Set 60 miles south-east of Brussels, the Jules Tacheny Circuit in Mettet is situated in the region of Wallonia - the French speaking part of Belgium.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy will conclude its busiest stretch of the season in Belgium this weekend as the Championship prepares for its third World RX event in a row. With a newly-built rallycross circuit plus guest drivers including former WRC star Francois Duval and GT Racer Edward Sandstrom, the Belgian RX round will be a welcome addition to the calendar as the FIA's newest World Championship approaches its half-way point.
Set 60 miles south-east of Brussels, the Jules Tacheny Circuit in Mettet is situated in the region of Wallonia - the French speaking part of Belgium. A brand new rallycross venue, the Belgian round of this year’s World RX will be a leap into the unknown for several drivers who have done little or no testing here. At just over 1030 metres in length, the Jules Tacheny is a very technical circuit made up of 31% gravel and 69% asphalt plus a joker located at the end of the lap before the flying finish. Over 30 Supercars will be fighting it out for the win at Mettet, which also forms the third round of this year’s FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX). In addition to the Supercars, there will be 10 TouringCar entries and 23 Super1600s competing this weekend.
Flying the flag for Belgium will be local driver Francois Duval who lives less than 30 miles from Mettet. With support from the Belgian VW Club, Duval will compete in the Marklund Motorsport run car alongside the team’s two main drivers, Anton Marklund and Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen. The only Belgian driver to win a round of WRC, Duval has a strong track record in rallycross after winning the Belgian round of the European Rallycross Championship when it was held at Maasmechelen back in 2010. “The car seems to be performing well and I’ll be aiming for a good result,” explained Duval. “My car number is 30: the same number I used when to win a Belgian rallycross event in a Ford Focus… hopefully the number 30 will help give me some extra luck this weekend!”
VW Marklund team manager Jan Marklund added: “Belgium is a new track for us and our drivers but I’m sure it will be a successful event and many Belgium fans are coming to see François driving in our team. I’m happy he’s driving for us and I’m sure that he will do great job. Sweden was a frustrating weekend as we were not able to keep up our winning momentum from Finland. We will now schedule more testing in order to get the small details in place and keep our drivers’ championship bids alive.”
Joining Duval as a wildcard in Belgium will be GT racer Edward Sandstrom for the EKS RX Team. Sandstrom has a wealth of racing experience after winning the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia and the Dubai 24 Hours. In 2013 he finished runner-up in the FIA GT Series in an Audi R8 LMS ultra. Currently third in the Blancpain Endurance Series, Sandstrom’s racing nous could pay dividends this weekend: “This is my first RX experience, but I’ve always enjoyed to drive cars in different situations and on different surfaces – ice, tarmac, gravel,” explained the 35-year-old. “This fits quite well for World RX, which is a very fast kind of motorsport with a lot of adrenaline and you have to be quick in your decisions. I really like that and I immediately felt quite at home in the Audi S1. After the test in Höljes I’m really confident for Belgium.”
Leading the driver standings for the third consecutive event is Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Reinis Nitiss who is also the only driver to have made it to the semi-final of each World RX event so far. The 18-year-old Latvian will be joined by team-mate Andreas Bakkerud who is third in the driver standings.
Sandwiched between Nitiss and Bakkerud in the overall leadeboard is former WRC Champion and PSRX driver, Petter Solberg. “It’s always interesting to go to a completely new country and a new track,” explained the former WRC Champion. “This one is new for everybody, it’s the first time World RX has been to the town of Mettet. I haven’t tested here before, but I have seen some footage from a media day at the track and it looks like a really interesting one. The big thing in Belgium will be getting points in the bag and making sure we stay out of trouble in the racing. After we leave Belgium all the kit is being shipped straight out to Canada for the next round, which follows three weeks later.”
Monster Energy World RX Team’s Liam Doran had his best result of the season in Sweden last week after finishing fifth but the 27-year-old British driver will be looking to do one better and finish on the podium this weekend. Doran will be joined in Belgium by Frenchman Davy Jeanney in the team’s second Citroen DS3 Supercar.
Team Peugeot Hansen will be hoping that the new Belgian track will bring better luck as Timur Timerzyanov and Timmy Hansen continue their hunt for a podium spot. More than capable of finishing in the top three, both drivers have been dealt an unlucky hand lately which has prevented Peugeot Hansen from securing a top three position this season. Team Principle Kenneth Hansen, however, was feeling upbeat: “It will be interesting to go to a new track, there are a lot of good teams now in the championship. It will be all about who can set their cars up the fastest and we are one of the teams best equipped to do that.”
Former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve is yet to reach a semi-final in this year’s World RX and will be looking to rectify that this weekend. He will compete alongside team owner Andy Scott who returns to the Scottish-based team for the first time after an incident with one of the team’s car meant he has been unable to race for three events.
Martin Anayi – Managing Director for World RX at IMG Motorsport – concluded: “It’s been non-stop in World RX lately and with four races in five weeks, there’s been little time for the teams to prep the cars inbetween races. A new circuit always brings added challenges too and with the majority of drivers never having tested at Mettet before it will be interesting to see who comes out top on what could be described as a level playing field. Having seen the track, a good start will be key to success - the drivers face a quick right-hand corner and a full lap of racing before the option to joker. So far we’ve had five different winners from five events so it will be interesting to watch what happens this weekend. Then it will be a quick turnaround for the teams as everyone gets ready to ship their cars to Canada for round seven at Trois-Rivieres.”
FIA World Rallycross