Preview: 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship – USA

by Phil Kinch

Round ten of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship takes place this weekend at a brand new circuit for the series: The Circuit of the Americas, based in Texas. The Formula One Venue is the location of the first ever edition of the World RX of USA.

Whilst there will be the excitement and hype of who can win the first running of this event, there is also the small matter this being Johan Kristofferson‘s first chance to secure the Drivers World Championship for the second time.

With this in mind, there are several topics to look forward to and The Checkered Flag discusses these further in this preview.

KRISTOFFERSSON’S FIRST CHANCE TO SECURE DRIVERS TITLE

The World RX of USA is Kristoffersson’s first chance to seal the 2018 Drivers Title. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

With a seventy three point lead of nearest rival Mattias Ekstrom in the Drivers Championship, the 2018 World RX of USA presents Johan Kristoffersson with his first chance to secure what will be his second consecutive World RX Drivers Title.

Lets be honest, with eight wins out of nine this season, the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden has dominated the series in 2018 and has been nigh unstoppable. Whether he has had to fight back from a poor Saturday to win on Sunday or quite simply winning every session, Kristoffersson has dominated the series and fully deserves his next title.

Loeb remains the only other driver to win a World RX event in 2018. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Whilst his nearest rivals have tried to use Strategy to catch him in Qualifying, Semi-Finals or Supercar Finals, the record breaking Swedish driver has been beaten only once (by Sebastien Loeb in Belgium) and has not looked back since.

If he is on form, expect to see Kristoffersson take his second drivers title seven days after he secured the 2018 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship at Mantorp Park in Sweden.

MARKLUND RETURNS TO WORLD RX WITH GC KOMPETITION

Anton Marklund will compete for GC Kompetition in the last three rounds of World RX in 2018. Credit: Tony Welam / McKlein

Ironically, there’s only one Guest Star this weekend but he is one of note: Anton Marklund.

After finishing second to Reinis Nitiss in the 2018 FIA European Rallycross Championship, the 2017 Euro RX Champion will return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship with GC Kompetition after signing a deal to compete in the last three rounds with the outfit.

Marklund has been lucky enough to test the Prodrive built Renault Megane RS RX Supercar at the Riga circuit after the Euro RX finale and was very happy with his findings as was the team. The Swedish driver expressed his happiness about securing the drive.

Liam Doran will pilot the third GC Kompetition Megane in the final round of the 2018 Americas Rallycross Championship. Credit: McKlein Photography

“I really want to thank Guerlain and the GCK team for believing in me and for giving me the opportunity to race in Austin. It’ll be a lot of fun I’m sure and I’m really looking forward to the race, I wasn’t quite ready to finish the season with the Euro RX finale in Latvia, so I’m looking forward to getting another chance to race again, and race in a car like the GCK Mégane R.S. RX,” said Marklund.

“Of course, no one has raced that track before, so we don’t have any data to prepare with but at least that aspect is the same for everyone. Racing in World RX in the US against some of the world’s best in a new car is something I’m sure won’t be easy but I’ll definitely race my heart out and think the track layout looks really exciting. I don’t have huge expectations but of course, any time I put that helmet on, I want to win.”

Liam Doran will be driving the third Renault Megane RS RX Supercar in the 2018 Americas Rallycross Championship Finale taking place on the same weekend as World RX. The British Bomb will return for the 2018 World RX of Germany and the 2018 World RX of South Africa where GC Kompetition will run all three cars.

THE FIGHT FOR SECOND PLACE CONTINUES IN THE USA

The famous five will do battle for second place in the Drivers Title race at COTA. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

The fight for who will finish second to Johan Kristoffersson will rage on at COTA with the same five high profile suspects involved in this epic battle. However, the positions have changed since France with Latvia throwing a spanner in the works.

Mattias Ekstrom now lies in second place with EKS Audi Sport team-mate Andreas Bakkerud only two points behind him after a recent upturn in form has seen the two Audi drivers take the fight to Peugeot. Sebastien Loeb is now in fourth place, a further three points behind Bakkerud and the top Team Peugeot Total driver in the standings after a rough ride in Latvia saw him drop down the order.

Ekstrom is Kristoffersson’s closest challenger in the Drivers Title race ahead of COTA. Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Petter Solberg is well within the mix for the Second Place fight as he lies in fifth place overall, only one point behind Loeb. The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver is due some better luck after the losing out to the first corner of the Riga circuit for the second year in a row and is always a good bet on a new untried circuit.

Timmy Hansen has fallen to fifth place in the standings and is twelve points off Solberg, however his recent Nitro Rallycross victory will have given the Swedish driver the push for a maiden victory in 2018.

Expect Tactics and Strategy to play out at COTA this weekend as each of these top World RX Talents looks to gain ground on the prize they are all fighting for: Second Place in the Drivers Championship.

THOSE THAT CAN SPRING A SURPRISE IN THE USA

With World RX visiting COTA for the first time, any of the non works drivers could spring a big surprise this weekend. Credit: McKlein Photography

Outside of the works teams, there are plenty of drivers who will be looking to spoil the party in the 2018 World RX of USA and take a surprise result on a track that will be new to everyone. Whilst Anton Marklund settles in at GC Kompetition this weekend, Guerlain Chicherit will be looking to carry on his Semi-Final form and look to go one further in the Renault Megane.

Niclas Gronholm has been the man to take the fight to Volkswagen, Peugeot and Audi this year and after his fourth place in Latvia, the GRX Taneco driver will be the man most likely to step up should one of the works drivers fall at the final hurdle. His pace in Latvia was worthy of a first podium and this could happen on Sunday. Team-mate Timur Timerzyanov is also another driver who could spring a surprise.

Kevin Hansen will be after a good show after reaching the Final in Latvia and with the updated Peugeot 208 WRX at his disposal, the 2015 FIA European Rallycross Champion will aim high to take advantage of a new circuit for all. Having pushed both Loeb and his brother Timmy last time out, Kevin will be looking for a repeat move to the Supercar Final.

Janis Baumanis will be after another giant killing performance in the USA. Credit: Rihards Baumanis / Baumanis Motorsport Photgraphy

The Ford Fiesta Brigade will be out to take a shock result in America with Janis Baumanis hoping to guide his STARD machine to another giant killing performance against the works machines.

OMSE, who have been enjoying Ford Performance supplied updates to the 2018 car this season will be aiming for the Semi-Finals at least, showing a repeat of their earlier form in the season. Both Robin Larsson and Kevin Eriksson are due an upturn in some luck after poor events of late.

The draw for Q1 of the 2018 World RX of USA takes place on Friday with the Semi-Finals and Supercar Final being shown live on Freesports in the UK on Sunday evening.

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