The 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship has proven to be an exciting series to watch this year with different drivers leading intermediate stages with different drivers going on to win the event and with the Supercar entry numbers reaching around 40 in most cases, its been no disappoinment to watch and follow.
And Italy showed another exciting, unexpected and thrilling chapter to this amazing series where the World RX and Euro RX drivers titles would be decided...
Johan Kristoffersson led the World RX of Italy after finishing as top qualifier at the half-way point in the Intermediate Classification stage. Timmy Hansen took the heat one victory and also the fastest lap time of the day for Team Peugeot-Hansen. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport’s Anton Marklund was third making it three Swedes at the head of the field.
FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy leader Petter Solberg’s title charge suffered a setback due to an engine oil leak in heat one.
“What a day, I am very relieved to be in seventh after the day I have had I can tell you,” explained Solberg who can win the World RX title in Italy if he extends his Championship lead to 60 points. “At the end of free practice, there was an oil leak as the engine block had cracked. We didn’t have time to change it during the heats so we took off the gearbox to try and fix the crack as best we could. During the last heat I broke the left-rear damper and then got a puncture so I was lucky to finish ninth. We have a big job ahead – we need to change the engine and the turbo. We need to look at the gearbox and dampers too, it will be a big night ahead but Sunday is a new day and I have an amazing team so I’m confident they will do a good job tonight.”
After a near-perfect day in a VW Polo including the heat two victory, Kristoffersson was delighted to hold second overnight in what is only his fourth World RX outing. Kristoffersson also leads the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), of which Italy is the final round. The Swede explained: “I’m really enjoying myself here – the track suits me and the car very nicely. In the second heat, I had some technical problems as I had the throttle stuck on full but I got the fastest time so maybe it wasn’t such a big problem after all!”
Fourth and fifth are occupied by Championship contenders Topi Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss. However Nitiss’ team-mate Andreas Bakkerud was not placed so well. The Norwegian incurred a double Joker Lap penalty for a jump-start and was later excluded for exceeding track limits.
Second in Euro RX and on track for securing the European trophy which concludes in Italy this weekend is Sweden’s Robin Larsson in the Audi A1 Supercar.
Arguably the most impressive drive of today was that of local driver Gigi Galli who excelled on his World RX debut with Ford Olsbergs MSE to lie ninth overnight. “I am really happy to be here, and also a little surprised,” admitted Galli who helped to design the RX circuit at Franciacorta. “To be racing against the likes of Petter who I know from my rallying days in WRC is amazing. My aim here is to learn, to enjoy myself and to do my best. The car was perfect so now I continue to learn and hope to go as far as I can in front of my home fans.”
Over 40 Supercar drivers started the tenth round of World RX, which is being staged at the all-new RX venue of Franciacorta International Circuit in Northern Italy. The event marks the first time that rallycross has been staged in Italy since 1980, when the Gropello Cairoli circuit was included as a round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship.
Petter Solberg entered the record books after becoming the first FIA World Champion in two different disciplines. He scored enough points in Italy to secure him the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. After a sensational performance for Team Peugeot-Hansen, Timmy Hansen was awarded the World RX of Italy event victory. Supercar debutant Richard Goransson finished runner-up.
Solberg’s podium position at the Franciacorta International Circuit has seen the PSRX driver stretch his lead at the top of the standings to 60 points with two events still remaining. Topi Heikkinen is currently second behind Solberg in the overall standings but with Solberg having already won four events this season to Heikkinen’s one, Solberg automatically becomes World Champion based on his higher percentage of event victories.
“This hasn’t sunk in yet, it is a dream come true,” grinned Solberg who is now a World Champion in both World RX and WRC. “When I stopped rallying, I didn’t know what to do and then IMG took on rallycross and brought it to an amazing level so now it seemed like the right choice. I broke the right-rear suspension in the final and my spotter was shouting on the radio that I needed to calm down because all I needed to do was get to the podium and I would win the Championship. I just wish my family were here with me – my wife Pernilla and my son Oliver are back home because Oliver won the Norwegian Crosskart Championship on Saturday. I have to thank them and my whole team who have worked so hard to make this happen, they really do an incredible job and have worked day and night for a lot of the season. I can’t wait to celebrate this moment with everyone tonight.”
