News breaks around Europe as Dubourg claims Andros title

Seven days in rallycross, February 10

by Hal Ridge |

The last fortnight has been a busy one for the rallycross world, in which the biggest headlines were claimed by the announcement that British firm Prodrive has teamed up with French driver Guerlain Chicherit and his new GCK team to field a brand-new Renault Megane Supercar in the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship. The new car will be built at Prodrive’s Banbury base in the UK and will be unveiled at the French round of World RX in September, at Loheac. “It has long been an ambition of ours to compete in the FIA World Rallycross Championship,” said Prodrive chairman, David Richards. “It is the fastest growing motorsport series in the world and gives us the opportunity to use all our engineering experience to create a car capable of winning the World title. Guerlain is obviously a very talented driver and we look forward to working with him and developing a race car that both he and Renault will be proud of.”

The MJP Racing Team Austria squad, formally known as World RX Team Austria, announced both of its new drivers in the last seven days. Following four starts in the last two years for the Munnich Motorsport team, double DTM champion Timo Scheider has signed for the squad to race one of two brand new Ford Fiesta Supercars in a full campaign. Joining Schieder in the second car for the team will be World RX event winner, Kevin Eriksson, who switches from his father Andreas’ OlsbergsMSE team for 2017. “For me, rallycross encompasses the great passion of motorsport,” said Scheider. “The level of the Championship goes up in 2017 with more manufacturers entering, but MJP Racing has built a new car for this year that will be a serious contender. I look forward to a fantastic rallycross season.”

EKS has revealed that Finnish driver Toomas Heikkinen has been retained by the squad to partner reigning World RX champion Mattias Ekstrom for the defence of the teams’ championship crown it claimed in Argentina last season. Both drivers will continue to race Audi S1 Supercars, although Ekstrom is yet to confirm if the squad will field new chassis’ for the 2017 season. “Never change a winning team,” said Ekstrom. “I’m happy about tackling the title defence project with Topi. He’s a young but very experienced race driver who’s a perfect fit for our team.”

Ekstrom was joined by the rest of the winners in the FIA World Rallycross Championship and FIA European Rallycross Championship at the 2016 awards in Porto two weeks ago, where the top-three from each of the categories were crowned at the FIA Off-Road Prize Giving.

The following week, the MSA British Rallycross Championship’s Night of Champions was held in Coventry, where alongside the British RX 2016 celebrations and awards, legendary figures from the history of rallycross were inducted into Rallycross World’s new Hall of Fame. The evening event was held on the exact date of the 50th anniversary of rallycross. The first rallycross event took on February 4 1967 at Lydden Hill and was won by Vic Elford in a Porsche 911 that was on display at the British RX ceremony.

Frenchman Jean Baptiste-Dubourg (Renault Clio), who is planning to race in a full season of World RX this year in a two-car Peugeot 208 DA Racing team, claimed his second consecutive Andros Trophy title at the season finale in Super Besse. Dubourg entered the final round of the winter with the points lead and was strong through each stage the event to finished the final in third position and lift the crown, beating multiple-champion and ice racing specialist Jean-Phillippe Dayraut (BMW M2) for the second year in a row. Dayraut won the last race of the season, with Oliver Panis (Audi A1) second and Dubourg third. Eddy Benezet (BMW M2) won the last round of the Elite category while Nathanael Berthon (Audi A1) claimed the title. Christophe Ferrier sealed the Electric category title with final round victory.

The other winter racing series to involve a significant number of rallycross drivers, RallyX On Ice, began last weekend at Soderhamn (Sweden), where American driver Mitchell De Jong claimed victory ahead of Alexander Westlund and Sondre Evjen in the single-make Supercar Lites series. Thomas Bryntesson finished fourth with Oliver Eriksson fifth and Simon Olofsson sixth.

Triple Swedish Rallycross Champion Peter Hedstrom will sit out the RallyX Nordic series this season, instead focusing on the FIA European Rallycross Championship and select World RX events in an ex-Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo Supercar. The Hedstroms Motorsport team will run three Supercars for four drivers in 2017, Hvaal brothers Alexander and Joachim will drive a Polo and ex-OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta respectively in RallyX Nordic and Euro RX, while Christer Dalmans will drive Hedstrom’s Polo in RallyX Nordic.

Reigning champion Derek Tohill (Ford Fiesta) won the first round of the Irish Rallycross Championship at Mondello Park, where for the first time ever at the venue the rallycross circuit was run in the opposite (anti-clockwise) direction to that used normally. Tohill was fastest all day in his Euro RX specification machine, winning all three qualifying races, the Supercar final and Superfinal, while Noel Greene (Mitsubishi Mirage) finished second. Former Irish Champion Willie Coyne (Vauxhall Corsa) won the Modified final and Ciaran Murphy (Peugeot 106) was victorious in the Production category. Newcomer Jyles Harding (Nissan Micra) won the Junior final while Sean Hession claimed the single-make Ford Fiesta category victory. Padraic Hale won the buggy final and Danny Calnan finished on the top step of the podium in the rally car final.

The calendar for the American-based Global Rallycross Championship has been announced. Starting in April in Memphis, the series will finish in Los Angeles in October. Events will be held in Louisville and Canada for the first time for the series, while it will also return to Seattle, Atlantic City, Tennessee and New England in the 12-round schedule.

Two-time Swift Sport Rallycross Champion Tristan Ovenden will race the Renault Clio V6 that carried Jamie Bird to two successive Supernational titles in 2008 and 2008 this year. Ovenden raced in the Super1600 category of British RX following his back-to-back Swift Sport crowns, but is graduating to the second-tier class for 2017. “It’s very different from anything I’ve driven before, so I’m hoping to do some testing before Croft,” he said. “I’ve had a little go in it and I think it will be a challenge to get the most from, but that’s why it’s so cool and it’ll be a lot of fun in the process. Hopefully I’ll get comfortable with the car quickly and we can be fighting for podiums early on.”

Rob Shield, son of 1989 MSA British Rallycross Champion Michael Shield will return to the Swift Sport category full-time for 2017. Shield made his debut in the class at his local circuit, Croft in 2012 and finished sixth in the final. He has bought the ex-Drew Bellerby car for this year’s campaign. “I’m planning to do the full season. It depends a bit on how I do in the first part of the year, I’ll do as much as I can,” said Shield. “My family has a lot of history with rallycross, but for me I want to compete because I really enjoy it. It’s cost effective and I think it’s the most fun you can have in motorsport.”

Two new drivers will race in the RX150 Rallycross Championship this season. Two-time BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Champion John Ward and former rally driver Georgia Shiel have signed up to race in the single-make buggy category which for the last two years has been won by Chrissy Palmer. Ward raced his recently acquired buggy at the first round of the Irish Championship last week as testing, while Shiels tested an RX150 for the first time near London last month and is due to conduct further testing before the start of the season at Croft next month.

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