World RX: Six drivers we would love to see compete full-time in 2020

by Nigel Chiu

As we enter 2020, discussions and negotiations have already taken place and expect news in the coming weeks and months as to who moves where and whether there will be any surprises in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.

At the end of 2018, many of the sport’s big names including Johan Kristoffersson, Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekstrom and Sebastien Loeb left the championship as Audi, Volkswagen and Peugeot pulled out to focus on other series.

One thing that would instantly make the FIA World Rallycross Championship better is a bigger field with some bigger, standout names to engage fans of that particular driver.

Of course, we have to be somewhat realistic as an F1 driver is never going to come to the series so here are six drivers we would love to see return or join the championship on a full-time basis which would be brilliant news for the series and its fans.

Robin Larsson

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

First on the list is Robin Larsson. A driver who loves to send his rallycross supercar sideways into any corner. Larsson is one of the most aggressive rallycross drivers in the world and has competed at least once in every FIA World Rallycross Championship season so far.

However, he has been without a world championship drive for over a year and in the meantime the Swede has dominated the FIA European Rallycross Championship, winning four of the five events he competed in and wrapping up the title with a round to spare.

This dominance allowed Larsson to race in the World RX of Latvia against the world championship drivers but he was unable to show his form after getting tangled with Timmy Hansen in the opening two qualifying sessions, ruining his weekend.

The combination of Larsson in an Audi can be a deadly weapon and one that would frighten the grid because they know what an aggressive driver Larsson is.

Sebastian Eriksson

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Next up is Sebastian Eriksson, a driver with so much talent yet has not been able to find a budget to compete full-time at world level.

Eriksson had a one-off drive last year in Holjes and only went on to win the whole event in front of a packed home crowd.

It was an extraordinary feat, to get a car with hardly any sponsors, to find money to race and to have the speed and knowledge to get a decent setup on the car and go out there and beat the very best rallycross drivers in the world – it was the highlight of the World RX season.

The Olsbergs MSE driver worked as an engineer and mechanic in 2019 and it does not feel right that a driver with so much natural speed and talent has not had his full capabilities shown.

Out of all the drivers in this list, Sebastian Eriksson is the driver I would love to see most on the 2020 grid.

Joni Wiman

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

The flying-Finn, Joni Wiman was more than a super-substitute for Niclas Gronholm last season as he drove Gronholm’s Hyundai i20 to a podium in Belgium, having never driven the car before.

Wiman had an excellent early rallycross career, winning every event in the 2013 Global Rallycross Lites championship en route to the title, going onto winning the GRC championship for Supercar a year later.

Since 2014, things went quiet for Wiman in rallycross until he suddenly returned last year as a substitute driver for Gronholm, who was recovering from an appendicitis operation. Wiman was stellar and nearly won the event.

He adapted to the Hyundai i20 very well and was literally a rollover away from making the final in Silverstone. It would be fascinating to see what Wiman could do over a full-season.

Oliver Eriksson

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The youngest driver on the list is Oliver Eriksson. At just 21-years-old, Eriksson has achieved some incredible milestones in rallycross already.

He became GRC Lites champion in 2015 at the age of 16 and is now a double RX2 champion, comfortable beating current World RX driver, Guillaume De Ridder in the same equipment and in 2019 coasted to a second title by winning five events, including four consecutive victories to start the season.

Rallycross is traditionally a motorsport that takes years before you are ready for a world-class seat.

But, Eriksson is clearly a massive talent and him as well as young drivers such as Kevin Hansen (who himself was in the title fight to win the world title) are changing the sport just as Formula One has changed in recent years for very young drivers to rise quickly to the top quickly and compete with the very best.

Eriksson is ready to make the step into the World RX in my opinion or at the very least needs to be competing in Euro RX this year. I believe he has the talent to surpass that step and make the jump to a world level.

Kevin Abbring

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

The Dutch are not usually associated with rallycross and Kevin Abbring was not a known rallycross driver at all into the summer of 2019.

Abbring was a rally driver, competing in the World Rally Championship for over 10 years at all levels. He did not exactly shine, with just two Junior-WRC wins to his name and only one WRC stage win in his whole career.

However, the new ES Motorsport-Labas GAS team needed a driver after Rokas Baciuska left the team to join GC Kompetition. They turned to Abbring who somehow made the final in the Skoda Fabia on the two occasions he raced, Hell and Holjes.

Abbring nearly won on his World Rallycross debut in Norway on torrid, torrential wet weather conditions. It was a staggering performance and when most drivers were struggling and making mistakes, Abbring kept his cool and drove the wheels off the Skoda and stun everyone with an outstanding performance all weekend.

He backed it up with more of the same in Holjes although this was rightly overshadowed by Sebastian Eriksson‘s stunning victory. Whilst Abbring could never get fully to grips with rallying, rallycross might be the motorsport that sees him light up the motorsport world.

Mattias Ekstrom

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

He did say he retired from the World RX as a full-time driver at the end of 2018, but Mattias Ekstrom came back for a one-off appearance last year in Belgium with JC Raceteknik.

Other than that, it was a very quiet year for Ekstrom on the track although he has set his EKS team up to compete in rallying this year.

The 2016 FIA World Rallycross champion was always one of the most aggressive drivers on the grid and I feel he misses the thrill and excitement of rallycross and deep down he knows he will be able to get back in a car and immediately be on the pace.

Ekstrom is a very marketable driver so it is ultimately down to him as to whether he wants to race in the series permanently again because nearly any team would take the 40-year-old onboard.

It would be a surprise to see Ekstrom back but the championship would have some extra quality and a driver who would almost certainly be in the title hunt and add to the already exciting series.

Will any of these six drivers appear in the championship this season?

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