The 2015 FIA European Rallycross Championship witnessed an exciting struggle between eventual champion Tommy Rustad and vice champion Jerome Grosset-Janin fighting for honours over five thrilling rounds.
After 2014 EuroRX champion Robin Larsson made the move to the FIA World Rallycross Championship for 2015, a new champion would be crowned. To add to this, a regulation change in 2015 also gave EuroRX a better chance to showcase its talent. In a bid to give the drivers better exposure and make things simpler to follow, the EuroRX competitors would have their own Supercar Semi-Finals and Final.
The winter months leading saw many respected drivers and teams confirm their plans to enter 2015 EuroRX. Tommy Rustad would drive a Volkswagen Polo run jointly by HTB Racing and Marklund Motorsport whilst Ole-Christian Veiby would drive a similar Polo run by Volkswagen Team Sweden. Ollie O’Donovan would debut his new Tony Bardy Motorsport prepared RX Racing Ford Fiesta whilst Albatec Racing confirmed their Peugeot 208’s would be driven by ex FrenchRX Champion Jerome Grosset-Janin and former British Rally driver James Grint who would make his EuroRX debut.
Joni-Pekka Rajala signed up to drive the Eklund Motorsport run Saab 93 whilst fan favourite Ramona Karlsson formed RamonaRX during the winter, setup with help from a Crowdfunding campaign that saw donations from the fans complete her budget to run a Volkswagen Scirocco Supercar. Pailler Competition announced brothers Fabien and Jonathan would move up to EuroRX with their Peugeot 208’s whilst Frode Holte returned with his Hyundai i20. Peter Hedstrom, Jean-Baptiste Dubourg, Lukas Walfridson and Koen Pauwels would also be regulars during the 2015 season.
The opening round of the series can be described as “Survival of the Fittest.” Ex WRC driver Francois Duval entered as a Wildcard in a Mk2 Ford Focus and proved to be fast as well as competitive. It was Rustad who be fastest after the heat stages, ahead of Grosset-Janin and Duval. However after the Semi’s, the Final saw Rustad, Grosset-Janin, Duval, Veiby, Holte and Tamas Karai in his Skoda Fabia battle it out for honours.
An explosive first corner saw damage to the Albatec Peugeot as well as Duval’s Focus, which retired as Grosset-Janin fought on to battle Veiby for the lead. Frode Holte retired his Hyundai whilst Rustad also ground to a halt on the fourth lap. This meant Grosset-Janin would take the win in his battered 208 ahead of Veiby with Karai completing the podium positions.
The second round of EuroRX saw Rustad begin his fightback. The Norwegian driver topped the standings after the heat stages with championship leader Grosset-Janin in second place and in a trend that would follow all year, both drivers were also be fast enough to set top five competitive times overall during the heats with the WorldRX drivers. Veiby, Dubourg and Rajala completed the top five whilst Grint and Ollie O’Donovan would qualify for their first Semi-Finals in 2015 along with the Pailler brothers, Pauwels and Hedstrom.
The Final saw Rustad beat Grosset-Janin off the line to take a lead he wouldn’t lose whilst the Albatec pilot had to play a tactical game to remain ahead of Fabien Pailler. Dubourg took an early joker and impressed many with the speed of his older Citroen C4 to stay in touch with the leaders. Rustad would go on to take the win from Grosset-Janin whilst Fabien Pailler survived a last lap spin to take third just ahead of Dubourg as Rajala secured fifth. Jonathan Pailler retired during the race after hitting a bump that broke his Peugeot’s suspension.
Jerome Grosset-Janin left Germany with a two point lead over Tommy Rustad in the Drivers Championship as the series headed to the home round for Rustad. The Norwegian continued his momentum as he finished top after the heat stages, however it was Dubourg in second with guest driver Janis Baumanis in third, driving the Hansen Development Team Peugeot 208. Grosset-Janin qualified in fourth whilst Hedstrom was in fifth, having swapped his Skoda Fabia for a Ford Fiesta. Both Grint and O’Donovan again qualified for the Semi’s along with Rajala, Holte, Stein-Egil Jenssen, Pauwels and Stian Hafsengen whilst Ramona Karlsson and Ole-Christian Veiby were the big names to miss the cut.
