Without a doubt Petter Solberg is a legend in rallycross, especially after his two titles in the first two seasons of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. But this year he saw competition getting closer than ever, dealt with Mattias Ekström in incredible form and saw the Swede win the title, breaking the sequence of Mr. Hollywood. This was the 2016 World RX season, with of course, more things here and there.
Ekström’s rise and Solberg’s fall
Two years ago, Mattias Ekström started a parallel project with his DTM commitments, being the EKS RX team, while Petter Solberg had already his mileage in rallycross and simply smashed his opponents with a level of consistency that it’s hard to see in any well-balanced competition. From this time on, the other squads got closer and closer in development and driver talent, and even though Solberg’s consistency was there, it wasn’t exactly in the podium. The whole season was in fact a duel between Solberg and Ekström, but there was something or someone in the way, and the awful weekend of penalties and crashes for Solberg in Latvia was the nail in the coffin of his hopes for a third title, with Ekström getting the drivers’ championship with an event to go at Estering while EKS took teams’ honors in the last event at Rosario, Argentina.
Focus on Bakkerud, a potential champion
A clean sweep at home in Norway and wins in Sweden and Argentina simply added a lot to the first year of Andreas Bakkerud as a Hoonigan Racing Division driver with the new Ford Focus RS RX. He had quite a slow start with bad results at Hockenheim and Belgium, but then he kept incredible pace, rising through the ranks to end in third in the standings.
It will be worth to keep an eye or two on him in 2017, as with an improved car in his hands compared to 2016 he can be a troublesome contender to the usual suspects.
It simply got tougher, especially for the privateers
Fact is, the 2016 World RX season had more manufacturer influence on the teams, with EKS, Team Peugeot-Hansen, Hoonigan Racing Division and Volkswagen RX Sweden making it pretty clear, and with the top squads having big names like Timmy Hansen, Mattias Ekström, Sébastien Loeb, Johan Kristoffersson, Andreas Bakkerud and many more, it took away a bit of the unpredictable nature that would present a Jean-Baptiste Dubourg with a podium in his one-off event.
Although the privateer full-time entries may pull a surprise or two and Petter Solberg is still able to challenge the factory supported teams, this year the differences became more evident. it became a lottery for the top guys, and a mission to the underdogs.
People go nuts when round the outside
Kevin Eriksson became quite a figure this year, but not exactly by his debut World RX win at Estering, and more because of the move in the final that sealed the deal for him, as the Olsbergs MSE driver went totally sideways round the outside at the first corner, from fourth to lead in a second. It was so impressive it became quite the topic on social media, gave more than a million views on the World RX YouTube channel, and it became a contender for the FIA Action of the Year award.
And this was your 2016 World RX season, and 2017 will bring more action, more stories and maybe another outrageous move.
PHOTOS: EKS, Petter Solberg, Andreas Bakkerud