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13 Jul 2014

WRX: Marklund leads Mettet

Category: News, WRX Posted 13.07.14 02:30 by

Three VW Polo Mk5 drivers are on top of the overnight point standings at the end of Day 1 of WorldRX Belgium at Mettet after Anton Marklund and Johan Kristoffersson have each won a qualifying heat. However, due to a tie Toomas Heikkinen has to share third place with Audi A1 campaigner Robin Larsson.

 

Mettet is a small Walloon town in the Belgian province of Namur. It has almost 13,000 inhabitants and since March of 2010 a permanent racetrack by the name of Circuit Jules Tacheny to replace the former temporary road racing course with the same name. In 2007 Mettet was host for a round of the Belgian Rallycross Championship, but after a somewhat chaotic race, due to heavy rainfalls, the BRC series did not return for another Rallycross event. Since Maasmechelen refused to join the EuroRX series of 2013 some Belgians started to interest the track organisers as well as RX promoter IMG in Mettet, with the result that the circuit was converted for Rallycross use and Belgium became part of the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship. We understood that the track has currently too much of tarmac (69%), as FIA’s ‘Specific Regulations for Rallycross’ [Appendix O] allow just 60% of sealed surface. However, the 2014 event is confirmed to run under a waiver by FIA, while for 2015 the sealed to unsealed surface ratio should become at least 60% to 40%.

 

2007: At the old temporary Mettet track the first Rallycross was a pretty wet affair. © DS/ERC24

2007: At the old temporary Mettet track the first Rallycross was a pretty wet affair. © DS/ERC24

 

Swede Robin Larsson leading the field over the all-new Circuit Jules Tacheny. © JKR/ERC24

Swede Robin Larsson leading the field over the all-new Circuit Jules Tacheny. © JKR/ERC24

 

Swede Johan Kristoffersson claimed Heat 2 with FTD. © JKR/ERC24

Swede Johan Kristoffersson claimed Heat 2 with FTD. © JKR/ERC24

 

The entry list for Round 6 had 37 SuperCar drivers on offer, but four of them did not show up in Belgium. Among the four is Alexander Hvaal who told Norwegian press that he needs more time to test the Citroën DS3 he had used at Höljes: “We need some more testing before I do another round. If there is already Belgium for me this weekend is not sure. And as I got hit in the back in Finland and again in Höljes it might make more sense to spend the time to test the car properly.” Similar information about the need to sort their cars out was heard from the teams of Norwegian Hyundai i20 campaigner Frode Holte and Swedish female Saab 9-3 driver Ramona Karlsson.

Saturday’s action started at eleven in the morning with the two hours Open Practice sessions, the time keepers list was eventually topped by Robin Larsson (40.820s) who remained the only driver to do one Circuit de Mettet lap in less than 41 seconds. Andreas Bakkerud (41.064s), Johan Kristoffersson (41.259s), Pontus Tidemand (41.452s), Petter Solberg (41.507s) and Reinis Nitišs (41.673s) completed the top half-a-dozen.

 

Swedish STCC ace Edward Sandström is replacing Mattias Sandström, who is with the DTM in Moscow, in the EKS Audi S1. © JKR/ERC24

Swedish STCC ace Edward Sandström is replacing Mattias Ekström, who is with the DTM in Moscow, in the EKS Audi S1. © JKR/ERC24

 

Briton Andy Scott is back in action and battled it out with Michaël De Keersmaecker in the Coox Scirocco. © JKR/ERC24

Briton Andy Scott is back in action and battled it out with Michaël De Keersmaecker in the Coox Scirocco. © JKR/ERC24

 

Former World Rally Championship ace François Duval is driving the Marklund Motorsport wildcard Polo on home soil. © JKR/ERC24

Former World Rally Championship ace François Duval is driving the Marklund Motorsport wildcard Polo on home soil. © JKR/ERC24

 

Hyundai factory WRC driver Thierry Neuville is at Mettet, but this time just to write autographs. © JKR/ERC24

Hyundai factory WRC driver Thierry Neuville is at Mettet, but this time just to write autographs. © JKR/ERC24

 

