World Rally-Raid Championship

Kees Koolen becomes first W2RC FIA class champion with T5 title

2 Mins read
Credit: Project 2030

The inaugural World Rally-Raid Championship does not end until the Andalucía Rally on 18–23 October, but with the T5 category not on the card, Kees Koolen is the first driver to win a W2RC FIA class championship.

Koolen, driving an IVECO Powerstar for Project 2030, ends the 2022 season with 186 points. Martin Macík Jr. was second with 160. His co-driver Wouter de Graaff won his respective title alongside Paolo Ceci.

While the trucks of T5 generall usually see decent turnouts, only three drivers raced for W2RC points with Tomas Vratny being the third. Macík finished ahead of Koolen at the season-opening Dakar Rally with a seventh in class versus Koolen’s thirteenth. Dmitry Sotnikov of KAMAZ-master won the Trucks at Dakar but was not competing for the W2RC; even if KAMAZ had declared their intention to do so, they would not have been able to continue due to international penalties stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Howveer, Macík failed to finish the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge due to a gearbox failure whereas Koolen was thirteenth among all FIA entries. Macík rebounded at the Rallye du Maroc last week by winning three of six legs and the overall, edging out non-championship driver Gert Huzink for the latter by nearly two minutes. Koolen was third ahead of Vratny with victories in Stages #3 and #4.

Macík’s Abu Dhabi retirement proved to be the difference maker as he finished the season with 160 points. Had Andalucía been on the T5 calendar, he would have another chance to overtake Koolen as the winner receives thirty points. Vratny only recorded points in Morocco and ends with 37 total.

The championship is Koolen’s third at the international level. In 2017, he won the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in the Quad division, while he won the T4 title in the 2020 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.

Outside of racing, the Dutchman oversees green energy corporation Koolen Industries. True to his company’s mission, his Project 2030 team doubles as a research project into alternative fuel solutions. 2030, being the start of the next decade, is frequently set as the year for greener energy such as the Dakar Rally beginning to require all competing vehicles to be zero-emission.

Also securing a title in Morocco is the Rally2 bike of Mason Klein, who has twenty-eight points on Romain Dumontier. Even if Dumontier wins in Andalucía, he can only gain twenty-five points at most.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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