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5 BIG TALKING POINTS FOR THE WORLD RX OF BELGIUM

The 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy continues with Round Three – the World RX of Belgium – in Mettet with all eyes on whether Johan Kristoffersson can maintain his 100 per cent start to the year… or whether anyone can stop him! We check out some of the big talking points ahead of this weekend’s event.

Kristoffersson on Cloud 9

It’s a good time to be Johan Kristoffersson right now. Statistically, at the very least, there seems to be no answer to the Swede’s devastating run of form having notched up a ninth win in eleven races last time out in Portugal – in turn making him the ‘winningest’ World RX driver of all time. 

Heading to this weekend’s World RX of Belgium, Kristoffersson has established a solid nine-point lead over Andreas Bakkerud in the overall standings and firmed up his status as the driver to beat – again – in this year’s series.

Next up is Mettet, where the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver effectively comes full circle at the track where the aforementioned run of form first began. However, while the form book is on his side but Kristoffersson is more cautious about his apparent dominance, insisting Peugeot and Audi are biting at his heels. 

“It is definitely tougher this year,” he commented. “Peugeot was right on the pace in all kinds of conditions in Portugal and Audi worked their way into the pace as well on the Sunday. Fortunately, I was very strong so we could come out on top still, but it was difficult.”

Ekstrom's Full Focus on World RX after DTM Swansong

It is perhaps appropriate we come to Mettet just as Mattias Ekstrom seeks a turnaround in his own fortunes.  As mentioned, last year’s World RX of Belgium saw the Swede’s runaway start to the season halted by Kristoffersson, whose subsequently used it as a springboard towards the 2017 title.

At the time it seemed Ekstrom – also the reigning champion – was unstoppable in the EKS Audi S1, in much the same way Kristoffersson is viewed now. Two rounds into the 2018 season and Ekstrom is sixth in the standings, 17 points behind Kristoffersson, 

Of course, things could have looked a lot different had Ekstrom not been stripped of his win-on-the-road in Catalunya-Barcelona or not dropped out at the semi-final stage in Portugal after losing time with contact at the start. In short, there is no doubting the pace, but the results haven’t quite followed… 

Between events Ekstrom raced in DTM at Hockenheim as part of an emotional farewell to a series he has raced in since 2001. Having decided to focus solely on World RX this year, Ekstrom will be desperate to rediscover that winning feeling straight away.

Chicherit and GCK’s Big Breakthrough

Though it was always considered a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ GC Kompetition made it through to a World RX final this year, Guerlain Chicherit’s impressive efforts in Portugal were still a big breakout moment for the rookie team.

Indeed, while the input of Prodrive certainly gives the team gravitas relative to rivals, the entire GCK team and the Renault Megane RS has been built from the ground up, making its early competitiveness a welcome sign of things to come for the French set up.

The result is especially satisfying for Chicherit though, was making his first final appearance and doing it with the team bearing his name. It was achieved in style too, his quick and tactically astute run in the semi-finals as accomplished as it was perhaps surprising.  

While the pressure is on to keep repeating the feat, GCK can certainly afford to be encouraged for the future.

RX2 Back in Action

The RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires kicks off this weekend with the first of its seven-round series. Introduced last season as a more formal step on the motorsport ladder for burgeoning rallycross stars, RX2 quickly established itself as a support series that could produce action worthy of the main stage and this year’s series promises more of the same. 

With its one-make formula machinery, the playing field is levelled for drivers to showcase their driving talents predominantly. As such, there has been a solid full-time entry take up from 17 drivers, with the promise of more entries for each event. 

Fittingly, given the opening round takes place in Mettet, it is a Belgian that comes into the season as the perceived favourite. Guillaume De Ridder finished third overall in his rookie rallycross season last season and has switched to the leading Olsbergs MSE team over the winter.

Nevertheless, there is still stiff competition from a number of leading drivers, including William Nilsson, Sondre Evjen, Vasily Gryazin and Oliver Eriksson, brother of World RX driver Kevin.

And if the drivers needed any further motivation to strive for the top, last year’s – dominant – title winner Cyril Raymond has secured himself a Peugeot-backed drive in Euro RX with the prospect of a move onto the world stage going forward. 

No Snow, but...

To say the weather in Montalegre was ‘unseasonable’ would be considered a gross understatement. Driving sleet and freezing blizzard conditions proved the polar opposite of the sweltering conditions of Catalunya-Barcelona two weeks earlier. 

Another fortnight on it seems the weather will once more play its own Joker with rain forecast on both Saturday and Sunday.

On the plus side, at least the drivers have accumulated plenty of experience in tricky conditions already this year and based on the fantastic racing in Catalunya-Barcelona – when it rained on Saturday – and in Portugal, we should be in for another cracker in Belgium!

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