Arguably the most impressive drive of the weekend, however, was that of 21-year-old Hansen who looked virtually untouchable in his Team Peugeot-Hansen prepared 208 Supercar. Hansen, the son of multiple European Rallycross Champion Kenneth, won the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, two heats, his semi-final and the all-important final to take his first ever World RX victory.
“This has been a brilliant weekend and it is the best feeling to win when I pushed so hard for this moment,” explained Hansen who was joined by team-mate Timur Timerzyanov on the front row of the six-car Supercar final. “During the final, I was pushing really hard but after a few laps in, I saw pieces from the other cars all over the track so I knew there had been a lot going on behind me. Both Petter and Richard were giving me a lot of pressure but thankfully I was able to hold on and I’m so happy to finally take a win for my team.”
Joining Hansen and Solberg in the top three was multiple Swedish Touring Car Champion Richard Goransson who shone on his Supercar debut with Ford Olsbergs MSE. Goransson, who stepped up from RX Lites to Supercar this weekend, battled against a hugely competitive field of 40 Supercars to make it through to the final where he finished second to Hansen. “I am speechless, it has been an absolutely crazy weekend,” explained Goransson. “This has been my first ever Supercar event and I would have been happy to have made the semi-finals, never mind second overall. I kept out of trouble in the final and that’s what led to this result.”
Alongside Goransson in the final driving a second Fiesta was regular Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Andreas Bakkerud who retired on lap two after a string of misfortunate events over the weekend. He finishes the event sixth overall. Bakkerud’s team-mate Reinis Nitiss was still in the title fight with Solberg but the 18-year-old’s chances of the World RX title was shattered when Nitiss was knocked out of the semis. Johan Kristofferson led the Intermediate Classification stage yesterday and another strong performance today saw the VW Polo driver finish fifth in World RX and second in European.
Italy also marked the final round of this year’s FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), which Robin Larsson won after finishing seventh in the Intermediate Classification stage. Monster Energy World RX Team driver Henning Solberg finished runner-up in Euro RX after reaching the semi-finals while EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand was awarded third.
“It feels great to be European champion. We’ve been struggling all weekend with engine problems so we didn’t have the power we wanted. We have just been safe in all four heats and managed to finish them,” said Larsson, who follows in his father Lars’ footsteps by winning the title.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsports, concluded: “Firstly, congratulations to Petter Solberg who has gone down in history after becoming the first person to win two different FIA World Championships. Solberg and the entire PSRX Team have worked incredibly hard since their torrid season last year and are very worthy title winners. Even though Solberg has taken the majority of the limelight today after winning the title, Timmy Hansen’s light-to-flag victory today must not go under the radar. I have witnessed the huge effort that the entire Team Peugeot-Hansen has put into this year and I’m pleased that the team have finally got the win that they truly deserve. As well as the World RX title, we have also seen Championships won in Euro RX, Super1600, TouringCar and the supporting RX Lites Cup which was won by Kevin Eriksson today with one round still to go. It’s also incredible to have newcomers such as Richard Goransson and Gigi Galli reach the semis in what has been a hugely competitive field of entries. Even though the drivers’ title has now been decided, the Teams’ Championship is more exciting than ever before with VW Marklund and Ford Olsbergs MSE both tied with 313 points at the top of the standings.”
DRIVER POINTS AFTER ROUND 10, WORLD RX OF ITALY
1. Petter Solberg (PSRX), 235 points
2. Topi Heikkinen (VW Marklund), 175 points
3. Reinis Nitiss (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 167 points
4. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot-Hansen), 152 points
5. Timur Timerzyanov (Peugeot-Hansen), 148 points
6. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Olsbergs MSE),146 points
TEAM POINTS AFTER ROUND 10, WORLD RX OF ITALY
1. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 313 points
1= Volkswagen Marklund, 313 points
3. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 300 points
4. PSRX, 227 points
5. Monster Energy World RX Team, 85 points
6. Albatec Racing, 32 points
The penultimate round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place at the former F1 venue of Intercity Istanbul Park in Turkey, in just under two weeks time on the Guru's Birthday weekend of 11th -12th of October...
Add to that a very busy weekend for the Guru, consisting of: The BTCC Finale from Brands Hatch, The WTCC event from Shanghai, The first ever Russian Grand Prix, the FIA WEC 6 hours from Fuji and The V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000kms!!!!
Theres also a little something else that happening to the Guru that will be seen in a future blogpost.
All the best!