All eyes on Cape Town

Even though PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson was crowned the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Champion in the inaugural World RX of USA at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas recently that does not mean the pressure is off and as the countdown to the final in Cape Town begins, much is still at stake.

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There are just 48 days to the Gumtree World Rallycross of South Africa before it hits the Killarney Raceway in Cape Town on the November 24/25.

“It’s fitting that all of this culminates in Cape Town, where motor sport has a huge fan base of petrol heads. Cape Town attracts a mixed-bag of international events annually including those that get our residents revved up and outdoors.

“We are incredibly proud to be hosting the Gumtree World RallyCross of South Africa for the second year. We’re ready. We’re excited, and we’re amped to smell that rubber burning,” says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

Swedish driver Kristoffersson put the World RX Drivers’ Championship out of the reach of his rivals in the semi-final stages of the US event, then overtook team mate – two-time World RX Champion Petter Solberg – to win the final, his ninth of the season.

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Some 18 500 spectators witnessed the first World RX event to be held in the USA and it was former Champions Solberg – who had been Top Qualifier – and EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom who lined up on the front row of the grid for the final. Solberg took the lead into the first corner as Ekstrom claimed the Monster Energy Supercharge Award for having the fastest reaction time at the start in his Audi S1 and headed straight for the joker lap.

Starting on the second row, Kristoffersson passed Ekstrom at the first corner in his Volkswagen Polo R and set about his pursuit of leaders Solberg and EKS’ Andreas Bakkerud. Solberg took his joker on lap two and stayed ahead of Kristoffersson, then retook the lead on lap four when Bakkerud played his joker. Kristoffersson moved into the lead when Solberg made a mistake on lap five and won the race ahead Solberg and Bakkerud.

“The team gave me a great car this weekend and I felt really strong from first practice. Then I got a little bit stuck in traffic in Q1 so it didn’t look so good to secure the Championship here,” explained Kristoffersson.

“Q2 was strong, the team gave me a very good car again for Q3. I won Q4 and then in the semi-final I had a really good tyre strategy. I made the pass on Mattias in the final which was crucial to be on the podium, then Petter had a small, small mistake and that was enough to win. I have to give a big thanks to Petter and the whole team for making this possible.”

The one-two finish for the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team extended its lead in the Teams’ Championship.

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“It was very close, I did a mistake on the brakes and that’s it. But still I’m really pleased with the performance this weekend,” said Solberg. “Congratulations to Johan, I’m very happy for him to be World Champion in my team. For me it means a lot that he has been so consistent with no technical failures which is good from Volkswagen’s side. I think we have done a pretty good job and now I hope I will be even stronger for the next race.”

The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy visited Africa for the first time last year to become the first world series event hosted locally for many years.

The Western Cape then had its first taste of international Formula One racing when the non-championship Cape Grand Prix was held at Killarney back in 1960. Since then, the complex has grown and hosts several forms of main circuit racing as well as motocross, karting, stock cars and drag racing.

The 12-round WRX series got under way in Barcelona on April 14 and produced some intense racing with Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Polo R) named the winner of the World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona, after Mattias Ekstrom (Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro) was stripped of victory by stewards due to an incident with Petter Solberg (Volkswagen Polo R).

Add snow, rain and wind and the coldest final ever to the normal on track action and you get the conditions faced by competitors in the Bompiso World RX of Portugal, round 2 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy.

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Johan Kristofferson took the win, gaining his ninth final victory in 11 starts and leads the series on 53 points from Andreas Bakkerud (44), Petter Solberg (43) and Sebastien Loeb on 39.

The action never abated through the rest of the season and with one round in Germany before the teams arrive in Cape Town there are a lot of people trying to knock Kristofferson off his lofty perch.

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