Last weekend saw the famous fourth round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship held in Lohéac, France. As G-FORS presented their Clio R.S. RX in front of a crowd of more than 80,000 excited fans, the French round gave the Finnish driver, Jere Kalliokoski, opportunity to race his first final of the 2018 season.
On Friday, both G-FORS drivers enjoyed the traditional Lohéac RX parade aboard the famous “Legends cars” to meet the French fans who came in droves, before setting off on the track with the Clio RS RX for free practice, a track entirely new to these all-new supercars still in development.
Saturday morning kicked off well for both Jean-Baptiste Dubourg and Jere Kalliokoski who won their respective Q1 races. The young 20-year-old Finnish driver put down a good start, putting him in second place, from where he managed to take the lead as the driver in front jokered. French driver, Jean-Baptiste, took the joker in the first round, an excellent strategy that allowed him to overtake his competitors when they took their joker.
Q2 saw Jean-Baptiste line up in between the 4 best drivers of Q1, from where he managed to position himself in the third place of the pack, then came out fourth in the joker, resulting in an 8th place in Q2 and a 5th place in the general standings at the end of this first day.
Jere Kalliokoski, determined to improve his time, put into practice the advice of our technical director, Stephane Orré, who in addition to improvements on the car, supported him in placing 3rd in Q2, leaving him in 6th place in the general standings after the first day of racing.
In sun as hot as the atmosphere amongst the crowd, the Sunday races were held.
Q3 saw Jean-Baptiste, who started from the middle of the grid, caught in traffic at the start, putting him in 3rd. In the last lap that, he was finally able to overtake to finish in 2nd place. However, the G-FORS driver put down the 6th fastest time of Q3 overall.
Jere used great strategy in his Q3, which allowed him to avoid contact with his competitors into the first corner and follow Cyril Raymond. Keeping a strong rhythm, Jere took the joker without wasting time and kept his second place throughout, putting down one of his best performances of the season by winning the second best time of this qualifying.
In the fourth and final qualification, Dubourg was unlucky. JB, who started from pole position, took the lead off the start line when contact to the left-back of the car turned the Clio R.S. RX on itself and JB was sent into the gravel, from where he struggled to get out. This made him lose precious places going into the semi-finals as JB placed 11th in the intermediate standings following Q4.
Meanwhile, Jere secured his place in the semifinal by finishing in 11th place overall following Q4. Thanks to some great racing throughout the weekend, Jere was 4th in the intermediate standings and thus secured a place in the front row for the semi-finals.
Jean-Baptiste Dubourg faced Cyril Raymond, Reinis Nitiss, Anton Marklund, Magda Andersson and Ulrik Linnemann in the first semifinal. The French driver missed his start from the outside of the third row because of a technical problem and consequently continued to slow down throughout the entire race, missing a place in the final and a possible podium.
In the second semifinal, Jere faced Krisztian Szabo, Mario Barbosa, Thomas Bryntesson, René Munnich and Tamas Karai. The G-FORS driver continued his weekend of good pace and crossed the finish line in second, one hundredth of a second behind Szabo.
In the final of the fourth European event at Lohéac, Jere faced Cyril Raymond, Krisztian Szabo, Reinis Nitiss, Anton Marklund and Thomas Bryntesson for his first final of the season. The G-FORS driver started from the outside of the second row and was fourth, ahead of Bryntesson, at turn 6. Jere was slowed down by Nitiss who had a technical problem, but he quickly overtook him ahead of the 2nd lap. Meanwhile, Bryntesson took the opportunity to pass the two drivers from the inside. Jere rushed full speed into the joker on lap 3 and kept his position at the exit. The Finnish driver concluded the French round with a very good fifth place, having put down his best performance of the season.
Jean-Baptiste Dubourg commented: « Saturday was a rather positive and good day with a good first qualification – a big start and a great battle with Cyril Raymond. By winning this race, I was able to rank P4. Still, I had a little lack of confidence in the car that didn’t allow me to attack more. In Q2, it was again a great battle with the best drivers of Q1. A little less successful because of some small mistakes, because I may have pushed the limits of the car a little too much but as usual the team did a great job and I placed 5th at the end of the first day.
The second day gave me less performance, even though we were still doing ok in Q3. In Q4, there was a race incident that took me out at the first corner and which unfortunately took me to 11th place just before the semifinals, where I paid the consequences of the contact in Q4 – a technical problem occurred and prevented me from participating in the final. I still retain a good performance and progress, as we were fast. I am inevitably disappointed because I would have liked to shine in front of our French public but it’s part of the sport. »
Jere Kalliokoski added: « The circuit was a little slippery in Q1, but laps after laps the track improved. I was happy to win my race but I knew I could improve my time. We made some changes on the Clio, and I listened Stéphane’s advice to better negotiate corners. In Q2, I had a good start and I was super confident in the Clio, which earned me the 3rd best time. The first day was productive with the team and in addition I was 6th overall. Sunday, Q3 was very good for me finishing P2. It put me 4th overall so I knew that I would gry to semi-finals and I didn’t need to take risks in Q4. I finished Q4 in P11 and I was still 4th overall going into the semis. The Semi-final was good as well and I finished 2nd starting the final on the second row. In the final I pushed little bit too much and I feel that I didn’t do my best. But overall I’m happy for the weekend. The car and team worked perfectly and the weather was great throughout the weekend. I will keep this good feeling and momentum for our next race in Riga which will be in the next two weeks. »
Atte Varsta, team manager, concluded: « It’s always a pleasure to come to Lohéac. The track is one of the most legendary tracks on the calendar and it’s also the home race for the team. Fans are very enthusiastic about rallycross here. Both drivers did a good job this weekend and I’m particularly happy about Jere’s driving. This weekend he felt comfortable within the car and found good rhythm throughout the weekend while JB was struggling a bit with setups. JB’s retirement in Q4 after the collision at the start was one of factors for the engine failure in his semi-final and unfortunately he didn’t make to the final this time. Jere drove excellent qualifiers finishing 4th overall and second in his semifinal. In the final he didn’t find the same rhythm and finished 5th but all in all he did very good job over the weekend. Now we are focusing on the last race in Riga in two weeks and hope to finish the season with high results. »