Champions crowned as teams and venues begin to announce 2018 plans

Seven days in rallycross, October 7

by Tim Whittington |

Mattias Ekstrom and EKS returned to the top step of the podium in the bubbling cauldron of World RX action at the Estering in Germany. Mixed weather was a feature of the event in which Ekstrom was at the fore from the start. Fastest in Q1, Ekstrom almost certainly dropped the chance to be top qualifier when he jump-started in Q4.

Timmy Hansen had topped Q2 to be second to Ekstrom at the end of day one, but Petter Solberg the set fastest times in the Q3 and Q4 to be top qualifier at the intermediate classification. Solberg, Toomas Heikkinen and Hansen progressed from semi one while Ekstrom, Kevin Hansen and Niclas Gronholm – each of the latter pair having their best performances of the year – went to the final from semi two. Champion-elect Johan Kristoffersson missed the cut for the first time this year after placing fifth in semi two.

Solberg was wide in turn one in each of the first two laps, Ekstrom taking the lead in the first lap, the Hansen brothers both passing in lap two. When he then exited the joker behind Gronholm who had take the alternative in the first lap, Solberg’s day was done.

At the front, Ekstrom continued to lead without much trouble, Timmy Hansen locking into second place and Heikkinen grabbing third at Kevin Hansen’s expense when Hansen minor suffered suspension damage in his Peugeot 208. Solberg eventually passed Gronholm and the wounded Hansen for fourth, Gronholm taking a personal best fifth. Results here.

The event was also the final round of the FIA European Rallycross Championships for Super1600 and TouringCar. Krisztian Szabo was second at the intermediate stage and needed only to be fifth or better in his semi to complete the defence of his title. Third, behind Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme and Janno Ligur was more than enough to seal the deal. Kasparas Navickas, Josef Susta and Artis Baumanis progressed from semi one, Navickas then completed his domination of the event by taking his second victory of the year ahead of Leppihalme and Baumanis as Szabo placed sixth. Results here.

Anders Braten topped the qualifying order in TouringCar but it was retiring champion Ben-Philip Gundersen to came through to the take the event win ahead of David Nordgard and Braten. The title was secured by Lars-Oivind Enerberg who put his name to the crown after placing third at the intermediate classification but then failed to make the final after finishing fourth in semi one. Results here.

Two weeks earlier, Johan Kristoffersson became the third different FIA World Rallycross Champion in four years, by claiming his fifth victory in succession and sixth of the year at Riga in Latvia, as nearest points rival Petter Solberg crashed out of the event in the semi-finals and was forced to visit hospital where it was found he had broken two ribs, his collarbone and bruised a lung in the turn one accident. Kristoffersson claimed his fourth maximum points haul in a row having overcome changeable weather conditions in the qualifying stages to top the Intermediate Classification, winning the semi-final and final, his tally also doing enough to secure PSRX Volkswagen Sweden to secure the teams’ title.

Outgoing champion Mattias Ekstrom finished second with Sebastien Loeb again on the podium in third. Andreas Bakkerud fought back from a slow start in the final, as home hero Janis Baumanis concluded his home event fifth, making it through to the final despite semi-final contact with Solberg and then also with Nico Muller in the closing stages of the final. The other driver to set a fastest time in qualifying was Toomas Heikkinen, but the Finn’s day ended in the semi-final with a broken driveshaft. Results here.

Anton Marklund wrapped up the FIA European Rallycross Championship title at the semi-finals stages of the Euro RX finale in Latvia, and then went on to win the event ahead of 2014 Champion Robin Larsson and circuit racing convert Tamas Pal Kiss. Former RX2 driver Thomas Bryntesson finished second in the championship with sixth in the final, Tommy Rustad and Tamas Kari occupying fourth and fifth places. Results here. In the penultimate round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, Kriztian Szabo led a Volland Racing one-two ahead of Rokas Baciuska. Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme completed the podium. Results here.

The French Championship also reached its penultimate event last weekend at Lessay, where Fabien Pailler won a wet final to add a second French crown to his 2014 title having also won the seventh round of the series at Mayenne two weeks earlier.  At Lessay, Pailler made the best start from the centre of the front row of the grid and lead to turn one where he was ahead of an incident involving pole setter Cyril Raymond and Guerlain Chicherit that split the pack. South African rally driver Mark Cronje made his rally cross debut following a two-day test with the Albatec Racing team in the preceding week, in preparation for his World RX debut in Cape Town next month. Mayenne results here. Lessay results here.

