World RX prepares for iconic Loheac event in France
The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy will move to Brittany this weekend for one of the most eagerly-anticipated events on the 13-round calendar: the Bretagne World RX of France. Last year’s race attracted a record crowd of 74,000 people and 2015 is shaping up to be just as successful with 20 home drivers including an exciting entry from multiple FIA World Touring Car Champion (WTCC), Yvan Muller.
Staged in the small Breton village of Loheac in north-west France, a total of 67 cars will go head-to-head at the ninth round of the World Championship including the biggest S1600 entry of the year plus 37 flame-spitting Supercars that have the ability to accelerate from 0-60mph in less than two seconds.
No fewer than four former French Rallycross Champions will race on home soil including World RX front-runner Davy Jeanney (2010 French Rallycross Champion) plus Marc Laboulle (2009), Gaetan Serazin (2012) and Jerome Grosset-Janin (2013). Grosset-Janin will partner Muller in a second Albatec Racing prepared Peugeot 208 Supercar to form a two-car French team.
“The car is great and very fast, and has been designed to be good on both tarmac and gravel, so there will be some compromise required,” explained Muller, who follows in the footsteps of Rene Muennich to become the second WTCC driver to compete in World RX. “The start and the first corner will be critical, I need to try and avoid contact, but it will not be easy. I don’t have any specific plans for Loheac, just to explore and to learn, so I have not set myself any goals. Rallycross has grown so much, and has a great future ahead of it, and at World Championship level the battle is very intense.”
Former WRC event winner Francois Duval will make his return to World RX in a Pailler Competition Peugeot 208 alongside the team’s regular Euro RX drivers Fabien and Jonathan Pailler.
Britain’s Guy Wilks and Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit – a quadruple World Champion in freeriding – will drive a pair of MINI RX Supercars with JRM Racing. Wilks will drive the same car that 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button tested at Lydden Hill last week.
One of the most experienced drivers on the entry list is “Knapick”, who for the Loheac event will also run a Citroen DS3 for Lebanese driver, Nabil Karam. Meanwhile, former French Super1600 champion David Olivier will make history by becoming the first driver to race a non-turbocharged Supercar at a World RX event. Olivier, who has been using the Renault Logan in French Rallycross Championship events this year, commented: “It's always exciting to try something allowed by the regulations that nobody has done before. The naturally aspirated engine is cheaper than a turbo engine and easier to service, although it does have a bit less power.”
One of the biggest threats in the 37-strong Supercar field this weekend is last year’s winner and current Championship leader, Petter Solberg. “I understand now I’m going to have to fight for it [the Championship] – it’s time to show some teeth,” said a defiant Solberg, who partners 27-year-old Liam Doran in the SDRX team.
Solberg remains the most successful driver of the year so far but hot on his heels is Sweden’s Timmy Hansen who has enjoyed a terrific run of form in his Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar lately. The Swede has won 17 of the races he has started during the qualifying heats and is currently second in the overall driver standings, 41 points adrift of Solberg.
Hansen and his team-mate Jeanney have spent a few days in Velizy at the Peugeot Sport workshop to help prepare them for Loheac. “As ever, we will need to work hard and remain fully focused throughout the race weekend, but we are confident we can fight for victory once again,” explained Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Team Principal, Kenneth Hansen.
Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss visited Britain over the August Bank Holiday weekend, the 19-year-old gained valuable seat-time at the wheel of an RX150 buggy. Nitiss, who took on the likes of World RX commentator Andrew Coley plus several others at the penultimate round of the British Rallycross Championship round at Lydden Hill, finished second out of the 15 buggies entered.
Eager to replicate his podium success following his DTM outing in Moscow last weekend is EKS driver and team owner, Mattias Ekstrom. “With the pace from last year and the performance of this year’s car, I’m pretty sure that Lohéac will be a very good event for us – even with the challenge of 36 opponents,” explained Ekstrom, whose team-mate Anton Marklund enjoyed a season-best result in Norway last month.
Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG, concluded: “It’s extraordinary to think that Loheac, which is a tiny village with just 700 inhabitants, attracts more than 70,000 people for the rallycross weekend. The circuit provides for some fantastic racing too with a drag race to turn one and a unique Joker Lap which is very quick and includes a jump. Rallycross was first introduced to France back in 1976 and in the past 40 years the sport has grown substantially across the country, with the French Rallycross Championship helping to develop grassroots talent including the likes of Davy Jeanney and Jerome Grosset-Janin who have both progressed to the world stage. As well as a bumper entry, we also have a host of international and national media attending Loheac this weekend including our French broadcaster L’Equipe 21 who will broadcast live onsite.”
From a Cooper Tire point of view.
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe, explained the nature of the Loheac circuit: “This track has one of the shortest start straights into the first corner which combined with one of the longest joker laps always means there is lots of action. We have seen this year that the teams’ tyre strategy is important in helping getting those valuable extra tenths of a second and the strategy the teams use this weekend will be important because the nature of the dirt on this track makes this a particularly abrasive circuit. With each driver only having an allowance of eight dry and eight wet tyres, knowing when to change to a new set or switching tyres round the car will make all the difference.”
Friday 4 September
1600: Drivers’ Draw and press conference
1800: Supercar parade to Loheac
Saturday 5 September
0930: Official driver photograph at startline
1000: National Support races
1030: RX Practice
1230: National support races
1400: RX Heats 1 & 2
1730: Monster Energy rig riot
1800: National support races
1830: Autograph session
Sunday 6 September
0800: National support races warm-up
0830: RX warm-up
1100: RX Heat 3 & Heat 4
National support races
1300: Monster Energy Rig Riot
1330: Autograph Session at podium
1400: S1600 Semi-finals plus national support races
1500: World RX Supercar Semi-finals
Final World RX Supercar
1610: World RX winners’ press conference
1620: Finals: National support races