It all goes to Hell this weekend as the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy visits the Norwegian circuit for the Team Verksted World RX of Norway with home hopes resting heavily on the shoulders of Andreas Bakkerud.
Apart from being a headline-writers’ dream destination, Hell, or Lånkebanen to be precise, is also a classic rallycross circuit consisting of 63% asphalt and 37% gravel over 1 019 metres of sweeping terrain.
It is also the scene of World RX’s first ever clean sweep for Bakkerud in 2016 – the Norwegian winning all his four qualifying sessions, the semi-final and final. His last World RX final win came at the back end of the season in Rosario, Argentina the same year.
After an event-ending crash with Timmy Hansen in the opening round of 2019 in Abu Dhabi, Bakkerud was third in Barcelona, and second in Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone.
In Belgium, Bakkerud had ‘one little finger on the trophy” and at the World RX of Great Britain in round four, Bakkerud appeared to be heading for his first win of 2019 but had victory snatched from his grasp by the tactical nous of eventual winner Timmy Hansen. A temperamental handbrake in the semi-finals and final did not help Bakkerud’s cause either.
“Silverstone was four podiums in a row for the Monster RX Cartel, we had both cars in the final at Silverstone but just didn’t get the job done. I almost had it in my pocket. All I can do is keep on pushing and hopefully the win is nearby,” he said.
“We go to Norway with high expectations. As long as my name is on the entry list, I am there to win.” Doubtless he hopes that win will arrive on home soil.
Bakkerud’s Monster RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran has also recorded World RX qualifying race wins at Hell – two of them in 2014 – but has yet to reach the final.
The Briton’s form this year has been patchy. He started out with a third-place finish in Abu Dhabi, missed the semi-finals in Barcelona and was sixth in the final in both Belgium and Great Britain after promising much in the preceding qualifying and semi-final rounds. He’s seeking an upturn in fortunes at Hell, a circuit he likes.
“I am looking forward to racing in Hell. It is probably my favourite track in the championship even though my last time racing there  ended with a big crash rolling down the start straight. I have done quite well here in the past and it is one of the few tracks left on the calendar that I have a lot of experience at so definitely looking to get a good result,” Doran said.
“It’s always a great event with awesome atmosphere, especially having Andreas as my team-mate.”
Hansen MJP’s Timmy Hansen, the current world championship leader, is also a former event winner in Hell in 2015 and was second to Bakkerud in 2016.
Brother Kevin will look to put the disappointment of Great Britain behind him. The younger Hansen crashed out of the semi-final in his Peugeot 208 after contact with a barrier in the joker section.
The mistake relegated him to last place in the semi-final and he surrendered the championship lead as a result. Timmy now sits on 88 points, four ahead of his sibling with Bakkerud third on 77.
GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm will reappear in Norway having sat out the Belgian and British rounds with illness.
The Finn’s absence has seen him slip to 10th in the standings having been second overall after a second place in Abu Dhabi (a stewards’ ruling denying him victory in the final) and a fourth place in Barcelona.
“It’s nice to finally be able to race again. It’s been a long recovery where everything that can go wrong, went wrong. Setback after setback. It will be very challenging to come back after a six-week illness, so my expectations are not that high, but I will give my maximum and we’ll see where it takes me,” Gronholm said.
Timur Timerzyanov, in the sister GRX Taneco Hyundai i20, had an indifferent British round following the high of a maiden World RX win in Spa-Francorchamps.
“For me Hell is the highlight of the World RX season. It’s a proper rallycross track with elevation changes, challenging gravel and tons of spectators. The action is always great there. After a not so successful event in Silverstone, I’m keen to make my way back to the top this weekend,” the Russian said.
Norway also sees the return to World RX of Rokas Baciuska. The Latvian joins the GCK Academy ranks having competed for ESmotorsport-Labas Gas in the opening two rounds. He missed the British and Belgian events while the ink was drying on the contract with GCK.
Baciuska will run a third Renault Megane RS RX alongside Frenchman Cyril Raymond and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder. “I’m really excited that I’m able to continue my progression in World Rallycross and that I’ve found such an incredible team to be part of,” Baciuska said.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time with the guys at GCK and I’m super impressed with the way they work, the performance and promise of the car and I cannot wait to race alongside the GC Kompetition and GCK Academy drivers in Norway.”
Sweden’s Anton Marklund will look to build on his third-place finish at Silverstone on a track which is likely to suit his Renault Megane RS RX and that of French GC Kompetition team boss Guerlain Chicherit. “If we keep on doing the starts like we did in the semi-final and final, we should be quick in Norway,” Marklund said.
“The track has fast sweeping corners and hard braking and it should suit our car’s long wheelbase. I’m going there with a lot of self-confidence and I think we can do a good job there.”
Baciuska’s replacement in the Skoda Fabia at ESmotosport is Dutchman Kevin Abbring. The former rally driver, who has been on testing duty with the team, is promoted to a race seat.
Latvia’s Janis Baumanis, whose strong performances in 2019 has him holding down fourth place in the overall standings, will partner Finland’s Jani Paasonen in the Team STARD Ford Fiestas.
Oliver Bennett reached the semi-final for the first time in 2019 at Silverstone, his first full season as a permanent World RX entrant. It is evidence that modifications to the front suspension of the Xite Racing Mini Cooper since Barcelona are bringing rewards.
“From our increase in performance round by round and our first semi-final at Silverstone, I’m super excited for Hell,” Bennett said.
“The loose and mixed quarry surface and big elevations suit my driving style a lot and reminds me of the great feeling I had at Spa with similar conditions where the Mini is very strong. Our starts are insane which is important at Hell. I have my eyes on the next semi-final. Let’s see.”
After difficult weekends in Barcelona and Spa-Francorchamps, Timo Scheider made the final at Silverstone in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport team Seat Ibiza where he narrowly missed his first podium of the season.
The German was fourth just ahead of the EKS Sport Audi S1 of Hungarian Krisztian Szabo who continues to impress in his rookie year.
A total of 39 Supercars will race in Norway, with the second round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercar also taking place in Hell.
On top of the regular Euro RX Supercar competitors, Belgium’s Enzo Ide will make his second rallycross Supercar start in a JC Raceteknik-run Audi S1, the car he used in the Spa World RX of Belgium. Round four of the RX2 International Series is also on the schedule in Norway.
Colin Windell is a Brand Ambassor:
World Rallycross Championship, South Africa