World RX set for electric switch, Audi commits to EKS, news and reports

Seven days in rallycross, February 18

by Hal Ridge |

The World Rallycross Championship is set to switch to fully-electric cars for the 2020 season. The planned inclusion of electric cars within the World RX structure was revealed last August, but it has now come to light that electric cars will be the headline category in the series from 2020. The new electric cars are expected to be based on a common carbon tub chassis, but will have unique composite body shells. The batteries are also expected to be from a single-supplier, following an FIA tender process, while the motors will be free. The FIA, World RX promotor IMG and nine manufacturers have been involved in the discussions and plans for the electric switch, while the existing Supercar formulae is expected to be maintained in some form in more than just a five-round European Rallycross Championship.

Mattias Ekstrom will focus on the World Rallycross Championship this year, having retired from the DTM and secured continued Audi backing for his EKS World RX team, which has been renamed as EKS Audi Sport. Ekstrom made the announcement in a press conference in Salzburg, two days before confirming that Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud had signed for the squad as its second driver in a pair of brand-new Audi S1 quattro Supercars, built in conjunction with Audi Sport. “With support from Audi we’re able to go for all-out attack,” said Ekstrom. “Our aim for 2018 is clear: we’re battling for the drivers’ and teams’ world championship titles. It’s clear that we needed to make some changes. That’s why we’re preparing two new cars and putting the competition from Volkswagen and Peugeot in their place.” Bakkerud was left without a World RX drive when Ford and the Hoonigan Racing Division team pulled out of the series last year. “It’s a great honour for me to be driving in Mattias’ team,” said Bakkerud. “We’ve had good rapport with each other for many years and I’ve been closely following the development of EKS. Together with the team I’d now like to make the step in my career and be in contention for the title.”

The GRC and Lydden Hill circuit have announced that the final round of the American-based series will be held at the Kent circuit in October. The GRC had previously only confirmed ‘Europe’ for its double-header season finale, but the venue has now been confirmed as the British circuit. “I’m delighted to finally confirm Lydden Hill as the venue for the final round of the GRC,” said Lydden Hill boss Pat Doran. “Lydden has been at the forefront of rallycross for more than 50 years and we’ve invested in the sport throughout that time. It’s fitting therefore that the GRC’s return to Europe is here, where rallycross fans will get the opportunity to see the best GRC has to offer, including the series’ signature 70ft table top jump, on our purpose-built rallycross track. We always receive great support from the motorsport fraternity, and I’m sure the fans will be out in force once again as we pull out all the stops to ensure the GRC season-finale is a sell-out success.”

With the Andros Trophy title already decided in favour of Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Renault Captur) for a third successive year, round one winner Benjamin Riviere (Peugeot 3008) claimed victory in the single-header season finale at Super Besse to secure second in the standings. Olivier Pernaut (Mazda 3) finished the event second with Dubourg completing the podium. Franck Lagorce (Andros Sport 01) raced the new Andros Trophy electric four-wheel drive car in its second event and set an impressive fourth fastest time in Q1, in the Elite Pro category. Sylvain Pussier (Peugeot 3008) won the Elite class while Aurelien Panis won the single-make electric support category. Results here.

The opening round of the RallyX on Ice series took place at Ostersund, where OlsbergsMSE driver Oliver Eriksson claimed victory in near -20 conditions, ahead of Sondre Evjen and Cyril Raymond in the Supercar Lites category. Vasiliy Gryazin was fourth, while joint top-qualifier Ben-Philip Gundersen and Conner Martell had a coming together in the final and retired on the first lap. The other top qualifier, Kevin Eriksson, went out of the event in the semi-finals. Norwegian Simon-Wago Syversen won the RX Academy on Ice final from Joni Wiman and Jesse Kallio, while Oliver Solberg, Marat Knyazev and Oliver Bennett completed the list of final finishers. Finn-Erik Loberg won the Speedcar Xtreme crosskart buggy final from Kevin Hansen and Niclas Gronholm.

A week later, Eriksson’s older brother Kevin claimed victory in the second round of the series at Holjes, his first ice victory having finished second on five previous occasions. For the second event in a row, Evjen finished second, while Oliver Eriksson fought back to third having initially not made the final, only for Gundersen, who had finished second in the same semi-final, to be penalised for forgetting to take the joker lap. Rally driver Pelle Wilen finished fourth, Alexander Westlund was fifth and Lites newcomer Jami Kalliomaki was sixth. Reigning RX2 champion Raymond surprisingly failed to make the semi-finals. Reigning RX Academy Champion Kallio won the RX Academy on Ice final from Wiman and Syversen, while Isak Reiersen, Marko Muru and Bennett completed the top six. In the Speedcar Xtreme crosskart buggy category it was a World RX driver podium lock-out. Kevin Hansen won from Gronholm and Timmy Hansen.

