WorldRX 2015: Solberg Breaks Lydden Hill Curse…

The 4th round of the 2015 FIA World Rallycross Championship took place at Lydden Hill last weekend and it didn’t let the fans down in providing action and excitement in another twist of this years series.

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A total of 29 Supercars competed at the Lydden Hill race circuit in Kent with this year’s line-up including a host of British stars such as multiple X Games medallist Liam Doran, Touring Car ace Andrew Jordan, Albatec Racing’s Andy Scott and David Binks plus two-time British Rally Champion, Guy Wilks.
 
Lydden Hill – which is considered the sport’s spiritual home – shot to fame earlier this year when the track was used to film a World RX feature that aired on BBC Top Gear.  The show, which saw James May learn to drive an RX Supercar against the Championship’s greats, was broadcast to millions of people worldwide. Jeremy Clarkson declared the sport as “brilliant” and James May stated rallycross was “pound for pound the most exciting sport in the world.” Now, two months after Lydden Hill appeared on TV screens around the world, the World RX stars will return to Kent.

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“I’m the sort of guy who likes to win the big events. I won the European Championship race with a huge crowd in 2013 and then the event with the biggest field of drivers at Lydden Hill,” explained Bakkerud who won last year’s event with Ford Olsbergs MSE. “I grew up watching my idols racing at this track – it was a great place then and it is now. When it’s such a famous circuit, you really want to deliver. We have a good set-up for the Fiesta here, I think we can be strong.”
 
Another driver who was eager to deliver is BTCC driver Andrew Jordan who returns to Lydden Hill this year as a wildcard entry with Team Peugeot-Hansen. The Englishman explained: “I’ve been working really hard to put something together to do more events but Lydden Hill is obviously my number one priority being my home event.”
 
Jordan added: “To finish on the podium last year was one of the coolest thing I’ve done in motorsport… but now I know I have the pace to be right up there with the top guys.  It’s going to be really hard and sometimes you need a bit of luck, but after the podium last year, the aim has to be to win!”
 
Joining the plethora of British drivers competing on home turf is British Rally star Guy Wilks, who will pilot a JRM Racing prepared MINI RX Supercar #37 – the same number that rally legend Paddy Hopkirk displayed on his Monte Carlo Rally winning MINI back in 1964.  “Everything about rallycross is new to me – the cars, the tyres, the tracks – but I learned a lot at Pembrey in some difficult conditions,” explained 34-year-old Wilks. “I’m determined to fight for every inch of the track and to do the best job I can for JRM Racing in front of the British fans.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Other notable entries include the reigning World RX Champion and current leader in the overall drivers’ standings after three rounds, Petter Solberg. American Top Gear presenter Tanner Foust will also be competing and will be tough to beat considering he has won at Lydden twice before. Furthermore, Super1600 event winner Janis Baumanis will make a step up to the Supercar for the first time weekend as the Latvian prepares to drive a Peugeot 208 WRX as part of the Hansen Talent Development Team.

UK RX LITES TALENT SEARCH…

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(Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship)

Former British Touring Car driver Tom Onslow-Cole has won the inaugural RX Talent Search which was held in association with the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and FirstCorner, the company behind RX Lites. Winner Onslow-Cole has been awarded with a fully paid entry to the RX Lites round at World RX of Turkey later this year.

A total of 12 drivers competed in a one-day evaluation test which was held at Lydden Hill today – home to this weekend’s FIA World Rallycross Championship event.  The shootout involved a mix of interviews and testing the 310bhp, mid-engined RX Lites car which is designed by Olsbergs MSE in co-operation with Avitas Motorsport.

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(Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship)
 
The 12 finalists competing in today’s shootout included:
 
