The first round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship took place at Montelagre in Portugal, the now traditional season opener. Despite a troubled first day in the defence of his double World RX crowns, in torrentially wet conditions, Petter Solberg (Citroen DS3) made hay while the sun shone on Sunday and won both the second semi-final and final to take both the event win and the points lead. Robin Larsson finished second in his privately run Audi A1 while Toomas Heikkinen (Audi S3) completed the podium on his first appearance for the EKS team. Andreas Bakkerud shone on the debut of the new Ford Focus RS RX and finished fourth, with nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot 208) fifth and Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo) classified sixth. The Swede may have finished on the podium or even won, had it not been for contact with Solberg at the joker lap exit during the final.
Mattias Ekstrom (Audi S1) had set the pace through the event and topped the Intermediate Classification but failed to make the final after a first corner collision in the first semi-final with Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208). The first round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 drivers also took place in Portugal. Janno Ligur (Skoda Fabia) led proceedings during the qualifying stages but would only finish fourth in the final, beaten by Ulrik Linnemann (Peugeot 208) who fought back from a troubled time in the early races, local star Mario Barbosa (Citroen Saxo) and Timur Shigabutdoniv (Renault Twingo). Krisztian Szabo (Skoda Fabia) finished fifth with Magnus Bersjobrenden (Renault Twingo) sixth.
On the eve of the World RX opener, Ekstrom announced that he will race in both the DTM and World RX at the next round of the World Championship at Hockenheim. Last year, Ekstrom focused on the DTM at the double-header event and skipped the RX round, but will race in both this season. “I’m very thankful to Audi for this unique opportunity. Following the final pre-season tests in my Red Bull Audi RS 5 DTM at Hockenheim, I’m all fired up for the first two DTM races of the new season,” said Ekstrom. “We have good chances of repeating last year’s victories. That I’ll be able to additionally compete with world stars like Ken Block, Petter Solberg and Sébastien Loeb at the wheel of my Audi S1 EKS RX quattro in front of thousands of Audi fans at the Motodrom is fantastic.”
The second and third rounds of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship were held at Pembrey, South Wales. Tommy Graham (Ford Escort) dominated the Supermodified category and claimed victory on both days. Kenny Hall (Renault Clio) and David Attiwell (Peugeot 106) completed the podium on Saturday, while Marc Jones (Toyota MR2) and Attiwell were the rostrum finishers on Sunday behind Graham. John Ward (Peugeot 106) twice won the A Final in the Production category while Darren Clark (Nissan Sunny) and Shane Buckley (Ford Escort) share the victory spoils in the Historic category. The event hosted the opening round of the Clubman Supercar and Production 4×4 Championships. Local driver Mike Manning (Subaru Impreza) won on both days in his Production specification car, ahead of Nigel Burke (Subaru Impreza) on Saturday and Dmitrij Sribnyj’s Supercar version of the Japanese machine on Sunday.
A week earlier, the opening round of the Dutch Rallycross Championship took place at Valkenswaard. Belgian Jos Jansen (Ford Focus) led the three-car Supercar final from start to finish, ahead of Will Turlings (Volvo S40) and Johnny Verkuringen (Subaru Impreza). Former European Championship front-runner Peter Vingerhoets (Peugeot 206) returned to the Super1600 category and only just lost out to Davy Van Den Branden (Citroen DS3) in the final, the Belgian driver making the best start. In SuperTouringCars -2000, Peter Van De Wege (Toyota Yaris) won following a mistake in the final by Danny De Beuckelaer (Volvo C30). Claudia Smits (Ford Fiesta) finished second with Mandy Kasse (Ford Fiesta) in third. In the SuperTouringCars +2000 division, Steve Volders (Ford Escort) won ahead of Bert Bosmans (Volvo 242) and Kristof Bex (Volvo S40).
The opening round of the German Rallycross Championship was held at the Laustzring, which was joined by the first round of the Polish Rallycross Championship. Pawel Hankiewicz (Skoda Fabia) won the Supercar final, in which the podium was claimed by Polish drivers. Mikolaj Otto (Mitsubishi Evo) finished second with Thomas Kuchar (Subaru Impreza) third. Mandie August made her Supercar debut in a Munnich Motorsport Audi S3 and finished fourth, claiming top DRX points ahead of Dietmar Brandt (Audi S4) and Alexander Langer (Ford Fiesta). Bernd Schomaker made his first start in the ex-Ron Snoeck Seat Loen but failed to finish. Marco Wittkovski (VW Golf) won the SuperNational final ahead of Andreas Huschenbett (Opel Corsa) and Philipp Weidinger (VW Polo) while Lukas Ney (Citroen Xsara) won the Production final.
Welsh rally legend Dai Llewellin will make his British Rallycross Championship debut at the wheel of an RX150 buggy at the third and fourth rounds of the British series next month. Llewellin tested an RX150 at the circuit recently, together with son Ben to prepare for the double-header weekend.
The British Championship event in South Wales will be run in both directions over the two days. On the first day of competition (May 1), the circuit will be run anti-clockwise, before returning to the ‘normal’ direction for day two (May 2). The circuit has made the changes to allow it to be run in both directions to give competitors extra variety and value for money.
Former WRC driver Patrik Sandell will return to the American-based Global Rallycross Championship this season, driving an M-Sport built Ford Fiesta for the Bryan Herta Rallysport team.
Swedish rallycross team JC Race Teknik has announced its line-up of Lites drivers for the 2016 season. Thomas Bryntesson and Joachim Hvaal will race in full campaigns in both the RX Lites Cup and RallyX Nordic championships. The pair will be joined by a third car at events, in RallyX Nordic by Swede William Nilsson and in the RX Lites Cup by Norwegian Sondre Evjen. “I am very happy that we have a strong line-up for this year, especially with Joachim and Thomas doing both championships. William had a strong season in 2015 and he can be on the podium this year. Sondre was a surprise in his debut in RallyX On Ice and after seeing what he can do in his first test in ‘normal’ conditions, for sure he will not disappoint anyone in Hockenheim,” said team owner Joel Christoffersson.
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