FeaturesFIA World Rallycross

PREVIEW: 2020 World RX of Latvia – A Vital Weekend for Championship Contenders?

5 Mins read
Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

With four rounds down, the third double header in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship takes place this weekend in Latvia.

Johan Kristoffersson leads the way by 17 points over Mattias Ekström – who will be racing again this weekend – but he has been very tough to beat. Having taken the top qualifier at each of the four events so far, the Kristoffersson of 2018 (when he won eleven rounds) is back and it will take something very special to stop him winning the 2020 title.

Volkswagen Dealerteam Bauhaus’s VW Polo still has magical starts which Kristoffersson takes full advantage of and he has well and truly kept his reputation of being a tidy driver that does not make mistakes.

He gets the risk vs reward conundrum absolutely perfect and the way he can feel the car he has underneath to tune it through a race weekend is top notch. Even with a single-car team, his ability to give good feedback and act on it in the right direction is key to his success.

Last time Kristoffersson drove at the Riga rallycross circuit, he dominated the event taking the maximum points score too, so surely he must be the man to beat?

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Ekström is Kristoffersson’s closest title challenger and has a remarkable record of finishing second every time he has raced at Riga (2016, 2017, 2018).

Kyb Team JC will be ruing their double retirement during the semi-final stages on day one of the World RX of Finland because they know just how important it is to reach the final at every event if you want to become champion.

The Audi S1 has got the pace to match the Polo in dry conditions, but Riga is a very different track to both Höljes and Kouvola so Peugeot and Hyundai should be on the pace too.

Timmy Hansen was the World RX of Latvia winner in 2019 and will be keen to repeat that feat this weekend. The Peugeot 208 exceled in the traction zones throughout last season and it will be fascinating to see if Timmy and Kevin Hansen are the drivers who take the fight to Kristoffersson.

However, there has been a lot of development in the last twelve months which has seen Niclas Grönholm and GRX Taneco become one of the big challengers to the series leader.

Credit: GRX Taneco

The three week break between Kouvola and Riga has allowed all the teams to analyse and understand their cars and try to work out what they could have done better. Gronholm has said he is well prepared for Latvia and the Hyundai i20 could well be the car that can take the fight to Kristoffersson on outright pace.

For Grönholm and the Hansen brothers’, this weekend is critical if they stand any chance to win the title this year. With Portugal cancelled due to ongoing coronavirus concerns, who knows if the World RX circus will arrive at the season finale at the Nurburgring. A shortened season is possible given what the rising coronavirus numbers in Europe.

Everyone knows is will be tough to beat Kristoffersson but that is exactly what Grönholm, Kevin and Timmy Hansen will have to do. The big names should be at the front given the dry conditions and how well-known Riga is to both the teams and drivers.

With dry conditions set for both Saturday and Sunday, it will be fascinating to see whether the cars converge for the latter stages of the second part of the weekend. So far, Sweden and Finland has seen mixed conditions so it has been hard to judge how much of an advantage Kristoffersson has. We should find that out in Riga.

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The track is very technical with 12 turns and what makes it unique is that the ‘dirt’ sections are very light compared to other rallycross venues, meaning the grip levels are very high.

Contact is guaranteed at the the precarious turn one/two chicane. We saw Robin Larsson and Timmy Hansen have some scuffles there last year. It’s a short run to the first corner in Latvia before the track tightens up, leaving little space for the drivers to sort themselves out from the start line.

Unless you can clear the rest of your rivals off the start but you will either get ‘sandwiched’ or boxed in because three into one does not go, never mind four or five wide which you can often get in rallycross.

A dialed in front end is key for laptime so you can get the car rotated through the tight corners and get onto the throttle as soon as possible. Any understeer in the car will be exacerbated in Riga because a lot of the time the drivers will be turning the car as they flirt with the armco barriers in the middle of the lap.

Riga

  • Track Length: 0.8 miles (1.29KM)
  • 2019 Winner: Timmy Hansen
  • Fastest lap: Rokas Baciuska 48.485
  • Asphalt/Dirt: 60%/40%
  • Joker Lap Loss: 3.2 seconds (approximately)
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Liam Doran is surely due a break after the worst possible luck in the opening four rounds. The Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel driver will at the very least want a clean weekend with no reliability issues or other misfortune.

When Doran has been running with a fully working car and four wheels on his Renault Megane, he has looked more comfortable compared to 2019 and is closer to teammate Andreas Bakkerud. Every rallycross fan will surely want to see Doran do well in Riga.

Reinis Nitiss will make a return to World RX for his home round with the ESmotorsport-Eigesa WRX Team, driving a Skoda Fabia. Kevin Abbring shone in the car last year on his championship debut in Norway by making it to the final and at one point was on course for a shock win. Nittis will be aiming to emulate Abbring with a surprise final appearance at one of the rounds in Latvia this weekend.

Krisztian Szabo is back with GRX Set following his solid performances in Holjes last month. The double European Super 1600 champion got up to speed quickly and was the happiest of the Hyundai drivers in the World RX season-opener. Szabo just missed out on the final in both Swedish rounds and given GRX Taneco’s strong pace in Kouvola, he will be hoping for a big result.

Enzo Ide returns to the championship in a Team JC Raceteknik Audi S1. The Belgian has remarkably recovered from an accident at home which left him in a coma and a stay in hospital for several months. It is fantastic to see Ide back at the top tier of rallycross.

Credit: Reinis Nitiss

Rounds 5 & 6 World RX of Latvia Schedule (UK Times)

Round Five (19 September)

Free Practice: Saturday 6:30
Q1: Saturday 8:30
Q2: Saturday 9:50
Q3: Saturday 11:15
Semi-Finals and Final: Saturday 14:00

Round Six (20 September)

Warm-Up: Sunday 7:00
Q1: Sunday 7:50
Q2: Sunday 9:15
Q3: Sunday 11:15
Semi-Finals and Final: Sunday 14:00

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

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 presented by regular presenter Neil Cole and commentary by regulars Andrew Coley and Dan Rooke.

The TV show starts one hour before the semi-finals (13:00 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 also be viewed free-to-air on Free Sports, as well as on pay-per-view channel BT Sport.

And of course you can catch all the reaction from the drivers and teams right here on The Checkered Flag throughout the weekend.

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