Tuesday, 27 May 2014

BTCC 2014: Church Corner dominates at Thruxton...

The third weekend of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship saw the action move to the high speed Thruxton circuit and add more action to an already action packed, fever pitch season.

Coming to Thruxton, Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato were tied in the drivers  championship lead and things would change after this event in the points table with three eventful races to come.

In Qualifying, Jordan took Pole Position from the works Honda Civic Tourer's of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden. Mat Jackson qualified an impressive 4th in the Airwaves Focus, with the car now looking to be on front running pace. Tom Ingram carried on his amazing qualifying pace to net a best ever 5th position whilst the two MG6's of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff were 6th and 7th respectively. Collard qualified 8th with Alain Menu 9th and Adam Morgan completing the top ten.

Race One saw Rob Collard make his usual lightning start to jump from 8th to 5th by the time they reached the complex. Mat Jackson too made a cracking start to be second by the time they were flying towards Church corner. He passed both the Honda's and set after Jordan who had kept the lead. Further back Menu passed Tordoff at Church for position as Jackson mounted an attack on Jordan for the lead coming into Club Chicane. Andy held him off, but it was a sign that the Airwaves Focus was fast again...

Jackson spent the next few laps hassling Jordan whilst the Honda's of Neal and Shedden stayed close. James Cole and Warren Scott clashed on lap 3 at Club whilst Chris Stockton in the BTC Racing Chevrolet Cruze had retired with mechanical issues. Cole's Toyota was written off at Donington and he was using a spare chassis provided by Speedworks Motorsport at Thruxton. They would be busy bunnies after the Thruxton weekend, but thats later on...

By lap 5, Jackson was falling back into the clutches of Neal and Shedden and was down to 4th by lap 8. Behind these guys was an epic scrap between Collard, Plato, Menu, Morgan and Turkington, who started 13th! Turkington passed Morgan on lap 9. Ingram meanwhile had fallen back down the order from his 5th place grid spot due to a bad set of tyre pressures. Plato pressured Collard in the late stages but that led to no avail.

The field stayed pretty static at that stage and it was Andrew Jordan who won the race on maximum ballast from the two Honda Civic Tourers of Neal and Shedden. Jackson took 4th from Collard and Plato with Menu, Turkington, Morgan and Tordoff completing the top ten places.

Race two saw Jordan lead from Shedden whilst Neal boxed in the fast starting Collard and Jackson held off Turkington, with the BMW's once again using their RWD starts to good effect. At the Complex Shedden made a bid for the lead and outbraked himself, allowing Collard to close on Jordan with Shedden now back in third. At the end of lap one Jordan led from Collard, Shedden, Jackson, Neal, Plato, Turkington, Menu, Morgan and Giovanardi, himself having made a few places on lap one.

Shedden closed down Collard for 2nd whilst Jordan built a gap. Menu was handed a Drive through penalty for being out of position at the start, something he was quite angry about later on, whilst further back Stockton retired from race two with further mechanical woes. Jack Goff had a good start, hassling Tordoff and Giovanardi as the Insignia got quicker and quicker. On lap 3, Shedden passed Collard for 2nd place and set after Jordan. On lap 6, Goff finally passed Tordoff and Giovanardi for 9th position after some hefty fighting. On lap 8, Neal passed Jackson for 4th in a very close side by side pass with Turkington in close company.

By lap 9 Shedden was hooked onto the tail of the Pirtek Civic and looking to take the race lead. Goff meanwhile had caught up to Plato and Morgan and set about trying to pass Morgan for 8th. Newsham lost it coming into Club Chicane on lap 10 and fell down the order. On lap 11, Shedden capitalised on a small error from Jordan and took the lead from there. Turkington spent most of the race hunting Jackson but the Focus was proving to be a match for the BMW in its newer faster guise.

On lap 15 there was contact between Foster and Austin at Church Corner with the BMW going backwards into the tyre barrier and then over it, whilst Austin managed to rejoin the track. Foster got out of the car ok and was soon back in the pits, but the incident brought out the red flags, stopping the race on lap 15.

Church Corner would claim a few more scalps later on in race three...

With the race red flagged, Shedden would go on to win the race from Jordan with Collard joining them on the podium in 3rd. Neal, Jackson and Turkington were 4th to 6th whilst Plato, Morgan, Goff and Giovanardi completed the top ten. To add to this Gio picked position 10 for the race three reversed pole position. This season its been agreed that whoever is 10th is race two picks the reverse grid draw and it worked out well for the Italian.

At the start, Gio led away with Turkington getting another rocket start, passing both Goff and Morgan before the Complex sequence of corners. At the Complex, there was contact between Collard and Morgan, sending the WIX Racing Mercedes into a slide, only for him to come back and make contact with Plato. Plato would retire with suspension damage. At Church, Turkington passed Gio for the lead and made a break for it ahead of the Airwaves Focus who had Goff and Collard in close company.

Behind them were Jackson, Jordan, Shedden, Neal, Rob Austin who made it up to 9th place and Tordoff suffering in 10th. Goff harried Gio over the next few laps, not afraid to hassle the former two time champion. Jackson began closing down on the both of them, however the safety car came out, with the first talking point of race three...

Now I've spent a few days scrutinising this one to make sure I get it right. Goff was going to pass Gio at Church, however both men saw the yellow flags and backed off. But at the next marshalling post after Church, the flag is green and Jackson took advantage of this by passing Goff before the next marshalling post at Club Chicane which had a yellow flag and SC Board out. So Jackson's move on Goff was done in a green sector of the course.

However the reason for the safety car was due to Ollie Jackson going off at Church and his car clearing the tyre barrier and hitting a tree. The tyre barrier itself taking a battering from the earlier incident with Nick Foster hitting it and going over it.

Racing resumed on lap 9 with Turkington leading from Gio and Jackson with Goff now 4th ahead of Collard, Jordan, Shedden and Neal, Morgan and Tordoff, with Aron Smith up to 11th after a torrid time in qualifying led to him having a big accident in the Team BMR VW Passat and starting from the back. Jordan attempted a pass on Collard which failed allowed the Civic Tourers to close on him and attack for position. Smith passed Tordoff for 10th on lap 9 also. Neal hassled Jordan as Jordan hassled Collard but then we had Safety Car No. 2...

