Sport

Big man­u­fac­turer pres­ence Sil­ver­stone hosts UK round ● ●

Auto Express - - Contents - Stephen_er­rity@den­nis.co.uk Stephen Er­rity

Full pre­view to the new FIA World Ral­ly­cross sea­son

THE World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship (World RX) blasts back into ac­tion at the Cir­cuit de Catalunya in Barcelona this week­end, fol­low­ing a win­ter of big an­nounce­ments as man­u­fac­tur­ers step up their in­volve­ment in the fast-paced, mixed-sur­face mo­tor­sport dis­ci­pline.

Swede Jo­han Kristof­fersen, the se­ries’ reign­ing cham­pion, forms part of an un­changed line-up at Pet­ter Sol­berg’s PSRX Volk­swa­gen Swe­den team. The all-con­quer­ing Polo has been fur­ther re­fined for 2018, but Kristof­fersen sounded a note of caution at the sea­son launch, re­call­ing how close his mar­gin of vic­tory was sev­eral times last year.

Peu­geot has long had a pres­ence in ral­ly­cross in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the fam­ily-run Swedish out­fit Team Hansen, but fol­low­ing the con­clu­sion of its Dakar pro­gramme, the full weight of Peu­geot Sport is now be­hind the ef­fort, with rally le­gend Se­bastien Loeb and young charger Timmy Hansen on driv­ing duty.

Else­where, 2016 World RX cham­pion Mat­tias Ek­strom made the de­ci­sion over the win­ter to re­tire from DTM tour­ing­car rac­ing and fo­cus solely on Audi Sport’s ex­panded S1 ral­ly­cross ef­fort.

“To be run­ner-up in both last year was dis­ap­point­ing,” he said. “I first thought I’d fo­cus on DTM, but when I saw the new car and learned An­dreas [Bakkerud] would be my team-mate, I re­alisedsed my heart pumps more for ral­ly­cross.”s.”

Pri­va­teers

Ford will have a pres­ence on the 2018 World RX grid, too, although ugh not in a full man­u­fac­turer ca­pac­ity, ty, with the Swedish Ols­bergs MSE team field­ing a pair of Fi­es­tas for Kevin Eriks­son and Robin Larssen. en.

Also present will be rally vet­eran an Mar­cus Gron­holm’s GRX Taneco Team, which has de­vel­oped EX-WRC Hyundai i20 chas­sis for ral­ly­cross s use. Rus­sian Timur Timerzyanov and Gron­holm’s son Ni­clas are driv­ing. g.

Fi­nally, there’s an all-new car on the grid for 2018 in the shape of the GCK Re­nault Mé­gane. Com­mis­sioned ioned from Bri­tish mo­tor­sport en­gi­neer­ing er­ing firm Pro­drive by French driver Guer­lain er­lain Chicherit, the Mé­gane was de­signed gned from scratch to be the perfect ral­ly­cross lly­cross car, un­like the man­u­fac­turer en­tries, ies, which are adapted from rally cars. s.

It fea­tures an ul­tra-low cen­tre of grav­ity, in­no­va­tive in­board brakes s and a be­spoke en­gine and gear­box. A two-car team com­posed of Chicherit and coun­try­man Jerome Gros­set-janin will pi­lot the ground­break­ing car.

Fol­low­ing this week­end’s sea­son opener in Spain, World RX vis­its Por­tu­gal and Bel­gium be­fore touch­ing down at the Sil­ver­stone cir­cuit in Northants on 25 May as part of the new Speed­ma­chine Festival event.

Sub­se­quent rounds take place in Nor­way, Swe­den, Canada, France, Latvia, the US and Ger­many, lead­ing up to a sea­son fi­nale in South Africa.

RAMPED UP Peu­geot has now thrown its full weight be­hind the 208 RX ef­fort, with Loeb (in­set) among driv­ers Audi (above) and VW (be­low) are both back for World RX in 2018 FRENCH FANCY Guer­lain Chicherit’s Pro­drive-built Re­nault Mé­gane (left) has been de­sig

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