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Race preview: World Rallycross heads to Latvia for Round 9 of the awesome series

2018-09-11 17:00
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Image: Youtube

With two-thirds of the season complete, the FIA World Rallycross Championship is Latvia-bound this weekend (15/16 September) as the home straight races into view for international motorsport’s most spectacular series.
 
Riga’s multi-functional Bikernieki National Sports Base first welcomed World RX in 2016, since then local fans have thoroughly embraced the series and its superstar drivers. The only Eastern European stop on the World Championship schedule takes place at a state-of-the-art rallycross circuit located just 15 minutes from the Latvian capital.
 
The 1295-metre track comprises a number of unique features – most notably parallel jumps in the Joker Lap and standard section – and last year, it was PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson that mastered the challenge best to grab victory.

*Wheels24's Sean Parker will be attending the race in Latvia, follow Wheels24 on Instagram and Twitter for all the coverage from this weekend's race.  

   

The Swede returns to the Baltic nation at the top of the 2018 title standings, having extended his overall advantage with his seventh success of the season in France last time out. Kristoffersson is chasing a second consecutive Drivers’ crown at the pinnacle of the sport – but a number of his rivals have similarly impressive records in Latvia and are determined to halt his championship charge.

Sebastien Loeb won the inaugural Neste World RX of Latvia in 2016, and following a disappointing home event for Team Peugeot Total at Loheac – yielding just fifth and sixth places in the final – the Frenchman is targeting a return to winning ways, having last reached the top step in Belgium earlier this year.

Like Loeb, former World RX Champion Mattias Ekstrom is two times a podium finisher in Riga – taking the chequered flag as runner-up in both editions to-date. EKS Audi Sport’s Audi S1 proved to be a potent package in France, but Andreas Bakkerud missed out on victory by barely a third-of-a-second at the end of a thrilling final, leaving both drivers with even more motivation to break the brand’s duck in 2018.

8 rounds complete, 4 more to go! Check out the highlights of this season so far 

The remaining two members of the ‘super six’ at the top of the points table are Kristoffersson’s VW team mate Petter Solberg and Loeb’s Peugeot stablemate Timmy Hansen. Latvia is the only event on the calendar at which 2014 and 2015 title-winner Solberg has yet to reach the final, whereas Hansen, by contrast, finished third there last year and is seeking more silverware 12 months on.
 
The Swede’s younger brother Kevin Hansen is enjoying a solid season in an independently-entered Team Peugeot Total 208 and is aiming to add to his three final appearances from the opening eight events – while local hero Janis Baumanis (Team STARD) will be hoping the support from the home crowd will spur him on into the last six for the second time in 2018. The former FIA European Rallycross Super1600 Champion placed fifth at Bikernieki last year, and a similar result this time around would doubtless send the partisan fans away happy.


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