Nitiss’ chance to shine in Riga World RX wildcard drive
One-off start with ESmotorsport Skoda gives Nitiss shot at home glory
by Hal Ridge |
The Latvian round of the World Rallycross Championship this weekend poses a significant opportunity for Reinis Nitiss. A regular at the sport’s highest level since World RX’s inception in 2014, and the third ever winner in the series, Nitiss has never peaked at his home round.
This year, the 24-year old returns to the series having departed to focus on rallying so far in 2020. And, aboard ES Motorsport’s upgraded Skoda Fabia, which was proven to have the pace to fight at the front at several rounds last term in the hands of Rokas Baciuska and Kevin Abbring, Nitiss has arguably the least home pressure in his career too. Not only is the paddock closed to guests and spectators that would usually demand his time over the weekend, but he has also admitted that he harbours no ambition to compete in any other World RX events this season. This is his chance to go all-out for a top result.
On top of that, the Fabia is arguably the most attractive of Nitiss’ top-flight rallycross cars in his career so far, which began in 2012.
Alongside winning his class in the FIA North European Zone Rallycross Championship in 2012, Nitiss made his European Rallycross Championship debut at Holjes in the Super1600 division aboard a Peugeot 206, and qualified for the C final, ending the event 16th. He completed the campaign, but without pulling up any trees.
2013 was a totally different story. After only a little learning the previous term, and still largely unable to string a sentence together in English, Nitiss joined the SET Promotion squad to drive a Super1600 Renault Clio in the European series and simply dominated. He claimed his maiden win in the third round in Hungary and won again in a further five of the six remaining rounds to net the crown.
As his prize for winning the Super1600 title, he tested Marklund Motorsport’s Volkswagen Polo at Kinnekulle, the day following the Swedish Rallycross Championship finale, in which he made his Supercar debut in an ex-Hansen Motorsport, TT Motorsport-run Citroen C4.
The Latvian signed for Olsbergs MSE for the first year of World RX in 2014 to race a Ford Fiesta, the team managed by SET boss Jussi Pinomaki, and finished third on his debut in Portugal. At round three in Norway, the then 18-year old beat rally legend Petter Solberg in a straight fight to win the final and set the youngest-ever World RX event winner record, that is yet to be beaten. The season concluded with third overall and a visit to the prestigious FIA Awards Gala.
He remained with OMSE for 2015, continuing to partner Andreas Bakkerud in the Ford-backed team. The year started well with a second at Hockenheim and third in Mettet, but he didn’t finish on the podium again and was seventh in the points.
Nitiss switched to Munnich Motorsport for 2016 to race the squad’s new Seat Ibiza, but the relationship didn’t return the desired results for either party. Nitiss announced his split with the team ahead of a final drive in the Ibiza at the French round, where he ironically went on to score the best result of the campaign at Loheac with fifth in the final. He returned to an OMSE Fiesta for the Spanish round, the first Latvian event at the Bikernieki circuit and the Argentine finale, but didn’t qualify for another final.
In 2017 Nitiss signed to drive a third Audi S1 with the EKS squad as an individual entry. Fifth in Portugal was the Latvian’s best result of the season.
The following year, he stepped back to the European Championship, this time in Supercar, driving an M-Sport built Ford Fiesta run by SET Promotion. He won three of the five rounds and sealed the title in emphatic style with victory in his home event.
Last year, Nitiss returned to World RX with the Gronholm RX squad, racing a Hyundai i20 under the GRX SET banner. After assaulting a kerb in the first chicane of the season-opener in Abu Dhabi and landing on Anton Marklund’s Renault Megane, he then he rolled in Q1 at Holjes in the Swedish round, but the GRX squad repaired the car in time of the second session and he ultimately finished on the podium. His home event though, didn’t reap the same rewards.
Having not expected to race in World RX at all this year, now he’s back, and with a pre-event test at Kouvola and a shakedown on Wednesday at the popular 333 venue, Nitiss is well placed to cause the kind of upset that debutant Juha Rytkonen did against the regulars in Finland just three weeks ago.« Previous Post Next Post »