This weekend it’s finally happening: The Rallycross Challenge Europe 2015 kicks off. After months of preparation teams, drivers and fans are ready and everybody is in for a great rallycross treat! Hosting the first round of the season is the outstanding Autodrom Sosnova circuit. Over 40 drivers from 13 different countries will travel to the Czech Republic and race for victory in one of the different RCE classes.
For the first time in RCE history races will be divided over four classes instead of three. Next to the well known Supercars and Super1600’s it will be the debut for the SuperTouringcars – and SuperTouringcars + classes. Both replacing the former Touringcars class to offer more drivers the possibility to compete in international races as the RCE. The Touringcars drivers of last season are mostly in the SuperTouringcars – class now.
The Autodrom Sosnova circuit has hosted two RCE events before, both were season finales as where this season they have the honor to start the championship. Last year Jos Sterkens (Touringcars), Sven Seeliger (Super1600) and Bernd Schomaker (Supercars) were crowned RCE 2014 champions. As the latter will not be present this round, both Sterkens and Seeliger aim for nothing less than the result of last year!
Completing a rallycross packed program, the support races in Czech Republic will be the Czech Junior Trophy, Mascom Cup and Czech Trophy Rallycross Historic. In between all the rallycross action there will be a signature-session on Sudnay after the 2nd heat. Come to the RCE trailer on the paddock and get in touch with your favorite driver. All-in-all it’s a rallycross weekend you do not want to miss out on!
The Supercars class shows a strong list of competitors. The numbers 2 to 5 of the RCE 2014 championship will be back on the starting grid, and among them the winner of last year’s round in the Czech Republic: Roman Stepanenko. Where a lot of eyes will be on the Russian there’s absolutely every reason to watch out for some of the newcomers. World RX driver Max Pucher will make his RCE debut as will Jos Jansen with loads of World RX experience under his belt. Not a newcomer but definitely ready to become the surprise of the season is Oleg Grishin. After a season of testing his car last year he’s hungry to compete for the top places.
In the Super1600 class, defending champion Sven Seeliger has his mind set on another RCE title. However, the strong competition in this class can only mean one thing: intense racing! Last year’s runner-up Thijs Heezen is back to set the record straight and beat Seeliger this time, but it’s definitely not only these two drivers in the Super1600. Local hero Vaclav Veverka has quite some RCE experience and will be eager to please the home crowd. Latvian Artis Baumanis finished 3rd on his RCE debut in the Czech Republic last year making him a very serious contender too. Apart from the familiar faces, this class bursting of talent, has some interesting newcomers to the RCE too: Dmitriy Malakhov, Zdenek Kucera, Don Nitro and Egor Sanin.
The Supertouringcars – class is host to a number of drivers we know from the former Touringcars class. Based on that we’re already expecting another year of battling between Jos Sterkens and Roman Castoral. Whilst both winning an equal amount of races Sterkens became champion where Castoral missed out on 2 rounds. Showing great improvement over the last season, Marco Wittkovski is also back and it’s very likely he means business this year. Next to the ex-Touringcars drivers the SuperTouringcars – has a good number of Belgian drivers.
The Supertouringcars + class puts a set of completely new drivers for the RCE on the starting grid. For this round it will be a German-Belgian occasion as all drivers have on of these nationalities. Based on the results in the national championships, Steve Volders has shown to be the fastest in numerous races, making him the favorite to win the first ever RCE round in this class.
Finally, there it was: the long awaited start of the RCE 2015 season in the Czech Republic! A weekend packed with international Rallycross action. The Autodrom Sosnova circuit, previously hosting the RCE finals, was the stage for some great European race battles. Big numbers of fans cheered for drivers from all over the continent and were rewarded with a Czech victory in one of the classes.
The starting field was well filled and looked strong and competitive in all classes. There was some special excitement about Supertouringcars classes, which are completely new to the RCE. For a number of drivers this was their 2nd or 3rd season in the championship as where an even bigger number made their debut in the RCE. Despite all preparations and expectations it all came down to that one: green light and full throttle!
Jos Jansen delivered a convincing performance during the heats and semi’s. The Belgian was the fastest in 2 heats and finished 2nd in the semi’s, putting him at the centre of attention for the final. But Rallycross wouldn’t be Rallycross if things turned out different to expectation. Jansen slipped of the track in the first corner, opening the door for Max Pucher, who also showed his skills in the heats. The Austrian was the first to wrestle his car through the first corner, together with fellow countryman Alois Holler. With Holler slipping of the track too, Pucher got a free pass to race to victory from a leading position. Following Pucher was Ron Snoeck, who raced a flawless final to finish 2nd. Battling for the 3rd place were Marcel Ottink and Christian Giarolo. While the first looked to win this after a great manoeuvre, the latter proved to be faster in the last round and finished 3rd. Despite his bad luck Jansen is still 3rd in the overall standings because of points gathered in the heats and semi’s.
Pure speed seemed to be key in the heats of the Super1600’s. In the 3rd heat especially, there was some close racing between Vaclav Veverka, Thijs Heezen and Artis Baumanis and Egor Sanin. Baumanis and Sanin were really close from the first corner on but after 4 rounds Sanin had to give in after spinning in the Jokerlap, leaving Baumanis to win.
The Latvian, who had a very convincing weekend so far, wasn’t able to push through straight through the final. He spinned in the first corner with Sven Seeliger taking over the lead. The German dominated the rest of the final and finished 1st. Thijs Heezen proved some great tactical racing skills and was rewarded with the 2nd place. Luigi from Hungary finished 3rd and didn’t onlt claim a spot on the podium, he also takes the lead in the overall standings because of points gathered in the heats and semi’s.
Following the expectations, Steve Volders showed why he is the favourite in the SuperTouringcars+. The Belgian raced through the heats being the fastest. Not far behind him though was another Belgian, Filip Vanderheyden, who kept up best with Volders.
The battle between the Belgians continued in the finals where smart use of the Jokerlap proved successful. Volders took his chance and managed to finish 1st with Vanderheyden trailing to finish 2nd. Behind all this Herman van Thielen completed the podium with a 3rd place.
In the Supertouringcars- class we find most of the former Touringcars drivers. The established RCE drivers showed experience is definitely part of the game in Rallycross. During the heats it was mainly Ivo van den Brandt and Jos Sterkens battling for a win, while local hero Roman Castoral showed he’s still got a lot of speed.
The final started with a big struggle in the first corner leaving Ivo van den Brandt in the sand. Jos Sterkens and Roman Castoral took the lead from there with the Czech cruising to victory, making it look fairly easy. Of course he celebrated this with his home crowd treating them on some crazy burnouts. Jos Sterkens raced to a solid 2nd place followed by fellow Belgian Joel Strackx on 3rd.
Drivers, fans and organizers all look back on what was a great RCE event. Lots of smiling people on the stands and paddock, close racing and overall a very promising start of the RCE 2015 season. Check out the overall standings here:www.rcchallenge.eu/standings or check out all the photo’s and video’s through this link.
For now we have one weekend to recover and prepare for the next round of the RCE. See you the 12th of July in Lithuania for round 2 of the Rallycross Challenge Europe.
I’ll be sharing more on the Rallycross Challenge Europe series as the season progresses…
All the best!