Cape Town - The final round of the 2017 World Rallycross Championship will be run at the Killarney circuit north of the city this weekend, the first time that rallycross racing has been staged Africa and the only world championship motorsport event in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson has already wrapped up the title - which means he doesn’t have to worry about points this weekend and can go all out for the win - but just one point separates former champion Petter Solberg from Norway and another Swede, 2016 title-holder Matthias Ekstrom, for second. On a brand-new and rather narrow circuit, qualifying will be crucial for these two - expect fireworks even before racing proper gets underway on Sunday morning.
Two South African rally drivers will make their WRX debut at their home event - Mark Cronje in a Peugeot 208 WRX and Ashley Haigh-Smith in a Ford Fiesta. Neither has any experience of short, ultra-tight, cut-and-thrust rallycross racing and, as Haigh-Smith (whose family farm is just ten minutes from the Killarney circuit) put it: “This weekend will be a real eye-opener; I’ll need to rely heavily on the team with regards to setup and racing lines.”
Given that they will be competing against rallying legend and nine times World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, three current and former WRX champions and Gymkhana star Ken Block, that’s a big ask.
Also joining in the season finale alongside the regular drivers will be Sweden’s Oliver Eriksson in a Fiesta, Belgium’s Gregoire Demoustier, who will partner regular driver Jean-Baptiste Dubourg in the two-car DA Racing Peugeot 208 WRX team, and German driver Rene Muennich - one of only two drivers, along with Solberg, who have driven this circuit, when they attended the event launch in March.
There will be more doorhandle-bashing action in the second-tier RX2 International Series. French driver Cyril Raymond clinched the title at his home round in Loheac in September but only 22 points separate Britain’s Dan Rooke and Belgium’s Guillaume De Ridder, who are second and third in the standings, and there’s just four points in it for fourth, between Swedes William Nilsson and Simon Olofsson, and American Tanner Whitten.
An interesting ‘dark horse’ on the entry list is rally driver and four-times world snowboard freeriding champion Guerlain Chicherit, who’s learning the ropes in RX2 ahead of a full-time WRX campaign in 2018.