Winners, champions and new drivers in a month of rallycross

by Hal Ridge |

A month is a long time in rallycross. In the last 31 days, victories have been claimed, wounds have been licked, champions have been crowned and new drivers have been announced. Long overdue, below is a roundup of the major news and results from the last month in the sport.

After taking his first ‘flyaway’ win in the World Rallycross Championship in early August in Canada, Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Polo) racked up his fifth win of the season at Loheac in France at the start of September to further extend both his lead in the drivers’ championship and the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team’s dominance in the teams’ championship. Kristofferson’s French victory was achieved despite suffering a puncture on the final lap, something that happened to his team mate Petter Solberg (Volkswagen Polo) at the start of the six-lap race, meaning he would finish fifth, only beating Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) who was removed from podium contention by transmission problems mid-race. Hansen’s team mate, Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot 208) had led the event on day one in dry conditions and eventually finished his home round second as Mattias Ekstrom (Audi S1) scored his first podium since winning at Hockenheim (round three) in third. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Focus) was fourth.

Thomas Bryntesson (Ford Fiesta) won his first International rallycross Supercar final in the European Rallycross Championship at Loheac, beating pole starter Tamas Pal Kiss (Peugeot 208) in the final, while French Champion Firmin Cadeddu (Citroen C4) scored a dream home podium. Anton Marklund (Volkswagen Polo) was fourth, Derek Tohill (Ford Fiesta) fifth and Tommy Rustad (Peugeot 208) sixth. In the European Champion Super1600 category, champion Krisztian Szabo (Skoda Fabia) moved into the points lead with victory ahead of Maximilien Eveno (Citroen C2) and Ulrik Linnemann (Peugeot 208). Rokas Baciuska (Skoda Fabia) made his debut and initially finished third, but was later penalised for contact with Linnemann and was classified sixth. Cyril Raymond headed Guillaume De Ridder and Vasiliy Gryazin in the RX2 International Series, the result enough to crown Raymond as champion at his home event, as rival Dan Rooke failed to make the final.

Former WRC star Alister McRae made his debut in the World Rallycross Championship at Loheac, having been announced two weeks earlier for the final four rounds of the series, driving the Loco World RX Team Volkswagen Polo campaigned in the first eight rounds of the year by Guy Wilks. McRae spent the event getting used to the new discipline, having raced in one previous Australian Rallycross event in a Supercar Lites machine, and set a best time of 18th in the qualifying stages. He will return this weekend in Latvia.

While Volkswagen Motorsport-built cars are dominating in the World Championship, they also continue to do so in the American-based Global Rallycross Championship. On the second weekend in August, Scott Speed (Volkswagen Beetle) claimed a pair of victories in the eighth and ninth rounds of the Global Rallycross Championship in Atlantic City to extend his lead in the American series over team mate Tanner Foust (Volkswagen Beetle), who failed to finish on the podium in either of the two events. Driving his Andretti Autosport-run Volkswagen Supercar, Speed overtook former WRC driver Patrik Sandell (Subaru Impreza) to claim victory on day one, while Sandell finished second for Subaru USA and Canadian driver Steve Arpin (Ford Fiesta) was third. In round nine on Sunday, Speed dominated. OlsbergsMSE driver Sebastian Eriksson (Honda Civic) finished second in the Swedish squad’s Civic and Arpin again completed the podium. In GRC Lites, Cyril Raymond and Conner Martell each won a final over the two days. Martell finished second on day one while Raymond was set to finish second on Sunday but retired with mechanical problems within sight of the finish.

On the second weekend in September, a month later, it was Foust’s turn to claim a pair of wins as the series visited Evergreen Speedway in Seattle, to close the gap on points leader Speed with one weekend remaining. On both days, Speed finished second to Foust, while a Subaru USA driver twice completed the podium, Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza) making it onto the rostrum on Saturday before Sandell earned himself the third-place trophy on Sunday. Championship contender Arpin was fourth on day one and seventh on day two, while Oliver Eriksson (Honda Civic) scored the OlsbergsMSE Honda squad’s best result of the weekend in fifth on Saturday. Former GRC Lites driver Austin Cindric (Ford Fiesta) made his Supercar debut in a Bryan Herta Rallycross M-Sport-built car and finished eighth and then fourth over the two days. Cyril Raymond and Christian Brooks each won in the GRC Lites category but second on Sunday was enough for Raymond to claim the support category crown, his second title in a week. Brooks and Travis PeCoy completed the podium on Saturday.

Either side of his first Euro RX victory in Loheac, JC Raceteknik driver Thomas Bryntesson (Ford Fiesta) extended his lead in the RallyX Nordic Championship. At Nysumbanen in Denmark on the third weekend in August, Bryntesson led home team mate Ola Froshaug (Ford Fiesta) after battling with title-contender Oliver Solberg (Citroen DS3) for the race lead, only for Solberg to be hampered by technical issues. Former European Championship event-winner Alexander Hvaal (Volkswagen Polo) finished third, while Ole Kristian Temte (Citroen C4) scored a best result in fourth. The Supercar Lites category skipped the Danish round.