Simon Belcher suffered a failure in the Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis leading to it going straight on at Church Corner, hitting what was left of the tyre barrier and ploughing straight through it, going into a barrel role. He left the car OK but this meant a rapid rebuild of the tyre barrier and to further slow things down, double waved yellows at Church.

Turkington headed the field on lap 13 as the race got going again with the Airwaves duo of Gio and Jackson close behind. Jordan passed Collard at Club for 5th on lap 15, whilst Shedden passed Neal as they hunted Collard. Coming into Club Shedden touched the back of Collard's BMW, sending him up the escape road and back out ahead of the Honda's again. The pace of the Honda was quicker than the BMW and there would more to come...

Up ahead Jackson passed Gio for second and held up Goff, allowing Jordan and Collard to close on the Insignia and Jordan to pass him on the run to Church. Shedden passed Collard behind them and then passed Goff, under double waved yellows, at Church. The positions would be swapped after the race by the stewards. Goff then defended from Collard and Neal which led to more contact between the BMW and the Honda. Neal touched the back of Collard going through Allard, unsettling the BMW and allowing Neal to come alongside. Obviously fed up with being hit by Honda's, Collard then drove straight on as Neal tried to turn into the corner with the result being both cars going off.

This later resulted in Collard going and having a "polite chat" with Honda team and in my opinion, a fair right too...

On the last lap Jordan, Shedden and Goff attacked Gio for 3rd whilst Smith made it into 7th. But it would be Turkington who would hold on for the win ahead of Jackson, Gio, Jordan, Shedden, Goff, Smith, Morgan, Tordoff and Collard.

Race three was an action packed, incident strewn affair with questions a plenty raised about driving standards, marshall flags and the safety of Church Corner with social media exploding over the decisions taken. There were plenty of penalties and penalty points handed out and also a lot of work to do for both Welch Motorsport and Handy Motorsport as both teams look to rebuild their cars for the Oulton Park round in June. Hopefully we should also see the return of Robb Holland in his popular Oakley Racing Audi S3 and a full field, but time will tell...

As for the Church Corner debate, my thoughts on it are this. Put a triple layer tyre barrier in place and cut back some of the trees there. Dont put a gravel trap in as this will cause cars to barrel roll, making an accident bigger than it should be. Maybe even some run off tarmac to slow things down but again this is just a view, not a recommendation.

Next up is Oulton Park and for me and possibly many other fans, this meeting could be the biggest of the season. As well as the BTCC and its TOCA support package, the Super Touring Car Championship is holding two races over the Oulton weekend with the Sunday race broadcast live on Sunday!!! Live Super Tourers again!!! It reminds me of 1999 all over again... There are 29 cars entered with popular names including John Cleland and Patrick Watts taking part.

This is certain to be another exciting chapter in the 2014 BTCC Season as this year the International Circuit is used for the first time by the series since 1996. Back then Joachim Winkelhock dominated the weekend in the BMW 320is along with Rickard Rydell in his Volvo S40. However Oulton is traditionally a good circuit for both MG and BMW with Plato and Turkington needing big points in the championship to catch Jordan.

Oulton is going to be a cracker!!!



Monday, 26 May 2014

Motorsport: I want my LIVE TV!!!

Ok, call me old fashioned but I like to watch my motorsport live on TV where its possible, with as little clashing as possible...which is difficult at best when you take into consideration that I watch Formula One, the British Touring Car Championship, the World Touring Car Championship, The World Rallycross Championship all live where possible.

I admit I keep a weathered eye on the V8 Supercars which is always delayed because quite simply, showing those live would mean I would get no sleep at all...Although one day I will watch the Bathurst 1000kms live again...

Now in this day in age where we have the Internet, Tablets and Mobile devices wherever we go to keep up to date on work, business, pleasure or social media, you might think my writing this blogpost is completely nuts, but stick with me on this. I grew up during the 1980's where motorsport exploded onto TV. I watched Formula One avidly on BBC2 and live on BBC1 when they took the step to televise the British Grand Prix live before moving to show every race live in the early 1990's on BBC2 then on BBC1.

Now back then, I just watched it all on TV. I had no idea until 1991 of Motorsport Magazines like MotorSport or Motorsport News or Autosport. My information came from anything leaked by Murray Walker and James Hunt during commentary or later on by Jonathon Palmer. Fast forward to 2014 and we now have the internet, providing access to drivers and teams on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and many other forms of Social Media along with dedicated websites like Autosport, TouringCarTimes, Motorsport.com and the like at the touch of the button on a tablet or mobile device.

Now back to the 1980's, my motorsport viewing was only on a Saturday afternoon during Grandstand watching any current Touring Car action or on a Sunday Afternoon, watching Formula One eating my Sunday lunch on my lap. A simple time where there were four TV Channels and publications were weekly and monthly with reports. I happily remember watching Ayrton Senna winning the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix in the wet, sat in front of a black and white TV in the dining whilst the rest of my family sat talking with relatives. Granted, back then it was a luxury for a household to have a colour TV as well as a Black and White TV.

Now the reason for this post stems to the last round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, in Austria. I've followed this series since its original form as the European Super Touring Championship and as the series grew so did the coverage on Eurosport. I must point out that Eurosport is not only the chosen channel but also the promoter of the series.

Now up until the end of the 2012 season, the Qualifying coverage was live along with both races shown live in the UK. Yes I'm well aware its called Eurosport and yes I'm well aware of the fact its main audience is in Europe, but stick with me.

Last year, suddenly in the UK, we had to wait until 11.30pm UK Time to watch a half hour recorded highlights programme of Quali. This was something that took place over the whole season and something that myself and several other WTCC Fans took to Twitter about to ask the question "Why?" from Jean-Louis Dauger, head of Eurosport Promotions until he moved to OAK Racing for 2014.

He explained that it was something that could be investigated and restored for the 2014 season and so far its been live. He also explained that its also feasible to watch WTCC online through Eurosport Player. Now while I acknowledge that, for me thats not an option.

You see, The Guru lives in a 40ft Caravan, somewhere in deepest darkest Northamptonshire, where the internet is a very poor excuse and he writes this blog from his HTC phone thanks to the limited data plan provided by O2, happily supported by his family.

