The 2015 season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy played host to eight teams that were entered for the Teams World Championship and eighteen drivers registered for the Drivers World Championship, however the high level of competition and development in World RX saw a big push by all of the teams and drivers to secure victories at every round. As any fan of World RX will assure you, they were not left disappointed.
2016 will have 17 full time drivers, three of which are Independent entries, whilst 7 full time Teams will battle it out to win the Teams Championship and as the list of entries shows, 2016 will be the most competitive season of World RX yet. Over the winter several changes have taken place for the 2016 season:
Marklund Motorsport and Volkswagen Team Sweden have combined for 2016 to become Volkswagen RX Sweden where Johan Kristoffersson will take part in his second consecutive year of WorldRX in a Volkswagen Polo Supercar. Kristoffersson will be joined by Anton Marklund, who returns to the Volkswagen fold after a difficult year at EKS in 2015. In the team itself Tommy Kristoffersson will be General Manager and its already widely recognised that the talents in this combined team will push both drivers towards securing victories this year. Expect them both to be regular Semi-Final regulars.
Ken Block last competed in World RX back in 2014 in both France & Norway and made an immediate impact. For 2016, Block returns full time to the series with a combined effort from his Ford Performance backed Hoonigan Racing Division and legenadary WRC specialists M-Sport. Joined by former OlsbergsMSE driver Andreas Bakkerud, both men will pilot the new Ford Focus RS RX this year and they will come out fighting straight away. Bakkerud is always on full out attack mode and Block is looking to secure victory after several years of competition in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship. Once the new Focus RS RX is up to speed, this will be a dynamite combination.
World RX Team Austria made their debut in 2015 with Manfred Stohl & Max Pucher driving Stohl Racing built Ford Fiesta’s and the team ended the year with a podium finish from Latvian star Janis Baumanis. That momentum will carry forward in 2016 with a revised lineup and organisation structure. Baumanis returns for 2016 and is joined by Double European Rallycross Champion Timur Timerzyanov. Stohl has moved stepped back to an Engineering role within the team and Team Principle Max Pucher will compete in Euro RX this year. Baumanis is the reigning Super1600 champion and made an instant impact in the various Supercar appearances he made in 2015, whilst Timerzyanov is looking for a return to title winning form. This team will make big strides forward this year.
Team Peugeot-Hansen secured the 2015 Teams Championship after a massive improvement in form from the 2014 season. For 2016, the team grabbed the headlines over the winter by announcing that 2015 Vice-Champion Timmy Hansen will be joined by nine time WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb for a full assault. Loeb has spent the past two years as a works Citroen driver in the WTCC, however for 2016 moved to Peugeot and was part of its Dakar Rally lineup. With Hansen taking the Drivers Title fight all the way to the finale last year, expect this lineup to be one of the Championship contenders in 2016. Whilst Hansen will be fast out of the box, it won’t take Loeb long to get to grips with World RX and then the sparks will fly.
Meunnich Motorsport returns for 2016 with a new car and changed driver lineup. Alx Danielsson is replaced by 2014 World RX of Norway winner Reinis Nitiss, who joins Team Priniciple Rene Munnich in a pair of brand new SEAT Ibiza Supercars. The team enters the new season with development on the SEAT’s well underway and with Nitiss on board, it won’t be long before they are troubling the big teams for Semi-Final positions. Nitiss has had two years at OlsbergsMSE and is considered one of the young guys to watch by such drivers as Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekstrom, whilst Munnich is committed to the series and improving each season. Once the team has a grip on the cars performance and with the young Latvian’s talent behnd the wheel, success is not out of reach.
OlsbergsMSE have announced a younger lineup for 2016 with an eye to building the next generation of World RX stars. Kevin Eriksson and Niclas Gronholm will make their full time World RX Supercar debut this year, but the change doesn’t stop there. Two-time WRC Champion Marcus Gronholm joins the outfit as Team Manager and the team are looking to develop both drivers into championship contenders. OlsbergsMSE will stick with their reliable Ford Fiesta’s alongside their GRC Honda programme in the US. With the knowledge of the cars already in place and with both drivers also contesting their own domestic series in 2016, experience will be gained quickly. Expect this pair to surprise as they learn more this season.
