Canada has been a part of the FIA World Rallycross Championship since its inception back in 2014. The tough nature of the Trois-Rivieres street circuit has often meant that its an event that changes the established running order and can often have an effect on the rest of the season.
The 2018 edition was no different and it opened up the possibility of having a big effect on the second half of the season. With this in mind, The Checkered Flag takes a closer look at the weekend’s talking points.
MID-SEASON TESTING HAS A BIG EFFECT
After the 2018 World RX of Sweden, the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship enjoyed its first mid-season break and during this time there was an official test session that took place at the Riga circuit in Latvia. With there being two pre-season tests at Loheac and Silverstone, Riga offered a good chance to see where the development of the cars had reached and also a chance for the teams to test further updates.
With PSRX Volkswagen Sweden, EKS Audi Sport and Team Peugeot Total taking the chance to work on the cars further, it was quite obvious that there was a lot of knowledge gained by the time the teams all reached Canada.
This session also served as a good way to work on setup data for the 2018 World RX of Latvia later in the year.
Whilst the big three were present at the test, the others didn’t stand still with GC Kompetition, Team STARD, Olsbergs MSE and GRX Taneco all taking the opportunity to further test and update their cars. they will be looking to improve their performances over the rest of the year.
MID-SEASON TESTING HAS ALSO CLOSED UP THE FIELD
Following on from the mid-season testing, The 2018 World RX of Canada left us with one of many important details:
Team Peugeot Total and EKS Audi Sport have closed the gap on PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.
The proof of this was evident across the weekend, which started off by seeing Sebastien Loeb winning the first two Qualifying sessions in dominant fashion. At this stage, you would be looking to see if Johan Kristoffersson was in second place, however he wasn’t. Mattias Ekstrom, in need of some good form to fight for second place in the Championship from now on, was second.
In an uncharacteristic messy first day of action, Kristoffersson finished the first day in ninth place whilst his rivals were setting fastest lap times.
But the evidence doesn’t stop there. Whilst Kristoffersson duly took the win, he was only seven tenths of a second ahead of second place finisher Timmy Hansen. Kristoffersson’s biggest wining margin so far this season is almost three seconds in the blizzard like conditions of Portugal.
Although he has six wins out of seven events, this suggests that the 2017 World RX Champion will have to fight hard to take more wins in the second half of the year.
THE LION IS READY TO POUNCE
One of the big talking points during the off season was the move from Team Peugeot-Hansen to Team Peugeot Total as the French Manufacturer made to move to become a fully fledged works outfit in World RX.
With the extra resources in place, Peugeot have started off better this season than they have in previous years and the rate of development is very clear. Having started the year with a new version of the 208 WRX, the squad then brought an evolution update to Sweden.
Despite already having one win to their name, Peugeot are pushing hard to stop the dominance of Volkswagen and Canada showed the next step.
As I’ve already pointed out, Loeb was fastest on Saturday and held the overnight Top Qualifier spot. Timmy Hansen was seven tenths of a second behind Kristoffersson at the line in the Supercar Final.
Now add in that the fastest laps during the Final from Loeb (50.659 seconds), Kristoffersson (50.685 seconds), Hansen (50.774 seconds) and Petter Solberg (50.889 seconds) were separated by two tenths of a second.
Its no wonder that the Team Peugeot Total personnel quite rightly had their own little track invasion at the end of the race. Peugeot have closed the gap and they are ideally placed to fight for the win in Loheac at the start of September. The fight is on and the Lion is ready to pounce.
“ALL THE FIVES!”
With a fifty-five point lead in the Drivers Championship, Johan Kristoffersson has a clear advantage that will be very difficult to lose. With six wins out of seven rounds, the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver is looking odds on to secure his second consecutive Drivers title and match his team-mate Petter Solberg.
However, the fight for who will finish second to Kristoffersson is the fight to watch for the rest of the season. Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen are tied for second place overall after the double podium scored in Canada and one point behind these two are Andreas Bakkerud and Solberg.
Mattias Ekstrom lies in sixth place only five points behind and suddenly the picture is clear.
For the rest of the season (France, Latvia, COTA, Germany and South Africa) every Qualifying race, Semi-Final and Supercar Final will be vital to these five drivers in order to secure runners up bragging rights at the end of the year.
With thirteen FIA World Championship titles involved in that fight, you can be assured that as fans of the sport we are in for a fantastic five last events.