Heat 1 ended with Anton Marklund topping the order, the Swede after four laps powering his VW Polo Mk5 in 2:53.282m over the finish line. His compatriot Robin Larsson was also in top form, the Audi A1 driver set 2:53.505m to make second place his. Marklund’s teammate Toomas Heikkinen followed in third place, the Finn needed 2:54.054m to reach the chequered flag. When all seven races of Heat 1 had been completed it was Petter Solberg who was fourth, Pontus Tidemand fifth and Reinis Nitišs sixth. Nitišs’ teammate Andreas Bakkerud faced serious troubles here, his engine gave in and the OMSE team started to change the motor. However, it was not enough time for the job and, therefore, ‘BabyBlue’ missed out the second heats also. Ex-WRC ace François Duval was another top driver who did not make it to the finish of Heat 1. Due to an early contact with another car the wildcard VW Polo Mk5 of Marklund Motorsport was quickly helped out of the opening race.

 

Fire spitting Brit Liam Doran en route to 16th place in the overnight standings. © JKR/ERC24

Fire spitting Brit Liam Doran en route to 16th place in the overnight standings. © JKR/ERC24

 

The two Norwegians Tord Linnerud (Renault Clio) and Henning Solberg (Saab 9-3) fighting for the lead. © JKR/ERC24

The two Norwegians Tord Linnerud (Renault Clio) and Henning Solberg (Saab 9-3) fighting for the lead. © JKR/ERC24

 

Swede Timmy Hansen is in seventh place after Heat 1 and 2. © JKR/ERC24

Swede Timmy Hansen is in seventh place after Heat 1 and 2. © JKR/ERC24

 

Marklund produced another strong drive in Heat 2, but here he was beaten to second place by fellow-countryman and make colleague Johan Kristoffersson. While Marklund drove his Polo in Race 7 to 2:50.880m the son of Rallycross legend Tommy Kristoffersson was a bit faster in Race 6, his 2:50.089m marked FTD. ‘Topi’ Heikkinen made it to third place once more; the no 1 driver of Marklund Motorsport finished Race 7 behind his teammate in 2:50.947m. With Timmy Hansen in fourth, Robin Larsson in fifth and Petter Solberg in sixth place Saturday’s qualification had its top six men together. After his bad luck in Heat 1 ‘Dudu’ Duval set the seventh fastest time in Heat 2. Championship leader Reinis Nitišs collided with Henning Solberg in Race 6 of Heat 2 with the result that both had to throw in the towel.

“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 Anton Marklund later. “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.”

 

While the OMSE squad is busy with an engine change for Andreas Bakkerud... © JKR/ERC24

While the OMSE squad is busy with an engine change for Andreas Bakkerud… © JKR/ERC24

 

...the fans of Bakkerud's Latvian teammate Reinis Nitišs are happy in Belgium. © JKR/ERC24

…the fans of Bakkerud’s Latvian teammate Reinis Nitišs are happy in Belgium. © JKR/ERC24

 

After making his World RX debut in Sweden last week Johan Kristoffersson was delighted to be second overnight. Kristofferson also leads the FIA European Rallycross Championship (EuroRX), 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.”

The official fourth in the overnight standings and second in EuroRX is Robin Larsson in his Audi A1. The Swede 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 WorldRX you need to be 100% on it so tomorrow I need to focus as much as I can.”

 

Latvian Jānis Baumanis is leading the event point standings in the Super1600s category. © JKR/ERC24

Latvian Jānis Baumanis is leading the event point standings in the Super1600s category. © JKR/ERC24

 

Swedish-Norwegian Fredrik Salsten drove his Citroën DS3 RWD TouringCar to twice the fastest times. © JKR/ERC24

Swedish-Norwegian Fredrik Salsten drove his Citroën DS3 RWD TouringCar to twice the fastest times. © JKR/ERC24

 

In the Super1600s category it is Latvian Jānis Baumanis who is leading after setting a fastest and a second fastest in the Saturday qualification. In TouringCars the Swede with Norwegian passport and racing licence Fredrik Salsten (Citroën DS3 RWD) holds the lead after making the fastest times in Heat 1 as well as in Heat 2 his.

 

Situation in SuperCars after Day 1 to be found here.

Situation in SuperCars after Day 1 to be found here.

Situation in SuperCars after Day 1 to be found here.

 

For more images please visit our Flickr gallery here.

 

Top photo: Swede Anton Marklund is on top of the overnight standings. © JKR/ERC24

 

The Day 1 highlights from Mettet.