• Dan Cammish (2013 Formula Ford GB champion, 2015 Porsche Carrera Cup GB)
• Jack Clarke (FIA Formula Two race winner, 2014 British Touring Car Championship)
• Sennan Fielding (2013 RSF MSA Young Driver of the Year, 2014 BRDC Formula 4 race winner, 2015 MSA Formula, MSA Academy member)
• Freddie Hunt (son of 1976 F1 world champion James Hunt, 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup)
• Chris Ingram (2015 European Rally Championship, MSA Team UK member)
• Tom Onslow-Cole (multiple British Touring Car Championship race winner, MSA Performance Manager)
• Ben Power (multiple winner in British Rallycross and National Legends Car Championship)
• Jason Pritchard (multiple class winner in British Rally Championship, MSA Rally Elite graduate)
• Dan Rooke (2015 British Rallycross Championship Super-national class winner)
• Rupert Svendsen-Cook(multiple British Formula 3 race winner and MSA Performance Manager)
• Jake Taylor (2015 Swift Sport Rallycross Championship, MSA Academy member)
• Euan Thorburn (2013 BTRDA Rally champion, 2014 Scottish Rally champion)
 
The finalists – who came from a circuit, rallying or rallycross background – were assessed on their driving, technical and media abilities.  The quickest time of the day was posted by accomplished rally driver Chris Ingram who set a lap time of 48.107s, two hundredths of a second quicker than budding rallycross star, Dan Rooke. Onslow-Cole posted the third quickest lap with a time of 48.4s.

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(Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship)
 
The 12 finalists were whittled down to four and consisted of Ingram, Rooke, Onslow-Cole and Formula MSA driver, Sennan Fielding.  The final four were then given a further interview by a panel of five judges: Robert Reid, MSA Performance Director; Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director; Andreas Eriksson, Team Principal of World RX team Olsbergs MSE; Matt James, Deputy Editor of Motorsport News and Andrew Jordan, the 2013 British Touring Car Champion who will compete at Lydden Hill this weekend.
 
“I am over the moon. I woke up hoping that I could win this morning but to actually do it is really incredible.  It’s been a brilliant day – the experience alone at this event has been fantastic but to know that I’m actually also going to race in Turkey is so cool,” grinned a visibly delighted Onslow-Cole.

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(Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship)

The 27-year-old Englishman added: “I didn’t have a huge amount of expectation of the car today – I hadn’t driven anything like it so in that sense it was completely new. On asphalt, it is incredibly good and on the gravel it is definitely a lot better than I am! It would be nice to get to a few events this year and spend some time with the team, meet the other drivers and learn from them what I can.  A test wouldn’t go amiss either, of course! We’ll see what we can organise between now and then but I want to give this opportunity my all and put on a great show.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)

DAY ONE…

Petter Solberg is leading the Motorsport News World RX of Great Britain, round four of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, after winning the first two heats at Lydden Hill in Kent. Volkswagen Team Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson and EKS owner Mattias Ekstrom are second and third respectively.
 
A total of 29 Supercars are competing in this year’s British round of World RX but it was two-time DTM Champion Ekstrom who was quickest during free practice after setting a time of 42.048s. Ekstrom’s team-mate Anton Marklund went on to post the quickest lap time in heat one (42.015s) but was given a 30 second time penalty for failing to take his Double Joker penalty. 
 
One driver that had no problems however, was Solberg who won both heats in his SDRX Citroen DS3 Supercar. The Norwegian was in an even better mood after he discovered that his 13-year-old son Oliver was leading Crosskarts in Holjes.

“It’s been a great day for the Solberg family, Oliver is leading out of more than 160 entries,” grinned Solberg Snr before adding:  “We’ve changed the car quite a bit since Belgium and we’ve been working on our start procedures.  We missed the start on the second heat but I knew I could make up the time in the gravel so the team saw the opportunity to take the Joker Lap at the right time which meant I could slip ahead of Johan. We’re right where we want to be at the end of two heats.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Second overall after today is round one winner Kristoffersson who struggled with the car’s set up during free practice but was a model of consistency after finishing runner-up to Solberg in both heats. “I’ve had punctures in Portugal, Hockenheim and Belgium so I’m just hoping for a clear weekend,” explained the Swede.
 
Lying in fourth is Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss and rounding off the top five is Marklund Motorsport’s PG Andersson who enjoyed a close first lap battle with Ekstron in heat two. Norwegian Tord Linnerud is sixth for Volkswagen Team Sweden.

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(Photo Credit: FIA World Rallycross Championship)
 
Timmy Hansen posted the third quickest time during heat one but a puncture next time round saw the Swede drop to 13th in the standings. Joining Hansen and Jeanney in the Team Peugeot-Hansen squad this weekend is wildcard entrant Andrew Jordan who suffered a similar fate to Hansen when he incurred a slow puncture on heat one. Jordan, a British Touring Car Champion, is sitting tenth overnight.

