Seven days in rallycross, February 27

by Tim Whittington |

Jacques Villeneuve was at Lydden on February 22 where he completed his first public outing ahead of the FIA World Rallycross Championship season by running in the pre-season test day at the ‘Home of Rallycross’. Villeneuve impressed everyone present with his consistency and speed in the Albatec Racing Peugeot 208. “To come to Lydden Hill is great, it’s fast, a real fun track, quite high speed and after testing in Dreux it’s great to finally drive on a proper FIA World Rallycross Championship track with a combination of asphalt and graveI. It’s a nice track, it’s how tracks used to be made, and follows the lay of the land. It’s been a fun experience working with the team, with Andy who stands out because of his passion for the sport, and in particular the engineers, to get the best out of the 208. You don’t rallycross because of the jet set you do it because of the racing, so now I’m really looking forward to going head-to-head with the other drivers in Portugal,” said Villeneuve. Just a few days after the test, Albatec also confirmed that Villeneuve would not take part in the British round of the championship, a previous and conflicting commitment to race in the Indy 500 keeping him away from the Lydden event. “What driver in the world would or could turn down the opportunity to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Jacques is a racer through and through and returning to tackle the Indy 500 is simply too good a chance for him to miss. We knew this was a possibility as he’d already expressed an interest in doing that one event, so I’m pleased he gets the chance to go for the double win,” said Albatec racing principal Andy Scott.

America’s rallycross pioneer Tanner Foust, newly settled as a VW driver, confirmed his 2014 competition schedule. Based on a GRC campaign with the new Volkswagen Andretti team, Foust will also take four World RX events, Britain and Finland, both of which he won last year, and adding Canada and Turkey. Foust will join official VW squad Marklund Motorsport for his World championship events. “Every season, the sport of rallycross steps up its game … it’s been amazing to be part of rallycross as it has grown over the past few years and I can’t wait to get back out there and race in 2014,” said Foust.

Prodrive took its MINI RX to Portimao in Portugal last week where prospective drivers were tested. French crossover star Guerlain Chicherit was the highest profile driver involved in the test in which Adros Trophy champion Jean-Philippe Dayraut also took part.

After the first event of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship was cancelled because the unusually wet British winter had made it impossible for the revised Blyton track to be prepared in time, the series is ready for a delayed start at Blyton Park on March 9. Organisers expect 50 cars to take part in the event which opens the rejuvenated six-round Clubmans series.

In Belgium, meanwhile, the unrest that has simmered since the death of BRCV President Andre Reul last April has boiled over with two rival ‘boards’ of the organising club at Maasmechelen’s Duivelsbergcircuit disputing the right to run events at the track. On February 25 a court in Tongeren said that the opening events of the Belgian championship season (a regional event on March 1 and a the opening round of the Belgian championship on March 2) should be cancelled while the dispute was resolved. The events had a combined entry of 170 drivers who, along with a loyal fan base at Maasmechelen, have lost their weekend’s sport through the conflict.

Former Loheac winner Rudolf Schafer will drive in six rounds campaign of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600. The Breton will run his revised Citroen DS3 “Steven Bossard tested the car the day after Loheac. Lasy year the car was too heavier to have a chance to reach the semi-finals but we will fix that and have more power from a new Da Luz Technology engine. Even if it’s difficult to judge our potential before the first outing, I think this the best car we ever had,” said Schafer who begins his campaign in Portugal.

Retro Rallycross has renamed its Driver of the Year award in honour of the late John Button. Button’s son, former F1 World Champion Jenson has given his blessing to the idea. ” I think this is a lovely idea, I am happy to have my father’s name honoured in this way,” he said. Retro Rallycross creator Shirley Gibson said, ”John was a lovely man, and it gives me pleasure to be able to mark his role in Rallycross in this way.” Retro Rallycross will appear at six rounds of the MSA British Rallycross Championship.

After a year away from racing, Patrick Mertens has revealed a new VW Polo-based TouringCar in which he will contest the FIA European Rallycross Championship. The Belgian plans a full season with the self-built car and is aiming to be on the podium.

In his pre-season statement, FFSA President Nicolas Deschaux hailed the revised French Rallycross Championship (which has adopted the four-heat and semi-final, final format of the FIA championships) as “adopting a revised system to offer an even greater spectacle … the Twingo R1 Cup supports junior drivers and is creating a new women’s cup this year.”

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