Motor Sport News - - Front Page - 2015 win­ner: Davy Jean­ney 2015 win­ner:timmy Hansen 2015 win­ner: Pet­ter Sol­berg 2015 win­ner: N/A 2015 win­ner: Davy Jean­ney 2015 win­ner: Robin Lars­son


or­we­gian Pet­ter Sol­berg and French­man Sebastien Loeb last com­peted against each other in an FIA World Cham­pi­onship event on Rally Catalunya in 2012, the last full WRC sea­son for both men.

While Loeb sealed his record ninth con­sec­u­tive WRC crown with Citroen, Sol­berg con­cluded his WRC ca­reer where it be­gan, with M-sport. Loeb com­peted in se­lected WRC rounds in 2013, be­fore mov­ing to the World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship, in which he won on his de­but week­end.

Sol­berg mean­while switched to Euro­pean Rallycross, which be­came World RX for 2014 and he hasn’t been beaten to the FIA World ti­tle since.

This year, Sol­berg will de­fend his dou­ble World RX crowns in his Citroen DS 3 run by his own PSRX team, while Loeb has joined Team Peu­geot-hansen, backed by Peu­geot Sport. While Sol­berg has made World RX his since it’s in­cep­tion, Loeb has pre­vi­ous RX form too; he won X Games in Los An­ge­les in 2012, and raced at his home round of Euro­pean Rallycross in 2013 at Lo­heac.

“Loeb will be fast,” says Sol­berg, “He’s in a good car and he’s a very good driver. He’s done World Tour­ing Cars – that is as hard as rallycross some­times, and he’s done rallycross be­fore and won X Games. He will be fast straight away!”

Loeb is cau­tious about mak­ing pre­dic­tions in ad­vance of his World RX de­but in Por­tu­gal this week­end. “I don’t know [what to ex­pect],” he says. “I hope some of my skills from WTCC will help me, but I can­not pre­dict a re­sult, it’s too soon to know what I can do in rallycross. I’m ex­cited about the sea­son ahead, I think it will be a lot of fun and the sen­sa­tion in the car is a lit­tle bit more like a rally car and I have some ex­pe­ri­ence there…”

The most suc­cess­ful WRC driver ever is look­ing for­ward to tak­ing on old ri­val Sol­berg: “We had some great bat­tles and great fights when we were in ral­ly­ing and it will be nice to meet him again in another dis­ci­pline. I’m look­ing for­ward to com­pet­ing against Pet­ter again – he’s a nice guy! It’s dif­fi­cult to know where I am, but I would like to fight with the top driv­ers.”

Sol­berg and Loeb won’t have things all their own way this sea­son by any means. The 17 per­ma­nent driv­ers ( de­tailed right) are all ca­pa­ble of qual­i­fy­ing for the six-car fi­nal at the 12 cham­pi­onship events. En­tries will be boosted at each event by round-by­round driv­ers and non-per­ma­nent reg­u­lars, such a Peu­geot Hansen Academy driv­ers Davy Jean­ney and for­mer British RX Ju­nior cham­pion, Kevin Hansen.

Hansen’s older brother Timmy fin­ished as run­ner-up to Sol­berg last sea­son and starts as one of the favourites for the 2016 crown as team-mate to Loeb, while Jo­han Kristof­fers­son is a shrewd op­er­a­tor and can also fight for the crown in the re­struc­tured VW RX Swe­den team.

Mat­tias Ek­strom wasn’t able to con­sis­tently pro­duce the re­sults that both he and his Audi S1 are ca­pa­ble of last sea­son, but has worked hard to de­velop the car over the win­ter months, while two-time Euro­pean cham­pion Timur Timerzyanov has switched to World RX Team Aus­tria and could chal­lenge this year.

Liam Do­ran’s re­sults have been ham­pered by poor re­li­a­bil­ity of late, but a switch to JRM Rac­ing from his own team has the po­ten­tial to be suc­cess­ful.

Another World RX full-time new­comer, Ken Block, tested the Hooni­gan Rac­ing Di­vi­sion’s brand new Ford Fo­cus RS RX Su­per­car in Cum­bria ear­lier this month with 2016 team-mate An­dreas Bakkerud. The car has been built by WRC team M-sport, and will make its de­but in Por­tu­gal.

“They will be fast out of the blocks,” says Sol­berg. “They have so much ex­pe­ri­ence. Chris­tian Lo­ri­aux [M-sport de­signer] is a smart guy, the car and the en­gine will be good. I think they have a lot of pres­sure to per­form, with fac­tory back­ing [from Ford Per­for­mance] and with M-sport build­ing the car. They should be on the pace straight away.”

Team Peu­geot-hansen be­gins the year as reign­ing teams’ cham­pion, Ols­bergs MSE hav­ing won the crown in 2014. ■

The cham­pi­onship’s street cir­cuit. Sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments were made for 2015 and the Cana­dian round is ar­guably the best ‘fly­away’ event of the year. En­thu­si­as­tic spec­ta­tors filled the grand­stands last sea­son, and will again, es­pe­cially if home hero Patrick Car­pen­tier makes another wild­card ap­pear­ance. If Hol­jes is the Magic Week­end, then Lo­heac is the Mecca of rallycross. In 2001, 40,000 peo­ple watched Ken­neth Hansen win a round of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship. These days, that fig­ure has al­most dou­bled as 70,000 peo­ple de­scend on the Brittany vil­lage in early Septem­ber. Ex­pect se­ri­ous Loeb fever this year! The rallycross cir­cuit is lo­cated in the fi­nal sec­tion of the F1 venue, util­is­ing the nat­u­ral am­phithe­atre. Run­ning in the op­po­site di­rec­tion on the race cir­cuit to F1 and Moto GP, the cir­cuit’s wide first cor­ner fa­cil­i­tates three-wide ac­tion all the way to the first loose sec­tion at turn three. A new ad­di­tion to the cal­en­dar for 2016. The Bik­ernieki Cir­cuit is sit­u­ated just a short bus ride away from the Lat­vian cap­i­tal’s cen­tre, and will fea­ture side-by-side jumps in the joker lap and on the main cir­cuit. Tow­er­ing Soviet build­ings sur­round the most leg­endary track in the Baltic states. The Es­ter­ing cir­cuit in Ger­many is best known for its first cor­ner; the bot­tle­neck into a tight right-han­der pro­duces plenty of ac­tion. A cir­cuit that re­quires com­mit­ment and pre­ci­sion, suit­ing both rally and race driv­ers. Jean­ney dom­i­nated last year. The fi­nal round of the sea­son is the most southerly, held four hours from Ar­gentina’s cap­i­tal, Buenos Aires. The cir­cuit fea­tures a unique banked first cor­ner, which al­lows for brave out­side ma­noeu­vres and an off-cam­ber joker lap, which caught out many last sea­son.

Sebastien Loeb has joined Team Peu­geot-hansen for 2016 at­tack

Can Block chal­lenge in new car?

Trois-riv­ieres in Canada uses an his­toric venue

Ly­d­den Hill has been a reg­u­lar on the WRX line-up

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