I'm a Motorsport fan in a part time job. Poor is part of the description.

So I was horrified to see that not only was Qualifying a recorded highlights programme but race two was also recorded and shown at 9.30pm with  highlights of the World Rallycross from Lydden Hill on at 10.30pm afterwards. Now this upset me because I dont have the bandwidth or data plan to stream off Eurosport Player to watch it live so the fan in me wondered... Why?

The answer from Eurosport, via Twitter, was that there was a lot of sport on and Choices had to be made. So like any other fan, I then wondered... "Why should I lose out?" There was the Giro D'Italia and Tennis on as well but like any fan of any sport, I'm also thinking selfishly...because thats what fans do when they want to see their sport live at home. If you have BT or Virgin then no hassles, enjoy the online viewing... I have Sky TV so I can watch F1 and BTCC live and WTCC and WorldRX when they are shown live.

But dont forget, not everyone has BT or Virgin nor any internet provider in certain areas, so what do they rely on?

Live TV.

It might sound like a lot of bitching, but when you consider the budgets put into action for live action sports by channels such as BT Sport, Sky Sports, The BBC and the like, is it then too much to ask for Live TV...

I dont think so. Fortunately I can happily say that this weekends Russian WTCC encounter is completely live... Which makes the Guru a much happier Guru.

Anyway, now that I've gotten that off my chest and shared, I can happily say that I'll be writing up the Austrian WTCC races and the second round of the World Rallycross Championship, so plenty to read in the coming days.

All the best


Tintops 2014: Return of The Old Guard...

In the world of Touring Car racing, 2014 has seen the return of some very experienced drivers to some of the best Touring Car series in the world.

In the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, two former Champions have returned. Fabrizio Giovanardi, who won both the 2007 and 2008 titles was signed up by Airwaves racing for the 2014 season in a bid to try and recover the potential championship and race winning form they have shown in previous seasons.

Meanwhile over at Team BMR, they confirmed that Alain Menu would drive one of their NGTC VW Passat's for the season. Menu, who won the 1997 and 2000 BTCC Titles during the Super Touring era, had spent recent seasons as a Works Chevrolet driver in the FIA World Touring Car Championship until the Manufacturer pulled its works support in 2012.

To add to this, Paul di Resta was announced as returning to the DTM as part of the Mercedes lineup this season. The Scotsman had been a Force India driver in Formula One from 2011 to 2013 after winning the 2010 DTM Title for the Mercedes outfit, however poor performances had led to him returning back to the German Touring Masters Arena.

Going as far forward as 2015, Nika Racing have confirmed that they have signed up as a Customer WTCC Team for the Honda outfit. Next year they will return full time in the series using a TC1 Honda Civic that will be piloted by Swedish Touring Car Superstar Rickard Rydell, winner of the 1998 BTCC Title for TWR Volvo and winner of the 2011 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship in a Chevrolet for Nika Racing.

So, what has led to these high profile, experiences drivers returning to each of these Touring Car series and further enhancing what is a "2nd Golden Age" in Touring Car racing?

Well for a start, one of those reasons is the team setup...

For Giovanardi, the chance of racing for Airwaves Ford has been something he has been trying to do since his one off outing for Triple Eight at the Thruxton BTCC Season opening weekend in 2010. Despite sporadic outings in the Porsche Panamera in the Italian Superstars series and more sporadic appearances in the german VLN Endurance series, Fabrizio wanted a competitive car to race in a highly competitive series.

In 2011, he raced for Hartmann Honda in the European Touring Car Cup, piloting a Super 2000 Honda Accord against the competition of Pepe Oriola in a SUNRED SEAT Leon TDI, Michel Nykjaer in a Nika Racing Chevrolet Cruze and Thomas Engstrom in a Sweden Team Honda Accord to name a few. In terrible conditions, Giovanardi won the ETCC in Austria and support once again poured in for the multiple tintop champion to return to top flight touring car action.

There were rumours of both Giovanardi and Menu joining Tom Chilton at what would've been a three car entry by Works supported Team Aon using the Super 2000 Ford Focus, but the team shut its doors in early 2013. However with increased support from Airwaves as a Sponsor, the Airwaves Ford team reworked its technical team and signed Gio for an attack on the 2014 BTCC with a reworked Ford Focus. The result is the team taking its first podiums of the year at the recent Thruxton meeting.

For Alain Menu, the chance to work with Geoff Kingston again, a man who as Menu's Race Engineer helped him to many race victories and to two BTCC Titles. After leaving the BTCC in 2001 after a change in regulations, Menu raced for Opel in the DTM for a few years with little or no success from a period he describes as "The worst point of his career." In 2005 he moved to the new FIA World Touring Car Championship as a Works Chevrolet driver alongside Rob Huff and ex F1 driver Nicola Larini, making himself a force to be reckoned with. With Yvan Muller replacing Larini from 2010 and the introduction of the new Chevrolet Cruze in 2009, Menu was a present title threat.

However with no works support for 2013, Menu found himself without a seat. With Muller finding a sponsorship package to stay at RML for 2013 and Huff being signed by Munnich Motorsport, Alain found himself without a seat. He made it clear that finding sponsorship was never easy for himself and despite two Porsche Supercup meetings in 2013 did not drive again until the WTCC supporting "Champions Race" at Macau. His pace was electric, proving he still had it in him.

However the Swiss driver had made it clear that the WTCC was the place he wanted to be with its new TC1 regulations opening a new era in the championship. But with seats limited to only 16 entries due to a small number of new cars built, a Tintop drive would need to come from another series...

So with Team BMR making its entry in the BTCC in 2013 and looking to build and expand further by purchasing the assets of Team HARD. the move to sign Menu was made and a re-union with Kingston being a big part of the attraction added to the building profile of the new NGTC regulations making the BTCC a competitive and attractive series to be in. Along with signing Menu, the team confirmed Aron Smith, Jack Goff and Warren Scott in a four car attack on the 2014 BTCC. So far the Swiss driver is still fast and getting used to the cut and thrust nature again of the series.

