It will have been 286 days since that dramatic thriller of a finale in South Africa and a lot has happened since then. This weekend, Holjes hosts the opening rounds of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship, the first of three double-headers this season.
Kristoffersson Returns Looking to Win Back His Crown
Timmy Hansen heads to Holjes as the defending champion. Strangely he is not the favourite going into the season because a certain Johan Kristoffersson returns after a year away from the championship.
Kristoffersson rewrote the record books and teared up the script in 2018 when he won an incredible eleven out of twelve events in the championship.
The target will be on the two-time World RX champion but if Kristoffersson’s form in his recent RallyX Nordic outings are anything to go by, then he will be very tough to beat. It was like he had not been out of a rallycross car.
Pressure will not be a problem for Kristoffersson and we all know he can bounce back from a setback too. With wet weather expected in Holjes this weekend that will only increase his chances because he excels in the rain.
Defending champion Timmy Hansen along with brother Kevin will have to work as a team to beat the Volkswagen Dealer Team Bauhaus driver.
There is just one practice session before the 17 drivers go into the opening qualifying session. Gathering as much data as possible to optimise the setup should be easier with a two-car team compared to Kristoffersson who’s team is a single car entry.
More than ever it will be vital to be quick straight out of the box. There will be very little time to learn and make big changes to the car with the double-header format.
With just three qualifying sessions (compared to the usual four) before the semi-finals and final things will be very different with a maximum of 30 points up for grabs in just one day. On Sunday everybody will do it all again when another 30 points could be won.
By the end of August, four rounds of the World RX will be completed as Finland’s Kouvola returns to the schedule with another double-header.
Another driver who could challenge for the title is Niclas Gronholm. Many believe Gronholm would have been champion last year had he not missed the British and Belgian rounds due to his recovery from appendicitis.
He was on the pace of Timmy Hansen and runner-up Andreas Bakkerud for most of the year and showed very encouraging signs in July’s All-Star Magic Weekend which took place at Holjes.
Last month, a few World RX drivers including Gronholm, Kristoffersson and Robin Larsson competed in the RallyX Nordic season-opener to get mileage following the coronavirus pandemic and understand whether their upgrades in the off-season worked.
Gronholm was blistering from the start, dominating the three qualifying sessions before a mistake cost him the win in the final.
It would have been massively encouraging for Gronholm and GRX Taneco to show such good form. Do not be surprised if Gronholm sets the pace this weekend.
Andreas Bakkerud and Liam Doran change cars and team as they’ll race a pair of Renault Megane‘s with Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel. Both drivers have driven the Megane before, Doran at the end of 2018 with GCK and Bakkerud tested the car later that year too.
Bakkerud was very strong at Holjes 13 months ago, topping qualifying and putting himself in a great position to take a huge haul of points. But, disaster came in his semi-final as the Norwegian broke his driveshaft and failed to make the final. In a shorter season, reliability issues will be even more punishing.
The Megane is a unique car to drive, so it could put Anton Marklund in a better position than Bakkerud and Doran. Marklund adapted well to the car last year, winning in Norway only to be disqualified for a technical infringement.
Holjes 2019 was a weak weekend for Marklund so he will be hoping that he and GCK Bilstein can turn things around to perform across a variety of tracks.
Iconic is just one word to describe Holjes and it won’t be the same without the thousands of fans who flock the forest every year. Nevertheless, the drivers love the circuit with a great mix of slow and fast sections as well as big kerbs and jumps. There is a real flow to the circuit.
You can make an overtake at a few spots also and who can forget the epic battle between Timmy and Kevin Hansen in the semi-final and final after through Veledrome? Another noticeable memory has to be Timmy’s last ditch attempt at the final corner to overtake Mattias Ekstrom back in 2015.
Getting to Know Holjes
- Track Length: 0.75 miles (1.21KM)
- 2019 Winner: Sebastian Eriksson
- Fastest lap: Kevin Abbring 42.432
- Asphalt/Dirt: 60%/40%
- Joker Lap Loss: 2.8 seconds (approximately)
Sebastian Eriksson and Olsbergs MSE return to defend their Holjes crown. Arguably the highlight of 2019 was Eriksson’s wildcard win when he got redemption for 2014 by holding off Kevin Hansen in the final of an astonishing weekend.
Driving a Honda Civic Eriksson will go all-out for back to back Holjes wins and he can be more aggressive compared to the likes of Kristoffersson, Gronholm and the Hansen brothers’.
Another potential driver who could cause trouble is Mattias Ekstrom. The 2016 champion is back after Kyb Team JC’s Janis Baumanis suffered funding problems and therefore cannot compete full-time this season.
Ekstrom has a fierce rivalry with Timmy Hansen and he was often the bridesmaid to Kristoffersson. Partnering with fellow Swede Robin Larsson will make Kyb Team JC a dangerous force especially since Larsson went well in the recent RallyX Nordic rounds that took place at Holjes.
Considering everything that has happened this year, I’m sure most of you will just be happy that the World RX season can actually get going this weekend.
Many teams and drivers have had to pull out of various motorsport series, and some championships have been forced to cancel their entire season as a result of what has happened over the last few months.
With that in mind, World RX will guarantee to bring us all thrilling racing and an entertaining 10 rounds and it will all finally kick-off on Saturday at Holjes.
Itinerary for the Weekend
Rounds 1& 2 World RX of Sweden Schedule (UK Times)
Round One (22 August)
Q1: Saturday 9:30
Q2: Saturday 10:50
Q3: Saturday 12:15
Semi-Finals and Final: Saturday 15:00
Round Two (23 August)
Q1: Sunday 8:50
Q2: Saundy 10:15
Q3: Sunday 12:15
Semi-Finals and Final: Sunday 15:00
How Can I Watch?
Every qualifying session including the support categories can be steamed on the official FIA World Rallycross Championship YouTube and Facebook pages, with coverage again presented by regular presenter Neil Cole and commentary led by Andrew Coley and Dan Rooke.
The TV show starts one hour before the semi-finals (14:00 in the UK on Saturday and Sunday) so you can catch up on the highlights from the qualifying sessions.
In the UK, action from the championship can be viewed free-to-air on Free Sports, as well as BT Sport also again providing coverage.