loheac starts with a 90 degree right and the track’s very wide there, with a really short apex. It’s quite a fast corner but it’s third or fourth gear and leads you onto a really fast left, in fifth gear with just a tiny lift, onto gravel. It’s like dustier tarmac, not like proper gravel, and you still have good grip through the left-hander. After the left you are going up to a crest, but it’s not a jump or anything, and you brake right on the top, getting your speed down for the hairpin right.
“After the hairpin it opens up to a long back straight with a small right kink that is really crucial to get perfect for the speed on the straight. At the end of it you come into a fifth gear right-hander next to the joker lap; here we are carrying a lot of speed into the corner. You have to put the car a little bit sideways and then it tightens up at the end, into the slowest part of the lap. A third gear left-hander which is always really, really slippery and difficult to get right, then a small acceleration down into a second gear for the very, very long last corner that goes back onto the start finish straight. The track is quite flat; the only small jump is in the joker lap section. All the corners lead into each other, and there is lots of grip so you can change your lines. It’s a lot like a tarmac circuit.”
Loheac is one of those events that should be on the ‘must-do’ list of all rallycross fans. In fact, any motor sport fan would be well advised to make the trip. Motorsport in France has a certain atmosphere, and that is present in spades at Loheac, but there is so much more to the experience of an event there. Rallycross in France first took place at Loheac, the current track is on a different site, but this is a small village and very much the home of rallycross in France. The village is a few minutes walk from the track and has bars and restaurants aplenty. Right next door to the circuit is the Manoir de l’automobile, a fantastic but little-known museum that you simply have to find time to visit. As can be seen in the photograph, spectator viewing around the track is very good with lots of options of where to stand. The usually lively and knowledgeable spectator base helps create a great atmosphere. But don’t take our word for it, go and see for yourself.
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