At Kinnekulle near Gotene last weekend, it was Peter Hedstrom’s turn to score RallyX Nordic victory at the venue where he claimed his second Swedish crown in 2013. In an event run is torrential rain and horrendous track conditions, where almost every driver in the Supercar and Supercar Lites semi-finals and finals had at least one puncture, Hedstrom just about survived to claim victory, albeit with two punctures, while his Hedstroms Motorsport team mate Alexander Hvaal was black flagged for a door that refused to close. 2014 European Champion Robin Larsson (Audi A1) finished second with Froshaug third and Bryntesson fourth, having finished top in the Intermediate Classification. Solberg was forced into a wall in the treacherous conditions and retired.

On the same weekend as the Nordic series’ Danish encounter, the Finnish Rallycross Championship held its penultimate round at Jalasjarvi. Championship leader Atro Maatta (Ford Fiesta) extended his lead with another victory, ahead of reigning champion Jere Kalliokoski (Skoda Fabia) and Jukka Lautamaki (_Skoda Fabia). Toni Lukander (Mitsubishi Evo) was fourth and Ari Perkiomaki (Ford Fiesta) fifth. Pekka Keski-Korsu (Ford Fiesta) finished sixth. Joni-Pekka Rajala (Ford Escort) won the Supernational final from Henri Haapamaki (BMW M3) and Olli Lavikainen (Volvo S40), while Toni Kuhanen (Toyota Starlet) won the Autokrossi final, again, in his RX8-engined machine from Jani Lehtinen (Fiat X 1/9) and Tero Tukiainen (Toyota MR2).

In the single-make RX Academy series for Renault Clio Cup RX cars, Russian driver Marat Knyazev dominated, winning the final from pole position in difficult slippery conditions to become the series’ fourth different winner. Kalle Markkanen was second with points leader Jesse Kallio completing the podium. Australian driver Troy Dowel scored a personal best result in fourth, with Martins Lapins fifth and Jami Kalliomaki sixth.

Former British Touring Car Championship driver Warren Scott (Citroen DS3) claimed his maiden rallycross victory by winning the sixth round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in a one-two finish for the LD Motorsports team. Round one winner Nathan Heathcote (Citroen DS3) moved himself back into championship contention with second place, while Oliver Bennett (Ford Fiesta) continued him impressive first year in rallycross in third, his fifth consecutive podium. Championship leader Julian Godfrey (Ford Fiesta) was fourth, with Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta) fifth and Pat Doran (Citroen C4) sixth. Ollie O’Donovan (Ford Fiesta) made it into the final only when Steve Hill (Mitsubishi Evo) withdrew to give O’Donovan a starting position, the Irish driver having missed the cut due to a puncture while leading his semi-final. He again suffered a puncture in the final, but finished ahead of Jake Harris (Citroen DS3) who was slowed by technical troubles.

Tristan Ovenden (Renault Clio) won the MSA Supernational Rallycross Championship final from Tony Lynch (Ford KA) and Paige Bellerby (Lotus Exige), as Todd Crooks (BMW Mini) crashed out in the qualifying stages in a spectacular accident. Tom Llewellin (Suzuki Swift) moved closed to the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship title with another victory, this time from Ole Henry Steinsholt (Suzuki Swift) and Tom Middleton (Suzuki Swift), while Chrissy Palmer won the RX150 buggy final. Rob Shield (Suzuki Swift) won his third Swift Sport Rallycross Championship final in succession to close on the series lead, while in the amalgamated front-wheel drive 1600cc category, Paul Coney (Vauxhall Corsa) was beaten for the first time in 2017 by Darren Scott (Citroen C2). Barry Stewart (Porsche 911) won the Retro Rallycross final.

Patrick Guillerme (Peugeot 208) won the sixth round of the French Rallycross Championship at Pont de Ruan, stealing the victory in the closing stages from a duelling Fabien Pailler (Peugeot 208) and Florent Beduneau (Peugeot 208), the two drivers at the head of the standings. Four different drivers had set fastest times in the Supercar qualifying stages, but Jonathan Pailler (Peugeot 208) had his chances of success ruined by contact with a wall. Regardless, he finished fourth. Jean-Sébastien Vigion (Renault Clio) won the Super1600 final as for the first time in 2017, championship leader Samual Peu (Citroen Saxo) didn’t make the podium, and finished fifth. Allan Mottais moved marginally closer to Twingo R1 Cup leader Olivier Spampinato with victory, as the points leader finished third in the single-make category, while Mathieu Trévian (VW Sirocco) won in Division Three and Stephane Hameau (Peugeot 306) was victorious in Division Four.

