Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timmy Hansen made a head start over the 36 other Supercar drivers competing at World RX of France after winning the opening two heats in Loheac. Current Championship leader Petter Solberg holds second overnight in his PSRX run Citroen DS3 with EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand third in an Audi S1 Quattro Supercar.
American Gymkhana star Ken Block set the quickest time during Saturday morning’s free practice but incurred a 30 second penalty after failing to take the joker lap during heat one. Block and his Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta quickly fought back to finish heat two second fastest and was 13th at the intermediate points stage. Block explained: “I made a dumb mistake not taking the joker in the first heat but I honestly thought I had one more lap to go. I came here to win so I will come back tomorrow and do the best I can.”
One driver who shone from start to finish was Sweden’s Timmy Hansen. The 21-year-old was a model of consistency as he stormed to two consecutive heat wins in the Peugeot 208 Supercar. “It’s been an incredible day – to be leading for Peugeot on its home event in front of all these passionate fans feels amazing,” explained Hansen. “To do well in Loheac it’s really important to be quick off the line and fortunately we had good starts on both of our heats. The track also allows me to go flat out in a lot of places which I love doing. What is even better is that my brother Kevin Hansen won the Swedish national championship back home and he did it at exactly the same time as I was winning heat two, it’s been a perfect day.”
Another driver in high spirits was EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand. “This is the best day I’ve had in RX so far,” grinned the reigning Junior World Rally Champion. “The competition is very tough with a lot of local drivers but I’m come here feeling confident after my WRC2 win at Rallye Deutschland last month and feeling good with the car. Now our aim is to be on the podium and to be back in the press conference.”
Fourth in the standings is Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss who was full of praise for the French RX round. “I love the Loheac circuit – it’s just like a karting circuit and it suits me really well. I won here last year in the Super1600s and want to do well again this year. Today we got stuck in a bit of traffic, especially in turn one but we made it through and now we will make some small changes to the car’s set-up and suspension before we get back in the game again tomorrow.”
Jerome Grosset-Janin leads out of the 16 French Supercar drivers competing on home soil as the reigning French Rallycross Championship rounds off the top five. Fellow countryman Gaetan Serazin is ninth and Fabien Pailler – who is currently leading the French national championship – is 10th.
Elsewhere, it was a difficult day for the Monster Energy World RX Team. Frenchman Davy Jeanney was excluded from heat one due to a technical infringement with his Citroen DS3 Supercar but recovered in heat two to post the third quickest time. Volkswagen Marklund’s Anton Marklund and Topi Heikkinen are sixth and 16th respectively, with both drivers reporting that the team will work on the car’s set-up overnight. Andy Scott lies inside the top 12 for Albatec Racing as a race win in heat two sees him finish Saturday 11th overall.
Norway’s Petter Solberg took a sensational victory at today’s World RX of France, round eight of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. The result marks the third win of the season for PSRX driver Solberg as the former WRC Champion extends his lead at the top of the overall World RX standings. Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss and Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timmy Hansen finished second and third respectively.
Blazing sunshine greeted more than 70,000 fans at Loheac in north-west Brittany over the weekend to watch 79 cars battle it out across the Supercar plus the Super1600 and TouringCar categories. As well as an experienced field of 32 French drivers, the line-up in France also included star-studded names such as American Gymkhana star Ken Block who made his second appearance in World RX – and finished fourth.
“I’m tired, exhausted, sweaty and happy – this has been an unbelievable weekend,” grinned Solberg who is a likely contender of becoming the first double winner of two FIA World Championships. “Yesterday was not perfect – we struggled with tyrewear but my mechanics worked really hard on the car [Citroen DS3 Supercar] until 1am this morning and I noticed a big change overnight. I have a lot of new parts for the next race in Germany so as long as we keep scoring points, everything looks very good for the Championship. My son [Oliver] also won the Swedish Championship in crosskart this weekend so it’s been a really great weekend all round.”
Successfully pushing Ford Olsbergs MSE back to the top of the Teams’ Championship this weekend was Reinis Nitiss who finished on the podium for the fourth time this season. “Last year I won in Super1600 in Loheac so I am really happy to be back on the podium again but this time in the Supercar. I love this event – there are so many fans and the circuit is amazing with lots of flat out sections.” Team-mate Andreas Bakkerud won heat four but was unable to match of his competitors during the semis in order to reach the final.
