WorldRX 2014: Solberg and Ford win in Argentina

So the final round of the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy took place in Argentina last weekend, closing off what has been a spectacular season of excitement and close racing with action that has rarely let up at every round. The first season of WorldRX can be crowned a success with many more seasons to come…

Lets see how things panned out…

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Petter Solberg led the Total Rallycross of Argentina, the season-closer to this year’s FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy after Day One. In the all-important Teams’ Championship where Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport, Ford Olsbergs MSE and Team Peugeot-Hansen are locked in a three-way battle, Olsbergs MSE established an early lead as team-mates Reinis Nitiss and Andreas Bakkerud place the Ford squad highest after two heats.

Only four points separated current Teams’ Championship leaders VW Marklund and Olsbergs MSE going into the Argentine RX round. Team Peugeot-Hansen can still mathematically win the title but started the event on the backfoot with a 38-point disadvantage. At the end of heat two, Heikkinen was third in the standings despite struggling with a gearbox issue in his Polo RX Supercar whilst team-mate Anton Marklund was eighth. Peugeot-Hansen team-mates Timmy Hansen and Timur Timerzyanov held fifth and sixth overnight.

Temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius as 17 Supercar drivers took to the Rosendo Hernandez circuit in San Luis for the first ever rallycross event to be staged in Argentina.  Bakkerud was quickest in free practice but it was the inaugural FIA World RX Champion Petter Solberg who sealed the heat one victory.  Solberg was joined by former WRC star Manfred Stohl in a second PSRX car and, despite having had no time to test the Citroen before the event, the Austrian put in a strong performance to finish ninth on Day One.

Arguably one of the most impressive drives of the day however, was that of Supercar debutant Kevin Eriksson who is driving an Olsbergs MSE Supercar as a reward for winning this year’s RX Lites Cup.  “I’ve had an up and down day,” explained the teenager who was second quickest in free practice.  “On the first heat, I overshot on the Joker Lap, spun the car and had to reverse which lost me time.  Then during the second heat I got stuck behind Manfred Stohl after the Joker. The dust made it really hard to see when you’re behind but I’ve definitely learned a lot and happy to be seventh.”

It was a day of mixed fortunes for British driver Liam Doran who made his World RX comeback after a six-month absence from the Championship. The Monster Energy World RX Team driver had a troubled start after his Citroen DS3 Supercar suffered a misfire but recovered in heat two to finish seventh fastest.  “I’ve been out of World RX for most of the year now so it’s taking me a while to get back to grips with everything,” admitted the 27-year-old.  “I’m obviously not fighting for the Championship so heat points don’t matter – I’m just aiming to get to the semi-finals and hope to be up to speed by the end of heat four.”

Doran’s team-mate Henning Solberg had a troubled day after struggling with power steering issues in heat one and was unable to start the second heat. Also experiencing difficulties was LD Motorsports driver Derek Tohill whose Citroen DS3 was down on power.  “We had to limp through with some engine problems and the dust combined with the difficulties of a new track made today incredibly hard,” explained the Irishman.
 
Albatec Racing duo Andy Scott and Ollie O’Donovan were 10th and 13th respectively, while former Argentine Rally Champion Miguel Baldoni was 12th overall.

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Petter Solberg ended his title-winning season in style by winning the closing round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy in San Luis, Argentina. Ford Olsbergs MSE won a three-way battle for the Teams’ Championship as team-mates Reinis Nitiss and Andreas Bakkerud finished second and sixth respectively.  RX Lites Cup winner Kevin Eriksson drove spectacularly on his Supercar debut to clinch third.

Solberg’s win in Argentina is the Norwegian’s fifth outright victory of the year for the PSRX Team and sees the driver end the inaugural World RX season with a total of 267 points. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport’s Topi Heikkinen amassed enough points to award the 23-year-old Finn the coveted runners-up spot. Nitiss ends the season third overall in points.

“This is a dream come true.  We started the season with a win in Portugal, and to finish with another win in Argentina feels really amazing,” grinned Solberg who was also awarded the Monster Energy Super Charge Award after his rapid start from pole position. “This Championship has so many talented drivers and I am extremely impressed with the high standard of driving we have had this year – especially from the younger guys. Now I’m looking forward to Doha for the FIA Awards Ceremony but I will be back and fighting for more seasons to come. I’d like to thank my whole team for working so hard throughout this year – there will be a big party tonight, that’s for sure!”

