FAN POV: WORLD RALLYCROSS IN BARCELONA
The first round of 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship kicked off last weekend in Barcelona, Spain. There were some intense battles not only between drivers but also between drivers and mother nature.
All rallycross fans look forward to the start of the rallycross season and the one series diehard rallycross fans really look forward to is the big kahuna, FIA World Rallycross Championship. Fans don't care if opening day is raining or blazing hot. They are there to watch the spectacular racing, see their favorite drivers and, yes, a few crashes. The opening weekend didn't disappoint. The first day brought torrential rain with a few breaks, creating an ice skating rink and muddy mess for drivers. Day two brought beautiful sunshine. Despite it all Barcelona provided the stunning backdrop and weather that kept the teams on their toes. In return, the teams provided brilliant racing and a mixed bag of results.
RX360 asked rallycross fan, Sam Clegg, to give us her perspective on the opening round of World Rallycross.
I blame/thank my dad for getting me interested in rallycross. What started as a trip to Lydden Hill back in 2012 (for the European Rallycross Championship – pre WRX) ended up with me following the rest of the season online, and that was it - I was hooked. I have been fortunate to get out to various European events each year since… including the GRC at XGames in Europe 2013, making like minded friends along the way. It’s always an interesting time during the off season to see who will drive for which teams. I’ve Followed EKSRX since they joined WorldRX in 2014 and they are my team of choice going into 2017 season and whilst I will obviously cheer on Mattias Ekstrom, it’s the #57 car of Toomas Heikkinen I have my fingers crossed for. Marklund Motorsport (MM) are the other team I follow, and being British its always good to have a fellow countryman to cheer on too… so Guy Wilks, who is parked under the MM tent this season running WRX in the Polo will also be one I watch. With Marklund Motorsport running in the European Rallycross Championship this year, alongside other previous WRX driver Robin Larsson and Derek Tohill, I will definitely take more of an interest in this competition for 2017 as well. There is just something about pulling into the parking area at Lydden and getting out the car overlooking the track, the noise, smell and general atmosphere is one not to be missed and its one that is replicated in every venue I have been to. This trip to Barcelona was no different, whilst the atmosphere is slightly different in the emerging non-traditional tracks, nothing detracts from the passion and friendliness of Rallycross fans, or the sight and sounds of those supercars.
The Barcelona track is carved into a section of the F1 circuit and fans are able to sit in the grandstands. Sitting on the straightaway after turn 1 or on turn 2 gives a great view of the whole track. Although it is difficult to see the start/finish lines and joker,but that’s what zoom lenses are for! Day one saw a cloudy and miserable start to the day, which would eventually end in thunderstorms. This makes for interesting racing, and the Saturday Qualifiers were no exception.
The round started off well for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden driver, Johan Kristoffersson. He immediately took the lead after Q1. He showed good pace from the onset of the mornings free practice and continued the pace into the Qualifying session taking the VW backed PSRX polo into the lead in heat 4 ahead of last years champion Mattias Ekström.
Due to the weather I didn’t make it down to the pit area on Saturday. This is usually the best time to go as the Saturdays are a lot quieter than Sundays for spectators. So I went down on the Sunday after Q4, before the semi finals. I think it is great that you get to see the teams at work, and get so close to the cars. Most of the drivers are really approachable and come to talk to the fans, if they are not busy with mechanics, technicians, or the media. Some of the tents are built so they are as open as possible to fans, others have closed off areas to allow a bit more seclusion of drivers… the big names draw the bigger crowds around the tents, but also seem to be the most elusive to see, talk to, get autographs etc… The likes of PSRX, Peugeot Hansen and Hoonigan racing, with Solberg, Loeb and Block drawing the biggest crowds, makes them harder to actually meet. For these guys, you need to either stand in line for the autograph session, or be very patient!
I made my way back to the track for semi's and final and was able to witness Mattias Ekstrom earn not only his first win of the season but the first win of the season. It was a start to finish win, in the EKS Audi S1 supercar. After finishing top in the intermediate standings, it was fellow DTM driver Timo Scheider who came in second. Whilst Andreas Bakkerud fought off Petter Solberg to finish in 3rd. Petter Solberg, Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristofferson made up the last 3 positions and points in the championship.
The other good time to go down is after all the races have finished. Remember that the winners will be in the press conference, and most tents will have begun being packed away. Sunday afternoon I had a lovely chat with Derek Tohill, who had a much better Barcelona visit this year, after last October ending up in the wall on turn one of the first lap. We talked about how the car is looking really good, and he had two great day in qualifying, reaching the semi’s and final. I also spoke with Anton Marklund, who won the European RX final, he was particularly pleased with the way the car ran over the weekend and is looking forward to the rest of the season.
At the Estering, Germany round last year I found myself staying a little later, to say farewell and visit the tents again – if you look through my photo albums, you probably couldn’t tell which event I was at, same car, same tent etc… but it’s my hobby! I found myself in the EKS tent as Mattias came back after the press conference, it had been confirmed after that race that he was the world champion. There were all sorts of celebrations going on, but what struck me the most was his speech. Today was no exception, on returning to the tent, he proceeded to thank his whole team, mechanics, techs, team managers, sponsors and invited guests, whilst also praising his teammate, Topi – also promising to get the car sorted for next race and congratulating Reinis on a great 1st drive in the Audi S1. The whole speech was really motivating and uplifting and showed Mattias as such a great “leader by example”
The only complaint I had about this event was that there is still a severe lack of taxis or transport from the circuit!!!!