Albatec Returns To Race-Winning Venue For Euro RX Opener

Dumfries, Scotland (UK) — Tuesday 10 May, 2016; Albatec Racing returns to the scene of its first international victory as it heads to the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at the Circuit Jules Tacheny, Mettet this weekend. Returning to the seat of the race-winning Poujoulat-backed Peugeot 208 RX Supercar is reigning vice-champion Jérôme Grosset-Janin, who took his and the team’s first international victory in Belgium last year.

The Frenchman will start as one of the favourites on a track he calls ‘a bit special’, but with 30 cars vying for Euro RX honours knows the competition will be fierce. His biggest challenger will arguably be his new team-mate for 2016. Taking up his place in the Dumfries-based squad’s second two-litre, 16v Peugeot 208 is the reigning champion Tommy Rustad, who with the continued support of HTB Racing will also be looking to start his season with a win. A strong contender at last year’s event, the Norwegian was sidelined in the final with broken suspension and will ultimately be the driver everyone wants to beat.

The pairing collectively won four of the five Euro RX rounds last year, making them among the strongest team line-up in Euro RX, which for 2016 features a revised qualifying system. For the first time, Euro RX competitors will race separately in the qualifying stages of the events, adding to the existing split in the semi-finals and finals, meaning that drivers will compete directly against their closest rivals in the same championship.

Amid a record-breaking 49-strong Supercar entry, of which more than half are battling to wrest the Euro RX crown from Tommy, Mettet is renowned as one of the most technical tracks on the five-round European calendar. The 1.149km track throws everything at the drivers, with its unique combination of corners high and low speed, chicanes, hairpins and jumps over crests.

The four timed qualifying rounds, previously known as heats, that determine each driver’s position at the Intermediate Classification of events will now be called Qualifying, to fall in line with other FIA World Championships. The four rounds will be called Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4, while names for the Intermediate Classification, semi-finals and finals will remain the same.

Plans to field three cars for 2016 for Jérôme, Tommy and Albatec Team Principal and British RX vice-champion Andy Scott have had to be shelved for Mettet, as key suppliers were not able to supply in time for Belgium. However, it is expected that three cars will be ready to tackle round two, at Hell, Norway over the weekend of 11&12 June.

Andy Scott, Team Principal Albatec Racing :

“I’m really looking forward to the opening round of Euro RX at Mettet, and incredibly proud to have both the reigning champion and vice-champion with us for 2016, as well as the well-established Poujoulat and HTB Racing joining us. Both Tommy and Jérôme, and both Peugeot 208s have the potential to win, but we all know in rallycross that isn’t always enough.

“The team has worked hard to prepare two cars capable of delivering the results, and I know both drivers have been working extremely hard too to ensure they are mentally and physically prepared for the opening round. It’s an incredibly strong field this year in Supercars generally, and with 30 drivers in Euro RX I don’t expect an easy time, but with some luck on our side, we can certainly be strong challengers for victory.”

Tommy Rustad, driver Albatec Racing #24 :

“I am very excited and motivated, and looking forward to working with Albatec this year. I really like Mettet, it’s a technical track with a difficult first corner and a blind jump. It has all sorts of corners from a hairpin to a fast chicane. I have mixed emotions from last year’s event, securing pole position in the semi-final but unfortunately had to retire with broken suspension in the final.  My target is certainly to win, but a podium finish would be a great start to the season with a new team. It’s important to get into the final to be in the hunt for the championship.

“I’m not thinking too much about going into the race as reigning champion, it’s a new year and I know I need to deliver, but nobody puts more pressure on me than myself; I love to win. Having Jérôme as team mate is very good, he’s professional, and experienced with the car and the team.  If we can work together and push each other, then we will be very strong against our competitors. That make it easier for one of us to win the championship at end of the season.

“Unfortunately, the test we conducted recently in Faleyras was very wet, but it was still a good experience. I liked the Peugeot 208 straight away and through the day we made some set-up changes which gave me the answers for future working with both the car and the engineers.”

Jérôme Grosset-Janin, driver Albatec Racing #74 :

“I am feeling good ahead of the first round of 2016. I have prepared for this all winter, and I am in good shape. Mettet is a bit special for me as I won my first international race there last year and I will have the same plan this year to drive fast, and work to be among the top drivers. There are 30 drivers competing for Euro RX, and it will be a very tight competition.

‘It’s a very technical track, with rhythm changes, high speed and low speed corners, hard brakes, jumps, and corners over crests. We tested recently with the new Exe-tc dampers and with an engine upgrade from Oreca, collectively gives the car a bit more efficiency, and makes it easier to drive.

“When Andy asked me what I thought about Tommy joining us in the team, I answered immediately that it would be the best thing for Albatec. Competing in Euro RX will be very hard this year, but we will have more chance of winning the championship as we are two very ambitious drivers. Tommy has a lot of experience in motorsport, he is very smart, and we have shared our thoughts of the cars after our first test.

“I started my story with Albatec in early 2015, and I have to say that I am proud that what we have shown to the world of rallycross makes a European Champion look forward to driving for the team! On the sport side, it doesn’t change anything for me. To win the championship, I have to beat drivers like him.”

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