Mixed Results for Albatec in Euro RX opener in Barcelona

Dumfries and Galloway based Albatec Racing launched its bid for Euro RX honours in Spain this weekend, with the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship in Barcelona. After the four qualifying races, a place in the semi-finals was assured for 2015 champion Tommy Rustad, who then steered his HTB Racing Peugeot 208 RX Supercar to fourth place. Both Jere Kalliokoski and Philippe Maloigne narrowly missed progressing; Jere just three points away from qualifying on his Euro RX debut. Philippe suffered front end damage and a puncture in Q3, which severely hampered his lap times and dropped him out of contention.

2015 champion Tommy put his experience to good use with a determined performance across qualifying, although changeable weather conditions played their part in the outcome of the results. Sudden rain just ahead of both Q1 & Q2 races on Saturday resulted in a hurried discussion on tyre choice and set-up. Contact with another car in his opening wet race then saw the Norwegian spinning off into the gravel, his early bid to retake his title hindered by a lowly P16 finish. He bounced back in Q2 with the ninth fastest overall time, despite not getting the best start and subsequent heats being held in drier conditions.

Philippe started his weekend with a solid performance that netted a race win, and the 11th overall fastest time, but was hampered in Q2 by close contact on either side of him, squeezing him out and consequently affecting his overall race time. Jere had a good clean run to the 15th fastest overall time in his first Euro RX race, and in Q2 drove a mature race to finish second, in his SMA-backed motor.

Sunday morning dawned with much better and brighter conditions and race action resumed with Q3 in which Tommy claimed second in his race, and finished ninth fastest overall. An excellent start from fourth allowed him to leap into first place into turn one in Q4 and a good clean race saw him stretch his advantage and claim the second fastest overall heat time to guarantee a place in the semi-finals.

Philippe suffered a hit in his Q3 race, which caused damage to the front of his SamShield-backed 208, and resulted in a puncture severely slowing his lap times. A clean start from the inside position in Q4 allowed him to maintain a good position and a well-executed joker on lap three saw him take second, but brought his weekend to an early finish. Jere equally had issues in his opening race of the day, after a good start he was sandwiched in and pushed off track. He recovered in Q4, making a great start from second, to take the lead into turn one which he held to the flag.

Tommy’s ambition to reach the Final looked to be on the cards, after running third until two laps for home. He took a hit from behind while taking avoiding action when Robin Larsson slowed. This damaged the steering on the #24 Peugeot 208 and dropped him just outside the podium positions.

The Euro RX team now has a lengthy break ahead of round two in Hell, Norway over the weekend of 9/10 June, but ahead of that Philippe gets his Rallycross France campaign underway in Ducs over the weekend of 29/30 April.

Andy Scott, Team Principal Albatec Racing:

“It’s been a weekend of mixed results in Barcelona with the weather on Saturday making it a complete lottery as the weather was changing so much across the races. However, all three drivers showed good pace and it was only really the weather which stopped them from being higher in the overnight standings.
“On Sunday, the weather was much better, consistently dry and therefore much easier to manage. Both Philippe and Jere had problems with different, separate incidents off the start which hampered their progress, which is disappointing as they both had the pace to make the finals.
“Tommy had a fantastic fourth heat being the fastest Peugeot on track, which was his first clean race and showed the potential of both him and the car so I’m disappointed that didn’t result in a place in the final. But due to the contact with another car which bent the steering it was impossible for him to progress. However, we take with us to Norway the fact that we’ve shown we have good cars, and good drivers, and with Tommy particularly I’m sure there we can challenge for victory.”

Tommy Rustad, Driver Albatec Racing #24:

“The first day didn’t work out as we’d planned. The rain fell just before Q1 and it was hectic with a last-minute decision regarding set-up and tyres. I had a good start but got into a battle with Ollie O’Donovan, We touched at the first corner which sent me spinning off and into the barrier. For Q2 the track had almost dried but just before the start the rain fell again. I didn’t get the best start, getting away third, but thankfully it was drier and I managed to fight my way through into second. Unfortunately, the following races were drier and I as a result I was ninth overall.
“We had good speed on Sunday, in Q3 I made a good start but [Derek] Tohill got the jump on the inside line and I stayed behind him for too long so the race time was not so good. I know I had better speed but I wasn’t able to pass him. In Q4 I had a very good start and managed to take the lead, and set some good lap times. Overall I was expecting a better weekend but a lot of other top drivers were also struggling this weekend. Albatec has upgraded the Peugeot very well, so I’m very happy with both the team and the car.”

Jere Kalliokoski, Driver Albatec Racing #14:

“I’m quite satisfied with the weekend. We had good, clean races except for the third qualifying race after a collision with other cars. It was good to have a first win in my Q4 race, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to advance to the semi-finals, and I missed out by just three points. But overall the weekend was a good experience for me.

Philippe Maloigne, Driver Albatec Racing #121:

“It’s not been as good a weekend as I’d hoped as we’ve been a little unlucky, but it’s been a good warm-up for the French championship. We were unlucky with the timing of the shower yesterday because we had our race just after it, and then after the track was drying so they could switch to slicks, so it wasn’t too easy to get some fast times.
“In both races on Sunday I made a good start, but I got hit at the second turn in Q3, and suffered a puncture. But over the weekend we were able to have many good starts, I learnt a lot from Tommy and how to improve my driving in places. The Albatec Peugeot 208 was really good all weekend, we’d already felt that in testing, and now we can see from the results, particularly with Tommy’s car which is the same as mine, that it’s very, very good. I now feel we can just keep getting faster and faster. Of course, I’m a bit disappointed with the result and not being able to get many clean, clear laps, but despite this there were many, many positives from the weekend.”


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