Arguably the most impressive drive of the weekend was that of Timmy Hansen for Team Peugeot-Hansen. After winning three out of the four heats and showing an extraordinary pace in the Peugeot 208 Supercar, the Swedish driver was on course to take a win for Peugeot on its home event. “I am a little disappointed to finish third but I know that I won’t be tomorrow morning as it is a great result for the team,” explained 21-year-old Hansen at the end of day press conference. “I gambled a bit in the semi-finals – I had the RPM too low and didn’t have the best start. I was at the back of the grid for the final but I think I had one of the best races of my life as I fought my way up to second place before dropping to third. I know we’ve had a fast car this year and I’m really happy to have been able to have been able to produce a podium for Peugeot in front of the manufacturer’s home crowd.”
Timur Timerzyanov made it a two-car final for Team Peugeot-Hansen but a race tussle on turn three saw the Russian hit a wall and break his car’s steering. Despite the retirement, Timerzyanov ended the event in sixth place and helped Team Peugeot-Hansen close the gap on VW Marklund in the Teams’ Championship.
America’s Ken Block put on a tremendous show for the huge amount of Hoonigan Racing fans that attended Loheac over the weekend. After a string of top times including a second fastest time in heat two, Block and his Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ended the event fourth overall.
Team EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand was awarded the Monster Energy Super Charge Award after his rapid pace off the line during today’s all-important final. In what was only his fourth World RX outing this year, Tidemand has consistently challenged the World RX permanent drivers in the Audi S1 Quattro Supercar and is proving to be one of the sport’s brightest prospects after finishing fifth.
Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport had a weekend of mixed results after the team reported difficulties with finding the right car set-up. Team-mates Topi Heikkinen and Anton Marklund both made it through to the semis but missed out on a spot in the final after finishing fourth and fifth in their race. Heikkinen has slipped down the overall drivers’ standings to third place, nine points behind Nitiss. Marklund remains fifth overall.
Albatec Racing’s Andy Scott showed good pace over the course of the weekend, making the semis for the Scottish-based team. David Binks, who stepped in for regular World RX driver Jacques Villeneuve, made it an all-British team but the Englishman was unable to match the pace of the hugely competitive field of drivers in Loheac and was knocked out at the Intermediate Classification.
Monster Energy World RX Team’s Davy Jeanney finished third at last year’s Loheac RX and was a firm favourite with the home crowd. However, a technical infringement following heat one saw the Frenchman disqualified and dashed the hopes of seeing him progress to the semis despite finishing second-quickest in heat two. Team-mate Henning Solberg demonstrated good pace during the heats but was plagued by car issues which prevented him from going further.
Elsewhere, it was a strong event for the 18 French Supercar drivers who competed on home soil. Reigning French Rallycross Champion Jerome Grosset-Janin was sixth at the Intermediate Classification stage but was caught in race traffic at turn one in the semis which caused significant damage to his car. Serazin Gaetin also reached the semis but failed to make the final.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsport, concluded: “Loheac is home to rallycross in France and it’s not difficult to see why – the track, the atmosphere and the fans who come to Loheac make this one of the best events in the World RX calendar. We always knew it would be tough to beat last year’s attendance figures as we had home hero Sebastien Loeb competing but I’ve been informed that we had over 70,000 spectators over the course of the weekend which is fantastic news for our growing Championship. Congratulations once again to Petter for becoming the first driver in World RX to take a hat-trick of wins, he looked untouchable in the Citroen DS3 during the final and is an incredibly talented driver. It is excellent to see Reinis back on the podium again, and of course I am delighted that Team Peugeot-Hansen have finished on the podium at Peugeot’s home event. Both Timmy and the entire teams have worked extremely hard this year and thoroughly deserve a podium here in France.”
Round nine of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place at Estering in Germany in two weeks time (20-21 September). Entries for World RX of Germany will be announced next week.
DRIVER POINTS AFTER ROUND 8, WORLD RX OF FRANCE
1. Petter Solberg (PSRX), 185 points
2. Reinis Nitiss (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 157 points
3. Topi Heikkinen (VW Marklund), 147 points
4. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 126 points
5. Anton Marklund (VW Marklund), 124 points
6. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot-Hansen), 118 points
TEAM POINTS AFTER ROUND 8, WORLD RX OF FRANCE
1. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 281 points
2. Volkswagen Marklund, 269 points
3. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 227 points
4. PSRX, 176 points
5. Monster Energy World RX Team, 79 points
6. Albatec Racing, 32 points
All the best from the Guru!!