The FIA World Rallycross Championship returns to Latvia for the second-ever edition of the local Championship round, this weekend (15-17 September) at the Bikernieki racetrack in Riga, and its 81 entries (21 world RX Supercars, 30 Euro RX Supercars and 30 Super1600 cars) are expected to attract a big crowd.
The tenth round of the Championship is also the final of five races valid for the aforementioned Euro RX classes: the Supercar field, led by Sweden’s Anton Marklund, will see a second guest appearance of regular Touringcar racer Philip Gehrman, also from Sweden, in a VW Beetle by Eklund Motorsport; another welcome return is that of Polish driver Martin Kaczmarski in his Ford Fiesta.
In Super1600, Norwegian star Espen Isaksaetre will race a Peugeot 208 and Germany’s Sven Seeliger will compete in a Ford Fiesta. Hungary’s Attila Mozer (Skoda Fabia) and Latvia’s Martins Lapins (Renault Twingo) will make their debuts, while Arnis Odins and Juris Spikis will race Twingos run by the Traubergs Motorsport team. Edijs Oss (VW Polo) makes it five home drivers in Super1600.
But, of course, it’s the World Championship that brings the most interesting surprises: current standings leader, Johan Kristoffersson, is mathematically able to secure his title in Latvia, with two more rounds (Germany and South Africa) to go, if he manages to extend his lead over PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team-mate, double World Champion Petter Solberg, to 61 points from the current 46. PSRX can also secure their Teams’ title, as they lead the standings by 112 points over rivals Team Peugeot-Hansen, if they leave Riga with the same points advantage.
“Petter and I work really hard together, we work in the same direction all of the time and we worked for this result. We talk to the engineers and when you have a car around you which gives you confidence, it means you can really push. The most important thing in Latvia is more points for the team and another step towards the dream.”, Kristoffersson explains.
Despite last year’s torrential rain, thousands of fans came to Riga to watch Peugeot-Hansen’s French rally legend Sébastien Loeb score his maiden World RX victory; and it’s not just Loeb who appreciated the race in the Baltic country, as reigning World Champion, Mattias Ekström, explains:
The track is fantastic and was good to drive even in rain,“This year, we already tested in Riga and will give our all to reduce our gap to the competition a little more. France was a step in the right direction. In qualifying, I’m shooting for the top spot and want to start from pole position in the semi-finals.”
EKS RX‘s third-car entry, Reinis Nitiss, is also super-excited and motivated, as the Latvian is competing in his home round, while Swiss DTM competitor, Nico Mueller, returns to the Championship for the second time after Lohéac, again in a fourth Audi S1 by EKS. Finland’s Joni-Pekka Rajala will race a Mitsubishi Mirage Supercar, while French legend Herve Knapick will make his final World Championship appearance in a Citroen DS3 run by his own team.
But these are not the biggest line-up changes of the weekend, as French driver JB Dubourg will not be driving his DA Racing Peugeot 208 in Riga due to the imminent birth of his child. His seat will instead be taken by Belgian former WRC competitor, Francois Duval, on his second WRX appearance of the season after his home round in Mettet last May.
“I want to thank the Dubourg family, and especially Dominique [JB’s father], for thinking of me as a suitable replacement for this weekend, explains Duval.
“Jean-Baptiste understandably needs to stay in France, so his seat was vacant – when I received the proposal, I did not hesitate for a second. I hope the weather conditions will be changeable, which will level the difference in power of the cars. It’s difficult to set an exact target, but I will do everything to give the maximum I can.”
Racing action in Riga starts on Saturday, 16 September, with the first practice session at 9:00. Complete entry lists can be found here.