There was a three-way battle for the Teams’ Championship going into Argentina with Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport, Ford Olsbergs MSE and Team Peugeot-Hansen all still capable of winning the accolade. Peugeot-Hansen was knocked out of winning contention when Timmy Hansen and Timur Timerzyanov failed to score enough points at the Intermediate Classification stage. Tension mounted further when Topi Heikkinen’s engine failed in heat four and VW Marklund were forced to repair the Polo RX Supercar before the semis. 

A fraught two semi-finals were to follow, but the Ford squad sealed the silverware when Anton Marklund was denied a spot in the final and both Ford team-mates went through.  “I am so proud of my team – to win this trophy with Olsbergs who have worked so hard all year is such a good feeling,” beamed 18-year-old Nitiss. 
 
Speaking on behalf of VW Marklund, team driver Anton said: “It’s always disappointing to be second but actually our aim at the start of the year was to finish in the top three so this is something we must all remember.  I think we have learned a lot for next year and we will be back and fighting hard.  Topi finished second in the drivers’ standings to finish the year with two second places is something our whole team are really happy with.”

After another impressive drive in the Peugeot 208 Supercar, 22-year-old Timmy Hansen finished fourth in Argentina for Team Peugeot-Hansen.  The talented driver also ends the season fourth overall. Team-mate Timur Timerzyanov showed good pace in San Luis but retired on the first lap of semi-final two following a technical issue with his car.

Despite showing good speed, Britain’s Liam Doran had a troubled return to World RX. The Monster Energy World RX Team driver failed to qualify after a technical infringement cost him a spot in the semi-finals. Team-mate Henning Solberg was also denied a place in the semis after the driver struggled with car issues on day one.

The year ended on a high for Scottish-based team Albatec Racing who had both drivers in the semi-finals for the first time this season. Elsewhere local driver Miguel Baldoni had an impressive RX debut as the former Argentine Rally Champion entertained the local fans by finishing the event ninth overall.

Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsports, concluded: “It’s been a sensational year for the FIA World Rallycross Championship and it’s remarkable to think that our season has started in the same way it ended – with a victory for Petter Solberg. I’ve witnessed first-hand how hard Petter and the PSRX Team have worked this year and their win is thoroughly deserved.  The Teams’ Championship could have gone one of three ways this weekend and all three of our teams would have been very worthy winners. Very well done to the Ford Olsbergs MSE who came out trumps. I firmly believe we have some of the most talented drivers on the globe competing in World RX and it’s incredible to have two 18-year-olds on the podium in Argentina this weekend [Eriksson and Nitiss].  The future of the sport is looking very bright but now we are concentrating on making 2015 even better. On behalf of IMG Motorsports, I’d like to thank the drivers, teams and everyone involved in helping to make World RX a huge success in what has been an incredible season for the FIA’s newest World Championship.”   

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2014 DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – OVERALL POINTS

1. Petter Solberg (PSRX), 267 points
2. Topi Heikkinen (VW Marklund), 221 points
3. Reinis Nitiss (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 210 points
4. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot-Hansen), 199 points
5. Andreas Bakkerud (Ford Olsbergs MSE), 193 points
6. Anton Marklund (VW Marklund), 173 points
 
2014 TEAMS’ CHAMPIONSHIP – OVERALL POINTS
 
1. Ford Olsbergs MSE, 403 points
2. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport, 394 points
3. Team Peugeot-Hansen, 351 points
4. PSRX, 261 points
5. Monster Energy World RX Team, 76 points
6. Albatec Racing, 61 points

Finally a word from the Guru…

I can happily say I have really enjoyed watching this years first ever FIA World Rallycross Championship and I can also say that my decision to get into Rallycross back in 2013 has been completely justified.

I’ve said this all year and I will say it again. If you are bored with Formula One or fed up with the politics that plague motorsport and you want to watch an exciting, action packed series, then give the FIA World Rallycross Championship a try.

For me, its been one of, if not the most exciting FIA World Championship thats taken place this year with an ever expanding fan base. With upwards of 40 cars in the Supercars catergory entered at different events this year and the FIA  European Rallycross Championship open to Europes best, its just an amazing series to watch…and one I will be blogging about over the winter as the teams and drivers now test for 2015.

All the best!

Phil!!

All the best from the Guru!!

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