Baltic battle in prospect as World RX races into Rīga

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Following a spectacular start to the sport’s new electric era in Norway earlier this month, the World Rallycross Championship is building up for a double dose of high-speed entertainment this weekend at World RX of Rīga-Latvia.

The Latvian capital’s historic and evocative Biķernieki circuit has been a popular fixture on the World Championship calendar since 2016, with its high-grip asphalt placing a firm focus on tyre strategy and its unforgiving nature and ever-present barriers offering scant margin for error.

Defending champion Johan Kristoffersson – who kick-started his successful bid for a fourth Drivers’ crown with his first win of the 2021 campaign in Rīga last summer – returns to the track at the summit of the standings, after battling back from a slow start to his semi-final in Hell to reach the top step of the rostrum with a 28th career victory.

The Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS star was pushed hard in the curtain-raising contest by Hansen World RX Team duo Timmy and Kevin Hansen, and Construction Equipment Dealer Team pairing Niclas Grönholm and Klara Andersson, not to mention his own team-mate, Ole Christian Veiby – a top three finisher on his World RX comeback following an almost seven-year absence.

The Norwegian will be discovering the Biķernieki circuit for the first time, but for the Hansen brothers, it is familiar territory. Timmy triumphed there in 2019 en routeto the Drivers’ title, adding a further two trophies to his collection last season with a podium double.

Arguably the form driver in Latvia 12 months ago, though, was Grönholm, who celebrated his highest-scoring weekend of the campaign with a win and a second place. Both he and team-mate Andersson proved in Norway that they will be a force to be reckoned with this year, as the young Swede in particular drew praise for a superb performance on her World RX bow.

In the FIA European Rallycross Championship, all eyes will be on home hero Jānis Baumanis, who is targeting a repeat of his crowd-pleasing Euro RX1 victory from last season. Now behind the wheel of #YellowSquad’s Peugeot 208, the Mārupe native is going from strength-to-strength with every event, and arrives sitting second in the championship behind Nyirád and Höljes winner Anton Marklund, who clinched the Euro RX Supercar crown in Rīga five years ago.

“This is obviously the most wonderful time of the year for me, with all the things I am involved in before and after the weekend,” revealed Baumanis. “For sure there is more responsibility for me than at any other event, but also more support. Last year I had a pretty good result on Sunday, so I want to do the same again this season...”

Multiple Latvian motocross and CrossCar champion Ronalds Baldiņš is similarly sure to receive a warm welcome as he joins the fray for the first time in EKS’ former title-winning Audi – piloted to glory by Andreas Bakkerud last time out in Hell – while compatriot Roberts Vitols makes his debut in round three of the 2022 FIA RX2e Championship, in which Viktor Vranckx is aiming to maintain his thus far unbeaten record.

A busy timetable of off-track activities will complement the on-track excitement. The event will officially begin with an opening ceremony featuring World RX drivers and cars in downtown Rīga on Thursday evening (1 September), followed by autograph sessions over the weekend itself, as well as driver parades on the circuit in classic convertibles, miniature car races for children organised by nearby Rīga Motor Museum, ‘taxi’ rides and displays by Red Bull athlete and stunt rider, Arūnas Gibieža.