For Paul Di Resta, a chance to return to the DTM was a no brainer after being dropped by Force India. Whilst being able to secure the Force India seat in 2011 through his connection with engine supplier and employer Mercedes his three years in Formula One were full of ups and downs, leading to him being replaced in 2014 by Sergio Perez. But with Mercedes keeping hold of the Scotsman, there was a plan...

With the return of BMW to the series in 2012, the chance to sign talent from Mercedes and Audi took place, leaving Mercedes relying on a younger, lesser experienced driver lineup, led by 2005 Champion Gary Paffett. But with BMW and Audi both winning the 2012 and 2013 championships, Mercedes needed to find an edge to get back into the fight.

Whilst it will take a while to get him back up to speed, Di Resta has always been a driver who fights for his position. This season has seen a 14th place finish at the season opening Hockenheim DTM Meeting whilst at Oschersleben, an inspired pit strategy in wet conditions saw him finish in 4th place, therefore there is still fight in him yet...

Another reason for these drivers to return is the series profile. Both Menu and Giovanardi have spoken this year about how the BTCC has become the biggest and best high profile Tintop series to be in, what with a field of 31 entries this year and the NGTC Regulations proving to make the competition even closer. Added to that as being part of the 7 champions racing this year, the chance to conpete and win in the BTCC is the drive for them both.

Di Resta has said how he has felt like he has "Come Home" to the DTM this year, another series that boasts 7 ex champions in its lineup and a championship that has attracted more interest with its close competiton and the freezing of current cars to allow the racing to stay close despite pit stops and longer race duration. Added to that, the fact that he used the early season tests to acclimatise to the current spec DTM machines, Di Resta expects to be on the pace soon... 

In the case of Rydell and Nika Racing tying up to return to the WTCC in 2015 using a new TC1 Honda Civic, this is a marriage that makes sense. Nika Racing were a customer Chevrolet team for many years, often running under the "Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden" banner in the STCC. In 2010 they ran Leonel Pernia in a Chevrolet Cruze at the WTCC Race of Italy as a toe in the water exercise. They returned again in 2012 at Monza with Rickard Rydell in a Cruze who managed to match the pace of the Works Cars.

Last year, they ran a full season with Michel Nykjaer at the helm followed by Yukinori Taniguchi and Rickard Rydell and the team punched well above their weight. Nykjaer won three races and took one Pole Position during the season and was often the quickest Chevrolet driver after Yvan Muller. Taniguchi won the Eurosport Asia Trophy for Asian Touring Car drivers competing in the Asian WTCC. However they took the next step to further progress the team with a tie up with the Works Honda squad for an entry next year.

In Rydell, they have a driver signed who is familiar with the team and its workings and has great experience of how the WTCC works, having contested it in a Volvo, A SEAT and a Chevrolet in various seasons. As he has proven as well, Rydell is still as fast as the likes of Muller, Tarquini, Huff and Thompson and once he has dialled in the Honda Civic, he will be a match for the rest of the Honda entrants and the other WTCC TC1 entries.

So, in effect, these Touring Car drivers who were once a dominant force in their respective championships have made the step back into the limelight to take on new challenges. Whether its signing with a new team to return to try and win a third title or returning to a series with a familiar team or manufacturer, the drive is still there in these guys to win, to compete and to be the best.

For me, its brilliant to hear and read about these guys making their respective returns. I remember watching Menu cutting his teeth in a BMW in the BTCC and then moving on to Renault and later Ford to win his titles. I remember watching Rydell making his rise in the BTCC in a Volvo and later a Ford and the racing in the WTCC for Volvo and SEAT. I remember watching Giovanardi being the dominant force in the European Super Touring Series and later the European Touring Car Championship for Alfa Romeo followed by his epic Vauxhall Days in the BTCC. I still remember the euphoria at Di Resta winning his DTM Title before moving to F1 later on.

But what makes me happiest is seeing these legends, these most experienced Tintop drivers racing at their best with the current generation of drivers and showing that they have lost none of their talent.

The Return of the Old Guard is here... And long may they reign again...



Friday, 16 May 2014

World RX 2014: World Rallycross returns home to Kent...

After the spectacular beginning to the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship which saw Petter Solberg win the first event in Portugal, the series now moves to the Lydden Hill circuit in Kent for its second round and where the show can only get better.

And it already has...

Not only is this the second round of the World RX, its also the opening round of the European Rallycross Championship or Euro RX, which takes place over five European rounds alongside its World Championship cousin.

The effect of this?

There is a record entry of 37 drivers in the top level Supercars catergory alone...

37!!! Compare that to the 31 cars entered for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and you begin to realise the attraction that World RX and Euro RX has at an historic stage such as Lydden Hill which has held Rallycross events, both British and European since 1967 and its not surprising that its considered amongst the best in Rallycross circles and the birth place of Rallycross itself.

Because of the popularity of this years World Championship and the beginning of the European Championship, you can be sure that the "AUTOSPORT World RX of Great Britain" to give it the full title, will be a crowd sell out and there is no reason that they will be disappointed either.

Alongside the 37 Supercar entries, there are 10 Touring Car RX entries (These are 2 Wheel Drive, Rear Wheel Drive, 2 litre Turbo powered cars) and 23 Super 1600 entries (These are 2 Wheel Drive, Front Wheel Drive, 1.6 Litre Normally Aspirated Cars). Either way, that is a bumper entry of cars that will be taking part in the various Practices, Heats, Semi-Finals and The Final of each catergory.

Hell, I've been excited about this since Solberg won in Portugal and the bumper Supercar entry has only heightened that excitement!!!

The Driver talent joining the World RX regulars is the best of the best, with some drivers making either one off appearences or on a limited programme of events. Tanner Foust makes his first appearance of the season at Lydden, but not in the all conquering Ford Fiesta. This year he is contesting a full season of the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship in a VW Beetle Supercar for the famous Andretti Autosport team, so at Lydden he will be driving a Marklund Motorsport VW Polo as preperation.

2013 BTCC Champion and former Junior Rallycross Champion Andrew Jordan joins Andreas Bakkerud and Reinis Nitiss in the Works Swedish Olsbergs OMSE Team driving a Ford Fiesta. Jordan hopes this could lead to more putings that dont clash with his BTCC Defense. His entry is also sponsored by Red Bull as he is now an official Red Bull athlete.