Rustad secured the win in Semi-Final One ahead of Baumanis and Holte whilst Grosset-Janin won Semi-Final Two ahead of Rajala and O’Donovan, giving the 2007 British Rallycross Champion his first EuroRX Final start. Rustad took the lead off the line in the Final whilst Grosset-Janin fell victim to contact at turn one on lap one from O’Donovan and Holte’s Hyundai as he slowed dramatically. First O’Donovan passed the Albatec Peugeot then Baumanis passed the London based Irishman, leaving O’Donovan to defend from Grosset-Janin. Rustad took the win ahead of Rajala and Baumanis, however a combination of a first lap joker by Rajala and excellent speed from Baumanis dropped Grosset-Janin to fourth at the line with O’Donovan fifth ahead of the recovering Holte.
Rustad’s win moved him into a championship lead he would never lose and it gave him a six point lead over Grosset-Janin whilst Rajala’s persistance in the Eklund Motorsport Saab moved him into third place, three points ahead of Dubourg.
The penultimate round of the 2015 EuroRX Series took place at the Barcelona Grand prix circuit, meaning everyone had to work hard on the new challenges it presented to them. During the heat stages, Rustad took two heat wins whilst Grosset-Janin took the other two heat wins but it was Rustad who lead the led the top twelve from Grosset-Janin with 2015 EuroRX Touring Car Champion Fredrik Salsten third overall in the Hansen Development Peugeot. Several big names missed the cut for the Semi’s due to damage or mechanical issues including Holte, Karlsson, Pauwels, Grint, who had several brushes with the walls, Walfridson and Dubourg.
The Supercar Final saw Rustad on pole from Veiby with Rajala on row two alongside Grosset-Janin whilst Alexander Hvaal in his Citroen DS3 joined O’Donovan on the back row. Contact at turn two with Rajala ended Grosset-Janin’s running before the end of the first lap whilst Rustad pursued Veiby for the lead. Rustad took his Joker on lap three and took the lead when Veiby jokered a lap later, allowing the HTB Racing/Marklund Motorsport driver to take his third victory with Veiby and Hvaal completing the podium.
But that wasn’t the final result. Post race checks discovered that Rustad had pressed the launch control button on his steering wheel during the Final, which is forbidden in EuroRX rules once the race is underway. This lead to him being disqualified and the results will show the win went to Veiby with Hvaal and Rajala completing the podium ahead of O’Donovan and Championship contender Grosset-Janin.
Rustad now dropped to a six point championship lead ahead of the final event where either he or Grosset-Janin would be crowned champion.
After trading fastest times in the heats with Dubourg in slippery conditions that gradually worsened, Rustad was fastest ahead of the French driver with Hungarian former single seater driver Tamas Pal Kiss making the cut. Hedstrom qualified ahead of Grosset-Janin who suffered with a puncture which caused him to set a slower time and drop to sixth place. Veiby, Rajala, Walfridsson in the Helmia Motorsport Renault Clio, Jonathan Pailler, Philippe Maloigne and Karai completed the twelve. Grint missed out after contact with the wall during the heats, whilst O’Donovan rolled his Fiesta during the heats and despite a massive overnight repair job with help from other teams, he sadly missed the cut.
Victory in his Semi-Final sealed the title for Rustad whilst Grosset-Janin could only manage second place in his Semi-Final. In the Final itself, Kiss failed to get off the line as Rustad took the lead. Grosset-Janin fell back with a puncture as the rain fell and made conditions even more difficult. Veiby and Dubourg fought for second place whilst Hedstrom kept himself clear of trouble behind. Rustad took his third victory of the year, ahead of Dubourg and Veiby with Hedstrom in fourth.
In the end of season Championship standings, Rustad beat Grosset-Janin by 18 points whilst Veiby and Rajala tied for third on 86 points each. Dubourg finished in fifth place ahead of Fabien Pailler whilst O’Donovan finished the year in seventh overall.
The 2015 FIA European Rallycross Championship excelled with its new format and there was plenty of competition at each event, but the season can be put down to a straight fight between two of Europe’s best rallycross drivers: Tommy Rustad and Jerome Grosset-Janin. At each round there were always several drivers who were capable of troubling these two title contenders, but what cannot be denied was the hard fought, action packed close racing from all who competed this year.
The 2016 FIA European Rallycross Championship calendar looks like this:
- Mettet, Belgium 14-15 May
- Hell, Norway 11-12 June
- Holjes, Sweden 2-3 July
- Barcelona, Spain 17-18 September
- Riga, Latvia 1-2 October
If the 2015 season was anything to go by, the 2016 FIA European Rallycross Championship season looks to be even more exciting with the added challenge of the new Riga circuit in Latvia providing a new location for all of the drivers next year.