Ahead of this weekend’s round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, which runs on Cooper tyres, ex-Formula One driver and FIA GT1 World Champion Markus Winkelhock has been confirmed as joining the grid in Finland.
Winkelhock will drive an Audi S1 Supercar in the EKS RX Team alongside Pontus Tidemand, taking Mattias Ekström’s seat as he is unable to compete in Finland, due to a clash with his busy DTM schedule.
The international series includes a total of 12 rounds and Winkelhock is not the first ex-Formula One driver to be tempted to take part in the inaugural World Rallycross season.
Familiar face and 1997 Formula One World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve, drives for British team Albatec Racing and will be determined to make the finals this weekend after a disappointing end to the last round for the French-Canadian driver: “I will be pushing hard to get some clean, fast heats and won’t be happy with anything less than a place in the semi-finals.”
Finland is the second event in a trio of consecutive Nordic based World Rallycross weekends – the teams having just competed in Norway and heading straight from Finland to Sweden for round five on 05-06 July.
In addition to German driver Winkelhock adding to the line-up for Finland, American Top Gear presenter Tanner Foust will also be in Kouvola, returning for the second of his four-round World Rallycross campaign.
Split between 58% asphalt and 42% gravel, this World Rallycross circuit based in Kouvola – Finland’s 10th biggest city – will demonstrate just how important it is for Cooper Tires to produce the ultimate tyre, required to cope with the unique rallycross demands of having to take ‘the rough with the smooth’.
Martin Anayi, World Rallycross Managing Director for IMG Motorsport, said: “It’s a real pleasure to welcome Markus [Winkelhock] to the FIA World Rallycross Championship for our Finnish event. We’ve already got a former F1, WRC and Formula Drift Champion competing at Kouvola so it’s great that we are able to add a former FIA GT1 World Champion into the mix.”
Leading the driver standings, and also the team standings for Ford Olsbergs MSE, Latvian Reinis Nitiss aims to remain at the top of the championship tables, saying: “I still can’t believe that I won in Norway, I really didn’t expect to be on the podium beside two big names [Petter Solberg and Ken Block]. The media attention at home has been fantastic and now I hope to continue the success in Finland.”
To follow all of the action from Finland on 28-29 June, and for more information about the FIA World Rallycross Championship, visit http://www.rallycrossrx.com/.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.