Andy Scott's Albatec Racing team mate Jacques Villeneuve is missing from the event as he contests the Indy 500, therefore his place in the Albatec Peugeot is taken by 2013 Euro RX Runner up Davy Jeanney. Jeanney proved a force in his Citroen C4 last year against the massed ranks of the Citroen DS3's and once adapted to the Peugeot, he should be fast again.

Also making an appearance at Lydden Hill is Petter Solberg's older brother Henning Solberg in a Per Eklund Motorsport Saab 9-3 alongside regular female World RX driver Romana Karlsson. Henning took part in several Euro RX events last year and proved that the Saab Supercar is no slouch compared to the newer breed of Supercars.

Meanwhile British Rallycross regulars Julian Godfrey and Mark Proctor have entered this round with Godfrey in his regular Ford Fiesta Supercar whilst Proctor moves from his Mk 2 Ford Focus Supercar to a Ford Fiesta as well. Norwegian Rallycross and Touring Car legend Tommy Rustad has entered his Volvo C30 which showed good pace last year as he bids for the Euro RX title.

So with 37 FIA World Rallycross Supercars entered, 22 of those drivers entered for the FIA European Rallycross title, the regular World RX drivers will be looking to build on their 1st Round Accounts...

Neither of the Hansen Peugeots of Timmy Hansen or Timur Timerzyanov made it into the Supercar Final and they will both be looking to up their game at Lydden Hill. At the same time, the Monster Energy World RX drivers of Liam Doran, Krzysztof Skorupski and Derek Tohill suffered a nightmare weekend in Portugal and will look to open their account at Lydden. Its well known that Doran is fast on home turf when the Monster DS3 is running faultlessly.

While Solberg won the event, his team mate Alexander Hvaal suffered issues with his DS3 on the start of each heat. He will be looking towards better luck as will Andy Scott in his Albatec Peugeot 208. He managed to make it to the 2nd Semi Final however the car wouldnt take the start. So both he and Jeanney will be looking for a good points haul.

Whilst theres quite a few drivers looking to score, the Ford Olsbergs OMSE team mates of Andreas Bakkerud and Reinis Nitiss and the VW Marklund Motorsport drivers of Anton Marklund and Toomas Heikkinen will be looking to add to the points tally they built in Portugal as all four drivers fought for the Event win against Petter Solberg in the Final. This showing also confirmed that the Fords and VW's were fast out of the box and a match for the Works Peugeots, marking anyone of those four drivers as a potential Event winner.

So, as you can see, from the extremely high level of driver talent and competition entered for the 2nd round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, the man who makes it through to the Supercar Final and wins will be a very worthy winner indeed!

The "AUTOSPORT World RX of Great Britain" takes place on the weekend of 24th & 25th of May at Lydden Hill in Kent on the same weekend as the Monaco Grand Prix and the two FIA World Touring Car Championship races from the Salzburgring, so theres plenty of live TV coverage of motorsport to choose from that weekend.

Heres the Supercar Entry list...

1 Timur TIMERZYANOV -RUS- Team Peugeot-Hansen - SWE - Peugeot 208

2 Ollie O'DONOVAN - IRL - Ollie O'Donovan – IRL - Ford Focus

3 Timmy HANSEN – SWE - Team Peugeot-Hansen – SWE - Peugeot 208

4 Robin LARSSON - SWE - Rovin Larsson - SWE - Audi A1

6 Alexandre THEUIL - FRA - Alexandre Theuil - FRA - Citroën DS3

7 Emil ÖHMAN * - SWE - Emil Öhman - SWE - Citroën DS3

8 Peter HEDSTRÖM – SWE - Peter Hedström – SWE - Skoda Fabia

11 Petter SOLBERG - NOR - PS 110% AB – SWE - Citroën DS3

12 Alexander HVAAL - NOR - PS 110% AB - SWE - Citroën DS3

13 Andreas BAKKERUD - NOR - OlsbergsMSE AB SWE - Ford Fiesta ST

14 Frode HOLTE – NOR - Frode Holte Motorsport – NOR - Hyundai i20

15 Reinis NITISS – LVA - OlsbergsMSE AB - SWE - Ford Fiesta ST

17 Mats ÖHMAN * - SWE - Mats Öhman - SWE - Citroën DS3

19 Jean-Luc PAILLER * - FRA - Jean-Luc Pailler - FRA - Peugeot 208

20 Fabien PAILLER * - FRA - Fabien Pailler – FRA - Peugeot 208

22 Koen PAUWELS – BEL - Koen Pauwels – BEL - Ford Focus

21 Bohdan LUDWICZAK – POL - Bohdan Ludwiczak – POL - Ford Fiesta

24 Tommy RUSTAD * - NOR - HTB Racing - NOR - Volvo C30

26 Andy SCOTT – GBR - Albatec Racing LTD – GBR - Peugeot 208

27 Davy JEANNEY – FRA - Albatec Racing LTD – GBR - Peugeot 208

33 Liam DORAN – GBR - Monster Energy World RX – GBR - Citroën DS3

34 Tanner FOUST * - USA - Marklund Motorsport - SWE - VW Polo

37 Pavel KOUTNY – CZE - Czech National Team – CZE - Ford Fiesta

40 Eric FAREN - SWE - Eric Faren - SWE - Citroën  DS3

44 Krzysztof SKORUPSKI - POL - Monster Energy World RX - GBR - Citroën DS3

47 Ramona KARLSSON * - SWE - Per Eklund Motorsport - SWE - Saab 9-3

48 Lukas WALFRIDSON - SWE - Helmia Motorsport AB - SWE - Renault Clio

50 Kevin PROCTER - GBR - Kevin Procter - GBR - Ford Fiesta

51 Julian GODFREY * - GBR - Julian Godfrey – GBR - Ford Fiesta

54 Jos JANSEN – BEL - Jos Jansen – BEL - Ford Focus

57 Toomas HEIKKINEN – FIN – Marklund Motorsport - SWE - VW Polo

66 Derek TOHILL – IRL - LD Motorsports – GBR - Citroën DS3

69 Jochen COOX - BEL OTRT – BEL - VW Scirocco

74 Jérôme GROSSET-JANIN - FRA - Jérôme Grosset-Janin - FRA Renault Clio

77 Andrew JORDAN * - GBR - Olsbergs MSE AB – SWE - Ford Fiesta

88 Henning SOLBERG – NOR - Per Eklund Motorsport - SWE Saab 9-3

92 Anton MARKLUND – SWE - Marklund Motorsport – SWE - VW Polo

99 Tord LINNERUD * - NOR - Helmia Motorsport AB - SWE - Renault Clio



Sunday, 11 May 2014

WTCC 2014: Loeb wins in the rain...

