WORLD CHAMPIONS LOCK HORNS, YOUNG GUNS LIE IN WAIT
The permanent entry list for the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, released today, offers up the tantalising prospect of a title contest every bit as intense as the season-long skirmish which highlighted the 2019 edition.
The 13 drivers confirmed for all 10 rounds features World Champions, European Champions, legitimate title aspirants and young guns poised to shake up the established order.
Among the roster of permanent competitors, who will be joined by a number of round-by-round entries at each event, there are drivers representing eight nations, supported by world-class teams and six manufacturers keen to win the battle of the brands.
In 2019, after 196 races, including an incident-filled finale, the leading protagonists for the drivers’ title – Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud – were tied on 211 points. The trophy went to the elder Hansen – courtesy of four wins to one.
So, just when you thought it would be hard to surpass a season-long rivalry which went to the wire in South Africa, along comes a double World RX champion intent of adding further silverware to his ample collection. Welcome back Johan Kristoffersson.
Kristoffersson, the title-winner in 2017 and 2018, rejoins the fray at the wheel of a VW Polo GTI RX for Kristoffersson Motorsport. He is supported by the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS.
As for the Hansens, Timmy, the champion in residence, is joined by younger brother Kevin, the former European champion, in a pair of Team Hansen Peugeot 208s in which they will also defend their teams’ championship.
Norwegian Bakkerud links up again with the flamboyant Briton Liam Doran under the Monster RX Cartel banner – the team is being run this year by the French outfit GC Kompetition. This season they have swapped their Audi S1s for Renault Megane RS RXs.
GC Kompetition founder Guerlain Chicherit partners with Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuska in another pair of Renault Clios in the GC Unkorrupted squad. Sweden’s Anton Marklund is in a Renault Megane as the GCK Bilstein entry.
Hyundai is represented by GRX Taneco in the shape of Finland’s Niclas Gronholm and Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov. Gronholm, who recorded two wins in 2019 but missed two rounds due to illness, is expected to challenge strongly for honours as is Timerzyanov, who posted a notable maiden World RX victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
Timo Scheider is joined by team boss Rene Muennich for the German ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport outfit which will field uprated and improved Seat Ibizas.
Sweden’s Robin Larsson, the 2019 FIA European Champion, steps up to World RX full time and will race an Audi S1 with the JC Raceteknik team.
Apart from the permanent drivers, a number of round-by-round entries will be announced over the coming weeks.
Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of Motorsports Events at IMG, the series promoter, said the quality of the permanent entry list highlights the strength and appeal of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, now in its seventh year.
“The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship permanent entry list underlines the lure of World RX for both teams and drivers. We thought it would be tough to eclipse the drama and excitement of our 2019 season but if you look at the class of 2020, we have all the ingredients for a rivalry every bit as intense,” Bellamy said.
“Our 2020 line-up is bursting with world-class talent – including two world champions, European champions and multiple race winners.”
The 2020 championship will have 10 rounds over four continents, starting in Spain in April, and including a return to Portugal, a first-time visit to the iconic Nurburgring circuit, and finally concluding in South Africa in November.
The championship audience continues to flourish with expanded broadcast partnerships in key territories including western Europe and the Baltic states with coverage in 160 countries. The championship is also poised to announce a distribution partnership with China in the coming weeks.
World RX has built a highly successful live streaming programme which engages millennials in a form of short, adrenalin-filled motorsport which is tailored-made for them.
Last season the championship attracted over 530,000 views per race weekend via live streaming and the digital reach grew by 33%. Live streaming will be expanded again in 2020 to include European Super1600 series.
According to Bellamy, the 2020 season is a pivotal year as the sport of rallycross takes it first steps on the road to electrification.
“Together with the FIA we are committed to an electric future for rallycross,” he said. “This year we will embark on our journey to a phased introduction of an electric world championship in 2021 by introducing the electric series Projekt E as part of that process,” he said.
“There is a huge groundswell of support for electric rallycross from teams and industry stakeholders. There is an inexorable surge towards electrification in the automotive industry and we are excited to be part of it.”
The 2020 season begins with World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona Spain on April 18-19.
The Projekt E calendar will now also include Holjes, Sweden on July 4-5, and the FIA European Championship for Super1600, meanwhile, will also visit Nurburgring on August 1-2.
The full list of Permanent World RX competitors can be viewed here.