After a two-race absence from the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve re-joins Albatec Racing aboard the team’s #25 two-litre, 16v Peugeot 208. Alongside Team Principal Andy Scott, Jacques will join 40 of the world’s top rallycross racers for round 10 at World RX of Italy at the Franciacorta track, near Milan.
Venue of the pre-season Media Day, the Franciacorta track is a new addition to the 12-round, IMG-promoted World RX, and will offer 1.6km of bumper-to-bumper, door handle-to-door handle, lights-to-flag action.
This year’s series is arguably among the most competitive with over half the field more than capable of victory. Featuring six permanent teams, including Lochfoot-based Albatec Racing, at least a dozen top-level drivers are vying for the all-important 12 places across two semi finals, which are then whittled down to the fastest six drivers. Add to this the quality of the wildcard entries at each event, and race action is often fraught and closely contested throughout the four qualifying heats.
Already this season Andy has secured a slot in the semi finals on five separate occasions, no mean feat against a crop of drivers that have included former WRC champion Petter Solberg, American Gymkhana athlete Ken Block, reigning GRC Champion Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkenen, and WRC2 front-runner Pontus Tidemand.
For Jacques, his debut season in rallycross has not been without its problems, in a series in which the former Indycar World Series Champion adjusts to the unique format that pitches five flame-spitting, four-wheel-drive turbocharged beasts head-to-head over short, sharp, four-lap sprints around a purpose-built tarmac and gravel course. More used to the wide open, fast, all tarmac tracks of the F1 and Indycar schedules, the French Canadian has nevertheless shown incredible determination and motivation to succeed in the new discipline and heads into his first competitive outing since World RX of Canada, with a point to prove.
A number of issues have sidelined the multiple F1 race winner in his previous six rallycross outings, but his last event, on his home track of Trois Rivières offered possibly the best indication of his talent and speed behind the wheel of a 600bhp Supercar. Only a dislodged fuel tank ended his bid to reach the semi finals, and on a track on which he has previous knowledge, he will be looking to make amends.
Track action in Italy gets underway at 10:00 on Saturday, followed by the first two qualifying heats at 12:30. Sunday resumes with morning warm-up at 08:00, ahead of the final two qualifying heats at 09:15, with the semi finals and Final starting from 15:00. Further information, live timing and live streaming (country-dependent), is available from www.rallycrossrx.com, with UK viewers able to watch the action live on Eurosport. (Check TV guides for details).
Andy Scott, Team Principal and driver Albatec Racing #26 : “After the disappointment of Germany we head to Italy with renewed optimism of a strong result, as I fully believe that the car has the potential to succeed. We had a number of issues last time out, which cannot be predicted, however with all of that now behind us, we will be looking for a return to form that has allowed us to battle with some of the biggest names in rallycross, and indeed the higher level of wildcard entries, to reach the finals.
“This weekend we have Jacques return to race action with us; last time out he was very quick and I am sure the track will suit his driving style well. Although the competition this year is incredibly tough, in terms of quantity and quality, I will be very disappointed not to have at least one car in the semi finals, if not both.” Jacques Villeneuve, driver Albatec Racing #25 : “I’m really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel in Franciacorta, it’s a track on which I have some knowledge having testing there previously at the media day, and it’s a country where I have a lot of support from the local fans and media, so I hope to put on a good show.
“I believe the track will suit my driving style well and naturally I’ve been watching Andy and the team’s progress with interest over the last two races, they’ve done well to reach the semi finals against such strong competition and I’ll be going flat out to ensure there are two Albatec Peugeot 208s up at the front in Italy.”