South Africa’s Ashley Haigh-Smith is gearing up to make his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut at his home round at the Gumtree World RX of South Africa next month. 

Haigh-Smith tested the Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta Supercar that he will race in the event for the first time in Sweden recently, at the Strangnas Circuit. “I couldn’t stop smiling each time I got out of the car! To be honest, I’d thought it was going to be scarier – like a powerful dog that needed taming – so my first goal was to overcome that mental obstacle. I already had a lot of respect for the top World Rallycross drivers, but when you experience the car for yourself, you truly appreciate their skill level,” said the 25-year old, who this year is competing in the French Peugeot 208 Rally Cup. 

He was given coaching at the test by permanent World RX driver, Kevin Eriksson.

The South African explained: “The team were great and told me exactly what I needed to do, which made for a very smooth learning process. I really can’t thank them all enough – particularly Kevin as my driver coach during the test. I constantly analysed the data and improved as I gained in confidence and really started to get a proper understanding of how the car works. You need to be so much more precise than in rallying – you’re very literally looking for millimetres everywhere – the way you read the grip is different to what I’m used to and it’s very sensitive to weight-shifting, but I know where I have to improve.” 

Haigh-Smith can look forward to considerable home support in Cape Town, along with fellow South African, Mark Cronje. “I’m sure the event in Cape Town will be another eye-opener, and I will need to rely heavily on the team with regards to set-up and racing lines. I’m well aware that I’ll be up against guys with a full season under their belt, but I just can’t wait to get out there,” he continued. “It’s going to be a pretty spectacular event. World Rallycross represents a bright new dawn for both the Killarney circuit and motorsport in South Africa in general. It’s a new way forward for the sport in the country, and I think rallycross will massively appeal to the local population. The excitement level is really building, so all I can say is if you don’t go, you’ll be missing out!”


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