FIA World Rallycross

Preview: 2018 World RX of Belgium – “Who will be the King of Mettet?”

5 Mins read
The 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

This weekend sees the 2018 World RX of Belgium get underway at the Circuit Jules Tacheny Mettet for the fifth season in a row and we are certain be treated to another spectacular round of World RX action.

With two rounds of The 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship already completed, The Checkered Flag previews the event with its top six highlights to look out for. The show gets started on Friday with the draw for Q1.

DUVAL RETURNS FOR HIS HOME EVENT

Francois Duval returns for his home World RX event. Credit: McKlein Photography / IMG FIA World RX

Francois Duval enjoys his Rallycross and since 2014, the former WRC Belgian ace has managed to arrange a one off drive for his home World RX event and this year is no different.

Duval will drive an ex-EKSRX Audi S1 Quattro that will be run by Belgian racing team Comtoyou Racing. Whilst the team has extensive experience in Sportscar racing and more recently in Touring Car racing, this will their first time in World RX competition.

Whilst Duval has tested the car over the winter to get to grips with his new mount, there is also the fact that he is the only guest driver for this years event.

With sixteen drivers fighting for twelve Semi-Final places, expect a lot of action over Qualifying during Saturday and Sunday and for Duval to be right in the mix.

SOLBERG AND HANSEN LOOKING FOR THAT FIRST WIN

Timmy Hansen and Petter Solberg at the 2017 World RX of Belgium. Credit: Paulo Maria / DPPI

Twelve months ago, we were treated to a fantastic fight for the lead in the Supercar Final between PSRX Volkswagen Sweden‘s Petter Solberg and Team Peugeot Total‘s Timmy Hansen which resulted in contact. Both drivers lost out on the in which went to Johan Kristoffersson in the end.

Its already clear in the build up to the event this year that both Solberg and Hansen are looking to right that wrong from last year and both have a good case.

Solberg’s last win was at the 2017 World RX of Great Britain and Hansen’s last win was back at the 2016 World RX of Canada.

With both drivers already in the mix in what has been a close season of racing so far, you can be sure to find them both in the Semi-Finals at least. We will be witnessing a very competitive weekend of action where every race in Qualifying will be vital.

EKSTROM IN NEED OF A BIG WEEKEND

Mattias Ekstrom needs a big weekend at the World RX of Belgium. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

2016 World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom has had a difficult start to his 2018 campaign so far. Disqualification in Spain and missing out on the Final in Portugal has left the EKS Audi Sport driver seventeen points behind Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson after two rounds.

That gap can be hauled back but to do this Ekstrom will need a near perfect weekend in Belgium to help is cause. The positive part about this goal is that the 2018 Audi S1 Quattro has already shown its up to the task.

Team-mate Andreas Bakkerud has taken two podium finishes so far this year and will be looking to continue that trend this weekend. With Bakkerud having such a good start to the year, this will challenge Ekstrom to get back on top of his game and back in the fight.

Both Ekstrom and Bakkerud have already shown that between them they have the pace to match both PSRX Volkswagen Sweden and Team Peugeot Total so expect some fireworks this weekend.

OLSBERGS MSE LOOKING FOR BELGIAN LUCK

Olsbergs MSE are looking to have a better weekend of competition in Belgium. Credit: Olsbergs MSE

The 2018 season of World RX is already proving to be a close affair between all of the teams that are fielding two car full time entries, however one team is already feeling the pressure.

Olsbergs MSE have returned to World RX this year with two great drivers and a brand new car and its the new Ford Fiesta’s that seem to be taking time to find their pace and suffering mechanical woes so early in the season.

The 2018 Fiesta Supercar is a new beast that’s been developed in conjunction with support from Ford Performance but its still having teething issues whilst other new cars are running faultlessly. A lot has been re-designed in the car and the potential is there for it to be a great car.

Both Robin Larsson and Kevin Eriksson are previous race winners so their pedigree is already proven. If the two drivers can have a good weekend in Belgium, then they can move up the order and cause a stir amongst the rest of the teams involved.

GRX AND GC KOMPETITON TO SURPRISE AGAIN

Chicherit took his best finish of his World RX career so far after taking fifth place in the Final in Portugal. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Both GRX Taneco and GC Kompetition have been quick out of the box with their new cars this year and  you should expect more of the same at the 2018 World RX of Belgium this weekend.

During the year there will be times that the fifteen full time entries will not be joined by that many guest drivers in the remaining rounds, so taking every chance to show off what these two teams can do is vital.

Already both outfits have had Semi-Final and Final appearances so its not inconceivable that the same could happen again at the Circuit Jules Tacheny Mettet. Both Guerlain Chicherit and Jerome Grosset-Janin have put the new Prodrive built Megane’s firmly on the map so far with the technologically impressive cars showing good pace.

As for Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Gronholm, the move to former WRC Hyundai’s has already moved the GRX Taneco team up the order and shown impressive pace from Marcus Gronholm‘s outfit with new cars. Both drivers have said good things and will expect more in Belgium.

KEVIN HANSEN LOOKING FOR RETURN TO FORM

Kevin Hansen has high hopes for a better performance in Belgium this weekend. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

One driver who has suffered a difficult start to his season is Kevin Hansen and the former champion is in need of a change of luck to turn things around.

After giving up his Semi-Final spot in Spain and retiring from the Semi-Finals in Portugal, the 2016 FIA European Rallycross Champion is hoping for a better weekend in Belgium. Mettet is also the scene of his first Euro RX win.

The younger Hansen has shown impressive speed in his upgraded 2017 Peugeot 208 WRX and at times has been faster in Qualifying this season when compared to team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen.

2017 saw Kevin suffer a big accident in Qualifying that ruled him out of the event. Once again he was fast in older machinery and you can expect more of the same as he goes all out to get to his first Supercar Final of the year.

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