Last weekend saw the FIA World Touring Car Championship make its visit to the popular Slovakiaring in Slovakia, which has provided good close and fast racing on previous visits.

Once again, with the onus being on Cutroen carrying max ballast whilst the Lada's, Chevrolets and Honda's ran at the lightest weight due to there being no difference from the Citroen domination in the previous rounds, it was hoped that the other manufacturers could close the gap.

Qualifying saw a few incidents in the dry conditions that affected some of the top runners. Loeb encountered a fuel pump issue and only just made it into Q3 whilst Tarquini suffered a failure on his bonnet catches at 140mph, sending him off the track and causing Huff and Monteiro to go off as well. Bennani didnt go out at all with more issues on the car after the turbo problems he suffered in Hungary.

Lopez took pole from Loeb for race one whilst Muller again completed the top three behind his team mates. Its seems that he is finding Q3 and these new TC1 cars a challenge this year, but one he is enjoying. Michelisz took 4th in his Zengo Honda with Hungary race two winner Gianni Morbidelli taking 5th.

Behind them came Chilton, Coronel, Tarquini, Valente and Monteiro with the Portuguese Honda driver on Pole for race two. Borkovic, Huff, Munnich and Thompson were next with Engstler taling Pole position in TC2. That class saw the return of 2013 FIA European Touring Car Cup winner Petr Fulin to Campos alongside John Filippi in a 2nd SEAT Leon WTCC.

It would also be a busy weekend for Engstler and Fulin who were both competing in the two ETCC races as well. Bennani started from the back whilst Kozlovskiy didnt make the start due to turbo issues.

On Race day, the circuit was hit with a very heavy downpour and come the time for race one of the WTCC entrants it began raining harder. At the start, Lopez and Loeb made a great get away, however Muller jumped the start and stopped the car out of position. This later earned the four time WTCC Champion a drive through penalty and dropped him down the field.

Loeb took the lead from Lopez into turn one with Michelisz trying to keep in with them but he fell back to settle in as the condition grew worse. With Mullers drive through, this left Chilton ahead of Coronel. Huffy passed the work Honda's on the first lap whilst Morbidelli fell behind at the start. At the end of a very wet lap one, Loeb led from Lopez, Michelisz, Muller, Chilton, Coronel, Morbidelli, Huff, Tarquini and Monteiro.

On lap 2 Tarquini and Monteiro would pass Huff back whilst Coronel pursued Chilton for 4th place. Muller took his penalty on lap 3 promoting everyone and making the start of a comeback drive from 15th. The Campos Chevrolets of Borkovic and Valente were suffering as the cars seemed to squirm a lot with Borkovic having several offs and Valente suffering some serious aquaplaning down the start finish straight on lap 5 and for the next few laps.

Whilst Lopez chased Loeb, Coronel passed Chilton on lap 5 for 4th as the rain began to get worse. Both the TC2 Engstler BMW's suffered offs whilst Fulin led from Filippi. Huff was hassling the two Works Honda's to try and pass them back but the rain was getting harder each lap and even with the new extra downforce this year, the cars were squirming more and more.

The safety car was brought out on lap 7 to close up the field and make a decision as to whether or not the conditions allowed for further racing or not. Finally on lap 9 the race was stopped with full points awarded to the finishing order. This confirmed Loeb as the winner from Lopez and Michelisz. Coronel, Chilton and Morbidelli followed with Monteiro, Tarquini, Huff and Muller completing the top ten. Behind them were Valente, Borkovic, Munnich, Thompson and Bennani with Fulin taking the TC2 win.

Race two was due 4 hours later but the conditions remained just as bad and race two was cancelled on safety grounds. This was a welcome decision as several of the drivers took to twitter making their feelings clear that ot was too dangerous to race.

So this left Lopez leading the championship from Loeb who was 25 points behind with Muller down to 3rd a further 4 points down on Loeb. Monteiro is the highest non Citroen driver in the championship but already he is 67 points adrift of Lopez.

The safety aspect of cancelling race two was a good move seeing as the newer wider tyres were shedding a lot of water but when you have a 380bhp TC1 squirming under power as they accelerate down a pits straight that is as wide as a runway and your asking for an accident to happen and as proven in Marrakech earlier in the year, these cars are fragile.

So the series is reduced to 23 races and now moves on to the Salzburgring in Austria, home of the last lap tyre shredding fiasco in 2012 and the 2013 "Nobody wants to give a tow" Qualifying fiasco that led to 12 drivers being penalised...

Its good fun in Austria when the Touring cars go there. Its also the home of the ETCC for the past few years and they will be in action as well.

The bad news is its on a weekend where the FIA also has the Monaco Grand Prix in operation and the 2nd round of the new World Rallycross Championship from Lydden Hill in Kent...

Its good to see the FIA likes to make its fans choose where they want to go this year, but does anyone else remember a time when the WTCC didnt clash with F1...



Thursday, 8 May 2014

WTCC 2014: Citroen Rules but Morbidelli wins...

So far in this years FIA World Touring Car Championship several things have become apparent...

Firstly, its going to be a Citroen driver who will win the drivers title. Thats a given considering that the French Manufacturer has spent millions on a TC1 car that is still at least 0.8 seconds faster than the rest having been built and tested since early 2013...even with 60 kilos on the car...

Secondly, even with Citroen making sure that the driver who wins the race is the first driver into the first corner, things are relatively even. Lopez has more wins but Loeb has his first WTCC win and Muller has taken his first pole of the season and his first win from Paul Ricard. However expect things to heat up as the season goes on...

If Citroen lets them...

