Tuesday | 31 Aug 2021

Title fight set to intensify in front of French faithful at Lohéac

Following a two-year absence, the FIA World Rallycross Championship will return to one of the sport’s most iconic venues for Bretagne World RX of Lohéac this weekend (3-5 September) – with dazzling doorhandle-to-doorhandle duels in prospect in front of the faithful French fans.

Following a two-year absence, the FIA World Rallycross Championship will return to one of the sport’s most iconic venues for Bretagne World RX of Lohéac this weekend (3-5 September) – with dazzling doorhandle-to-doorhandle duels in prospect in front of the faithful French fans.

Rallycross has been a feature of the small Breton village of Lohéac since 1976, and the current 1,070m circuit calls for commitment and precision in equal measure. A characteristic of all French tracks is the heavily stabilised unsealed sections, which offer comparatively high grip levels in the dry but can be extremely slippery in the wet – and the forecast suggests competitors will have to conquer both conditions this weekend.

Whatever the weather, an infectious atmosphere is guaranteed – and with good reason. Not only is the battle for World Championship glory heating up nicely heading into the third of nine rounds on the 2021 schedule, but all three support series will similarly be in attendance – the FIA RX2e Championship, FIA Euro RX1 and FIA Euro RX3.

HANSEN RIVALS PLOTTING REVENGE

The opening two outings have each resulted in a Hansen World RX Team one-two – with Kevin Hansen triumphing in the Catalunya curtain-raiser, and elder brother Timmy returning the favour on home soil at Höljes just over a week ago.

That means the 2019 World Champion arrives at Lohéac holding a six-point championship lead over his younger sibling, with the pair piloting French-built cars in the shape of the potent Peugeot 208. Timmy Hansen has already won the event twice, while Kevin reached the rostrum there two years ago, and both are firmly focussed on maintaining their current momentum.

Their closest rival on pace so far this season has been Johan Kristoffersson, but the Swede – three times a title-winner at the international pinnacle of the discipline – was out of luck in Spain and Sweden, being disqualified from Q1 in Catalunya after his data-logger was found not to have been connected and falling victim to a double puncture at the semi-final stage at Höljes.

That means he is playing catch-up in his maiden campaign with KYB EKS JC, but Kristoffersson went unbeaten at Lohéac from 2016 to 2018, so if anybody can turn the tide this weekend, it is him.

Another driver that truly took the fight to the Hansens last time out is Kevin Abbring, who unleashed race-winning pace in Sweden behind the wheel of Unkorrupted’s Renault Mégane. Only traffic prevented the Dutchman from launching a bid for victory, leaving him fired-up to fulfil his potential on his team’s home turf.

GRX-SET World RX Team duo Niclas Grönholm and Krisztián Szabó have encountered contrasting fortunes over the first two rounds. The Finn has been fast but – like Kristoffersson – has rarely enjoyed the rub of the green, while his Hungarian team-mate has bagged back-to-back fourth-place finishes to get his season off to a solid start in the sister Hyundai i20.

Two-time DTM Champion Timo Scheider rejoins the fray in ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s SEAT Ibiza, and will be looking to convert the impressive form he displayed in Barcelona last month into a strong finish in France.

Enzo Ide in the second KYB EKS JC Audi S1 continues to improve with every appearance following his switch from sportscar racing in 2019, while there are new entries for 2007 British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan in a Ford Fiesta and French veteran Hervé Knapick in his trusty Citroën DS3.

ELECTRIFYING DUEL FOR THE RX2e CROWN

The inaugural campaign of RX2e – the first-ever FIA electric rallycross championship – has already delivered some exceptional action, not to mention a compelling title tussle. Barcelona winner Guillaume De Ridder and Höljes winner Jesse Kallio are separated by just a single point at the summit of the standings, setting the scene for a scintillating showdown in Brittany, where the French-speaking Belgian – who works as a Power Unit Performance Engineer for Alpine F1 Team – is sure to enjoy enthusiastic support.

