First for World Rallycross

World Rallycross is readying itself to get the 2019 season underway with two first for the formula in the form of the season-opener night race at Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi this weekend and the introduction of a class for electric vehicles.

As a debutant track, the Yas Marina Rallycross Circuit, presents a level playing field for the 2019 combatants.

There are plenty of challenges in the purpose-built 1,2 kilometre rallycross layout featuring 63% asphalt and 37% gravel, a series of wide tarmac areas, tight turns including a hairpin and a formidable jump, all within the circuit’s famous Formula One circuit stadium section.

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The 2019 entry lists features 16 permanent drivers in six teams and four individual entries representing eight automotive brands with drivers from 11 countries and none of the permanent drivers in World RX 2019 have won an FIA World Championship title, meaning we will crown a new FIA World RX drivers’ champion this year.

Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud looms as a championship favourite. Third in the overall standings in 2018, Bakkerud starts as the highest-placed finisher from last season. Alongside the Norwegian in the Audi S1 will be Britain’s Liam Doran.

The Hansen brothers, Timmy and Kevin, run a pair of Peugeot 208 WRXs for Team Hansen MJP, the first time the Swedish brothers have competed in equal machinery. Timmy, 26 and 20-year-old Kevin, may be one of the youngest line-ups on the grid, but they have both been competing in high-level rallycross for the last six years, and Timmy has started in every World RX race ever – all 61 of them.

Austria’s Team STARD will campaign the all-new Ford Fiesta RXS for Latvia’s Janis Baumanis. He will be partnered by Norwegian Pal Try, who will feature in at least three rounds during 2019. The team also recently announced a new title sponsor in Ferratum Group, the digital banking service.

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GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund makes a full-time return to World RX after focussing on European racing for the past two years. The Swede will partner team owner Guerlain Chicherit in Renault Meganes.

In the build up to the opening round, Marklund has been helping with the development of the Megane and the Renault Clios to be shared by GCK Academy young guns Cyril Raymond of France and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder.

Marcus Gronholm’s GRX Taneco squad comprises three Hyundai i20s for Russian Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Gronholm. Abu Dhabi will be the first of a number of selected appearances for Latvia’s Reinis Nitiss of GRX Set. All three drivers completed final pre-season test in Germany recently.

Britain’s Oliver Bennett returns to build on 2018’s programme of selected World RX events. His Xite Racing Mini Cooper has been subject to a programme of development and testing over the winter.

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Timo Scheider begins his full-season campaign in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza. The German squad has been quietly going about pre-season testing and could be one to watch in the opening round.

Hungarian Krisztian Szabo chose ice driving as his preparation for Abu Dhabi last week. The EKS Sport driver, twice the European Super1600 Rallycross Champion, joined Bakkerud and the 2016 World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom on the frozen wastelands of Scandinavia.

Lithuania’s Rokas Baciuska is the least experienced of this season’s rookies. The reigning FIA European Rallycross Champion for Super1600, Baciuska will be at the wheel of ESmotorsport’s Skoda Fabia, which has completed well over 1,000 kilometres of testing this winter. It will be seen in public for the first time in Abu Dhabi.

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Electric

IMG Motorsports has announced the planned introduction of a dynamic electric racing element to the FIA World Rallycross Championship weekend.

The concept, titled Projekt E, will see electric-powered cars compete on the same weekend as traditional Supercars.

This new-look race weekend format will allow rallycross fans to enjoy the traditional internal combustion engines – and be given a glimpse of the future for production-based cars.

IMG is introducing electric racing to its event weekend as an acknowledgement of a future that embraces sustainability, responsibility and advanced technologies.

By taking this bold decision, Torben Olsen, the Managing Director of World RX for IMG, the series promoter, said IMG will become a pioneer in the introduction of EV technologies to a production-based motorsport series.

“IMG has pledged as far back as 2017 that electrification would be part of the World RX weekend. Today we can confirm our intention to deliver on that objective,” said Olsen.

“Our aim is to showcase, by 2021 at the latest, future mobility and relevant technologies in the tough, competitive environment of rallycross with production-based vehicles that consumers can relate to.

“In terms of the strategy for introduction of electrification to rallycross, we have been in discussions for nearly two years with a number of manufacturers. Ultimately it emerged that the manufacturers were not yet ready to commit in sufficient numbers to make a fully-electric World Championship a reality. However, we believe that Projekt E is a positive step forward to deliver on our 2017 pledge.”

Over the coming months, the FIA and IMG will be revealing more about the format for Projekt E and the electrified cars which will line up on the grid in the future.

Olsen added: “Projekt E enables us to embrace emerging technologies, remain relevant, and show that electric cars are fast and fun.”

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