HANSENS HOPE FOR HOMESPUN MAGIC IN HOLJES
Thursday 4th of July 2019
When the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy descends on the Scandinavian rallycross heartland of Holjes, Sweden on July-6-7, we should expect the unexpected in a season which has been far from predictable.
As we reach the halfway stage, the championship has produced multiple winners, fiercely-combative action – and no shortage of drama.
The five rounds to date have seen four different winners. Kevin Hansen took the spoils in round one in Abu Dhabi and there have been victories for Timur Timerzyanov in Belgium and Niclas Gronholm last-time out in Norway. Only Timmy Hansen (Spain and Great Britain) has won twice.
Holjes Motorstadion, nestled in the forest of Varmland, is an old school rallycross track and has been a mainstay of World RX since its inception in 2014.
The line-up of Supercars swells to 25 for round six – the Swecon World RX of Sweden – as a number of wild cards join the permanent entries for Sweden’s self-styled Magic Weekend.
Twenty three Supercars will also compete in the third round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercar along with Euro RX Super1600. In a nod to nostalgia, a number of rallycross legends feature on the entry list for the Crosscar Star Challenge including multiple European Champion Kenneth Hansen and double world rally champion Marcus Gronholm.
Current European Rallycross Champion Reinis Nitiss, who featured on the entry list for the opening World RX round in Abu Dhabi, returns to the fray in the GRX Hyundai i20 in Holjes. “Even though I have spent some time in the GRX car behind the scenes, I have not been in the racing game since the spectacular ending of Abu Dhabi,” the Latvian said.
“It puts some pressure on me, especially with the maxed-out entry list with many wild card entries that can impact everyone’s results.”
As for GRX team-mate Gronholm, he is looking for back-to-back wins after the success in Hell. “My goal is to try and maintain the good feeling of the car and the pace I had in Norway and, if I can do that, I can challenge for the win,” the Finn said. “Holjes is one of my favourite tracks of the year. It’s a demanding track but an enjoyable one.”
GRX team member Timur Timerzyanov talks of the special buzz created by the enthusiastic Holjes crowd. “The event in Sweden is something special – there is always action-packed racing and we have thousands and thousands of fans that create a wonderful atmosphere,” he said.
“The Happy Street – the camping site just near the track – is a unique experience and it’s nice to see that fans have a good time.”
As for the newcomers, Finland’s Jere Kalliokoski will make his first appearance of the season for Team STARD, alongside World RX regular Janis Baumanis, who was third in the final in Hell.
Kevin Eriksson, who won the 2016 World RX of Germany event, joins Sebastien Eriksson in a pair of Ford Fiestas run by Olbergs MSE. The Swedish outfit also fields a Honda Civic Coupe for the World RX debut of Denmark’s Ulrik Linnemann.
Sweden’s Philip Gehrman competes in a Volkswagen Polo and Norway’s Kjetil Larsen is also in a Polo for Hedstroms Motorsport.
French Rallycross stars Fabien and Jonathan Pailler will also make the trip to Holjes to pilot their Peugeot 208s for the Pailler Competition team.
Timmy and Kevin Hansen, currently one and two respectively in the 2019 World RX drivers’ championship standings, will look to make amends for being out of the placings in last year’s bruising Swedish final. Timmy has been on the podium twice in 2015 and 2016 but has yet to ascend the top step on home soil.
The Swedish siblings, in their pair of Peugeot 208s, are separated by a single point at the top of the heap – 107 to 106. Kevin gained ground on his elder brother in Norway by finishing second in the final while Timmy failed to progress from his semi-final.
Team boss Kenneth Hansen is well aware than most of the challenges of Holjes and the importance of doing well at home. “It’s a technical track and one of the biggest tasks is optimising the car for the jumps,” he said. “It’s a very special atmosphere and both Timmy and Kevin are showing they are more than ready for the challenge. So we hope to deliver.
“Along with Loheac, because we have a French car, this is definitely one of the most significant weekends of our year.”
Andreas Bakkerud holds down third place overall on 92 points and is getting ever closer to that desperately-sought first victory of 2019 in his Monster RX Cartel Audi S1.
Holjes is the scene of the Norwegian’s first Supercar triumph in 2013 and he won again here in 2016. So far in 2019 he has two second places and a third on his scorecard.
Missing the final in Norway in the previous round was not something he had planned in front of his boisterous home fans.
“Holjes, as we all know is the Magic Weekend, also one of the very big highlights in the WorldRX calendar,” he said. “It’s the race everyone wants to win. Holjes has treated me well and I’ve been on the podium every year since 2012 when I raced S1600. I hope to continue that strike rate.”
