The RallycrossRX field returned from the summer break to contest round seven of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Loheac, France.
Super1600 provided excellent racing during the first half of the season, and the later stages of the championship were to be no different. Reinis Nitiss entered the season as a relatively unknown quantity. The young Latvian had previously contested selected events in a self-run Peugeot 206; moving up to a Set Promotion Renault Clio was quite a step. While some may have struggled with the move to the front of the pack Nitiss shone. Loheac typified his year, achieving an incredible result and proving himself worthy of his success in front of 72,000 people. 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 so strong, but one of the fastest Frenchman around 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 was attached to Nitiss’s rear bumper throughout the final but didn’t quite have enough speed to claim victory.
David Olivier made it two Frenchman on the podium, driving a clean event to wind up third. Maximillien Eveno finished fourth ahead ahead of Eric Faren who picked up a puncture. Contact with Faren put reigning French Champion 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, he could do no more than fourth in semi-final one. Regular competitor Vadim Makarov finished fourth in semi-final two, while Jean Baptiste Dubourg was fourth at the Intermediate Classification and looked on for a great result, only to be spun out in the first corner in his semi-final. Championship contender Ulrik Linnemann was excluded from heat two after contact with Faren, and failed to finish heat four after sustaining first corner damage, putting him out of the event and ultimately out of the running for the championship. Showing the strength of the French drivers at their home event, Rasual Minnikhanov and Sergj Zagummennov could only manage 18th, and 19th respectively. French Formula One television commentator Julien Febreau enjoyed his event and finished semi-final two in sixth is his 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, continuing his season-long run of bad luck.
If France had proved Nitiss’ value as champion-elect, he finished the job in style in Austria where the young Latvian put in an awesome display to take maximum points and the championship title with his fifth win. Linnemann made up for a terrible weekend in France to claim second but it wasn’t enough to stop Nitiss sealing the crown. It was the same story for Rakhmatullin in third, he headed to Austria second in the title race with the mathematical possibility of overhauling his young team-mate, but it wasn’t enough. Zagummenov finished fourth ahead of Faren in fifth. Local man Christian Petrakovits made his first appearance since round three in Hungary and finished sixth. Munnich just missed out on a place in the final, the German driver had a torrid weekend and was pleased to still be going at the end. Munnich’s team-mate and wife Mandie August put in her best performance of the season, if not career and only just missed out on a place in the final with fourth in semi-final one. Young Estonian Janno Ligur brought his Skoda Fabia to Austria and looked quick at times. He finished sixth in semi-final two but is certainly one to watch for the future.
With the championship done and dusted, Linnemann was out to prove his pace in the final event of the season. Starting the final from pole, he led off the line before hitting the wall near the end of the lap, handing the lead to champion Nitiss, who sailed on to take his sixth victory of the season. Timur Shigaboutdinov had his best run of the season to finish second, while Linnemann managed to score the final podium position. Faren took a win or bust approach to the final round but was always caught in traffic which ruined his chances of a good result, he ended up fifth behind Zagumennov, and ahead of Rakhmatullin who’s season was summarised with a difficult final and mechanical troubles ultimately slowing the Russian. Andreas Steffen finished fourth in semi-final two in his home event, ahead of Ligur who was again quick. Kasparas Navickas finished fourth in semi-final one with a strong performance in his first event of the season, ahead of German driver Sven Seeliger. Belgian Davy Van Den Branden made his first appearance of the year at the last round, and could feature well next year if he does more events. Clemens Meyer started his first event since a huge crash in Belgium 2012. Always quick, Meyer spent time getting back in the groove in a Munnich Motorsport Skoda Fabia and hopes to do more in 2014.
As the season drew to a close, Set Promotion had produced another star; Nitiss making the championship his own in his first full season. With several front-running drivers planning to move up to Supercar for next season, Super1600 will again produce close racing and exciting new talent in 2014.
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