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Juliet McGuire

What I learnt at the FIA World RX Championship

I had the privilege of attending the FIA World RX Championship at Killarney International Raceway this past weekend thanks to the fantastic people at TOTAL. I will be completely honest, I am not a huge motorsport fan. I realise this may come as a shock being that I am, in fact, a motoring journalist, but I spend enough time on a track as it is, so I tend to not attend when it is not me behind the wheel.

But boy am I glad I went to this. This is no ordinary day spent at a track as I am sure most of you rally cross fans will attest to. Here are a few things I learnt at this world class event.

THE CARS WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

You might think the cars sound like boring budget buys. I mean you don’t think ‘performance’ when you think of a Peugeot 208, a Hyundai i20 or Ford Fiesta. But let me tell you, these are no ordinary hatchbacks. They have been tuned beyond recognition. There is zero traction control and these little beasts will get you to 100 km/h in under two seconds. TWO SECONDS. That is insane. As two times X Games gold medal winner and RX event winner Liam Doran put it, “It’s just about the quickest think you can drive, for me they are the best cars in the world.” I am a little sad I never got to drive one. But never say never, I say!

THE COMPETITION IS FIERCE

Timmy Hansen was eventually crowned as the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion. But it was nail biting stuff to witness. Timmy Hansen (Peugeot) arrived in Cape Town just a single world championship point clear of Norwegian title rival Andreas Bakkerud (Audi)

On Saturday I witnessed some of the qualifying rounds and then it was on to Sunday. With the rest of the qualifying rounds and the semi-finals out of the way, Timmy was leading the championship by just two points. He started the final from pole position from Andreas Bakkerud, Niclas Grönholm, Kevin Hansen, Timur Timerzianov and Timo Scheider as the top six lined up two-by-two to decide the world championship over six laps.

NEVER MISS THE WORLD RX FINAL

I was unfortunately unable to attend the final (I know, I know, crazy, right?), but it was, according to my colleagues and reports, epic! But don’t worry, if you weren’t there either, I have got you covered.

Motorsport Media reported, “Bakkerud made a perfect start to lead from a combative Timmy Hansen, but the three world championship contenders became embroiled in a controversial incident, when Timmy Hansen made a move on Bakkerud and the two tangled and went off as Kevin Hansen also went off in avoidance at the bottom hairpin.”

“The upshot was that Grönholm led the way from the recovered Bakkerud, Timerzianov and the similarly recovered Timmy Hansen, who had makde quick work of a struggling Scheider to take a vital fourth place. Kevin Hansen  then had a second spectacular incident at the same corner where he, his brother and Bakkerud had collided on the opening lap, as Grönholm led a disgruntled Bakkerud, Timerzianov and a limping Kevin Hansen home after Scheider ground to a halt.”

Timmy had this to say about the final and his win, “It sounds fantastic — almost unreal that you call me world champion. I am super happy for the sport – the last race with everything on the line was nerve wracking, but I kept focus and delivered a strong performance race by race through the weekend — there was no room for error — not the smallest mistake.

He went on to comment about the controversial incident, “I know Andreas is upset. I went for the inside, it was a hard move and it still needs to be investigated. But this season is the best in my career with four race wins and now the title — it’s a dream come true and I am so happy for the team…”

LOCAL IS LEKKER

It wasn’t just the international guys that entertained the Cape Town crowd, we also got to watch our own local line up take centre stage with the E36 Cup race. These are three-litre rear-wheel drive E36 Cup BMW racers and two-litre front-wheel drive machines. Zack Groenewald eventually took the title.

World RX
Image: Heinrich Sauer motorsportmedia.co.za

In the two-litre front-wheel drive action it was Shawn Cope in his Golf 1 who took the crown.

World RX
Image: Phillip Makhonda motorsportmedia.co.za

 I’LL BE BACK

I might not make it to all of Killarney’s local WP RX meetings, but I will certainly be at Killarney next year on the 14-15 November for the 2020 World Rallycross of South Africa Finale. If you have never experienced it, do yourself a favour and diarise these dates. Take the whole family. Wear closed shoes unless you want sand between your toes, put on bucket loads of suncream and wear a hat, and take plenty of water because you will need it. Other than that, sit back…no wait, stand up, jump around and cheer to your voice goes hoarse because it will be a weekend out like no other.

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