The afternoon of October 4 2017 was pivotal for next season’s World Rallycross Championship. Within a matter of hours, Peugeot and Ford laid out their future.
In short, Peugeot is staying, Ford is not.
While uncertainty has hung over Peugeot’s rallycross future in recent months, all indications pointed towards Ford remaining in World RX. Although Ken Block’s Hoonigan Racing Division hadn’t had the second term it intended, on the back of winning three events with the Focus RS RX in 2016 and finishing third overall in both the drivers’ and teams’ championships, Block admitted to Motorsport News in August that focus had already shifted to developments for 2018.
Ford’s departure is a big shame for World RX, but the move has also thrown a curveball into the driver market. Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud, who has scored all but one of the Hoonigan squad’s 11 podiums since the start of 2016, is at the end of a two-year contract but had been expected to be retained for 2018.
However, now a free agent, the 26-year-old is one of the most desirable drivers in the paddock. It would be mightily surprising if his phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook in the last week.
Bakkerud has won with every Supercar team he has raced for in his career (LD Motorsports, OlsbergsMSE and Hoonigan) in cars with a variety of technical specifications. Assuming that Peugeot will maintain Red Bull backing, the same going for Mattias Ekstrom’s EKS squad if it continues next year, as a Monster Energy athlete an energy drink clash may play a part in Bakkerud’s next move.
Despite a Monster link with Petter Solberg’s PSRX team, World champion Johan Kristoffersson is expected to remain with Solberg next year and even if he didn’t, Bakkerud and Solberg are hardly the best of friends. While they have been competitive in 2017, Bakkerud is unlikely to move to either MJP Racing or STARD, squads that don’t have works-support, the latter also requiring budget to obtain a seat.
There are murmurs in the paddock of potential new teams, but there is a confirmed new outfit that has the ‘correct’ energy drink ties and is in need of rallycross experience. Guerlain Chicherit’s GCK squad will campaign a pair of Prodrive-built Renault Megane Supercars next season. While Prodrive clearly knows all about creating title-winning equipment, an experienced rallycross driver who has already helped to develop cars would be a big asset.
GCK needs to learn the discipline too, and while Chicherit continues to progress as a driver, a proven winner alongside him would be a significant boost. Bakkerud and his spotter, Dave Mansfield, are just the package that GCK needs to get up to speed quickly and Bakkerud’s full-of-life outgoing personality could fit Chicherit’s bill perfectly.