The third season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy is upon us this weekend as Montalegre, Portugal greets competitors for the season opening round of 2016. We caught up with commentator Andrew Coley just before he hopped on his plane south.
Who are you tipping to win the championship and do you think it will be as close as it was last year?
You can’t ask me that!! If you’re forcing me, I’d go with Timmy Hansen. I think he’s ready for it now; very quick on both surfaces, incredible under pressure, so fast in qualifying. But he’ll need to hit the ground running… I think it’s fair to say the Peugeot Hansen team only found the ultimate pace at Buxtehude last year, and they need it from round 1 in Portugal to win the both titles.
Who do you think will be the biggest surprise of the season?
That’s even harder. With Hansen (see previous answer) we have form from driver and car as a pair; over the winter so many people have swapped seats and even cars it’s hard to pick. I guess we already know those guys are fast, so if we’re talking surprises then maybe one of the new drivers who are stepping up to Supercar; Kevin Hansen, Kevin Eriksson, or Janis Baumanis. They all made the World RX final in their appearances in Argentina over last two years, so could put the cat amongst the pigeons.
If you had to sell rallycross to potential new fans what would you tell them about the upcoming season?
I’d tell them it’s the most exciting motorsport out there of course!! I’d say: 600bhp 4WD cars that bear a resemblance to road cars, racing head to head on mixed surfaces with jumps and one compulsory alternative lap per race, the joker lap. Think of the joker lap as the pitstop in rallycross, it’s our tactical element. And then I’d remind them we’ve got Petter Solberg, Sébastien Loeb and Ken Block battling probably the first crop of truly ‘career’ rallycross drivers. It’s a do not miss!
DiRT Rally is out on consoles, hopefully introducing the sport to a whole new audience, have you been busy playing it?
I was lucky enough to be asked to voice the tutorials on the game; it was fascinating to see the incredible amount of work that’s gone into it. I received my copy yesterday… but have only played the demo stage so far! It looks and sounds stunning, and is a true simulator rather than an arcade game, so it’s realistically hard. I’ll be playing a lot more after Portugal!
There has been rumours of Marcus Gronholm and Kenneth Hansen having rallycross outings this year, who would you like to see back on track or giving the sport a try?
We’d all like to see Gronholm in a car again. I think it’ll depend on his son being called up for his compulsory military service, and Marcus actually wanting to get stuck in, it’s been a while. Maybe when he sees Loeb and Petter at it he’ll fancy a go! I’d love to see Kenneth do an event, but he’s got 4 cars to run for Peugeot. If they’d tied up both driver and team titles then maybe. Maybe!
Sum up the new season in three words:
Mega mega mega!
Any planned outings for you on track this season? Are you still planning to take part at the Croft GP?
I’ve been asked by Craig Lomax if I’d like to do the GP again in his Super 1600 car, and of course I would! It’ll depend on both our diaries as to whether it’s that event or another one, but hopefully yes! I’d love to do/have done the whole British Rallycross Championship as there are no clashes, but I still haven’t won the lottery. Poor old me!
The 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy gets under way in this weekend time as the series heads to Portugal, theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will be bringing you full coverage of the season with exclusive interviews and behind the scenes news. If you are based in the UK you can follow the action live on Sunday via Quest TV (including a live stream online), if you are outside of the UK check the official live stream on YouTube.