World RX line-up announced, Evjen wins on Ice and much more

Seven days in rallycross, March 4

by Hal Ridge |

The final full-time entries to make up the 18-driver field in the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship were revealed over the last week, before the FIA officially released the full list on Friday, while RX2 event winner Sondre Evjen claimed victory in the second round of the RallyX on Ice series in Norway.

Two-time Andros Trophy Champion Jean-Baptiste Dubourg will race full-time in the 2017 World Rallycross Championship, driving a Team DA Racing-Eurodatacar Peugeot 208 WRX, formally raced by Team Peugeot-Hansen. While Dubourg will race full-time in the series, WTCC and GT racer Grégoire Demoustier will join his compatriot in a second 208 in at least five rounds, in Barclona, Portugal, Belgium, Canada and South Africa. “Having the opportunity to compete with not only the best rallycross drivers, but from motorsport in general, is a childhood dream come true,” said Dubourg. “I have had the opportunity to compete at many of the circuits that make up the World RX calendar, we know what to expect. Faced with the biggest players in world motorsport, our objective will be to prove the knowledge of our private team in the face of the undoubtable world-class competition.” Dubourg’s younger brother Andrea will graduate from the French Rallycross Championship to the FIA European Rallycross Championship this, driving the team’s Citroen DS3 Supercar in the five round series.

Hungarian driver Lukacs Kornel has signed to drive Gigi Galli’s Kia Rio full-time in World RX this year, and will be joined by the Italian star at selected events once a second car is completed. The World RX squad will run under the Speedy Motorsport banner, following Kornel’s debut season in rallycross last year, where he raced a Ford Focus in the European Championship. “In Latvia last year we started talking with Gigi, and from the first moment he was very likable and friendly,” said Kornel. “I could not find the words, because I felt incredible that someone who I admired as a kid, now sitting in front of me as a potential partner.”

Niclas Gronholm, son of double World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm, will return to World RX for a second season this year, but this term will pilot an M-Sport built Ford Fiesta RX run by his father’s GRX squad, assisted by fellow Finnish team, Set Promotion. The car is the machine previously campaigned by American Ken Block and was bought by Gronholm as a bare shell with some parts, which is now being re-prepared at M-Sport’s Lake District base in the UK. “I think we have the chance to score some good results,” said Gronholm. “I’m working closely with Jussi Pinomaki again this season, he’s a good guy and knows what he is doing. He will be my spotter again too. We’ll take it race-by-race, but the target is to always be in the semi-finals and then move onto the final.”

Norwegian driver Sondre Evjen won the second round of the RallyX on Ice series at Fuglehaugen Motorcenter in Gol, Norway, driving for the JC Raceteknik team, while American Mitchell De Jong finished second having won the opening round last month. Evjen dominated the event, in which 18 Supercar Lites competitors took part, winning three of his four qualifying races, his semi-final and the final. De Jong joined Evjen on the front row of the final but didn’t make as good a getaway as his rival, while Oscar Solberg, son of rally and rallycross driver Henning, fought back from troubles in the qualifying stages to finished third in his semi-final and climb from the back row of the grid in the final to claim a podium finish. Russian’s Vasily and Nikolay Gryazin sandwiched Alexander Westlund in fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively.

Former FIA European Rallycross Supercar podium finisher Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme will return to the Euro RX Super1600 field this year, driving a Set Promotion-run Renault Twingo, alongside Russian driver Timur Shigaboutdinov. Leppihalme finished third overall in the series in 2012, and most recently finished fourth in the Finnish Rallycross Championship last year. “We’ve been thinking about Euro RX every winter. Last year and the year before I even did tests for it but It’s all down to budget and now the circle closes,” said the Finn. “We’re going to drive for a title and gradually build up to finally drive in the World RX. That is the aim and we will be working hard to achieve that. I’m never going to give up and neither does anyone else. You really have to drive and the bar is set very high.”

Two-time FIA European Rallycross Championship runner-up Jerome Grosset-Janin has moved from the Albatec Racing squad to join Team Knapick for Euro RX this season. While Grosset-Janin will race one of the French team’s Citroen DS3s in Euro RX, veteran driver and team owner Herve Knapick will race a second DS3 at the same rounds, but in the World Championship section of the events. “I’m really happy and motivated by this new challenge. I know Hervé very well from the years I spent participating in the French Championship, and the values conveyed by his team are very dear to me: work, respect and enjoyment,” said Grosset-Janin. Team Knapick will also field a DS3 for Christophe Jouet in the French Championship.

Meanwhile, Philippe Maloigne has re-signed for Albatec Racing for a second full-time challenge in the French Rallycross Championship. The French driver won two events in 2016, his first year with the team, and ended the year fourth overall. He will also make two Euro RX appearances during the year, at Barcelona in Spain and Loheac in France. “I’ve stayed with Albatec for 2017 as I believe continuity is very important in motorsport. It’s something I learnt in my motocross career so I think we start the season from a strong position, with the same successful team as last year,” said Maloigne. “This season I will focus in the same way as last, I won two races and will be disappointed if I don’t clinch more this year. Of all the tracks we raced on last year, naturally my favourites were those where I was successful, I hope that in 2017 I’m going to have many, many more favourites!”

The MSA British Rallycross Championship will be backed by Toyo Tyres for the next three years as title sponsor, the series has announced. The first round of British RX takes place in two weeks’ time at Croft Circuit. “Toyo Tires are extremely pleased to become the title sponsor of the 2017 MSA British Rallycross Championship,” said Kenta Kuribayashi, Toyo Tire Europe GmbH President. “Toyo Tires will be supporting the growth of this dramatic motorsport format for the next three years having signed a contract until the end of 2019. The excitement and accessibility of the sport make rallycross the perfect partner for Toyo Tires.”

MSA Supernational Rallycross Champion Tony Lynch will defend his 2016 title in his front-wheel drive Ford KA in British RX this year, his car having undergone significant re-preparation over the winter. “We’ve put a lot of work in over the winter to make sure that we could return in 2017,” said Lynch. “There’s no doubt that we go into the new season on a huge high given how 2016 panned out, as we honestly didn’t expect to be ending the year as champions in our first year with the KA. Having won the title, we are now the team that everyone wants to beat, but we are ready for the challenge that comes with that and I’m confident that we’ll be right in the mix again this year.”

Three drivers have announced campaigns in the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship this season. Thomas Middleton will race a brand new car, built by himself and his father for a second full-season assault, while Thomas Constantine, who finished as runner-up in the series last season, will race a car that has been fully rebuilt over the winter for his assault on the title. Constantine will be joined on the JuniorRX grid by his cousin, James Constantine, who will experience his first year of rallycross competition in 2017, driving the car with which Sam Jones won the MSA category in last season. “We did a test at Blyton recently I learnt a lot with the car and I felt like I was getting quicker and quicker through the day,” said James Constantine. “My hopes are to be more competitive as the year goes on and try to get a podium finish.”

Brett Harris and Chrissy Palmer have both confirmed programmes in the 2017 RX150 Rallycross Championship this week. Harris will campaign the buggy vacated by brother Jake Harris, who has graduated to Supercar for 2017, while Palmer will race the machine that carried him to an unbeaten run of wins and his second consecutive title in 2016. “We’re going to be doing the whole championship to defend the title again. I really enjoyed last season, I won every round but I wouldn’t say it was easy at all,” said Palmer. Hopefully it will be a hard fight right to the end. I really want to win a third championship, but I don’t want to win easy, that’s not what it’s about.”

« »