MJP Racing Team Austria owner Max Pucher recently confirmed that he has taken on ownership of the historic Fuglau circuit in Austria. With a number of initial changes and improvements made to the circuit, the first event under Pucher’s ownership was held on the second weekend of August, a round of the Austrian, Central European Zone, Czech and Slovakian Rallycross Championships, where fittingly the Ford Fiesta driver claimed victory. Alois Holler (Ford Focus) finished second while Czech driver Marek Joura (Mitsubishi Evo) was third. In the Super1600 final, Josef Susta (Skoda Citygo) won from Jan Ratajsky (Sjoda Fabia) and David Gerencser (Suzuki Swift), while Miroslav Pospichal (Volkswagen Polo) won the SuperTouringCars +2000 final and Roman Castoral (Opel Astra) yet again won the SuperTouringCars -2000 final. In the -1600 SuperTouringCars encounter, it was Daniel Karlovits (Honda Civic) who claimed victory.

Two weeks later, the Austrian series was joined by the CEZ, Slovakian and Hungarian Championships at the country’s most recent European Championship venue, Greinbach. Hungarian points leader Tamas Pal Kiss (Peugeot 208) was victorious ahead of Pucher, as Joura made it a fully international podium. Susta and his unique Citigo again won in Super1600 ahead of Hungarian Janko Weiszt (Renault Twingo) in his Set Promotion-built car, while Karl Schadenhofer (Volkswagen Golf) won in SuperTouringCars +2000. Castoral won again in SuperTouringCars -2000 and it was this time Thomas Muhlbacher (Toyota Corolla) who won the SuperTouringCars -1600 final.

A busy month for the Austrian competitors, none more so than for Pucher who’s World Championship team competed in France on the same weekend as the third event at Melk. The third round in four weekends was held at Melk. While Holler claimed the event win, second place was enough for Pucher to secure the Austrian crown. Tristan Ekker (Volkswagen Polo) finished third. Christoph Zellhofer (Suzuki Swift) won the Super1600 final, Lukas Hunterberger (BMW E36) won the SuperTouringCars +2000 final and Martin Jakubowics (Renault Clio) won the SuperTouringCars -2000 final. Muhlbacher again won in SuperTouringCars -1600.

The final two rounds of the Estonian Rallycross Championship have taken place in the last month, at Vasalemma and Elva. Ricardo Bortkevits (Mitsubishi Lancer) won in Supercar at Vasalemma ahead of Priit Karjus (Mitsubishi Lancer) and Seido Nommkula (Mitsubishi Lancer), before Karjus claimed the win at Elva from Andri Oun (Ford Fiesta) and Nommkula, but it was Oun who claimed the title from Karjus and Nommkula. Janno Ligur (Skoda Fabia) scored his fifth and final win of the season in the Super1600 category at Vasalemma, enough to secure him the title and skip the final round, where Arvo Kask (Ford Ka) claimed victory and fourth place in the standings, behind Ligur, Siim Saluri (Citroen C2) and Mihkel Varul (Peugeot 206), who finished third behind Ligur and Kask in Vasalemma. Marko Andreas Muru (Honda Civic) secured the title in the Junior 1600 category. In TouringCar, Einar Valdmaa (Ford Fiesta) won in Vasalemma but it was Kalmer Vaht (Lada VFTS) who won at the final round and claimed the title.

Volkswagen Motorsport test driver Dieter Depping will race a third Volkswagen Polo GTI in the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team alongside Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg in the German round of the series at the Estering later this month. The three-time German Rally Champion has also competed on the Dakar rally and the 24-hour race at the Nurburgring. The German played a significant role in developing Volkswagen Motorsport’s Polo for the WRC, on which the GTI Supercar is based.

Two South African drivers have been announced as competing in their home round of the World Rallycross Championship when the series travels to the country for the first time in November, for its final round. Multiple South African rally champion Mark Cronje will drive an Albatec Racing-run Peugeot 208 Supercar, which the 39-year old will test for the first time later this month before racing in a round of the French Rallycross Championship with the squad, alongside regular French racer, Philippe Maloigne. 25-year old Ashley Haig-Smith meanwhile will race an OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta. Haig-Smith has competed in Junior World Rally Championship events and is currently compeiting in the French Peugeot 208 Rally Cup, and will test the OMSE Fiesta in Europe before his World RX debut.

The EKS World Rallycross team, owned by Mattias Ekstrom has advertised its Audi S1 Supercars for sale, and gave teams and drivers in the rallycross paddock the opportunity to view the cars and learn about them in the Loheac paddock on the Thursday evening before the event. Ekstrom, who currently leads the German DTM championship and is third in World RX, has also confirmed that the team has five S1 Supercars, but the car he is racing this season (the same machine he used to win the title last year) is not for sale, and will remain in his possession for sentimental reasons. It has not yet been announced if the Audi-backed squad will build new cars for 2017.

Work has begun on the Prodrive-built GCK Renault Megane Supercars for the 2018 World RX season at the British firm’s base in Banbury, while the squad, owned by Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit, has also confirmed that it has signed an agreement with series promotors IMG for a two-car team in the Championship next year. “It’s been a really exciting few months and the next will be even better as I finally see my dream become reality,” he said. “The guys at Prodrive have a big task ahead of them still but I have absolute trust in them to deliver the best car possible. I’m still focused on learning as much as I can ahead of next season with a mix of Supercar, RX2 and Karting on my schedule whilst also talking to some exciting partners and drivers who like the sound of what GCK is planning for next year.”

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