Ekstrom continues on top, Oliver Solberg set for Supercar

Seven days in rallycross, April 8

by Hal Ridge |

The first round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship took place at Barcelona in Spain, where reigning champion Mattias Ekstrom (Audi S1) claimed the first win of the season. Ekstrom finished second in the Intermediate Classification, won his semi-final and the final, despite losing time in Q2 on a rain-hit circuit. The driver to qualify top at the Intermediate standings was DTM champion Timo Scheider (Ford Fiesta), who finished on Ekstrom’s tail in the final to score his first podium, in his maiden appearances for the MJP Racing Team Austria squad. Andreas Bakkerud finished third in Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ford Focus.

The new Volkswagen Motorsport-built PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo GTi starred on its debut. Swede Johan Kristoffersson was fastest in both Free Practice and Q1, and both Kristoffersson and Solberg made it into the final to be fourth and sixth, sandwiching Peugeot-Hansen driver Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208).

In the FIA European Rallycross Championship, Anton Marklund (Volkswagen Polo) claimed his first international Supercar victory, Tamas Pal Kiss (Peugeot 208) finished second and former British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan (Ford Fiesta) was third. The event was also the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for TouringCar, where Philip Gehrman (Ford Fiesta) claimed victory from Petter Brauten (Opel Corsa) and Per-Magne Royras (Mazda RX8). Reigning Champion Ben-Phillip Gundersen (Ford Fiesta) was unable to start after failing scrutineering with roll cage damage.

Oliver Solberg, the 15-year old son of double World RX champion Petter Solberg will race his father’s championship-winning Citroen DS3 Supercar in the RallyX Nordic Championship this season to become the youngest ever top-level Supercar racer. Solberg will race in the series alongside a programme of stage rallying in Latvia, and tested the DS3 in Grenland in Norway and Arvika in Sweden this week. “My dad said I can borrow the car if I can fix the license, but he never thought that I could fix it. I called the Swedish federation, but I have to have a Latvian license because of my rallying. For the national license you can be in the year that you turn 16,” said the experienced crosskart racer. “There is no pressure, I don’t think about what results my dad has done. I just learn from him and try to develop my own skills.”

The Honda-backed OlsbergsMSE Global Rallycross team has announced its driver line-up for the 2017 season in the American-based series. Swede Sebastian Eriksson remains with the team for a third consecutive season, the second with the Civic Coupe, while Oliver Eriksson, youngest son of team owner Andreas Eriksson will join his namesake in the squad. Following his Supercar debut last season, American driver Mitchell DeJong will race a third Civic in a full campaign. “It was an epic 2016 for us representing Honda Racing,” said Andreas Eriksson. “We hope to not only climb onto the podium a few more times this season, but to learn more about the Honda Red Bull Civic Coupé’s true capability. It’s an aggressive machine and we have aggressive drivers who are eager to bring home great results.” The team will also field American Cole Keatts and Frenchman Cyril Raymond in the GRC Lites Championship, Raymond also competing in RX2 this year.

Reigning MSA British Rallycross Champion Dan Rooke is targeting a campaign in the RX2 Championship this year, that will join the World Rallycross Championship at seven rounds of the season, starting at Mettet in Belgium next month. Unable to defend his British RX crown due to a lack of budget, Rooke is working with Swedish team OlsbergsMSE on a solution to race in RX2. “If we can’t sort the full budget, we will look at just doing the European-based rounds. RX2 is a good platform. Andreas Eriksson and Ian Davies (from OMSE) are really trying hard to help me out,” he said.

The RX Academy has announced the seventh driver that will take part in the new series this year. Former BMX and motocross rider Mario Bonfante Jr is a C5-C6 quadriplegic having broken his neck in a cycling accident in 2007, and will race an RX Academy Renault Clio Cup RX car fitted with hand controls in 2017. “I’m so happy that Mario will join us in the RX Academy this year. He has huge drive and determination to succeed. His desire to reach the top level in the sport is massive – this is exactly what RX Academy is designed to do, to help new stars progress to becoming professional drivers,” said Head of RX Academy, Jussi Pinomaki.

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