The chase for the crown in the FIA World Rallycross Championship races into Portugal this weekend (16-17 October), with a thrilling fight in prospect at Cooper Tires World RX of Montalegre – round seven of the 2021 season.
Montalegre hosted the very first World Championship event during the series’ inaugural campaign back in 2014, and following a three-year hiatus, World RX now returns to the undulating and challenging Vila Real track.
With six rounds in the books so far in 2021, the hunt for honours is hotting up nicely. After a troubled start to his title defence, three-time world champion Johan Kristoffersson (KYB EKS JC) has closed to just 12 points adrift of the top of the table courtesy of back-to-back victories in Latvia and Belgium, and the Swede – the most successful driver in rallycross’ modern era – has twice reached the highest step of the rostrum at the Circuito Internacional de Montalegre.
Speaking after the Belgium round, Browne told Kerry Motorsport News.
“We were given a gift of dry weather, and more importantly the track has improved a lot since 2019. Back then it was a lot of low grip parts and a lot of loose gravel. Now they have improved the track a lot, and we knew it would suit our Audi S1 WRX Car, so we made the most of it. When the grip comes up, the drivers both said this Audi is a rocket!
It is Kristoffersson’s countryman Timmy Hansen, however, who continues to lead the way. The 2019 title-holder came out of the blocks flying with two wins and a second-place finish from the opening three outings, and he is confident his Peugeot 208 will be a potent package in Portugal.
Younger brother Kevin Hansen is similarly firmly in contention. Since winning the Catalunya curtain-raiser back in July, the 23-year-old has been a consistent front-runner and podium-finisher, and second place at Spa-Francorchamps kept his title bid on-track.
Niclas Grönholm opened his 2021 victory account in Riga, but a disappointing weekend in Belgium means the flying Finn needs a big score if he is to maintain his championship aspirations. Grönholm’s GRX-SET World RX Team stablemate Krisztián Szabó, by contrast, celebrated his maiden rostrum finish last time out and is one of only three drivers to have progressed through to the final at every event to-date this season, so he is sure to be a leading protagonist once more.
“We will keep pushing and trying to recover from the setbacks of the first few races, but it’s 2 wins in a row now, and it’s important to keep this momentum in the team,” added Browne
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