Racing games developer Codemasters and the World Rallycross Championship have launched an e-gaming championship for Codemasters’ DiRT 4 game, the winner of which will win a test in an RX2 car at the British round of the World RX series, SpeedMachine, held at Silverstone in May. Using the Community Events system in DiRT 4, players will compete online in a range of rallycross and rally competitions to challenge for a place in a live-streamed quarter-finals and semi-final shootout. The final will take place on the Saturday of the SpeedMachine weekend, before the winner gets the opportunity to test an RX2 machine. Qualifying rounds for the DiRT World Championship run from February 12 until March 26. The live-streamed quarter-finals will be held on April 8, with the semi-finals on April 22. The final will take place at Silverstone on Saturday May 26.

Reigning British Rallycross Champion Nathan Heathcote will race in the RX2 International Series this season, driving for Team Faren alongside American driver Conner Martell. Both drivers are racing in the RallyX on Ice winter series to gain experience ahead of the summer season. Martell finished sixth in the opening round, while Heathcote joined him for round two, having been forced to miss the opening race of the year due to attending the British Rallycross awards presentation. “RX2 as a good step up from what I did last year. Conner has a lot of experience in the cars so I’m looking forward to working with him and hopefully we can share knowledge to help each other,” said Heathcote, who finished 17th in his first ice race at Holjes. “The amount of experience that Team Faren has got, as drivers and being involved in the sport, is massive. They showed last year coming in as a new team that they can quite easily go and win races.”

Belgian touring car, GT and Andros Trophy squad Comtoyou Racing is targeting a two-car assault in the World Rallycross Championship this season, running a pair of ex-EKS Audi S1 quattro Supercars alongside a programme in the World Touring Car Cup and its Andros Trophy exploits, where it also runs Audi A1s in the top category. “Our goal is to be involved in World RX and to be long-term in the championship. We’re in contact with Mattias [Ekstrom] and Klas [Boman, EKS CEO] about running two cars,” said team manager, Francois Verbist. Belgian endurance driver Enzo Ide has been linked with a Comtoyou Racing World RX drive.

World Rallycross Champions Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg took part in the annual Race of Champions event, this year held at the King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Solberg beat the reigning World RX champion in the semi-finals stages, where the pair met in the head-to-head race. Solberg then missed out on victory after being beaten by former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard in the final. In the Nations Cup the previous day, Solberg made it into the semi-finals as part of Team Nordic. Kristoffersson raced as part of Team Sweden, but didn’t make it as far as his PSRX team mate.

The World Rallycross Championship will be broadcast on free-to-air television in Finland this year, on the YLE station, joining SVT in Sweden and NRK in Norway. “We are delighted to have reached an agreement on this property,” said Robert Portman, Head of Sport Rights at YLE. “We have followed RX with interest for some years now and find the series exciting and well produced. We have great expectations of the Finnish drivers and their success in the coming season.”

Dane Ulrik Linnemann will race an ex-Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo Supercar in the European Rallycross Championship this season, graduating from the Euro RX Super1600 category in which he has been a regular event-winner and title contender in recent years with his self-built Peugeot 207 and then Peugeot 208. His own Linnemann Motorsport team will run the car, and will use the opening round of the Belgian Rallycross Championship at Mettet next week as a test event. Former Belgian Rallycross Champion Jochen Coox has acquired a similar ex-Marklund Polo and is planning on a full campaign in the French Rallycross Championship this year.

Former British Rallycross Championship event-winner Mad Mark Watson will focus on the British RX series in 2018, have raced in a programme of both British RX and BTRDA Clubmans Championship in 2017. Watson’s Citroen Xsara is undergoing development over the winter, with the assistance of former rallycross driver and British Rally Champion Jonny Milner’s Merlin International team.

A range of drivers have signed up to race in the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship this season, including Nick Angrave, who will race a Honda Integra in the SuperModified class, along with Irish drivers Patrick Ryan and Kieran Curran. Lee Marsh will race an ex-Kevin McCann Ford Escort in the newly-renamed classic category. Jordine Wadge will campaign a Citroen C2 in selected Production category rounds, joining Stephen Gaunt and Dale Ford, while father and son pairing Tony and Jonny Chrisp will switch from autocross to race in the series with a pair of Ford KAs. Lee Keeler will race the Citroen Saxo he used in the British RX Hot Hatch category last season in the BTRDA series this year. In the Junior category, Amy Baines is set to race a Vauxhall Corsa while brothers Tom and Luke Constantine will join cousin James Constantine in a trio of Suzuki Swifts, along with fellow Junior RX racer Morgan Wroot. Eleanor Corner, who made her debut at the close of the 2017 season and will join her father Guy at events this season, racing a Junior Suzuki Swift while her father races his Peugeot 206 in the SuperModified category.

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