EKSRX enjoyed a very competitive season in 2015 with Mattias Ekstrom taking outright victories and often being one of the men that Petter Solberg was concerned about in the Finals. Ekstrom returns for 2016 and is joined in the team by proven race winner and front runner Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen. Heikkinen took one victory last year, maintaining his superiority at the Belgian venue of Mettet, but the fast Finn is looking to challenge for the title after finishing runner-up to Solberg in 2014. The Audi S1 Supercar is never lacking in pace and with the combined efforts of both Ekstrom & Heikkinen, expect this line-up to be challenging for title glory in 2016. Ekstrom has confirmed that the DTM will be his priority again so expect a supersub to stand in at some point during the year.
The final three entries are all independent for the 2016 season. Double World RX Champion Petter Solberg scales down to running one Citroen DS3 this year under the Petter Solberg World RX Team banner and he will be hard pressed to defend his title this year. Whilst always being one of the front runners in the series, Solberg is well aware of the ever improving challenge from the other teams & drivers and has been working very hard over the winter to improve the speed and reliability of his Citroen. 2016 will either be the year we see the first ever World RX Triple World Champion or the first year that we witness the Norwegian driver being beaten in his defence. Whatever happens, expect Solberg to have a plan at every event and be on dangerously fast form.
2014 Euro RX Champion Robin Larsson returns for his second season of World RX, driving the fan favourite Larsson-Jernberg Racing Audi A1 known as “Diana.” Larsson was fast last year but also fragile in a season that saw him suffer on the tactics front. However a raft of updates for the Audi and a renewed passion to take on the best in WorldRX and win. His victory in Argentina was a popular one and hopefully more will follow in 2016.
Liam Doran joins the Daventry based JRM Racing squad for 2016 and will drive the iconic MINI RX Supercar in Monster Energy colours this season. Doran has driven in World RX for the past two seasons with little success and has been plagued by bad luck, so a change of team and car has given the ‘British Bomb’ renewed enthusiasm and allied with an improved MINI, both he and JRM will hit the ground running this season.
As well as the confirmed full season entries, there are also those interlopers who will make appearances during the season. Davy Jeanney has moved across to the Peugeot-Hansen Academy squad for 2016, joined by Kevin Hansen, driving equal machinery to both Team Peugeot-Hansen drivers in 10 events. With wins in both Canada and Germany in 2015, expect the French driver to push the full season competition hard and be in the hunt for more victories…
Jean-Baptiste Dubourg has announced he will drive a Citroen DS3 in several World RX events this year and who can forget his podium finish at Loheac in France last year. Dubourg secured the Andros Trophy Title this year and is up for the challenge of taking on the World’s best. There is also talk of Tanner Foust returning in 2016 to contest the WorldRX events at both Lydden Hill in the UK and at the Estering in Germany. Tanner is always on the pace at any World RX event and with big names such as Loeb, Solberg and Block in for the long haul, there will be some epic on track battles in prospect.
2016 SPORTING REGULATION CHANGES:
In a change to recent seasons, the “Heat” stages will now be known as “Qualifying” instead. This means that there will be 4 Qualifying Races per driver (Q1, Q2, Q3 & Q4) before the fastest 12 are drivers decided for the Semi-Finals and the top 3 finishers from each SF qualify for the Final. This year will also see the World RX competitors run in their own Qualifying races/Semi-Finals/Final completely. The Euro RX competitors will have their own separate format for 2016.
To improve continuity in the starting method across events and help reduce the chance of false starts, the starting system will be the same at all events and the ‘Ready to Race’ board has been replaced by an illuminated ‘Ready to Race’ sign that is incorporated with the start lights. The race starter will no longer determine when the green light is switched on, instead they will simply start an automated system that will display the ‘Ready to Race’ sign for four seconds before a 1.5 second period with no lights and then a random period between zero and two seconds before the green starting light appears.
Finally, for 2016 World RX moves to fall in line with the other FIA World Championships this year by having all competitors use an ECU and software homologated by the FIA. A number of manufacturers will have homologated ECUs and software with the FIA. The move allows the governing body to ensure that teams are using only homologated equipment, ruling out the potential for torque control or traction control to be used.
Now that you’ve seen the runners and riders for 2016, We will let you guys try and pick out the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Champion, because on the quality of this years competition, we still can’t choose who is going to win. What we can say for certain is this…We are all going to be treated to a vintage season of World RX in 2016!