Finally, the rest of the TC1 Field is working hard to catchup, but interestingly, each of the other TC1 Models have good but different positives. Whilst Honda have a start advantage second to none and almost BMW like in its nature, the Chevrolet has the power and speed to match the Citroen. The Lada has the agility and cornering benefit, as shown by Huffy in Paul Ricard. So the field will get closer.

For Hungary, the weight success ballast came into effect with the Citroen staying at Maximum weight whilst the Lada, Honda and Chevrolet dropped 60kgs...

The effect? Citroen went from being 1.5 seconds faster down to 0.8 seconds faster. Not really an issue in race one, but it meant that in race two, in traffic they might have a harder time overtaking cars that now had better tyre wear due to being lighter.

In Qualifying, Muller took pole ahead of Lopez and Loeb with Montiero 4th and Tarquini 5th. Bennani was 6th ahead of the ROAL Chevrolets of Chilton and Coronel. Morbidelli was 9th ahead Valente, this giving the Frenchman pole for race two. Michelisz was 11th on home turf ahead of Huff, Thompson, Munnich, Kozlovskiy with Borkovic put to the back of the grid. Pasquale Di Sabatino took the TC2 Pole ahead of Engstler, Taniguchi in the Nika Racing Civic and Filippi.

Race one saw Muller pull away whilst Lopez had to defend from the fast starts of Monteiro and Tarquini, who both overtook Loeb on the run to turn one. Michelisz made a cracking start from 11th to be 6th by turn two. Behind Loeb, Coronel and Chilton ran in formation with Thompson ahead of Valente and Morbidelli. On lap 3 going into turn 2, Valente tried to go round the outside of Huff, but this backfired and allowed Morbidelli through instead.

Ahead Muller began stretching his lead ahead of Lopez, whilst Monteiro, Tarquini, Benanni, Michelisz and Loeb ran line astern. Chilton was given a Black and Orange flag on lap 5 and pitted with a broken bonnet catch. Morbidelli passed Thompson whilst Valente began to hunt after Huff over the next few laps. Borkovic meanwhile made his way up to 14th by lap 7. One lap later Huff and Valente passed Thompson into turn one as Thompson struggled with steering issues which allowed Borkovic through as well. On lap 9 Valente passed Huff at turn three as the Lada understeered wide.

Muller went on to win race one from Lopez and Monteiro, followed by Tarquini, Benanni, Michelisz, Loeb and Coronel with Morbidelli and Valente completing the top ten. Meanwhile Di Sabatino won the TC2 class ahead of team mate Engstler in another Engstler 1-2 finish. Between race one and two, Benanni pulled put due to a turbo failure, which was a shame as the Morrocan driver seems to be the faster of the two customer honda's.

Now, while race one was a bit...processional, race two was a bit more lively...

At the start, Morbidelli had a better start than Valente and out dragged the Campos Chevrolet. Chilton got too much wheelspin allowing both Monteiro and Tarquini through whilst at turn one, Muller and Lopez were already making progress. By turn four, Muller and Lopez were ahead of Chilton with Tarquini and Loeb behind him. Monteiro made it into 2nd and began chasing Morbidelli whilst Tom Coronel began the best defence ever seen in a WTCC race.

He had both the Citroens of Muller of Lopez behind him and although Muller tried every move possible during the 14 lap race, Coronel held him at bay. Behind Loeb was trying every trick in the book to pass Tarquini, but you need to catch Gabriele on a bad day to pass him abd he was well up for the challenge of holding off Loeb. This allowed Michelisz to close up and join the fight.

Up front Valente closed on the Honda of Monteiro as he too closed in on Morbidelli who began to suffer with a longer brake pedal and after the race, the Italian would admit after the race that he had to pump the brake pedal to slow the car down. Further back Loeb kept trying to pass Tarquini to no avail whilst Muller found Coronel's defence equally as inpenetrable. Montiero had a look down the inside of Morbidelli at turn one on lap 8 but to no profit and fell back in line to chase the Munnich Motorsport Cruze again.

Now before the days motorsport activities, the circuit suffered from a brief storm on Sunday morning making the run areas wet as the track dried and this played its part on the last lap. Coming into the chicane, Morbidelli ran wide with Monteiro touching his bumper making the Cruze go wide and allowing Valente to close up on them both. All three cars ran nose to tail for the last half of the lap with all three in with a shout but it was Morbidelli who won from Monteiro and Valente, followed by Coronel, Muller, Lopez, Chilton, Tarquini, Loeb and Michelisz. Engstler won the TC2 race with Di Sabatino behind.

Its the first win for a non Citroen TC1 car this year, along with Morbidelli's first ever WTCC. Munnich Motorsport have been impressive in their two seasons so far of WTCC action. Last year Huffy won two races for them at Hungary and Macau in the ageing SEAT Leon WTCC whilst Marc Basseng was fast and the pack. This year Munnich has upped his pace as he competes in both the WTCC and selected rounds of the new FIA World Rallycross Championship in an Audi A3 Supercar. Its a great result for a team that only confirmed the purchase of their TC1 Cruzes, originally bound for Bamboo Engineering, only 3 weeks before the season opener.

The Lada's suffered in race two with various issues. Kozlovskiy had overheating problems and Thompson again suffered steering issues and its now becoming clear that the TC1 Lada is also suffering from being over weight by 5 kilos and suffering from issues with the suspension as well. Whilst the other manufacturers seem to be settling in, there still seems to be a lot of work to be done on the Granta Sport before it shows again the pace shown by Huff in France, but there are upgrades to come...

In the championship race, Lopez has a 10 point lead from Muller who is closing in on him with Loeb on 84 points. Behind the Citroen trio is Monteiro, Tarquini and Valente with these three drivers seeming to be the best of the rest in terms of points scores.

Next up is the Slovakiaring this weekend. The cars weights remain the same so Citroen will again have a fight on their hands but at a circuit that offers higher tyre wear with a combination of long fast corners, tight corners and long straights to test them to the limit. This should offer an even better show that some sort of race being held in Spain as well...



Tuesday, 6 May 2014

World RX 2014: Hollywood flies in Portuguese Opener

Last weekend saw the opening round of the new FIA World Rallycross Championship in Montalegre and all the pre season hype was surpassed by a thrilling opening encounter.

