From Russia with love: With a Russian driver leading the SuperCars standings, Höljes in Sweden gets set to hold round six of what has become the most prestigious Rallycross event in the entire championship.
The Höljesbanan occupies a special place in the heart of every Rallycross fan. In terms of credibility of the event, it may be said that ERC Sweden is perhaps the most established round in the FIA European Rallycross Championship. Over the years the event has always been at the root and pivot of the championship. This year it separates the mid-way point of the season and so often has it been the turning point for many European drivers. The second Scandinavian event in the series, Sweden is situated at the hub of the success of 21st century Rallycross; the 2010 event attracted 26,850 [record!] eager supporters and spectators, who still provide proof that more than ever fans still relish in the excitement of European Rallycross.
With five events down and five to go the 2012 ERC season could not be more open. So far, there have been three different winning SuperCar drivers and eight different podium finishers from the first five events.
Anybody who had doubted the nature of the competition of the European Rallycross Championship at the beginning of the 2012 season are now faced with a sequence of results which have proved that the ERC is as competitive as ever. But is the ERC entering a new era, an era without a Hansen, an Isachsen or a Larsson: multiple champions who were almost unbeatable in their days.
With the reigning European SuperCar champ taking on America, one thing is for sure, a new champion will be crowned at the end of this year.
Hansen Motorsport star Timur Timerzyanov (25) finished third in the ERC last year and was a definite favourite entering round one in April. His lack of entry at Lydden Hill, due to visa issues, may well be his downfall. Without a drop result the Russian will look to achieve as many competitive results in the remaining events of 2012. A win during the extremely tough French round renewed his hopes of gaining the title.
With the guidance of team principal Kenneth Hansen, Timerzyanov has become the focal point of Hansen Motorsport, working towards the goal of becoming the next European champion. We saw the Russian move inches closer to this goal during ERC Hungary in which he proved he had the ability to conquer the notoriously fast and technical circuit.
Timerzyanov made his debut SuperCar appearance at the Nyirádi Motorsport Centrum during the beginning of June. Timerzyanov had previously experienced the circuit in a Super1600 machine – although this did not seem to faze him and nor did the looming pressure of high expectations and attempting to conquer the ERC without the safeguard of a drop result. Both, Kenneth Hansen and Timur himself have acknowledged that the Russian is a strong candidate for the title. “He has great chance to take the gold this year in his Citroën DS3,” says team Principal Hansen. “Our team has grown tremendously since I backed off from the race tracks, and it is with pride that I will try to manage the trust and confidence these young drivers put in me. Timur is one of the most intelligent drivers on the start grid and absorbs everything I have been telling him. He has a big challenge, in a tough championship – so far, so good and me and the team will support all our drivers to the end,” said Swedish Rallycross legend Hansen.
However we can by no means write off other challengers. Timur faces tough competition from the likes of his Norwegian teammate Alexander Hvaal, who in his first full season has stepped up to the mark – gaining two consecutive second places in his Citroën C4.
Liam Doran’s surprise commitment to the championship early this year showed an underlying hunger to conquer Europe. A podium at his home circuit and fourth in Austria, Doran topped the standings heading into ERC Hungary. The British driver was also a strong driver in Hungary although dramatically slammed out of the A final upon contact with young rival Alex Hvaal.
Tanner Foust is back in the top three again. Commitments in the US during ERC France left the American unable to defend his top spot, gained after a round one win. But it was the surprise French win by Brit Kevin Procter, which proved just how tight the battle is at the top.
Foust returned to winning form last weekend, snatching a win from Timerzyanov, over a tightly fought battle which remained open during the second day. Liam Doran gained a well earned second-place, Timur Timerzyanov finished third. His car was hampered by a puncture, and the Russian amazingly held on to third position for the remaining three laps with a flat tyre as well as a broken clutch. He continues to lead the championship standings at the mid-point of the 2012 season, and his grit and determination is perhaps a sign of a future champion.
- SuperCars standings after Norway:
- 1. Timur Timerzyanov (RUS) 68
- 2. Tanner Foust (USA) 61
- 3. Alexander Hvaal (N) 58
- 4. Liam Doran (GB) 56
- 5. Mats Lysen (N) 44
- 6. Davy Jeanney (F) 42
The absence of Foust and Doran this weekend highlights the growing outreach of Rallycross across the Atlantic. Rallycross continues its exposure in the states and the culmination of this year’s star-struck GRC series including the likes of WRC champion Marcus Grönholm is to be showcased at the X Games in Downtown LA which takes place during the same weekend.
Höljes have presented this year’s dark horse, Per-Gunnar “P-G” Andersson. The Rally driver will use the ex-Lasse Larsson Škoda Fabia Mk1, now owned by home driver Peter Hedström.
The SuperCars class may have produced some brilliant performances but it has so far been the ERC’s Super1600s and TouringCars classes that have shown distinct patterns of rivalry. Andreas Bakkerud was crowned victorious in his Super1600 Set Promotion Renault Twingo Mk2, whilst Irishman Derek Tohill won the TouringCars class during rounds two and four.
But both divisions have ignited battles at the top. Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme, a fellow teammate of Andreas Bakkerud, took the weekend win at Lydden in April and again came close in Dreux.
Similar rivalries have emerged in the TouringCars. Swede Anton Marklund is a consistent performer, producing title-winning displays at the top of the championship, but was beaten to the post in France and Hungary by Irish driver Derek Tohill. And there is also the two-round return of last year’s champion Lars Øivind Enerberg, who took the home win last weekend.
With the championship wide open, we are set for a thrilling season ahead. The “Magic Weekend” (round six) is upon us and the outcome will eventually form part of the start of the second-half of this so far spectacular season.