The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy will return to Asia this weekend as a total of 21 Supercars and ten RX Lites will compete at the Intercity Istanbul Park, the former home of the Turkish Formula One race. The track, which first opened in 2005, straddles the Pendik and Tuzla districts in eastern Istanbul which has a combined population of more than 800,000 people.
With a 35-point lead over Timmy Hansen plus a total of 30 maximum points available in Istanbul, it’s possible that current leader Petter Solberg could wrap up his second drivers’ title this weekend.
“Standing on the top step of the podium in Barcelona reminded me how much I’d missed it,” admitted Solberg. “There’s no doubt that the racing has been getting harder and harder as the season has progressed. You look at what the likes of Peugeot is doing with the car and the effort going into the 208, but we haven’t been standing still either. Every time the team gets back to Torsby, we get our heads down and study every aspect of the car to look for more development and more speed.”
In addition to the 18 permanent World RX drivers comprising of eight two-car teams and two individual entries at the 11th round of World RX, Euro RX front-runners Albatec Racing will field a Peugeot 208 Supercar for Finnish rally star Kristian Sohlberg. The rallycross newcomer joined the team for national championship events in France and Great Britain earlier in the season.
“I’m feeling very excited about Turkey, a little nervous but just counting down the days until my first World RX race,” explained the former WRC driver. “I’ve been watching video footage of the track, but apart from that it’s all new to me, though I have heard it’s very nice and the gravel part is very slippery! I’ve also increased my physical training. Sports and training is in my daily routine anyway, but I have done extra in preparation.”
Also driving a Peugeot 208, but run by Hansen Talent Development, will be Latvia’s Janis Baumanis. Currently leading the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, Baumanis recently claimed the Estonian Rallycross Championship title at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Supercar. Turkey RX will mark Baumanis’ third appearance of the season for the Hansen Talent Development squad. Norway’s Alexander Hvaal, a two-time Euro RX event winner, will race his Citroen DS3 at the event, run by Swedish team JC Race Teknik.
The RX Lites Cup supports the World Championship this weekend, where RX Talent Search winner Tom Onslow-Cole will make his rallycross debut. The former British Touring Car Championship race winner turned GT driver beat 11 other finalists on the eve of the British round of World RX to win his prize of a drive at Istanbul Park.
“I cannot wait,” said the British driver who will race for the Olsbergs MSE team alongside regular driver and championship contender, Kevin Eriksson. “The races are so action-packed and adrenaline-fuelled. When I watch at home I can’t sit still… to be a part of it is already giving me a huge buzz! Tanner invited me to Lydden Hill a couple of years ago and I stood on the bank thinking I have got to have a go at this. So, when the MSA invited people to apply for the shootout, I couldn’t reply quick enough.”
Driving for the Toksport WRT team, Khalid Al-Suwaidi will make his rallycross debut and becomes the first Qatari to compete in RX. Al-Suwaidi currently competes in the Middle East Rally Championship and also contested the Bosphorus Rally in July, but retired with mechanical problems. In 2013, Al-Suwaidi finished second overall in the Qatar Rally Championship with two wins to his name.
Kenya’s Tejas Hirani made his RX Lites debut at Barcelona but will be more familiar with the Istanbul Park circuit for his second event, having taken part in the RX Lites test day at the venue last December. He joins Al-Suwaidi in the Toksport WRT team.
The Polish Lotto Team will field cars for Krzysztof Holowczyc and Martin Kaczmarski, while Norwegian regulars Simon Wago Syversen and Joachim Hvaal will race for Set Promotion and JC Race Teknik respectively.
Sweden’s Kevin Hansen currently leads the championship by nine points over 2014 champion Kevin Eriksson, while 2015 newcomer Thomas Bryntesson has been the driver recently on form and is now just six points behind Eriksson in third.
Since the previous World RX round in Barcelona, World RX Team Austria’s Max Pucher has become the Austrian Rallycross Champion in Supercar while Manfred Stohl finished third in the Chinese Rally Henan Denfeng, a round of the Chinese Rally Championship. Meanwhile, Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss has been getting some extra seat-time as he competed in the season-closing round of the Baltic Touring Car Championship over the weekend. Team Volkswagen Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson rounded off a perfect season in Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia with the Portugal RX winner taking an impressive 13 race wins – the maximum possible throughout the season.
From a Cooper Tire point of view. Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe, said: “Described by many as ‘one of the best race tracks in the world’ the World Rallycross Championship returns to Istanbul Park. This track really shows the drivers’ skills. As we saw last year the gravel sections can be very slippery and a mistake here could cost valuable time so drivers with ice driving experience certainly have an advantage. The Cooper rallycross tyre construction and compounding technology help ensure that the drivers can cope with a wide range of surfaces.”
The full Turkey RX entry list can be downloaded here
Friday 2 October
1600: Drivers’ Draw and pre-event press conference
Saturday 3 October
0900: Media sign-on open
1100: RX Practice
1300: Drift/Stunt show
1400: World RX Heat 1
1530: Drift/Stunt Show
1600: World RX Heat 2
Sunday 4 October
0800: Media sign-on open
0915: Warm-up, World RX
1005: Drift/Stunt show
1030: World RX Heat 3
1140: Drift/Stunt show
1200: World RX Heat 4
1345: Autograph Session
1445: Drift/Stunt show
1500: World RX Semi-Finals & Final
1545: World RX podium
1610: World RX winners’ press conference