In the build-up to Holjes he tackled the infamous Pikes Peak International Hillclimb in Colorado in a Sierra RX, the single-seat off road buggies used in the Americas Rallycross Championship support class, ARX3.
Bakkerud’s Monster RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran, appeared to be heading for his first World RX win in Hell when a mechanical issue halted the progress of Audi S1 on the final lap.
Swede Anton Marklund was denied a breakthrough victory at the previous round in Norway following a post-race technical inspection – the FIA stewards discovering a discrepancy in the thickness of the front bumper support bar on his GC Kompetition Renault Megane RS. Gronholm was promoted to the win, his debut World RX success, in a dramatic final.
Dutchman Kevin Abbring, so impressive in finishing fourth on debut, makes his second World RX start in the Skoda Fabia for ESmotorsport Labas-GAS.
“As everything was new for me there (in Norway), there is obviously a lot of room for improvement and Sweden is the right opportunity to show we have learned from Norway to be even more competitive here,” Abbring, who has a background in WRC, said.
“It really takes a while to understand the sport, I feel that I don’t need to be that defensive when being in the lead (or in front of someone) and after having some rain metres under my belt now the pace in the wet should definitely be stronger next time.
“The Swedish track looks amazing, the atmosphere and level of competition will be tough. There is no lack of motivation on our side, we are as ready as can be.”
ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider has been threatening a podium place in the last two rounds.
He was second quickest overall after day one in Hell but his race weekend ended with suspension damage to his Seat Ibiza in the semi-final. At the previous round at Silverstone, he was fourth in the final. Is Holjes where it all comes good for the affable German?
Meanwhile, Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett will hope to put the set-up challenges on the Mini Cooper in Hell behind him. “I can’t wait for the Magic Weekend of Holjes to kick off, outside of the spectacle that is the party in the woods, it’s also the best drivers’ track of the year,” the Briton said.
“Elevation changes, jump, loose surface and a grippy bowl corner make it fun to drive. I have fond memories of 2018 there in Q4 following Sebastien Loeb for the whole four laps really showed what pace the Mini has on the circuit.
“With our set-up this year, it’s my most anticipated track, although with such a big grid entry, anything is possible.”
In many ways, Hell was a weekend to forget for the GC Kompetition squad in Hell. Apart from Marklund being denied his win, GCK newcomer Rokas Baciuska missed out on the semi-finals after being disqualified in Q3.
Team leader Guerlain Chicherit mounted a spirited fightback from the depths of a double joker penalty in Q1 to reach the semi-finals while GCK Academy young guns, Frenchman Cyril Raymond and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder missed the cut.
The French outfit head to Sweden knowing that they have the pace to be in the mix – and strength in numbers.
Hungarian rookie Krisztian Szabo, in the EKS Sport Audi S1, is looking to rebound after his failure to reach the semi-finals for the first time this year in Norway.
“For sure, Holjes is the event of the year! I have good memories from the track as the last time I was racing there – in S1600 - I finished second. I can't wait to race again in the magic weekend,” Szabo said.
“EKS had their first victory in Holjes, so I hope I will leave the place with nice memories again. My goal is to finish a more successful weekend than in Hell.”
World RX event No.67 (Holjes)
Circuit length: 1210 m (3rd longest of 10)
Average speed (lap record): 105.99 km/h (2nd fastest of 10)
Lap record: 41.098 by Petter Solberg (2018)
Joker lap record: 43.746 by Johan Kristoffersson (2017)
Difference normal/joker: 2.65 (3rd fastest of 10)
4 lap record: 2:50.748 by Johan Kristoffersson (2018)
6 lap record: 4:14.579 by Johan Kristoffersson (2018)
Past event winners:
2018: Johan Kristoffersson
2017: Johan Kristoffersson
2016: Andreas Bakkerud
2015: Mattias Ekstrom
2014: Mattias Ekstrom
World RX qualifying wins at Holjes:
7 Petter Solberg
6 Johan Kristoffersson
2 Sebastien Loeb and Andreas Bakkerud
1 Timmy Hansen, Timur Timerzyanov and Mattias Ekstrom
DID YOU KNOW?
The official lap record at Holjesbanan (41.098s) is held by Petter Solberg and was set in the World RX free practice last year with the Volkswagen Polo GTI. Solberg also had the old record (42.942s in 2015) prior to the downhill section being paved in 2017.
But just before the new paving made the track faster, his then 15 year-old son Oliver Solberg recorded an unofficial lap record (42.60s) on a test session early in 2017 - using his father's legendary double World Champion Citroen DS3 Supercar.
Supplied by @WRXstats