Sunday, June 23, 2024

PREVIEW: 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship – Hell, Norway

The 100th round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship takes place 17/18 June at the Lånkebanen circuit in Hell, Norway. Fittingly for such a momentous event, several heroes of the sport will be taking part this weekend across the RX1e and Euro RX1 categories at one of the most popular tracks on the calendar.

Hell has been a mainstay on the calendar since the championship’s inaugural season in 2014. That first season, like all of them, saw some spectacular racing, with two-time world champion Petter Solberg taking ultimate honours that year. He would go on to win the following year before stopped in his tracks in 2016 by the sport’s current sporting director Mattias Ekström. After that, the reign of the mighty Johan Kristoffersson began. He has been champion in every season he has entered since 2017 (taking a one-year hiatus in 2019) and has already stamped his authority on the 2023, with a masterful display in Montalegre, Portugal, last time out. It is far too early to call, but alarm bells must be ringing for the other teams, as the five-time world champion already looks a little unstoppable.

One team determined to stop him is Hansen World RX Team. Timmy Hansen was a finalist when the championship first visited Hell and will be desperate to make a mark this season following a disappointing opening round. Hansen failed to reach the final after contact with his brother, Kevin Hansen, in the semi-final. Kevin, however, did manage to finish second overall, and so, despite team manager Kenneth Hansen saying that “we are not at winning pace yet“, there are encouraging signs that they may not be too far from achieving their goal.

Andersson leads the two Lancias in Portugal. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

There are more scintillating battles in prospect between Construction Equipment Dealer Team and Special ONE Racing. Sébastian Loeb thrilled spectators on his return to the sport, partly because of the extraordinary Group B livery of his all-electric Lancia Delta Evo-e RX, and partly with spectacular battles up and down the grid, chiefly with both CE Dealer Team drivers. After a heat one battle with Niclas Grönholm, he went on to have a thrilling fight with Klara Andersson. For Andersson, it was a very special moment: “Sébastien Loeb was one of my biggest childhood heroes. I’ve always regarded him as one of if not the best off-road driver ever, so it was super-cool to race against him“. With both CE Dealer Team drivers showing good pace all weekend in Portugal, expectations will be high in Norway.

Similarly, Loeb will be aiming for the top in Norway. Having won his second heat race with the third best time overall, the pace of the Lancia with Loeb at the wheel is obvious. “I’m a bit disappointed with the result of the final, of course,” he said after a puncture relegated him to last place in the final. Showing the experience that has earned him his legendary status, he reflected: “it’s frustrating because we were in a really good rhythm and our strategy was faultless. We showed a good level of performance, because we mustn’t forget that we’re up against specialists in the discipline – drivers and teams who have more experience than us with electric RX1e cars.” If he is achieving this kind of pace without much experience in this particular category, imagine the fireworks when he and the team get fully up to speed.

Euro RX1

It is, of course, not just world rallycross that’s taking place in Hell, but also round three of the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship. Having had two different winners so far this year, the championship is still wide open, with round winners Janis Baumanis and Enzo Ide currently tied on 37 points at the top of the championship.

Enzo Ide on his way to victory in Portugal. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Ide will be wanting to capitalise on the momentum of winning in Portugal and break away at the top of the standings. However, the field is proving to be exceedingly competitive this year. Baumanis finished third in the final despite having to serve a double-Joker. Hungarian Tamás Kárai has been impressive as well, taking his Audi S1 to fourth last time out. British rallycross superstar Patrick O’Donovan is displaying fine pace as well, featuring in both finals of the season so far and showing a confident and aggressive style that is sure to take him far in rallycross.

Marklund and Baumanis battle it out in Portugal. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

And let us not forget that reigning champion Anton Marklund is currently without a win in 2023. Hell has historically not been the luckiest place for Marklund, having been denied his first World RX win there due to a technical infringement only discovered after the race a few years ago. Nevertheless, the SET Promotion star will be determined to convert his devastatingly quick pace into an outright event victory. In resilient and determined mood, Marklund said “feeling sorry for ourselves is not in our nature. We will stay hungry, we will stay focussed and we’re going to Hell with a big will to win, especially with it being my closest round to home. I have a lot of friends and family coming along and I want to show them what we can do. I’m pretty confident we will be quick again, so hopefully we can keep it together with no technical issues, have a great weekend and catch up a bit in the championship.”

With battles raging up and down both world and European rallycross grids, the milestone event in Hell is one not to be missed. You can find full World RX1e and Euro RX1 entry lists below. The action takes place 17/18 June.

1 Johan KRISTOFFERSSON SWE Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS SWE Volkswagen RX1e
9 Sébastien LOEB FRA Special ONE Racing FRA Lancia Delta Evo-e RX
12 Klara ANDERSSON SWE CE Dealer Team SWE PWR RX1e
17 Gustav BERGSTRÖM SWE Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS SWE Volkswagen RX1e
21 Timmy HANSEN SWE Hansen World RX Team SWE Peugeot 208 RX1e
36 Guerlain CHICHERIT FRA Special ONE Racing FRA Lancia Delta Evo-e RX
44 Timo SCHEIDER DEU ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport DEU SEAT Ibiza RX1e
68 Niclas GRÖNHOLM FIN CE Dealer Team SWE PWR RX1e
71 Kevin HANSEN SWE Hansen World RX Team SWE Peugeot 208 RX1e
96 Ole Christian VEIBY NOR Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS SWE Volkswagen RX1e
World RX1e entry list.
1 Anton MARKLUND SWE SET Promotion FIN Ford Fiesta
2 Oliver O’DONOVAN IRL Team RX Racing GBR Proton Iriz
6 Jānis BAUMANIS LVA RX Team Latvia LVA Peugeot 208
7 Patrick O’DONOVAN GBR Team RX Racing GBR Peugeot 208
22 Máté BENYÓ HUN Korda Racing KFT HUN Peugeot 208
24 Sivert SVARDAL NOR Sivert Svardal NOR Volkswagen Polo
30 Tom André SÆTNAN NOR Sætnan Motorsport NOR Volkswagen Scirocco
38 Mandie AUGUST DEU ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport DEU SEAT Ibiza
39 Zoltán KONCSEG HUN Kárai Motorsport Sportegyesület HUN Audi A1
50 Attila MÓZER HUN Nyirád Motorsport KFT HUN Ford Fiesta
55 Paulius PLESKOVAS LTU TSK Baltijos Sportas LTU Škoda Fabia
67 Frank VALLE NOR Frank Valle NOR Ford Fiesta
70 Sverre ISACHSEN NOR Sverre Isachsen NOR Ford Fiesta
73 Tamás KÁRAI HUN Kárai Motorsport Sportegyesület HUN Audi S1
77 René MÜNNICH DEU ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport DEU SEAT Ibiza
85 Hans-Jøran ØSTRENG NOR Hans-Jøran Østreng NOR Hyundai i20
91 Enzo IDE BEL Enzo Ide BEL Audi S1
Euro RX1 entry list.