Cape Town race fans can look forward an explosive no-holds barred final to the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy following the dramatic win in Latvia at the weekend that saw Timmy Hansen regain the championship lead by a scant two points.
It means an absorbing title battle, which has been awash with drama since the opening round in Abu Dhabi in April, will have its grand finale in Cape Town on November 9-10.
It was Timmy Hansen’s fourth victory in the closest season the championship has ever witnessed with six different winners from nine rounds. The Swede now stands on 187 points, one point ahead of Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud, who led by two points at the start of the weekend. Bakkerud finished third in the Latvian final behind Niclas Gronholm.
Kevin Hansen, who followed Bakkerud home in Latvia, is third in the standings on 179.
With the retirement of top names such as Johan Kristofferson at the end of last season, there was some concern before the opening round of 2019 the series would be something of a damp squib – but, just the opposite.
Timmy Hansen was in recovery mode en route to the final after dropping as low as 15th place overall after Q1 on Saturday. But the elder Hansen responded to top Q3 and was untouchable in his semi-final.
“It was tough yesterday to be in the position I was in. I’m fully aware of what’s on the line in terms of the championship so I came here wanting to do well. But to have the start to the weekend like I did was tough,” he said.
“The whole team was disappointed yesterday but we all came together and we just kept believing that if we had the perfect day today anything was possible. I tried to focus on what I needed to do, and to drive my best despite all the circumstances I found myself in with the championship situation, the wet track and finishing so low down the order yesterday.
“This win today really came from the heart. The whole team wanted it and believed we could do it. To sit here after where I was yesterday feels amazing.
“Now we go to Cape Town. I hope all three of us Andreas, Kevin and myself, have a clean weekend and the best man will stand on top at the end. Whoever can stay strong and keep their head in the game will come out the winner.”
Bakkerud, starting from pole position, did not quite have the pace to match Timmy Hansen in the final after his Swedish rival launched his Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208 in to the lead at turn one.
“I tried my best and was chasing down both Niclas and Timmy from P3 but when you are driving on the edge, as I was, it’s easy to make a mistake. I overshot the jump a little bit and ran wide at turn eight and that was my chance gone,” he said. “Credit to Timmy (Hansen), he made a strong fightback after yesterday.
“Anyway it is good for the fans as they get to see a good show in Cape Town. I don’t think the fight will be over until the chequered flag in the final in Cape Town.
“Both Timmy, Kevin and I know what’s on the line. Now I have the job to chase and Timmy’s the leader so he will be thinking of me for the next eight weeks. So sleep well!”
Finland’s Gronholm, meanwhile, felt he had his chances for the victory in a final which took place in wet conditions after persistent rain throughout the second day of the event. “The second lap was good and I felt like I could fight for the win. I started to overdrive a little bit and made a few small mistakes and that was costly in the end,” the GRX Taneco driver said.
Gronholm’s team-mate Timur Timerzyanov was fifth in the final just ahead of Bakkerud’s Monster RX Cartel partner Liam Doran.
Projekt E launched
The World RX of Latvia weekend also featured the global reveal of the Projekt E racecar which also performed demonstration laps on the Bikernieki circuit ahead of Sunday’s final.
The official unveiling of the Projekt E racecar, a collaboration between IMG and Austrian company STARD (Stohl Advanced Research and Development), took place at the Riga Motor Museum in Latvia.
VIP guests, World RX and Euro RX teams and drivers gathered for the event to see first-hand the car which will feature in the electric series.
Projekt E will showcase electric-powered cars on the same event schedule as traditional World RX Supercars at selected European rounds of the championship in 2020.
Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of IMG Motorsports, and STARD’s Manfred Stohl had the honours of taking the wraps off the car.
“Today we reached a tipping point in the future of production-based motor sport with the unveiling of the racecar which will feature in the electric support series in 2020, codenamed Projekt E,” Bellamy said.
“Electrification in the automotive industry is moving at a rapid pace and we are extremely proud to be first movers in the electric motorsport space for production vehicles.
“The car we revealed today is the result of months of collaboration with our technical partner, STARD. That work has centred on developing electric technologies, charging and safety systems for the Projekt E racecars.
“This collaboration is further proof of IMG’s commitment to future mobility and relevant technologies in the rugged rallycross environment.
“The car looks striking on the outside, but under the skin is what really matters. Rallycross is known for rapid launches and fast-paced, wheel-to-wheel action. The advanced technology which powers the Projekt E racecar will produce torque levels we have never seen in rallycross before.
“It’s an exciting time for the sport of rallycross. Our aim with the new-look race weekend format for 2020, with the inclusion of Projekt E, is to allow rallycross fans to enjoy the traditional internal combustion engines – and be given a flavour of the future at the same time.”
Projekt E will use STARD’s “REVelution” EV powertrain systems which will produce up to 450 kW combined power, 1 100 Nm of instantaneous torque and produce a top speed of 240 km/h.
The plan is to use current chassis technology such as the 2019 STARD World RX Ford Fiesta. The concept allows for the conversion of current cars or new builds to current chassis regulations using the REVelution drivetrain.
And, in a first for motorsport, Projekt E will enable the use of road car electric motors in racecars.
“We are delighted to be partnering with IMG on this innovative project which will change the technical landscape in motorsport and rallycross in particular,” Manfred Strohl, President of Stohl Group, said.
“There is a lot of activity in hybrid and electric racing at present but what sets Projekt E apart is the fact that the Projekt E race car can utilise road car electric motors.
“The performance of the racecar will be impressive when you consider that in terms of torque, the power unit is capable of 0-90% in about 32 milliseconds. The motors rotate at up to 14 000 r/min. Projekt E will add a whole new, innovative dimension to rallycross in 2020.”
The aim of Projekt E is to evaluate electric racecars in a World RX environment in accordance with the roadmap for electrification of the FIA World Rallycross Championship which was has been ratified by the FIA World Motorsport Council.