If you were to take a look at TV shows that clock up at least three series, you’ll know that when it comes to the fourth season, the producers will do one of two things: They will either carry on with the same format (because it works) or they will do a semi re-boot of the show to give it new life.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship decided to make a few tweaks for its fourth year of competition and it looks like this could be the best season yet.
For the first time in its short history, World RX will kick off at a new but recognised venue as the series starts this weekend at the Barcelona Grand Prix Circuit which is home to the 2017 World RX of Spain. We are in for a treat with the confirmed lineup of Drivers and Teams for this new year of competition and it going to be closer than ever.
Like a once great champion said “Consistency will be the key to winning the title” and 2017 is going to be exactly that.
There are four manufacturer backed teams in the series with Team Peugeot-Hansen in the further developed 208 WRX, Hoonigan Racing with the ever evolving Ford Focus RS RX, Volkswagen teaming up with PSRX to form PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden running an all new Polo GTi Supercar and Audi Sport joining forces with EKSRX to further enhance the winning Audi Quattro S1 Supercar.
That means that you already have eight drivers that are all capable of winning the event. At VW, Petter Solberg is a two time series champion wanting a third driver title and Johan Kristoffersson is a two time World RX event winner. For Ford, Andreas Bakkerud took three wins in the new Focus in 2016 whilst Ken Block took podium finishes in the same car meaning that they will be in the hunt again.
At Peugeot, Timmy Hansen is well known to be one of the fastest young talents having won several events and challenged for the title in 2015, whilst 9 time WRC driver Sebastien Loeb took his first win at Latvia and will be looking to get into the title fight with the further developed 208 Supercar. Kevin Hansen is entered as a third car this year and after his Euro RX win in Spain last year, expect him to trouble the regulars.
At Audi, EKSRX is a three car team also with 2016 Champion Mattias Ekstrom looking to start his defence well whilst Topi Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss will also be looking to make sure they start the year well in the Audi Sport developed S1.
But there are others who can cause a stir this weekend…
STARD Racing have entered the series full time for 2017 as Manfred Stohl’s outfit runs updated versions of the 2016 Ford Fiesta RXS that was driven by Janis Baumanis and former Double European Rallycross Champion Timur Timerzyanov. Both drivers shone last year with Timerzyanov getting on the podium. Armed with the knowledge of the car and new updates for 2017, expect these two drivers to at least be in the Semi-Final.
World RX Team Austria has become MJP Racing Team Austria for 2017 and Max Pucher’s outfit is running newly built Ford Fiesta RXS Supercars. With Timo Scheider on board for his first full season, expect the Austrian to be hunting for a podium whilst famous 2016 World RX of Germany winner Kevin Eriksson has also signed for the team and will be looking to move up the order in his second season of action.
DA Racing moves up to World RX full time with two entries in Spain. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg and former Touring Car star Gregoire Demoustier will both drive ex-Peugeot-Hansen 208’s and at a time where new cars could falter with mechanical issues, expect these two to capitalise on this with cars that have been fully developed in the series already. Whilst Demoustier learns the art of World RX, Dubourg will be looking to rock the establishment and gain ground early on.
And so we move to the Independent entries…
Including Kevin Hansen and Reiniss Nitiss, who are both eligible for the Drivers Championship only, there are seven independent entries that can surprise this weekend and stroke whilst the iron is hot.
Guy Wilks moves from the Commentary box to the track with his ex-Johan Kristoffersson VW Polo being run under the LOCO Energy World RX banner. We know Wilks has the talent from his previous experience in Rallying and it will be great to see him on track fighting it out with the rest. Niclas Gronholm is a single entry in the GRX squad as he drives an M-Sport Fiesta for 2017 and will be looking to move forward with what he learned in 2016.
Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit starts the first of six events in a Renault Clio Supercar as he gears up for the 2018 programme he will drive in as part of the Prodrive-Renault Alliance announced earlier this year whilst fellow Frenchman Hervé Knapick will drive his Citroen DS3 again at World RX level. Finally the Kia Rio campaigned by Gigi Galli will be driven in 2017 by Hungarian driver Kornel “Csucsu” Lukacs, who will be out to gain more experience at the wheel of the Kia Supercar.
So…Think you can pick winner from this lot? If you can, your a better person than me!
I’m super excited to see World RX back in action again and one thing will be for sure… Whoever tops the Podium on Sunday afternoon will have fought all the way to take the first win of what will be an exciting season!