Peugeot-Hansen, Nitiss, STARD & Jordan announce plans

Seven days in rallycross, February 21

by Hal Ridge |

News is coming thick and fast from around the world ahead of the 2017 rallycross season, led by teams and drivers confirming their plans in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

Sebastien Loeb will return for a second season of World RX in a three-car line-up for Team Peugeot-Hansen, which for 2017 includes reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion Kevin Hansen, racing alongside Loeb and his older brother Timmy. The team will run new 2017 specification Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars for Loeb and Timmy Hansen, while 2016 FIA Rookie of the Year Kevin Hansen will race a 2016 version of the machine. “We know we can count on the services of two battle-hardened drivers since Sebastien Loeb, who will once again be teaming up with Timmy Hansen, now has a complete season’s experience under his belt,” said Peugeot Sport director, Bruno Famin. “That said, we know very that the level of the World Rallycross Championship is improving all the time. We are pleased to see that Audi and Volkswagen have joined Ford and Peugeot by backing strong teams. It’s going to be a quality season.”

Another works-backed team will grow to three cars for 2017, as Audi supported reigning World RX champion EKS has signed Latvian driver Reinis Nitiss to drive a third Audi S1 Supercar from the same stable as World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom and Toomas Heikkinen. Nitiss will race as an individual entry in the Drivers’ championship. “Switching to the world champion’s team is the dream of any racer,” said Nitiss. “It’s a unique opportunity and I’m exceptionally happy that Audi and EKS are placing their trust in me.”

Manfred Stohl’s research and development company STARD has announced that it will design and build new Ford Fiesta Supercars to run as a two-car team in the World Championship this season for Timur Timerzyanov and Janis Baumanis. The cars will be run by Stohl Racing on events, with the support of STARD engineers. STARD previously built Fiesta Supercars for the World RX Team Austria squad for which Baumanis and Timerzyanov drove last season. “The cars are based on those that we developed and built in 2015, and optimised in 2016,” said Stohl. “Our development engineers have intensively worked on another upgrade for the Evo 3 version, and we have two absolutely top level drivers in rallycross.”

The MJP Racing Team Austria, which will run new Ford Fiesta Supercars for Timo Schieder and Kevin Eriksson this season, has signed 2013 British Touring Car Champion Andrew Jordan to race for the squad at his home round of the Championship a Lydden Hill, deputising for Scheider, who will miss the event due to a clashing commitment. Jordan began his career in rallycross but switched to a career in circuit racing, claiming the BTCC title in 2013. He returned to rallycross for the British round of World RX at Lydden Hill in 2014 and finished on the podium in an OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta, and has since competed for Team-Peugeot Hansen and EKS at two subsequent events. “Obviously the level is going up all the time, but I think we can mix it for sure,” said Jordan. “If I could get into the final that would be a really good achievement, then it’s just elbows out and see where you get to. The team’s cars were very quick last year. I know they’re working hard and they are hungry to move things on to keep progressing.”

Another British Supercar driver, Dan Rooke, will take a sabbatical from the sport in 2017 despite claiming the MSA British Rallycross title last season to become the youngest ever champion. Rooke has only raised around half of the budget required to race for another full season in Supercar, and will instead focus on trying to secure a drive in the future. “I had an amazing year last year and in a way it’s still unbelievable what we achieved, especially considering that we’re just a small family team from Devon,” said Rooke. “But the reality is that we’ve been struggling to raise the budget for another full season in Supercar at this stage. Because we won the Championship in such a strong way last year, we don’t feel that it would be beneficial to my career to enter into the defense of the title and not be in a position to fight for wins and the Championship.”

Jake Harris will race a Citroen DS3 Supercar in British RX this season, the RX150 front-runner taking over from his father Steve in the ex-Pat Doran car, which is currently being rebuilt at LD Motorsports’ based in Devon. “We have a few options to test before the first round (at Croft) but it depends on when the car is finished,” said Harris. “I think every driver on the grid hopes to win, but I’m in no doubt about how hard the competition will be this year. I’m confident in the car and that I’m learning quickly so I hope for some good battles with the front runners as the year goes on and hopefully we can get some podium finishes. I think to progress you always have to think about the next level, but with my first season not having started yet, my thoughts at the moment are very much about what I need to do this year.”

Guerlain Chicherit will race a Renault Clio Supercar in the full French Rallycross Championship and in six rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship this year as he gears up to race the recently announced Prodrive-developed Renault Megane Supercar in World RX next season. The Clio will be run by Fors Performance, racing in French RX and at World RX rounds in Barcelona (Spain), Hockenheim (Germany), Mettet (Belgium), Hell (Norway), Loheac (France) and Cape Town (South Africa). “The idea is to give me more experience and more confidence, just to understand the sport as much as possible to be ready for 2018, when I will be racing with the new Megane,” said Chicherit.

Double DTM champion MJP Racing Team Austria driver Timo Scheider has teamed up with Formula 1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke to create a new rallycross circuit in Mallorca. Based at the Circuit Mallorca Llucmajor venue on the popular holiday destination island off Spain’s east coast, Schieder’s involvement means the existing race circuit will be complimented by a rallycross track and performance driving centre. “A few months ago, I took a first look at the site and immediately recognised the potential. I soon realised that a rallycross track had to be laid out next to the existing circuit. For this project, we have recruited no less a figure than Hermann Tilke. I would obviously like to compete there myself one day,” he said.

Norwegian cross kart driver Ole Henry Steinsholt will race in the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship this year in a Peter Gwynne Motorsport run Suzuki Swift Sport. The 14-year old has already claimed titles in the 125cc Norwegian and NEZ (North European Zone) cross kart series, and has begun testing a Swift Sport on a frozen lake in Norway. “Competing in the Junior Rallycross Championship is an excellent way of gaining important international experience,’ said Steinsholt. “Driving a right-hand drive car is a new experience for me in what will be a competitive environment. All this will help me develop as a driver and will hopefully give me an edge once I’m 16 and can start driving in the Norwegian championship.”

Reining GRC Lites Champion Cabot Bigham will graduate to Supercar in the American series this season, racing the Bryan Herta Rallysport run M-Sport built Ford Fiesta Supercar that Swede Patrick Sandell raced last season. “I am extremely excited to make the move up to Supercars with such an amazing team,” said Bigham. “Winning the Lites championship last year meant a lot to me, but for 2017 I’m hitting the reset button and will immerse myself within the team to learn as much as possible and perform from the very first weekend.”

We are sad to note the death, on February 12, of Sjaak Noordermeer (68) who had been suffering with cancer for a few years. Noordermeer held several positions at the Eurocircuit near Valkenswaard over the last 30 years and was so closely associated with the venue that he practically was the Eurocircuit and the Eurocircuit was Noordermeer. A highly individual character, Noordermeer sometimes ploughed a lone furrow; he led Holland’s unilateral move to rename rallycross as rallyracing and was often ‘out-of-step’ with the majority view – although that does not necessarily mean the majority was always right. His devotion to the Eurocircuit, which opened in 1971 as the first bespoke rallycross circuit, was unflinching and he had held office as Chairman and President of the NRV (Nederlandse Rallycross Vereniging) that operated the circuit. For many years he did that alongside his first wife, Ria. His work also brought recognition as Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau (A Dutch state award for services to society).

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