Solberg becomes first double winner
Norway’s Petter Solberg took a sensational lights-to-flag victory today to become the first driver to win a round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship held outside of Europe.
The PSRX driver also becomes the first double winner in RX this year. Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport’s Anton Marklund and Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timur Timerzyanov finished second and third respectively, both drivers securing podium spots for the first time this season.
Staged at the Trois Rivieres street circuit as part of the annual Grand Prix Trois-Rivieres (GP3R) motorsport festival, the seventh round of World RX attracted crowds of more than 30,000 people to watch 18 flame-spitting Supercars and nine RX Lites cars in the Intercontinental Cup. Three Canadian stars also helped draw a passionate home crowd as F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, former IndyCar star Patrick Carpentier and multiple Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L’Estage took to the all-new RX circuit. Villeneuve was denied a place in the semi-finals after a fuel tank issue meant he was forced to withdraw but Carpentier wowed the crowds on his World RX debut, reaching the final and eventually finishing sixth.
“I am so, so happy right now but it hasn’t been the easiest day,” admitted Solberg who has extended his lead at the top of the standings by 20 points thanks to three heat victories, plus a win in both the semi and the final. The former WRC World Champion, who was also awarded the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, added: “The morning didn’t start so well – we had similar problems to Belgium but the mechanics worked really hard on the car and I want to credit this win to my team. I wouldn’t be here without them - they work harder than anyone. It’s always been my dream to become the first person to win two World Championships and now that dream is getting closer but there are still five races to go and this sport is tough. I’d also like to thank the Canadian organisers – it’s fantastic to come to a new event, they have done a great job.”
Marklund was a model of consistency over the weekend after never finishing outside the top five in all the heats. The 21-year-old went on to win his semi-final to qualify on the front row of the final alongside pole starter Solberg. “This has been a lot of fun,” grinned Marklund at the press conference. “I’ve managed to score points all day and driving down the long straight at speeds of around 190kmph is just amazing. Usually rallycross events are over two days so this has been a big challenge for my team to work over one day and they have done an amazing job. It’s also really good for VW to have three out of four cars in the final and now we’re tied with Olsbergs MSE in the manufacturer standings too – it’s been a great weekend for the whole team.”
After what can only be described as a torrid four heats for Timur Timerzyanov, the Russian defied all odds to reach the final where he drove a mature race and secured a well-deserved third place for Team Peugeot Hansen. The reigning European Rallycross Champion commented: “It’s fair to say I’ve had an active day: I’ve been fighting against rails, tyres… but somehow I made it to the final! I need to work on my driving style but for now I’m really happy and I hope this is the first of many podiums in the second half of the year.”
Two punctures for Reinis Nitiss proved costly for the Ford Olsbergs MSE driver who narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot after qualifying 13th at the end of the heats. However, retirement for Joni Wiman before the semi-finals opened the door for Nitiss, as first reserve, to enter the semi in which he finished third. Nitiss progressed to the final and eventually finished fourth but the lack of points gained from the heats means he drops behind VW Marklund’s Topi Heikkinen in the overall standings. Heikkinen rounded off the top five at RX Canada.
Arguably one of the most impressive drives of the event was that of local driver Patrick Carpentier who made his RX debut in the event. Carpentier, a former NASCAR and IndyCar driver, proved a natural talent despite having only one short test ahead of the race. “I can’t explain how happy I am to have made it to the final,” beamed the French Canadian. “Before today my only aim was to reach the semis and to be in the final in front of such an amazing home crowd on my RX debut is more than I could ever have hoped for.”
Monster Energy World RX Team’s Henning Solberg and Davy Jeanney both reached the semi-finals but a stall for Solberg on the start line saw the Norwegian denied a spot in the final. Jeanney was close to finishing in the top three in his semi but a final lap tussle saw the Frenchman lose out on the chance of reaching his first final this year.
After two heat race wins Villeneuve was on course for a spot in the semis but a heavy landing wreaked havoc with the fuel tank on his Albatec Racing prepared Peugeot 208 Supercar and forced the French-Canadian to retire. Britain’s Andy Scott made the final 12 securing crucial points for the Scottish-based team.
Vermont-based squad Subaru Rally Team USA impressed on its debut in World RX as three-time European Rallycross Champion Sverre Isachsen was on the pace throughout all four heats. The Norwegian reached the semis but finished fifth, one place behind Olsbergs MSE driver Andreas Bakkerud who also missed out on a spot in the all-important final.
In the RX Lites Intercontinental Cup Swedish rally driver Patrik Sandell took the win, with Kevin Eriksson securing the runner-up spot. F1 commentator and accomplished rallycross driver Julien Febreau took the third spot on the podium after an impressive debut in an RX Lites Car. The Frenchman commented: “It’s amazing to come here and take a win – the competition was really tough, the field was full of very talented young drivers but I’m delighted to have made the final and it’s even better to finish in the top three.”
Round eight of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will return to European soil as the World RX crews prepare for the hugely popular French RX event which will be staged in Loheac from 6-7 September.