Consistent form sees all Albatec cars qualify for Magic Weekend in Höljes

Höljes, Värmland (Sweden) — Sunday 3 July 2016; Albatec Racing endured a challenging weekend in difficult conditions in round three of the FIA European Rallycross Championship at Höljes, Sweden this weekend. Changeable weather across the two days resulted in mixed fortunes across the trio of Peugeot 208 RX Supercars, that saw Tommy Rustad, Jérôme Grosset-Janin and Andy Scott all comfortably qualify for the semi-finals, with Rustad reaching the Final and securing third place.

Saturday’s opening qualifying races took place in wet conditions and saw Tommy and Andy take a 1-2 in their race to put them fifth and eighth fastest overall. Jérôme’s overall race time was compromised after contact with Ollie O’Donovan and a slow puncture put the reigning vice-champion 12th overall. In Q2 Jérôme recovered to take race victory and the fourth fastest overall time, and sixth in the intermediate standings. Andy finished third in his race after being held up by a slower car but still finished seventh overall, to lay eighth overnight. Tommy made a great start in his race, but took a trip into the gravel after a close battle with Kevin Hansen, finishing third, eighth fastest overall, and fifth in the intermediate standings.

Brighter weather and a record 44,400 spectators greeted the drivers on Sunday, which saw the first of the final two qualifying races held on a dry track. However, as the Albatec trio headed to the grid for their races, the rain returned, reducing their chances of improving their overall positions. Tommy and Andy were up first in race four. Despite a puncture Tommy took the race win, while Andy suffered damage following contact on the joker lap. The pair took slower overall race times as a result, but still placed seventh and tenth. Jerome finished fifth in his race, and maintained his eighth place overall.

The final qualifying races saw a stirring drive from Andy to post the fourth fastest overall time, with Jérôme maintaining his seventh place, and Tommy 12th after a gearbox issue ended his race early. The combined results allowed all three to qualify for the semi-finals, Jérôme up in race one, Andy and Tommy in race two.

The continuing tricky conditions prevented Jérôme from progressing, after finishing fourth in his race. In the second, contact between Andy and Tommy saw the former roll his 208 on lap one, while Tommy recovered to finish third and secure the third fastest lap from the two semis. A determined effort across the six lap Final saw the reigning Euro RX champion recover well from his row three start, pushing Tord Linnerud hard for the final podium spot. Taking the position, he held on until the last lap when a slight error allowed Tamas Pal Kiss to move ahead, although he was later excluded elevating Tommy to third.

The Euro RX battle resumes in two months, when the series returns to Barcelona, Spain for round four over the weekend of 17 & 18 September.

Tommy Rustad, driver Albatec Racing #24 :

“It’s been a difficult weekend with changeable weather. I was in a good position in Q1, taking the lead at the start, and on the drying track I had good grip but I didn’t want to push too hard. Although the car was good enough for better times, it was important to drive a clean race. In Q2 the track had dried, but when we were on the grid it started to rain again. I got a good start, I was first into turn one, but it was tight with Kevin [Hansen] and I went into the gravel.

“In Q3, it started to rain just before the race and I got a good start and was leading but with half a lap to go another competitor rolled causing the red flag. Before the restart it started to rain again, so we switched to wet tyres, I took the lead again but after one and a half laps I got a right rear puncture making it difficult to drive. I won the race, but with the rain and puncture the time wasn’t good. In the final race I started from pole and got quite a good start, but [Max] Pucher on the outside took the lead so I went straight to the joker. I was catching them back but then I had the gearbox problem and had to retire. In the semi I made a very good start and overtook Andy but unfortunately we had a little touch and he rolled. I finished third but it was a very special situation when I was involved in the touch when he rolled, it was not a good feeling.

“In the final I started from the last row and made an OK start and was going straight into the joker behind [Tord] Linnerud, pushing him hard. I managed to get third but on the last lap I made a small mistake which allowed [Tamas] Pal Kiss to pass me, though he was later excluded. I’m very happy to finish on the podium, not just for me but for the whole team, who did a brilliant job to prepare the car after all the incidents. They deserve this podium.”

Andy Scott, Team Principal Albatec Racing #26:

“I’m disappointed not to go to the Final as I think we had the pace to do so this weekend. It’s been a very difficult weekend with really challenging conditions, never sure if it was going to be a dry race or a wet race and even during the races the conditions on track have been changing quite dramatically.

“Today was much of the same weather-wise, which made the racing difficult, but I’m happy to have been consistently in the top ten across the weekend and to have been in a strong position to reach the finals. I made a good start in semi-final two and was sitting third on the first lap when I had contact with Tommy at the last corner which despite my attempts to recover tipped me into a soft roll and ended my chances of reaching the final.

“From a team perspective, it’s been a very challenging weekend, but is a great result to have all three cars consistently in the top ten and to have all three in the semis really is a landmark result for Albatec. Looking ahead to Barcelona, our aim will be again to have all of us in the semi-finals, and if we push hard then it would be great to have us all in the Final.”

Jérôme Grosset-Janin, driver Albatec Racing #74 :

“You hear about it, you watch it on videos and see pictures, but until you actually feel it, drive it, smell it, you really can’t know what it’s like at Höljes. It’s an amazing atmosphere but the track itself is another new challenge. After my first four laps I thought I’d need the whole weekend to know how to drive it, but after Q1 and Q2 I was feeling more confident. We had a slow puncture in Q1, and in Q2 we took a risk with the tyres using slicks when everyone else was on wets.

“It was a difficult day two also, with lots of weather changes, and we had to manage twice some late tyre choices and it wasn’t easy to continue learning the track. We managed to stay in a strong position in the races to reach the semi-finals in a not too bad position. In the semi we ran on slicks, which allowed me to attack more than I was able to on wets, I think we’re missing something with traction which gave us low performance in the wet. But in the semi my times were comparable with the fastest lap times which gives us some good tips for the future. Overall I’m very happy to finish the weekend with six good laps and to feel what it’s like to drive fast at Höljes.”

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