Monday, April 8, 2019

2019 World RX season opener in Abu Dhabi with both GCK teams in the semi-final

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship season is officially underway and its first ever race in Abu Dhabi, UAE, saw the crowds brave the heat to see 17 650-horsepower strong supercars battle it out on the mixed surface track.

Both GC Kompetition cars in the semi-final

Following a busy off-season with considerable changes for GC Kompetition, growing to 2 teams and 4 cars and launching the GCK Academy, as well as incorporating a lot of technical changes including engines and suspension, Abu Dhabi RX saw Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund represent GC Kompetition in the 2 Megane R.S. RX with both cars making it to the semi-finals.

The race action kicked off on Friday with the first qualifier of the season, which saw Guerlain miss his start but showing strong race pace putting down the 2nd fastest qualifying lap times. His GC Kompetition team mate Anton started his race from P5, taking the lead of the race from the outside of the start line into turn one. He jokered in the last lap and came through first ahead of Timerzyanov, winning his race and showcasing well-thought out race strategy and increased confidence in the car.

Following Q1, Anton was in 6th and Guerlain in 9th overall.

With the sun setting and the track cooling down, Guerlain and Anton lined up for Q2 in the same race with both drivers putting down a good start in their GCK Mégane R.S. RX, Marklund taking the lead of the race and Chicherit in 3rd behind Baumanis. Following contact and some tight overtakes, Chicherit finished third behind Baumanis and ahead of Szabo while Marklund managed to finish another clean race taking his second win of the day.

Following Q2 and the end of day 1, Anton was in 5th and Guerlain in 10th.

With Saturday’s sun beating down even stronger than the previous day, things were certainly heating up as race 3 of Q3 saw Chicherit take on Kevin Hansen, Rokas Baciuska, Janis Baumanis and Krisztián Szabo. Following a bad start that saw his turbo breaking, Guerlain jokered into the first lap but loses considerable time without turbo and finishes his race in 4th.

Race 4 saw GCK driver Anton Marklund take on Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Reinis Nitiss and Niclas Gronholm. Marklund tucked in from the outside but was squeezed and clipped so ended up 5th into the first corner, jokering in the first lap, and continuing through what was the weekend’s biggest contact between Bakkerud and Hansen. Having battled Nitiss on the last lap, Marklund finished a very messy 3rd qualifier in 3rd.

With Anton in 5th and Guerlain in 10th overall, the mechanics were busy repairing the GC Kompetition cars for Q4.

Marklund and Chicherit lined up together again for an action-packed 4th qualifier, which saw good starts for both and Marklund leading into the corner while Chicherit fought his way through the pack to follow Marklund in 2nd. Marklund put down a strong race, jokering in the 3rd lap and still managing to come out ahead of Nitiss, while Chicherit, despite engine issues, finished in 2nd behind his teammate.

Following 4 strongly fought qualifiers, both GCK Megane R.S. RX are in the semi-finals with Anton in 5th and Guerlain in 10th overall.

Marklund lined up alongside K. Hansen, Scheider, Timerzyanov, Doran and Nitiss for the first semi final of the 2019 Championship season and one that proved to become a race that would get remembered. Following a good start, Marklund fought his way into 3rd position into the first corner before Nitiss, having overshot his line and hitting a kerb, catapults onto the roof of Marklund’s car, damaging the rear considerably and pushing him into 5th, where he finished his race.

The second semi-final in Abu Dhabi had Chicherit line up alongside Gronholm, Baumanis, Szabo, Baciusca and GCK Academy driver Cyril Raymond. Chicherit put down a great start, fighting his way into 3rd position into the 2nd corner, following which his engine trouble unfortunately returned, leading him to finish in 4th, just missing out on the much coveted spot in the final.

