The FIA World Rallycross Championship is Montalegre-bound this weekend for the next instalment in what is already turning out to be a vintage campaign, as Johan Kristoffersson’s rivals bid to stop the reigning world champion in his tracks at Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal (17-18 September).
Located some 1,000m above sea level in the country’s Vila Real mountains, the picturesque and historic Circuito Internacional de Montalegre hosted the very first World RX event back in 2014, and its undulating layout and unpredictable weather have produced many breathtaking battles over the years.
Last season’s final, certainly, will live long in the memory, as a spectacular scrap between Kristoffersson and Hansen brothers Timmy and Kevin opened the door for Niclas Grönholm to sneak through and claim an unexpected victory. The same names are all firmly in the frame again this year – and with two rounds over the course of the weekend, another double dose of electrifying action is unquestionably in prospect.
The statistics suggest that with three wins out of three behind the wheel of his Volkswagen RX1e, Kristoffersson has had things all his own way so far in 2022, but the truth is that the Swede has had to dig deep every time, generating some sensational racing as he has fought his way to the front.
Ominously for his adversaries, the Kristoffersson Motorsport ace sped to his maiden World RX triumph at Montalegre in only his fifth start at the highest level in 2015 – backing that up with a similar success three years later.
The opposition, however, is closing in, as proved by Kevin Hansen leading the lion’s share of the two finals last time out in Latvia – with Hansen World RX Team confident that there is still plenty of pace to extract from its pair of Peugeot 208 RX1e beasts. Both Hansens reached the rostrum in Portugal last October following their thrilling tussle with Kristoffersson, and after running him close in Rīga, the Swedish siblings are fired-up to turn the tables on their countryman again this weekend.
Now competing for Construction Equipment Dealer Team alongside rising star Klara Andersson – who impressively advanced to the final on her World RX debut in Hell last month – Grönholm is still chasing his first podium finish of 2022 following a difficult start to the campaign, so a repeat of last season’s Portuguese result would kick-start the Finn’s title bid in fine style.
Kristoffersson’s KMS stablemates Ole Christian Veiby and Gustav Bergström can also be counted upon to be in the mix. The Norwegian has been a top three finisher twice already this year on his return to rallycross following more than half-a-decade away in rallying, while the Swedish teenager stunned with his lightning-fast launches and accomplished racecraft in Rīga – drawing praise from his multiple world champion team-mate in the process.
CHAMPIONS TO BE CROWNED IN SUPPORT SERIES?
In the supporting Euro RX1 and Euro RX3 categories, Montalegre could witness a double title triumph, as champions-elect Anton Marklund and Kobe Pauwels endeavour to seal the deal in Portugal. Victory for either would be enough to get the job done, with Jānis Baumanis needing to outscore Marklund by at least seven points to keep the Euro RX1 fight alive – and fellow hopefuls Enzo Ide, Sivert Svardal and Tamás Kárai facing an even taller order.
Like Marklund, if Pauwels finishes ahead of his main Euro RX3 rivals, he will be crowned champion, but if he wants to tally a third victory this season, the young Belgian will have to overcome no fewer than nine local heroes – one of whom, João Ribeiro, is his closest pursuer in the standings...
“Montalegre is undoubtedly the most ‘pure’ rallycross track in the European Championship,” opined the 39-year-old, who hails from just outside of the country’s second city of Porto. “It has a pretty winding and technical layout, and it will be an honour to race on home soil in such a competitive series. This sport is always unpredictable, but my aim is to finish on the podium – and whatever happens, it promises to be the biggest rallycross party ever in Portugal!”
To add to the challenge, some changes to the circuit design this year will see a new joker lap – on gravel – between Turns Two and Five. The old joker becomes the new first corner, with a wider exit than before.
All of the action both on and off-track will be broadcast live on RX+, providing access to every race live or on-demand on any device with premium production, hundreds of hours of fast-paced content and exclusive behind-the-scenes insights, plus interviews, in-depth expert analysis, drone shots, on-board cameras, highlights and much more.
RX+ event passes are available for €7,99, with the full season pass on sale for €49,99. More information can be found here, and race weekend tickets can still be purchased here.