Ahead of this weekend’s penultimate round of the inaugural FIA RX2e Championship at Spa-Francorchamps (9-10 October), home hero Guillaume De Ridder has said that he ‘doesn’t fear anybody’ in his pursuit of the coveted crown.
Arriving at Spa, De Ridder holds a slender seven-point margin over fellow former RX2 Series front-runner Jesse Kallio at the top of the title standings in the first-ever FIA electric rallycross championship, following victory in the season curtain-raiser in Catalunya, fourth place at Höljes and third position last time out at Lohéac.
Flying Finn Kallio has been a thorn in the Belgian’s side throughout, and De Ridder knows he will need to be absolutely on top form this weekend if he is to stay ahead – but in front of his home crowd, he has promised to pull out all the stops.
“It’s going to be an intense battle,” the 28-year-old acknowledged. “Jesse is a fierce competitor and was very quick at Spa in 2019, and I’m sure he will be again. My focus will be on the gravel sections, because I think he will have a small advantage over me there, but on the asphalt, I feel very confident. I have no doubt that it will be very tight between the two of us.
“The fact that this is my home round won’t change anything in my driving or approach – wherever we are racing, my goal is to win. I have learned in the past that the best thing to do in order to win a championship is to try and win races. The key is to concentrate on your own performance and preparation, and if I’m at the top of my game, I don’t fear anybody.”
De Ridder has prior experience of competing on Spa’s rallycross track from 2019, when he contested a full World Championship campaign with the GCK Academy. Despite it being what he describes as a ‘challenging’ weekend, the Alpine F1 Team Power Unit Performance Engineer is nonetheless a big fan of the Ardennes circuit, which he cautions is much more complicated than it at first appears.
“The track might look reasonably straightforward given its length and layout, but it has plenty of nuances,” he explained. “To give just a few examples, under braking for the Raidillon, there is a small bump, and Turn One transitions from gravel into asphalt, with the conditions changing constantly depending on how much gravel is dragged onto the asphalt. And at the hairpin, it’s tough to judge the optimum braking point due to the elevation and you always have the impression that you’re braking too early – until you brake too late...
“There are several different types of asphalt, and you need to adapt to a grip level that varies from corner to corner and from one session to the next – that’s the real challenge of this circuit.
“There’s often a lot of contact and with the track being quite wide, there are several overtaking opportunities around the lap. That means you can make amends if you have a bad start, and it generates exciting racing. There are some unforgiving walls too, which you obviously need to avoid...
“Having a home round is a big deal for any driver, but when it’s at Spa, it’s even more special. For me, this is one of the most beautiful circuits in the world, even if I am perhaps a bit biased... When I was younger, I used to race on the karting circuit next to the main track and one day I was invited into the garage at a private Toyota test, which is something I will remember all my life. As a child who was dreaming of a career in motorsport, that was truly a magical moment for me.
“Racing here myself in 2019 was one of the most intense weekends of my career to-date and very challenging for various reasons, but I’m determined to gain my revenge this year and a victory on home soil would be truly unforgettable.”