GRX ENTERS WORLD RX WITH NICLAS GRONHOLM
Finnish-based team GRX and driver Niclas Gronholm – son of double WRC Champion Marcus Gromholm - will contest the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy with an M-Sport built Ford Fiesta RX Supercar.
The GRX team will compete in all 12 rounds of the World Championship in a partnership with multiple FIA European Rallycross Championship winning team, Set Promotion. The Fiesta RX is currently being prepared at M-Sport’s base in Cumbria, north England.
Gronholm, 20, raced in the full FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2016, his first full-time campaign having made just one previous start in the series, in Sweden 2015. In a year of learning and development, the Finn made the semi-finals twice: in Sweden and in Canada. The 2015 Finnish Rallycross Champion now has experience of every circuit on the World RX schedule, with the exception of the final round in South Africa, which is a new addition to the World Championship from 2017.
“Everything should be much easier this year. I know how the races work, and I know the tracks – that’s a big plus if you compare it to last year,” explained Gronholm Jnr. “We’ve been doing a lot of winter driving at home in Finland on the ice. Last year we only did one or two days and then a couple of tests in the rallycross car, but this year we’re much better prepared. I know everyone who is working in the team, and I think everything will be much better this year. Everything is in our own hands and easier to control.”
The Finn continued, “With new teams and new cars nobody really knows where everybody is at the moment. I think we have the chance to score some good results. I’m working closely with Jussi [Pinomaki, Set Promotion owner] again this season, he’s a good guy and knows what he is doing. He will be my spotter again too. We’ll take it race-by-race, but the target is to always be in the semi-finals and then move onto the final. That’s the plan for this year.”
GRX owner, Marcus Gronholm, concluded, “We have a new car for this year - it’s the Fiesta RX that was raced previously by Ken Block. Our GRX mechanics are working at M-Sport at the moment to prepare it, and it will be ready in a couple of weeks so we can have some time to do some testing before the season. Last year was difficult for Niclas because we came as beginners directly into the World Championship. Now I think it should be a little easier because he knows the tracks and has had the time to practice over the winter with some rally driving. The Fiesta RX will hopefully have some small updates, especially on the engine side. It will be very competitive in World RX this year, and I think we can achieve some good results.”
TEAM DA RACING REVEAL 2017 WORLD RX PLANS
French-based team DA Racing-Eurodatacar has confirmed it will enter the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy with Jean-Baptiste Dubourg set to compete in all 12 rounds of the World Championship. Driving a Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar, Dubourg will be joined by WTCC driver Gregoire Demoustier who will contest five World RX rounds in the team’s second car. Andrea Dubourg will enter the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX) driving a Citroen DS3.
JB Dubourg is familiar with major international events having finished on the podium at the French round of World RX at Loheac back in 2015. He has since claimed back-to-back Andros Trophy titles in 2016 and 2017.
“It’s very exciting to be able to commit myself full-time to World RX,” explained JB Dubourg, who turns 30 later this year. “Having the opportunity to compete with not only the best rallycross drivers, but from motorsport in general, is a childhood dream come true. The commitment of this programme is a new step in the ambitious Team DA Racing-Eurodatacar project which started in 2012. I will have the pleasure of driving a 208 WRX developed in Peugeot Sport’s workshops in recent years, whose reliability and performance are without question. I will take advantage of pre-season testing to continue the learning phase - we must seize every opportunity this year.”
At just 26-years-old, Demoustier has developed significant experience in his motorsport career, predominantly in circuit racing by competing in the FIA GT1 World Championship, Blancpain Endurance Series and in WTCC. On top of a 16-round program in French and European GT4, and the TCR International series this year, Demoustier has committed to World RX rounds in Barcelona, Portugal, Belgium, Canada and South Africa.
“It was impossible to resist the lure of rallycross,” admitted Demoustier. “I’ve watched World RX live on L'Equipe, the starts are very impressive and the races are physical, it reminds me of my experience from the Andros Trophy. In World RX, I’m entering a new universe – I have everything to discover. The race format with the qualifying races, the elimination system for the final stages and of course the joker lap is totally different from what I’m used to, but I think it's a very interesting format. The Andros Trophy allowed me to grasp changes in grip levels and that will be a bonus in helping me to familiarize myself with loose surface in rallycross, which is totally new to me.”