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Elsewhere, it was a promising RX debut for fellow Briton Guy Wilks who is piloting a MINI RX Supercar with JRM Racing this weekend.  The 34-year-old took a race win in heat two and sits 12th overall going into day two.  “I’m really pleased with how today has gone – it’s all about learning for me this weekend and I saw a big difference with times on that second heat.  Tonight we will make some adjustments to the brakes but right now everything feels really good,” said Wilks.

DAY TWO…

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)

Petter Solberg has won the Motorsport News World RX of Great Britain, round four of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, and extends his lead in the overall Drivers’ Standings over Johan Kristoffersson to 29 points. Mattias Ekstrom finished second, a mere 0.4 seconds behind Solberg to take the runner-up spot. Volkswagen Team Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson rounded off the top three.
 
Ticket sales for this year’s British RX event increased by 20% compared to 2014 as fans descended in their thousands to the Lydden Hill race circuit in Kent to watch 29 Supercars battle it out over two full days of racing. Solberg won the first two heats while Britain’s Andrew Jordan, who was entered as a wildcard entry for Team Peugeot-Hansen this weekend, posted the fastest time during heat three. Heat four was won by Ekstrom at the wheel of his Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro.
 
“It’s been a fantastic weekend: good weather, a lot of people, a fantastic atmosphere and some really close racing,” grinned race winner Solberg, who also wins a Rebellion Timepieces Wraith Drive Rallycross watch plus the coveted Monster Energy Super Charge Award for being quickest off the line during the final. “We had some issues with the car’s engine this morning but everything was working well for the semis and then I just pushed really hard in the final.  I pushed so hard that I even got a puncture on the last corner, I was driving at my limit! A lot of my mechanics are English, which makes this win at Lydden even more special – not just for me, but for the whole team.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Runner-up Ekstrom added: “I had really good pace all weekend and was just a car length from beating Petter in the final.  It was close racing, that’s for sure, but that’s what rallycross is about – sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Third-placed Kristoffersson had cause for a double celebration after becoming a father for the first time this morning. “It’s certainly been an emotional day,” explained the 21-year-old, “but back to the racing, I really didn’t expect to be here today. We were P13 in free practice yesterday because I just couldn’t find the pace.  I adjusted my driving style for today and then had a good start in the final but Petter was just so quick! We had a really nice fight but I have to say P3 is fantastic for the Championship so I’m really happy.”

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Last year’s Lydden Hill winner Andreas Bakkerud finished fourth this time round. The Ford Olsbergs MSE driver struggled in yesterday’s heats but returned to form today after setting two top three heat times and finishing second in semi-final two.  The Norwegian lined up alongside Kristofferson on row two of today’s final and went on to finish 1.3 seconds ahead of his OMSE team-mate Reinis Nitiss.
 
Arguably the most impressive drive of the weekend, however, was that of Guy Wilks who reached the final on his debut in World RX.  Wilks, who was piloting a striking yellow-liveried MINI RX Supercar prepared by British team JRM Racing, had only tested the car once before racing against the world’s best rallycross drivers. “My aim was a spot in the semis but to have made the finals is amazing and so much more than I expected,” explained the 34-year-old Englishman. “I got a front-left puncture coming over the jump at the end of the Joker and I knew it was over for us then but as I said I’m really happy to have got this far.”

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)
 
Elsewhere, it was a difficult day for Marklund Motorsport as PG Andersson, Topi Heikkinen and Tanner Foust who all suffered problems and failed to make it into the final 12. Timur Timerzyanov spun in heat three and missed a semi-final spot as did Liam Doran, who had a good race with SDRX team-mate Petter Solberg in heat four.

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(Photo Credit: Network Images)

Round five of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place at Estering in Germany next month (19-21 June).  It will also form round two of the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX) and is expected to attract a large entry in the Supercar class.

It is also the scene of the closest ever finish in WorldRX, where last year Mattias Ekstrom lost to Petter Solberg by 0.005 of a second.

I would also like to thank John Hobley and Chris Wynne at Network Images for kindly allowing me to use their images from last weekend.

Lets see what 2015 brings…

All the Best!

Phil!

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