South Africa to stage spectacular season WRX season finale

South Africa to stage spectacular season WRX season finale

20.11.2018: ...as World RX prepares to wow Cape Town again • One victory left to fight for as dramatic 2018 campaign reaches final act • 18 competitors to battle for glory

...as World RX prepares to wow Cape Town again


•    One victory left to fight for as dramatic 2018 campaign reaches final act

•    18 competitors to battle for glory under the shadow of Table Mountain

•    World Championship medal places set to be decided in South Africa





The 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy will draw to a close in Cape Town this weekend (24/25 November), with everybody’s sights set on stealing the last victory of the season as Killarney International Raceway plays host to World RX of South Africa.
 


Following 11 pulsating events all around the world – including the popular additions of Speedmachine Festival at Silverstone and Texas’ Circuit of The Americas (COTA) – the flame-spitting 600bhp Supercars are set for their final showdown on African soil. The event will build upon the success of rallycross’ inaugural event on the continent last year, as World RX continues to embrace new venues and markets.
 


Not only that, but there remains much to play for at the pinnacle of the sport, with all 18 protagonists eager to head into the winter ‘off season’ with momentum on their side. Under the shadow of South Africa’s iconic Table Mountain, there could be few venues more fitting than Killarney for what is sure to be a dramatic final act.
 


The key talking point is the ferocious fight raging for the medal places in the World Championship standings, with four drivers disputing second and third overall and three of them separated by only seven points.




 Mattias Ekstrom currently holds the initiative, pursued by EKS Audi Sport stablemate Andreas Bakkerud and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden star Petter Solberg, with Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb the outsider of the quartet at a further 16 points in arrears.
 


Ekstrom and Bakkerud travel to South Africa buoyed by a double podium last time out at Germany’s Estering and five top three finishes between them from the most recent four rounds.




 Two-time World Champion Solberg is desperate to avoid what would be the first winless season of his glittering World RX career; after recovering from illness, the Norwegian has looked increasingly strong of late. Loeb, for his part, has nothing to lose and can effectively go for broke – setting the scene for a tantalising tussle.
 



In order to reach the top step of the podium in Cape Town, they all need to get the better of the man whose second consecutive World Championship title this year has cemented his status as the finest rallycross driver of his generation – indeed, arguably the best of all time. Johan Kristoffersson (PSRX Volkswagen Sweden) is by any measure a hugely talented athlete indubitably at the top of his game, and he is determined to replicate his 2017 Cape Town triumph.
 


The Swede might return to the ‘Mother City’ as the man with the target on his back, but in World RX, nothing can ever be taken for granted – especially with so much still at stake. One of Kristoffersson’s staunchest rivals this weekend is likely to be Team Peugeot Total’s Timmy Hansen, his closest competitor at Killarney last season, topping two of the four qualifying contests and ultimately winding up second in the final, a whisker shy of victory.
 



Hansen currently sits sixth in the points table and after being denied the opportunity to push for the World Championship medal places by a brace of engine change penalties, the Swede will be fired-up to finish the season in style.




GRX Taneco Team’s Niclas Gronholm has enjoyed an excellent campaign behind the wheel of his Hyundai i20, as has Kevin Hansen in his Team Peugeot Total 208. Both men have progressed through to the final in two of the last three events so can be counted upon to push right to the end under the South African sun.
 


Piloting Team STARD’s Ford Fiesta, Janis Baumanis has been a consistent contender in 2018 and set the pace in Q2 in Cape Town last year. Twelve months on, the Latvian is sure to be fighting for a semi-final berth with the second Hyundai of Timur Timerzyanov, Olsbergs MSE duo Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson and GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund. Seeking to continue his upturn in form over the second half of the year, Gregoire Demoustier returns to Killarney in his Sebastien Loeb Racing Peugeot 208.
 


The entry list is completed by Timo Scheider and Rene Muennich for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport and Oliver Bennett in his BMW MINI.
 


Timmy Hansen, Team Peugeot Total, said:
“South Africa is a lot of fun and I enjoyed racing there last year, so I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a modern-style circuit with quite a lot of grip on the gravel, where you can find a nice rhythm and let the car flow.




I’m obviously really hungry to get a win with the 208 WRX Evo; we’ve been in the final and very close on so many occasions, but just missing that small final ingredient, or bit of luck, to get there. I’m looking for a strong weekend in South Africa, with no mishaps. It's always important to end the season with a strong result.”




World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, commented
: “I can think of nowhere better to conclude another fantastic campaign of first-class rallycross competition than Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Last year, the organisers really rolled out the red carpet for rallycross’ debut on the African continent and the thousands of fans who attended made us feel extremely welcome.



Expectations are high for an even better event 12 months on, and with everybody eager to sign off the season in style, fireworks are guaranteed both on and off-track! With the World Championship firmly in the ascendancy, we look forward to another crowd-pleasing weekend to send everybody into the winter in bullish mood, as we prepare for an even more exciting 2019 with new races at Spa-Francorchamps and Yas Marina, and increasing interest from untapped markets.”
 







From a Cooper Tires point of view


Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe, said:


“We have reached the final event of the year, in South Africa, and at 6,000 miles from our manufacturing facility in Melksham, England, the tyres have had a long journey over the last month to get to what is likely to be a spectacular season finale.



This circuit proved a great success last year, but the drivers have to be careful as the track incorporates a few big kerbs and if they hit them wrong they can break a rim – or even puncture a tyre.”




Nicci Packwood - photos WRX

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/south-africa-stage-wrx-season-finale-cape-town---183666.html

20.11.2018 / MaP

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