Dominique Dubourg, Team Principal for DA Racing-Eurodatacar, concluded, “We will be fighting against the best drivers and the biggest manufacturers in World RX, which is live on the L’Equipe television channel. We know that rallycross is an uncompromising and difficult discipline – we are here to learn and to cement a permanent place in World RX. I would like to thank all of our partners and friends who have supported us in this project.”
BRITAIN’S WILKS ENTERS WORLD RX AS FULL-TIME INDEPENDENT DRIVER
Britain’s Guy Wilks has confirmed he will enter all 12 rounds of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy at the wheel of a Volkswagen RX Polo Supercar. Wilks – a two-time British Rally Champion and ex-WRC driver – will compete in Johan Kristoffersson’s old Supercar, the same vehicle which helped the Swede finish runner-up in last year’s drivers’ standings.
Wilks has previously competed in five World RX events (Lydden Hill 2015 and 2016, France, Barcelona and Latvia). In 2015, the Englishman reached the final at World RX of Great Britain but was denied a podium spot due to a puncture.
“To get an opportunity to do a full World Championship is something I've always wished for,” explained an elated Wilks, who will enter as an independent entry and be backed by energy drink LOCO.
The 36-year-old added, “To compete in a car that finished second in the Championship last year adds pressure but is the ingredient that can make it realistic for me mix it at the top, even though the bar in World RX is getting raised year on year. I want to thank LOCO energy drink and Marc Blackburn for this opportunity - he saw me drive at Lydden and Loheac in 2015 and believed in me from the start. I'm going to give it absolutely everything to prove his beliefs and also my own and we want to put ourselves up against the best. There's still a lot of work to do but 2017 is going to be an awesome journey!”
Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG, concluded, “Guy is very familiar with rallycross – he’s regularly commentated alongside Andrew Coley on our TV show. There’s no denying he’s a talent behind the wheel and proved this when he reached the final on his RX debut at Lydden Hill back in 2015.”
LOCO will also back World RX driver Janis Baumanis, who yesterday confirmed he will drive for the all-new STARD team. The Latvian explained: “There are lots of great things going on in our World RX activities before the season starts. We have our partnership with Manfred Stohl and his STARD team and now I am glad to announce that I have got a new and very important sponsor, LOCO. Together we will aim to reach the highest level in the sport.”
NEW STARD TEAM ENTERS WORLD RX WITH BAUMANIS AND TIMERZYANOV
A new two-car team – STARD – has confirmed its entry into the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. Latvia’s Janis Baumanis and Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov - who both previously competed under the MJP Racing Team Austria banner - will drive a pair of Ford Fiesta RXS Supercars run by Manfred Stohl’s operation, Stohl Racing.
The process will be handled by Stohl Group’s experienced motorsport business unit Stohl Racing, closely co-operating with the group’s high performance R&D specialist STARD’s development engineers, who have developed the cars over the past few months. Stohl – who has competed in World RX and is an experienced former WRC driver – will take on the role as Team Principal.
“This is a great feeling - with Manfred Stohl’s help, I have managed to secure a Supercar drive once again,” explained 24-year-old Baumanis. “In Stohl Group’s office I signed a contract for World RX Team Austria but now, with STARD, I am back there again - where it all began for me. I have big plans for the 2017 season and I’m feeling very well prepared.”
Double FIA European Rallycross Champion Timerzyanov added, “I expect that the experience and knowledge gained from racing the Stohl built car throughout 2016 will help me greatly this year. I have given my input to the STARD engineers to help prepare this year’s car. I am looking forward to a professional and hopefully successful 2017 season.”
Team Principal Manfred Stohl concluded, “I already participated in World RX in 2015, back then as a driver, and I quickly became a huge fan of the sport. It then seemed logical to look into business activity in this area as well. Rallycross offers the possibility for practically any driver – from off-road to the circuit-racing scene so it is very diverse. We will field two of the Ford Fiesta RXS Evo 3 - these are based on the cars which STARD has developed and built in 2015, and optimized in 2016 for World RX Team Austria. Our development engineers have intensively worked on another upgrade for the 2017 Evo 3 version and in Janis and Timur we have the top level drivers in rallycross.”
Timerzyanov and Baumanis have already been replaced in the MJP Racing team by Sweden's Kevin Eriksson and double DTM Champion Timo Scheider.
The new-for-2017 STARD team will first be seen in action at the World RX Championship season-opener in Barcelona from 1-2 April.