Anton commented: "With the first weekend done, we look back on plenty of learnings. For sure, we need to bring the positive that the development we have done on the Meganes over the winter is really paying off with us being a lot closer to the pace we want to be racing. However, we still need to push on and develop the car further as there’s more potential to be unlocked before we can fight for a win. I had a good weekend though, solid runs in Q1 and Q2 with two wins, playing it safe, Q3 was a lot of drama and messy contact cost us time which put us on the backfoot but we fought back in Q4 with a solid run and a safe space in the semi-finals.The semi-finals were a bit crazy - I was just keeping the line into turn 2 and then Nitiss jumped a kerb and landed on top of the Megane, destroying the rear wing and roof and without the rear wing, I had no downforce, so a lot of oversteer, which of course affected the time. It’s a shame as the team worked so very hard and did a fantastic job getting us here and performing throughout the weekend but we’ll just come back bigger and better in Barcelona :)."
Guerlain added: "This first race weekend of the season was certainly full of ups and downs. Personally, for me, it was tough as we had some engine issues with my car throughout the races today and despite a really good start in the semi-finals, which put me in p3, I lost all the power in turn 3 and lost position as a result. However, having 3 cars out of 4 (across GC Kompetition and GCK Academy) in the semi-finals on our first race weekend is a great result and we’ve really seen so much development in starts, pace and performance, we know we can really push for wins - we now have 3 weeks to Barcelona to make necessary changes and get ready, so stay tuned and see you there!"

GCK Academy debut with semi-final finish

The newly formed GCK Academy, formed by Guerlain Chicherit to race alongside his GC Kompetition team, saw Guillaume De Ridder and Cyril Raymond debut the 2 GCK Clio R.S. RX on the world stage.

Both GCK Academy drivers had an unfortunate start to this season’s race action, as Friday’s first qualifier saw Cyril hit one of the kerbs that would become the cause of a number of impactful race incidents for the Championship teams over the weekend ahead, breaking the front left wishbone and having to retire. Meanwhile Guillaume missed his first qualifier as the morning’s practice in the heat broke the cooling system in his Clio R.S. RX, leaking fluid and resulting in his engine running too hot.

As temperatures cooled, Cyril and Guillaume lined up for the same race of Q2, with Cyril on pole and Guillaume on the outside. A good start saw Cyril lead the race until he suffered a puncture at the landing of the jump in lap 2 and, as a result, had to retire. Meanwhile Guillaume, having put down a strong race, mistakenly took the wrong turn in lap 3, slowing down and leaving him to finish in 2nd. De Ridder’s Clio R.S. continued to leak cooling fuel following Q2 with Cyril in 15th and Guillaume in 16th overall.

Sunday’s race action kicked off with renewed focus and energy in the GCK Academy camp with De Ridder putting a good start down in race 1 of Q3, tucking into 3rd into first corner, before he overtook Try in the 2nd corner, jokered in the 1st lap and finished the race in first.

Raymond showed consistency in race 2 of Q3, as he put down a great start and fell into 4th through the 1st corner, avoiding contact, jokering in lap 3 and crossing the finish line in 4th.

Saturday evening’s Q4 saw De Ridder and Raymond line up to the same race, alongside Scheider, Grönholm and Doran. Good starts for both GCK academy drivers saw Cyril tuck in on the left, fighting his way into 3rd position into turn 1. Meanwhile De Ridder jokered in the first lap losing a little time heading into it but then overtook Doran in lap 3. Cyril jokered in the 3rd lap, finishing the race in 3rd with Guillaume finishing 4th ahead of Doran.

Battling the race weekend’s odds, Cyril finished Q4 in 12th overall, grabbing a coveted semi-final spot in the process. Meanwhile, Guillaume’s troubles saw him finish in 16th overall, missing out on a semi-final spot but having put down a great first ever rallycross weekend on the world stage, showing a cool head and promising pace.

Cyril lined up for semi-final 2 alongside GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit on row 3. Having put down a good start, bad luck struck again, as Cyril suffered a puncture following turn 1, which saw him finish the race in 5th, missing out on a spot in the final.

De Ridder commented: "It’s officially the end of my first ever World Rallycross event and I have to say, it was a tough one. I took so many learnings from this weekend though and really got a lot more confident in the car, which the consistent, good starts and improving pace shows. Now we know the areas to work on and I cannot wait to fight again in Barcelona!"
Raymond added: "It’s a super satisfying weekend for the GCK Academy team. I’m really happy to have got the 2nd fastest time in Q4, which proves the car works very well - we are on the right path. The starts are excellent, as was proven in the semifinals, where I had a great start but unfortunately after I hit the inside kerb to avoid contact, I suffered a puncture. The first round in Abu Dhabi is now done and we can be very, very happy. I am grateful for what the team has done throughout the weekend. Now a lot of work remains to be done on the car to be really good and get the top 5 - everything is possible."

Source: GCK