Thomas Bryntesson wrapped up the 2017 RallyX Nordic title in the season finale at Strangnas, but had to concede final round victory to season long rival Oliver Solberg. Oliver Eriksson took time out of his Global Rallycross Championship schedule to race a Ford Fiesta for his father’s OMSE team at the circuit nearest to it’s base and completed the podium, while Ramona Karlsson split Hedstroms Motorsport pairing Peter Hedstrom and Alexander Hvaal to score her best result of the season in fifth. It was a day of double celebration for the JC Raceteknik team in the event, William Nilsson winning the Supercar Lites title by winning the final round. Results here.

Experienced racer Atro Maatta won the final round of the Finnish Rallycross Championship at former World RX venue Kouvola to secure the championship title ahead of Toni Lukander, who retired on the fourth lap in the last race of the year. Outgoing champion Jerre Kalliokoski finished second with his Skoda Fabia, as part of his dual 2017 campaign alongside racing with Albatec Racing in Euro RX, as Ari Perkiomaki completed the podium. Christian Jensen won the last Supernational final of the season, and all-rounder Joni-Pekka Rajala won the Autocrossi final. Results here.

The last round of the 2017 RX Academy joined the Finnish Championship finale, where Kalle Markkanen claimed his maiden win in the single make category for Renault Clio Cup RX cars, but it was Jesse Kallio to finished second in every stage of event apart from winning semi-final two, to secure the title. The third title contender heading into the event, Marat Knyazev, rolled his car in the qualifying stages and was unable to continue in the event. Crosskart racer Jami Kalliomaki scored his first podium of the season in third, to claim the same position in the standings. Kallio’s prize will be a fully paid drive in the 2018 Euro RX Super1600 Championship. Results here.

Title-rivals Julian Godfrey and Nathan Heathcote claimed a victory apiece in the seventh and eighth rounds of the MSA British Rallycross Championship at Pembrey, as the Welsh circuit ran in both anti-clockwise and clockwise directions over the two days, Heathcote winning round eight in challenging wet conditions to keep his title hopes alive with one round remaining. Godfrey dominated the opening day (round seven) as Heathcote retired from Q2 with turbo issues and then failed to start Q3. He made it into the final after LD Motorsports team mate Warren Scott withdrew. In round eight on Sunday, the LD Motorsports pair sandwiched Godfrey on the podium. Having finished on the podium in round seven, Ollie O’Donovan crashed out of round eight in practice and spent the day in hospital with damaged ribs and hand. Brothers Tristan and Simon Ovenden each claimed a brace of wins in the Supernational and Swift Sport categories, will Tom Llewellin secured the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship title at home. Andreas Bakkerud raced in the RX150 championship in round eight and finished second to points leader Chrissy Palmer. Results here.

Within a few hours of each other Ford and Peugeot made major announcements about their World RX programmes on 4 October. Peugeot was first up and confirmed its continued presence in the FIA World Rallycross Championship with Sebastian Loeb remaining the figurehead for the French marque’s involvement. “The Peugeot 208’s presence is fully justified in a spectacular and telegenic championship that offers international visibility to the Peugeot Sport team’s know-how,” the announcement said. Ford, meanwhile, has pressed “pause” on its World RX adventure and stated that Hoonigan Racing Division and Ford Performance will not race in 2018, citing the need to develop a new car to replace the Focus RS in its statement.

Just ahead of the recent World RX event in Latvia the EKS boys got to play on the streets of Riga, the resulting video was published this week.

The MSA British Rallycross Championship will begin at the new Silverstone rallycross circuit on March 17 next Spring, the first event to be held on the new track that will host the British round of the World Rallycross Championship from next May. The full British RX calendar will be announced in the coming weeks.

We are sad to record to the death of Michael Fitzsimons last month (September 11). Fitzsimons (71) was a key figure in the development of rallycross in Ireland. A member of County Kildare Motor Club (CKMC) he was part of the group that experimented in organising rallycross at Mondello Park in 1978-’79. That led to the development of a permanent rallycross track at the venue, Fitzsimons’ background in civil engineering making him central in this.
He would later combine this knowledge and that gained in his later career in the fire service (he was Chief Fire Officer for County Kildare), to good effect as a circuit inspector for FIA where he sat on both the Off-Road and Safety Commissions. Chairman of CKMC for a handful of years he was also Chairman of Motorsport Ireland’s Rallycross Committee.
Before all of this, he had first joined CKMC in the mid-1970s when he raced in modified sports cars and drove in night navigation rallies.
Never anything less than a complete gentleman who was generous with his knowledge and experience, it was a pleasure to have known Fitzsimons and we offer our best wishes to his wife Ann, their children, grandchildren and wider family and friends.

« »