Over the winter, the build up to this years championship has been well publicised and there was not let down in the quality and quantity of the entry list for the first round.

There are six World RX two-car teams present taking part this season, looking to win the Drivers Championship and the new for 2014 Teams Championship including the manufacturer-backed squads of Ford-OlsbergsMSE (Andreas Bakkerud and Reinis Nitiss), VW-Marklund (Topi Heikkinen and Anton Marklund) and Peugeot-Hansen (Timur Timerzyanov and Timmy Hansen).

Also fighting for the Drivers and Teams World titles are PSRX’s Petter Solberg with team-mate Alexander Hvaal. Monster Energy World RX Team’s Liam Doran and Krzysztof Skorupski will be present in the championship with their Citroen DS3 Supercars. Both are joined by Two-time European Rallycross Champion Derek Tohill in a third entry under the LD Motorsports Banner. Albatec Racing’s Jacques Villeneuve and Andy Scott are also contesting this year in works assisted Peugeot 208's.

Other notable entrants in Portugal include top female driver Ramona Karlsson who will be driving a Per Eklund Motorsport run Saab 93.  Belgian driver Jos Jansen will be competing, as well as Poland’s Bohdan Ludwiczak and Frenchman Alexandre Theuil. Flying the flag for Portugal will be local favourite Joaquim Santos in a Ford Focus. 

During free practice and the heats, it soon became obvious that the fastest guys were Solberg and Timerzyanov with the Fords and VW's waiting in the wings. In Heat One Timerzyanov finished first ahead of Solberg and Bakkerud. However in Heat Two, contact between Solberg and Timerzyanov at turn one led to Solberg going out with a puncture and Timerzyanov going on to win the heat. Although the Russian driver was initially disqualified, he was later re-instated after the stewards viewed video evidence of the clash. Bakkerud finished 2nd.

After Day One of the action, Timerzyanov led the standings from Solberg with Ford man Reinis Nitiss and Volkswagen-Marklund’s Topi Heikkinen in joint third while Anton Marklund completed the top five. Debutant Jacques Villeneuve suffered an Oil Leak and a puncture in his heats and did not progress but declared himself happy with his work but needing to up his game next time out.

It was a poor day for The Monster Energy World RX Team of Liam Doran and Krzysztof Skorupski who didn't take part in Saturdays heats due to electrical problems with their Citroen DS3 Supercars. This was a shame as Doran was a constant threat in last years FIA European Rallycross Championship and will no doubt fly at the next round at Lydden Hill.

Never count out the British Bomb!

On to Day Two and with Solberg winning both of his heats, he was on form going into the 6 lap Semi Finals. With the top 12 drivers going into the Semi Finals, this was going to be epic. From each Semi Final, only the top three go through to the final. In Semi Final one was Timerzyanov & Nitiss on row one, Marklund & Bakkerud on row two with Solbergs team mate Alexander Hvaal and Derek Tohill on row three.

As Timerzyanov led Marklund into turn one, Both the OSME Fords of Bakkerud & Nitiss took their joker lap with Tohill in tow. Marklund took the lead after turn one. Timerzyanov shadowed Marklund as the two Fords closed on the front two. It became obvious that Marklund was holding up the Peugeot and Timerzyanov took his joker lap on lap 4, putting him in 4th. Marklund took his on lap 5 and he came put ahead of the Peugeot. Nitiss won from Bakkerud and Marklund with Timerzyanov, Tohill & Hvaal knocked out.

In Semi Final Two, Solberg and Heikkenen were on row one, with Hansen and Koen Pauwels in his Ford Focus Mk 2 on row two. Row three was supposed to be Romana Karlsson and Andy Scott, however Scott suffered an engine fire in the heats and couldnt get his Peugeot to the grid. So the officials promoted Jos Janson to row three in his Mk 3 Focus.

Solberg flew off the line with Heikkenen, Pauwels, Janson and Karlsson all taking joker laps whilst Solberg led from Hansen. Solberg kept the lead as both Karlsson and Janson retired. Solberg and Hansen took their joker laps on the final lap but Hansen suffered an issue and dropped to 4th. Solberg won from Heikkenen and Pauwels. 

The Final saw Solberg and Nitiss on row one with Heikkenen and Bakkerud on row two and Marklund and Pauwels on row three. Solberg led the two VW's into turn one as the two Ford's and Pauwels took their joker lap. Solberg led Heikkenen and Marklund with Bakkerud, Nitiss and Pauwels. Heikkenen and Marklund took their joker laps on lap 5, promoting the Ford's to 2nd and 3rd. Solberg took his joker lap on the final lap and kept the lead to win the first FIA World Rallycross Round from Bakkerud, Nitiss, Heikkenen, Marklund and Pauwels.

To be honest, I spent last year watching Petter hassle and fight for wins with the best of the European Rallycross competitors but either bad luck or retirement denied him victory. Its great to see Petter taking that win as I am sure he will be a force this year. I am also not counting out the Peugeot Hansen drivers of Timerzyanov and Hansen or the Monster Energy World RX Citroens of Doran and Skorupski.

So the standings after Round 1 are:


1. Petter Solberg, 29 points
2. Reinis Nitiss, 24 points
3. Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen, 21 points
4. Andreas Bakkerud, 20 points
5.Timur Timerzyanov, 19 points
6. Anton Marklund, 18 points
7= Koen Pauwels, 14 points
7= Timmy Hansen, 14 points
9. Alex Hvaal, 9 points
10= Derek Tohill, 8 points
10= Ramona Karlsson, 8 points
*Points awarded in the World RX Drivers’ Championship are scored at intermediate, semi-final and final stages of each event


1. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 44 points
2. Volkswagen Marklund, 39 points
3. PSRX, 38 points
4. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 33 points
5. Albatec Racing, 5 points
6. Monster Energy World RX Team, 0 points

Next up is Lydden Hill on 25th & 26th of May in the UK where the OSME Ford team will run a third Ford Fiesta Supercar for current BTCC Champion Andrew Jordan, who is a former Junior Rallycross champion. Tanner Foust is also expected to appear along with a few other wildcards. If last years events were anything to go by, its going to be a cracking event.