Andreas Bakkerud screamed further into the World RX history books this weekend, with a giant crushing performance, that saw him lock-down second place at the 40th anniversary edition of the World RX of France.
With a double win in Norway and Sweden behind him, as well as a second place podium at the last round in Canada; Bakkerud carried serious momentum with him rolling into the Lohéac weekender. Not only that, but the 24-year-old racer was determined to take the fight to his fellow countryman and Monster Energy athlete – Petter Solberg – as well as lead a Hoonigan Racing Division two car assault into the final.
Needless to say he delivered, in epic style.
After the all-important qualifying sessions, Bakkerud placed third, primed for an awesome fight to the flag in the finals; leading team-mate Block in fourth, and Solberg in fifth. While the semis were hard fought, they proved to be just a taster of the all-out rallycross combat that was set to take place in the grand final. A six-lap thriller of dust, dirt, and smashed carbon-fibre proved exactly why World RX owns the global motorsport stage.
Going bumper to bumper and door to door, Bakkerud threw down in a big way, managing to hold off a charging team mate – Ken Block – as well as reigning world champion - Petter Solberg. In fact had it not been for the smallest of forced errors by Block on the final lap; who had come under intense pressure from former European Champion Reinis Nitiss, both Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Focus RS-RX’s could have finished inside the top four. Unfortunately Block’s last-lap wall-tap forced him to retire from the race and accept sixth place. It was a tough finish for the Head Hoonigan in Charge, who had otherwise driven a textbook weekend at round eight of the FIA World Rallycross Championship; winning two of his qualification races, and looking every bit the match for the seasoned rallycross drivers he shared the track with.
While eventual race winner Johan Kristoffersson picked up the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, for his lightening reaction off the lights, arguably the unofficial fan vote has to go to Petter Solberg. After his horror crash at the World RX of Canada – which destroyed his Citroen DS3 Supercar, Petter and his PSRX team worked around the clock, just to be able to compete in France.
Pushing through struggles in the heats, including a cracked manifold in Q1, a broken windscreen wiper system in Q3, and jump start in Q4 – meaning Petter had to take a double joker - the reigning champ still managed to push through to the finals. Despite missing out on the podium, Petter still managed to finish the weekend smiling and inch out his championship lead over Mattias Ekström to five points.
On the flip side, local hero Guerlain Chicherit was forced to grit his teeth at his debut 2016 World RX event. The multiple world champion freeskier turned rallycross racer was cruelly denied a chance to test his mettle against the competition, and put on a show for his home crowds due to technical issues with in his JRM Mini RX Supercar. Guerlain posted times in Saturday’s qualifying session, but further major issues with the two-litre development engine in his car, forced the team to retire from the event and focus on the next round in Barcelona on the 17th/18th September.
Full result from the 2016 FIA World RX of France are available here.
Andreas Bakkerud – 2nd:
“I’m very very happy with this weekend. It was a big team effort – we had both cars in the finals, and have come away with more championship points, as well as a podium. Everyone has worked so hard to get to this level and position, and we are genuinely stepping it up every time. This has felt like an incredibly tough weekend. Coming to Lohéac, it’s a big weekend; every single driver puts a lot of pressure on themselves to win it. We were struggling a little with the starts this weekend – and when you are chasing from behind, it can be difficult. The final was incredibly tough too - I enjoyed it - it was proper rallycross; door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper. I saw Johan up front – big congrats to him – he was running his own race out there. I was battling my Norwegian rival – and he was being super tough. Nobody can overtake here like I do though – he was hard with me in the semi and in the final, but I can just take him back at every turn. We have our first really big test next week, so it will be good to get laps in without the pressure of competition, and work on more of the fine details of the Ford Focus RS RX. I’m really pumped to be on the podium for a fourth time in a row!”
Petter Solberg – 4th:
Today it’s fourth, but this is a win for PSRX – they are the best in the world and I thank all of them for the sleep they have missed and the hours they have worked to get this car to the grid. Leaving a race weekend with a bigger lead than when we arrive at the track is what this year is all about for us – so France has been a big success for us. We had a perfect start in Q1, but the race unfortunately was red flagged. In the re-try I wasn't able to get out first when my manifold broke just after the start line, but we managed to save a 6th overall time anyway. The rest of the heats were hard battles and difficult conditions too. In Q2 we were a little unlucky in traffic, and then in Q3 my windscreen wiper system unfortunately broke, and it was very difficult to see anything ahead through the dust. Q4 I had probably what I could describe as the RX race of my life – I had to take two jokers because the clutch slipped at the start, and I had a jump start penalty. I pushed so hard that I had enough gap for three joker laps in the end! We battled hard in the finals, but ultimately it’s the championship that matters and we added another point to our lead here this weekend. It might only be one point, but we all know points makes prizes!”
Ken Block – 6th:
“I was just pushing really hard in the final, and wanted to get up on the back of third and fourth, and misjudged the grip level coming into the corner. In general it was the best result that we had in the qualification stage of an event – with 3rd and 4th before the finals, and for me personally it was my best result in qualification of World Rallycross! Now that I’m really coming to grips with the car, and we are getting the set up right, it’s really starting to work for me and I’m starting to understand it. In Canada I had a pretty good event, and here in France I managed to better that even more. It feels like a momentum thing we’ve got going now. Andreas has proved the car is good, and it’s just taken me a little longer to adapt to it. I’m a little disappointed today obviously because nobody is here to throw away a good result. In general though, I’m really stoked to be where we are at – being the only team to have two cars in the final this weekend is huge. We’ve got two days of testing coming up now, and the whole team will continue to push as hard as we can.”
Guerlain Chicherit – DNS:
“I’m super sad that we couldn’t race in front of my home fans this weekend. The crowds and the atmosphere were amazing – seeing the amount of people that have made the journey to Oleic is really fantastic - and I really wanted to put on a show for them and of course get a result in the racing. We had some difficulties with the engine in the car, and it was better for us to not risk any more damage, and prepare properly for the next race in Spain. Not just from a technical side, but personally this disappointment makes me even more determined for Barcelona RX. Rallycross is hugely exciting for me and I really want to show what I can do against some of the best drivers in the world. We’ll be back and ready to fight in two weeks time.”