Volkswagen Marklund Motorsport’s Anton Marklund has made a head start over the other World RX crews competing in Belgium after winning the event’s opening heat. Swedish Rallycross Championship event winner Johan Kristofferson won heat two to hold second overnight with Finn Topi Heikinnen third overall, making it a Volkswagen one-two-three.
A total of 67 drivers are taking part in the sixth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy which is being staged at a brand new rallycross circuit in Mettet. As well as the challenge of a new track, the drivers were also faced with wet conditions as rain fell intermittently throughout the day. The weather did not put off the fans, however, who descended on Mettet in their thousands to cheer on local star Francois Duval and regular World RX drivers such as Koen Pauwels. Hyundai WRC driver Thierry Neuville was also spotted in the World RX paddock today.
“We had two good starts in the heats today and a good start is really important on this track because it is very narrow,” explained 21-year-old Marklund. “On the first heat we made no mistakes and then we had a good position for the second heat but then I started braking a bit too late. We have not had much time for testing recently but I’m feeling more and more confident in the car. I really need championship points this weekend and I feel like I’m ready for a win so that’s what I’ll be fighting for tomorrow.”
After making his World RX debut in Sweden last week, Kristofferson was delighted to be second overnight in another VW Polo. Kristofferson also leads the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), of which Belgium is an official points-scoring round. The Swede explained: “The Polo is pretty new to us but the car is running nicely. I’m enjoying the track too – it’s narrow which I like and I’ve had a good start which has helped me for the rest of the track. Tomorrow I want to stay out of trouble and it would be nice to get to the semis – maybe even the final.”
Fourth in the standings and second in Euro RX is Robin Larsson in his Audi A1 Supercar. The Swede, who was also fastest in today’s free practice, commented: “We’ve been struggling a bit since coming second at Lydden Hill – the turbo pressure hasn’t been right and we’ve had some engine problems but today the car is running much better so I’ve been able to concentrate on driving. To win over the top guys in World RX, you need to be 100% on it so tomorrow I need to focus as much as I can.”
Fifth at the end of today was PSRX driver Petter Solberg who finished heat one fourth fastest and followed it up with a sixth fastest time in heat two. Solberg was joined by another former WRC star today as Duval made his World RX debut in a VW Polo RX Supercar but hit trouble during heat one when contact with another car forced the Belgian out of his opening race. Duval then went on to finish heat two seventh quickest and is currently 19th overall.
Elsewhere, it was a difficult day for the Ford Olsbergs MSE team who are currently leading the team standings. Andreas Bakkerud retired in heat one following an engine issue with his Ford Fiesta Supercar while Reinis Nitiss collided with Henning Solberg during heat two and tore the right rear wheel clean off the car.
Tomorrow’s World RX action will continue at 0930 local time tomorrow with two more heats across the Supercar, TouringCar and Super1600 categories. The semi-finals and all-important final will follow in the afternoon.