De Ridder will have to compete for the crowd’s affections, however, as former RX2 Series Champion Cyril Raymond – a winner at Lohéac in the Euro RX Supercar (now RX1) category in 2018 – and highly-rated teenage hope Dorian Deslandes similarly take to the track.

Reinis Nitišs – still the youngest driver ever to win a World RX round – is another intriguing new entrant, while Nils Andersson, Patrick O’Donovan and Isak Sjökvist will be bidding to build upon the potential they have shown so far, the latter pair both ascending the podium on their respective debuts. The field is completed by fast-improving Spaniard Pablo Suárez and America’s Conner Martell, who starred on these shores three years ago in RX2, notably taking the chequered flag fourth in France.

FRENCH STARS TO THE FORE IN EURO RX1

In the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s headlining Euro RX1 series, a battle of brothers awaits – the Dubourgs against the Paillers, all sons of famous fathers. The quartet showed excellent speed in Sweden, with Jean Baptiste ‘JB’ Dubourg leading the way as he raced to second position, barely half-a-second shy of the laurels.

“That was a very good performance for us,” acknowledged the 34-year-old, a podium-finisher in World Championship competition at Lohéac in 2015. “French drivers and cars have not always been particularly successful at Höljes, but we were on the pace and it was a great result to kick-start the season. It was important to score big points in the first event, and I’m sure we will be quick in France so the plan is definitely to go one place better at our home track!”

Dubourg is primed for further success on home soil, but he will face stiff opposition from younger brother Andréa as well as Fabien and Jonathan Pailler, all four doing battle in Peugeot 208s. Fabien Pailler will have particular motivation to fight back at Lohéac, having been denied a front row starting spot in the final at Höljes when his right-front wheel parted company with his car while dominating the second semi-final.

Nine more homegrown heroes populate the Euro RX1 entry list – accounting for half of the 26-strong field in total – whilst World RX stars Andreas Bakkerud and Jānis Baumanis will return in ESMotorsport’s brace of Škoda Fabias, the former aiming to continue his rostrum run and the latter eager to quickly bounce back from a troubled curtain-raiser. René Münnich, finally, is enjoying a stellar season, and can certainly be counted upon to produce a committed performance.

BELEVSKIY’S PURSUERS CLOSING IN

Yury Belevskiy is two-from-two in Euro RX3, as last year’s highest scorer seeks to clinch the crown denied to him by the Covid-shortened campaign in 2020. He has come under threat in both events, however, from young Volland Racing team-mate Kobe Pauwels, the architect of an eye-catching charge from the back of the grid to the runner-up spoils in Sweden.

Although the Audi A1 has unquestionably been the car to beat thus far in 2021 – with podium finishes also for Timur Shigabutdinov, Marat Knyazev and Zsolt Szíjj ‘Jolly’ – Jan Černý and Janno Ligur put up a good fight in their Škodas at Höljes and are sure to figure prominently once again.

There will be no shortage of support, meanwhile, for promising French prospects Maximilien Eveno – who invariably shines at Lohéac – and Dylan Dufas, who impressed with his pace and racecraft on his series bow in Sweden.

Racing is set to begin at 11:00 CET on Saturday, 4 September, with all of the action across the board to be livestreamed in glorious HD quality via the cutting-edge new RX+ broadcast platform. This premium production will grant subscribers unparalleled and unprecedented access anytime, anywhere and on any device, offering a choice of viewing angles, in-depth expert analysis, special behind-the-scenes features and exclusive interviews.

The Full Season Pass is on offer for the special price of €19,99, representing a 60% discount on the regular price of €49,99 and guaranteeing access until the end of the year. The Event Pass for Bretagne World RX of Lohéac is available for €7,99. For more information or to subscribe, click here

Tickets to Bretagne World RX of Lohéac can be purchased here

Event entry lists can be found below:
World RX
RX2e
Euro RX1
Euro RX3