RX2 joins World RX for first time as World Championship moves to Belgium

Only a week after the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy was in action at the Hockenheimring, the World Championship has now moved to Belgium for round four of the season: Coyote World RX of Belgium. For the first time this year, the newly-branded RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires joins World RX. The single-make support category boasts 18 entries from eight different nationalities.

EKS driver Mattias Ekstrom tops the standings after winning the season’s first three rounds [Barcelona, Montalegre and Hockenheim]. Joining the 18 permanent drivers on the World RX grid will be six additional entries including Belgian hero Francois Duval. The former WRC driver will pilot an Albatec Racing Peugeot 208 Supercar at his home event.

“I am very happy to drive for Albatec Racing at my home event. Albatec is a serious team,” explained 36-year-old Duval. “We will race effectively the same car as Sebastien Loeb, which is great. I have seen the Albatec car in competition and I am very confident that the work they have undertaken over the winter will put us in a strong position to challenge for a good result. It will be the first time ever that I drive a Peugeot, so it’s again something new for me. I can’t wait to race at Mettet!”

Former FIA European Rallycross Super1600 and TouringCar Champion Michael De Keersmaecker (MDK) will also race in his home event on top of his Euro RX Supercar commitments. The DA Racing team will field its second Peugeot 208 WRX for former WTCC racer Gergoire Demoustier, the driver taking part in his third World RX event following appearances in Barcelona and Portugal.

Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit will continue his year of development and learning by racing a Renault Clio Supercar in the event, in preparation for competing full-time in World RX 2018 with a brand new Renault Megane Supercar. Poland’s Martin Kaczmarski will make the third World RX start of his career, and Hungary’s Tamas Karai will race at the circuit where he scored a Euro RX podium finish in 2015.

The list of RX2 entries is headed by reigning champion Cyril Raymond, who will defend his title driving for the Olsbergs MSE team.

The French driver will be joined in the squad by America’s Tanner Whitten, who will make his debut in the series at Mettet. Reigning British Rallycross Champion Dan Rooke graduates to RX2 in 2017, having made his inaugural appearance in the category at Lydden Hill last year.

Two brother and sister pairings will compete in the series: Andreas and Jessica Backman plus Simon Olofsson and his sister Sandra Hultgren.

The first Kenyan driver to start in a World RX event, Tejas Hirani, will also return, while Latvia’s Vasiliy Gryazin is set to be a permanent fixture in the RX2 line-up, following his debut in the class at his home event in Riga last October.

The former rally driver will be joined by a pair of experienced home rally competitors at the opening round in Belgium. Ghislain de Mevius will make his RX2 debut at Mettet, as will Guillaume De Ridder, driving for the JC Race Teknik team. Also in the JC Race Teknik squad will be Norway’s Sondre Evjen and Sweden’s William Nilsson, the pair finishing fresh from placing second and fourth in the RallyX Nordic season opener. Norway’s Thomas Holmen was fifth in his home RallyX Nordic event in an STS RX-run car and will begin his RX2 title challenge in Belgium, where former Euro RX Super1600 racer Glenn Haug will make his switch to four-wheel drive in RX2.

Norway’s Simon Wago Syversen will return with the Set Promotion team, while Sweden’s Anders Michalak and Santosh Berggren will get their seasons underway in Belgium, Berggren driving the car that Kevin Hansen used to win the title in 2015.

RX2 joins World RX at seven events in 2017, with the champion set to be crowned at the season finale in Cape Town, South Africa, in November.

The FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 and the FIA European Rallycross Championship for TouringCar will both feature at the Mettet event. Ulrik Linnemann won the first round of the Super1600 Championship in Portugal and leads the maximum 30-car field. Belgium’s Davy Van Den Branden will race a Citroen DS3 and Nick Vanalken will contest his home event in a Volkswagen Polo.

In the 15-car TouringCar field, Barcelona winner Philip Gehrman leads the Championship going into Belgium. Belgium’s Steve Volders will be joined by compatriots Danny De Beuckelaer and Florent Hontoir.

From a Cooper Tires point of view

Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe, commented: “The Circuit Jules Tacheny Mettet in Belgium poses a few challenges for the Cooper control tyre. The circuit comprises a couple of long straights taken at full throttle, then you have heavy braking zones to get round the tight hairpins. This can generate excessive heat in the specially designed rallycross tread compound, however, the transition onto the gravel sections reduces load and increases wear which helps to dissipate this. Finally there is a jump thrown into the mix, but experience has shown that this tyre is tough, and the rims are more likely to fail under the impacts than the tyre.”

Monster Energy Super Charge Award

For the past three seasons, World RX drivers have been vying for the infamous Monster Energy Super Charge Award based on securing the race lead into turn one of the final. For 2017, however, the World Championship’s presenting sponsor is turning up the tension again by making the award all about reaction time – to win this year’s coveted award, it’ll be a case of fastest reaction to the lights.

Event Timetable

Friday 12 May

1300 Pre-event press conference with Francois Duval, Mattias Ekstrom, Timur Timerzyanov and Cyril Raymond
1330 Practice – support race
1445 Practice – S1600 and TouringCar
1600 Q1: TouringCar, Super1600, support race
1655 Support race (Q2)
1725 Practice: World RX & RX2
1825 Q3: Support race

Saturday 13 May

0900 Warm-up: Super1600 & TouringCar
0930 Practice: World RX and RX2
1100 Q2: TouringCar and Super1600
Q1: RX2 and World RX
1545 Q4: TouringCar and Super1600
1630 Autograph session – paddock
1630 Support race semi-final and final
1700 RX2 autograph session

Sunday 14 May

0830 Warm-up all categories, two laps only
1000 Q3: World RX and RX2
1100 Semi-finals: TouringCar and Super1600
1200 Q4: World RX and RX2
Lunch
1300 Finals: TouringCar & Super1600
1320 Autograph session
1345 Monster Energy Rig Riot
1430 Semi-finals: RX2
1445 World RX semi-finalists in pre-grid
1500 Semi-finals: World RX
Final: RX2
Final: World RX
1550 Podium
1610 Top three press conference