Thursday, November 30, 2023

PREVIEW: 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship – Höljes, Sweden

After a year’s hiatus, the 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship makes a welcome return to Höljes, Sweden. Around 50,000 fans are expected to attend the Magic Weekend as the chasing pack attempt to halt runaway championship leader Johan Kristoffersson.

For rallycross fans, the Höljes Motorstadion needs no introduction, having hosted rallycross events there since 1976. The iconic banked Velodrome, the fast gravel downhill section, and the jump into the last corner have all seen plenty of action over the years and have contributed to the track’s iconic status. Per Eklund won the track’s first event, and the history of Swedish drivers doing well at their home event continues to this day. Both Kristoffersson and compatriot Timmy Hansen have secured top honours here before, most recently when Hansen took victory at the last event in 2021.

Fans are already at the track, setting up the so-called ‘Happy Street’ connecting the circuit to the campsite area, where the legendary party atmosphere will continue long after the day’s racing has finished. However, the on-track action promises to be just as scintilating.

Grönholm and Scheider were the two sharing the podium with Kristoffersson in Hell. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

As has become a theme of these event previews, the smart money for victory must still be on Kristoffersson. He remains unbeaten in all SuperPole sessions in World RX history, and has secured two dominant victories in Montalegre and Hell, giving him a thirteen point lead as the championship heads into round 3. The nearest man to him in the championship is Finland’s Niclas Grönholm. The CE Dealer Team driver has been the very model of consistency so far this season, having achieved a podium finish in both events so far. The question remains as to whether he can actually take the fight to Kristoffersson and take that elusive victory from him.

Grönholm’s teammate, Klara Andersson, has been equally impressive this season. Currently fourth in the championship, she has proven herself against the rest of the field, taking the fight to them, including some excellent battles with her hero Sébastian Loeb. Loeb himself will be wanting to propel his Lancia Delta Evo-e RX1 further up the field than he has so far. The 9-time World Rally champion has demonstrated excellent pace so far this season, but has yet to convert that into a decent result. Unlike Timo Scheider, who put in a superb performance in Hell to finish on the podium in his 2022-spec SEAT Ibiza. He will be desperate to repeat that success.

Veiby and Hansen came to blows in Hell. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

The team which has been surprisingly out of contention this year, however, is Hansen World RX Team. Their fraternal pairing of Timmy and Kevin Hansen currently lie 9th and 3rd in the championship respectively. Both drivers have suffered unlucky incidents with fellow drivers, but have shown good pace. If it can all come together in Höljes, site of their 1-2 finish in 2021, it would be an incredible achievement. Timmy said of the event, “It’s one of the absolute highlights of the year; competing in front of so many people on home soil is just an incredible feeling that we don’t get anywhere else. After coming close on many occasions, to finally get the victory there last season felt amazing – and that’s definitely something I want to repeat this weekend“.

Euro RX1

A packed Euro RX1 grid guarantees an action-packed weekend of racing. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

The excitement continues in the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship as well. The season has been utterly captivating so far, with the title very much still up for grabs. The top three drivers are separated by just three points, and the rest of the field is very close behind.

Belgium’s Enzo Ide is just holding on to the top spot of the championship with a one point lead over 2022 champion Anton Marklund. Ide’s speed is remarkable, but his performances have been patchy so far. Marklund will be desperate to secure his first win of the 2023 campaign to put some distance between him and his competitors, and there couldn’t be a better venue to do so than his iconic home event at Höljes. Third place Janis Baumanis is still very much in the mix, despite a dreadful weekend in Hell last time out.

Svardal over the moon in Hell. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

And let’s not forget what happened last time out in Hell. Sivert Svardal overcame a horrendous start to the season to secure a fantastic victory, proving that winners can come from absolutely anywhere on the grid, and creating one of the most iconic images of this season so far.

Will there be a fourth different winner in the 2023 Euro RX1 championship? Can Timmy Hansen turn his misfortune around? Can anyone take the fight to the almighty Johan Kristoffersson? All will be revealed 1/2 July as the Magic Weekend returns.