Heikkinen becomes sixth different World RX winner
Topi Heikkinen has won this weekend’s World RX of Belgium, round six of the FIA World Rallycross Championship
Heikkinen is the sixth different World RX winner in six events. Team Peugeot Hansen driver Timmy Hansen finished second with Johan Kristofferson third in a VW Polo. After finishing fourth and collecting crucial points Petter Solberg is now Championship leader, three points ahead of Reinis Nitiss.
An estimated 25,000 spectators flocked to Mettet in southern Belgium this weekend to watch the latest round of the FIA’s newest World Championship. With mixed weather conditions and a brand new rallycross circuit to manipulate, the World RX drivers had little time to get to grips with the narrow, technical Jules Tacheny Circuit. Local hero and former WRC star Francois Duval was a popular addition to the World RX paddock this weekend demonstrating good pace in the VW Marklund Polo but not quite enough to make the final 12.
One driver who was consistent from start to finish, however, was Mettet RX winner Topi Heikkinen. “I’m very thankful to my team – they have made such a huge effort and the car is excellent,” gushed the 23-year-old Finn. “I’d like to thank Volkswagen Motorsport too for all of their help. Now we’re six events into the season I think I can catch up in the second half. We’re only a few points behind Reinis [Nitiss] and Petter [Solberg] now so it’s going to get really exciting!”
After a troubled start to the season, Team Peugeot Hansen turned a corner this weekend as Timmy Hansen took a well-deserved second place in the Peugeot 208 Supercar. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium but I’m really happy to be here – especially after such a hard weekend,” said the young Swede. “The final didn’t go to plan, I think I was last on the first corner and then I made a mistake and dropped even further but the next few laps I just went flat out and was right behind Topi at the end. I have to thank my team for this – they have built a wonderful car.”
Securing the third step of the podium in Mettet this weekend was VW Polo driver Johan Kristofferson who stunned the crowds after a semi-final win in what was only his second World RX outing this year. The Swede was also crowned the winner of the third round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX). “This is only the second race for us and I would have been happy just finishing in the semi-finals,” said Kristofferson who was awarded Monster Energy Super Charge Award after his rapid start. “To get to the final was amazing and to be on the podium is just the best feeling! We had a really good start in the final race as we were in pole position and I think that’s what really helped us get here. Hopefully we will be back for some more races in the second half of the season.”
PSRX driver Solberg looked on course for a podium spot but broken suspension hindered the Norwegian’s progress during the event’s closing laps. After an impressive drive this weekend Anton Marklund rounded off the top five in his VW Marklund while EKS RX driver Pontus Tidemand took sixth place in his Audi S1 Supercar. EKS RX wildcard entry Edward Sandstrom made an impressive showing on his debut in World RX with a series of quick lap times but the GT racer narrowly missed out on a spot in the semis.
Monster Energy World RX Team’s Liam Doran and Davy Jeanney had a weekend of mixed results. The pairing both made the semi-finals but broken intercooler near the start of the race knocked Doran out of a chance in the final. “The car worked well this weekend but I’m disappointed not to make the finals after getting this far,” said Frenchman Jeanney after losing out on a top three place in his semi.
It was a torrid weekend for Team Championship leaders Ford Olsbergs MSE who encountered a series of misfortunate events. Andreas Bakkerud was first to hit trouble when an engine problem on his Ford Fiesta Supercar forced the Norwegian into an early retirement. On the next heat Nitiss tore the right rear wheel off his car after colliding with Henning Solberg. The team worked flat out overnight to repair the Fiestas but more bad luck was to follow when Bakkerud withdrew from heat three. Nitiss went on to take the heat win but was knocked out of his semi-final race along with Euro RX points leader Robin Larsson and Peter Hedstrom.
Albatec Racing had another difficult weekend after Andy Scott and former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve failed to make the final 12. Both Scott and Villeneuve demonstrated good pace in their Peugeot 208 Supercars but contact on heat four saw Villeneuve damage his car’s steering and put an end to his hopes of his first World RX semi-final.
In the TouringCar category, Belgium’s Filip Baelus took a home win in front of an ecstatic home crowd at the wheel of a Volvo C30. After a heat and semi-final win, Anders Braten finished runner-up with Torleif Lona third. At the season’s half-way point Daniel Lundh leads Lona by 11 points.
Following two heat wins and a semi-final victory Latvia’s Janis Baumanis took his second win in the Super1600 category this season. Timur Shigaboutdinov and Janno Ligur were second and third respectively. Sergey Zagumennov continues to lead the Super1600 standings with a total of 145 points.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsport, concluded: “We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting opening half to the season for our inaugural year as a World Championship. We’ve had six different winners with four different manufacturers and now only eight points separate the top three drivers. It’s also been fascinating to witness three different Championship leaders already this year and now we have round one winner Petter back at the top of the standings proving once again that points matter just as much as winning races. Volkswagen Marklund’s outstanding performance this weekend has also seen the outfit close in on Ford Olsbergs in the overall battle of the teams. It’s been a pleasure to visit Mettet this weekend – the team in Belgium have done a terrific job and played a crucial role in attracting more than 20,000 fans to the circuit this weekend. It’s been wonderful to be involved in the growing popularity of World RX over the past six months – we’re extremely lucky to have what I believe are some of the most talented drivers in the world and with more broadcasters starting to televise our Championship, the future of the sport is looking very bright indeed.”