Loheac in France played host to the seventh round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship. Tens of thousands of spectators from all over Northern France and beyond flocked to the venue to watch the regular permanent drivers take on an exciting line-up of national hero’s and wildcard drivers including nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb and British WRC driver Kris Meeke, both making their RallycrossRX debuts.
On Sunday afternoon, in front an incredible atmosphere it was Andreas Bakkerud who claimed his second victory in a row after a ding-dong battle with fellow semi-final winner Petter Solberg, who made the best start in the final only to be passed by Bakkerud and wind up second to score his best result of the season. RallycrossRX permanent Davy Jeanney once again drove a consistent event, fastest of all in heat three he finished second in semi-final two then third in the final to close the gap on second place in the title chase to just five points. Championship leader Timur Timerzyanov was top of the Intermediate Classifications and finished fourth in the final to increase his championship lead after a hard battle with American wildcard Tanner Foust who ended the final in the wall following contact with Timerzyanov, he did get going again but failed to finish the final lap and was classified sixth, behind French driver Geatan Serazin who had a great run to fifth place.
First man not to make the final was the French fans hero Sebastien Loeb, starting on the back row of the grid he put a strong challenge in for a final place, finishing semi-final one in fourth position, just four tenths behind Timerzyanov. Loeb had a challenging weekend, fast over a single lap the fight for the first corner was his ultimately his achilles heel. Ice-racing legend Jean Philippe Dayraut also finished fourth in his semi-final in his Peugeot 207, the French driver won his race in heat four and with more RX experience would be right at the front. Timmy Hansen had a weekend of highs and lows. On top of the order after heat three, he was spun out of heat four by Liam Doran and experienced technical problems in semi-final one, slowing his Citroen DS3 and missing out on a place in the final. With Timerzyanov scoring well, the gap at the head of the championship was opened to 15 points.
Alexander Hvaal had another frustrating event, the Norwegian spent two of his heat races slowed by other cars in front. Heat three produced an exciting side-by-side finish between Hvaal and Anton Marklund, just eight hundredths of a second separated the pair over the line. Fabien Pailler was the fastest French championship driver through the event, he shared the head of the order on Saturday evening he looked on for a good result until spun out of contention in the first corner of semi-final two. Henning Solberg had another strong event, making it to the semi-finals driving an older car in the highly competitive field was a good result for the older of the Solberg brothers.
Anton Marklund was the first driver not to make the semi-finals, the young Swede struggled on day one but made set-up changes on overnight to find over a second per lap. A mistake in heat three slowed him slightly and was unable to make it to the semi-finals in heat four. As ever Liam Doran was fast, but a stall on the start line of heat two alongside Petter Solberg compromised his position, before being disqualified from heat four for spinning Hansen, causing him to miss the semi-finals. Andy Scott had a strong event that included a race win in heat three. The Albatec Peugeot clearly was set-up well for the French circuit, and will be one to watch at the next round in Austria. Scott’s team mate for the event was British WRC star Kris Meeke, who in the sister 208 had the ultimate pace. A puncture in heat two didn’t do the Northern Irish driver any favours, before being disqualified from heat three for some overly aggressive overtaking moves. French Championship leader Jermone Grosset-Janin had transmission problems that forced him out of heat one and didn’t start heat two. When running on day two he was super-quick with a third and fifth time. Had the car been running right all weekend he could well have been in the final. Kevin Procter started his first event of the year and wound up nineteenth, while Peter Hedstrom had a strong start to the event before engine failure at the end of heat three put him out of contention.
Reinis Nitiss achieved an incredible result in Loheac, fastest in every heat he won both his semi-final and final to take his fifth win of the year and maximum points from the event. This would usually be impressive, but more so in France when not only are the local drivers are so strong, but one of the fastest Frenchman is your team-mate in an identical car. Second all weekend, Steven Bossard made a one-off appearance in France at the wheel of a Set Promotion Clio, and was disappointed not to win, he did everything he could, and was attached to Nitiss’s rear bumper as the pair crossed the line in the final. David Olivier made it two Frenchman on the podium, the 2011 French champion drove a clean event to wind up third. Maximillien Eveno, former French Diacia Logan champion finished fourth, ahead of Eric Faren who as ever would have won the award for most committed driver, a puncture in the final ruled him out of a near certain podium. Contact with Faren put reigning French Champ Laurent Chartrain out of contention in the final, he was only able to complete three laps before retiring.
Ildar Rakhmatullin was again fast but upstaged by his two younger team-mates. The Russian driver still has the speed to win but doesn’t seem to be able to get it all together often in 2013. Vadim Makarov got faster all weekend and finished fourth in semi-final two, while Jean Baptiste spun out in the first corner. French Formula One television commentator Julien Febreau enjoyed his event and finished semi-final two in sixth is his slightly older Citroen Saxo, just behind Timur Shigaboutinov who was much quicker in France and probably deserved more. Rene Munnich failed to finish semi-final two. Championship contender Ulrik Linnemann was excluded from heat two after contact with Faren, and failed to finish heat four after sustaining first corner damage, with Nitiss claiming maximum points the result has all but ended Linnemann’s championship hopes.
The rear-wheel drive category was almost total domination of Irish driver Derek Tohill, who won every heat bar the first, when he was involved in first corner contact with Robin Larsson. Victories by over five seconds in both his semi-final and final showed Tohill’s form, he is now within touching distance of his second European title. Daniel Lundh finished second in the final having won semi-final two. The Swede has been one of the revelations of the season. His event went well throughout, but like Tohill had first corner issues in heat one, where he ended up in the gravel trap. The ever-present Roman Castoral is one of the most experienced drivers in the paddock and it shows, his second place in the championship in a self-built car backed up with another strong performance in France, he finished third. Roger Enlund made the trip from Sweden and finished fourth, despite having a sick sounding engine as he crossed the finish line. Koen Pauwels had another good event, fastest in heat one he was Tohill’s closest challenger in the heats. Second to Lundh in semi-final two he looked on for a podium until involved in contact in the final that slowed his Fiesta. Robin Larsson spun out of contention in the final for the second event in a row, while David Nordgaard and Andreas Braten both finished fourth in their semi-finals, missing out on the main event.
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