Rallycross with Pierogis
Rallycross is getting more and more popular around the world. Also in a country, that isn't very "motorsportish" - Poland.
Let's be honest - motorsport wasn't, isn't and won't be one of the most popular sports here in Poland (okay, maybe if Robert Kubica will drive again and if we exclude speedway). One of the top reasons is the fact, that we don't have a lot of motorsport events. Yes, there is Rally Poland, former WRC round, now part of ERC calendar, Baja Poland, Polish Rally Championship and Polish Racing Championship. About their condition (specially the second one) I won't talk, cause it's not great.
Tomasz Kuchar in Peugeot 208 WRX and Marcin Gagacki in Mitsubishi Lancer RX after the race during 3rd round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
When rallying in Poland is on decline and racing is in bad shape, let's look at mix of them - rallycross. Few years ago Polish Rallycross Championship changed promoter to OPONEO Motorsport. OPONEO is company, that sells tyres and was involved in rallying and now is main sponsor of rallycross (that's why you will see a lot of their banners, they also have team in few classes). Thanks to their efforts (and previous promoter, PRX) rallycross is rising.
One of the main problems in Poland are circuits, or rather lack of them. During seven rounds of OPONEO MPRC (Mistrozstwa Polski Rallycross) drivers visited three tracks: Autodrom Słomczyn (former venue of European Rallycross Championship, now renovated), Motopark Toruń and Vilkyciai in Lithuania. Słomczyn and Toruń hosted series three times each and Vilkyciai was in the middle of the schedule.
Tomasz Kuchar in Peugeot 208 WRX in front of Dariusz Topolewski in Volkswagen Polo GTI WRX during 6th round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Top class is, obviously, Supercars. This year was on really high level in terms of cars. Tomasz Kuchar, former rally driver and two time Polish rallycross champion, entered Hansen's Peugeot 208 WRX. Dariusz Topolewski from OPONEO Motorsport started the year with Volkswagen Polo GTI WRX, exactly the same car James May used during his test for Top Gear back in 2014. If you remember, May wasn't very competitive. After this year we might have good excuse for "Capitan Slow".
Dariusz Topolewski in Volkswagen Polo GTI WRX during 4th round of OPONEO MPRC at Vilkyciai. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Nearly constant problems with the car plus few own mistakes changed Topolewski's season into a little nightmare. Despite good speed from both the car and the driver, Topolewski wasn't able to challenge most of the times for overall win and sometimes even podium. That changed during last round in Toruń, when he changed car for Ford Fiesta WRX.
Dariusz Topolewski in Ford Fiesta WRX during 7th round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
OPONEO Motorsport bought Ford Fiesta WRX (probably from former Polish rallycross champion, Jacek Ptaszek, who drove in first two rounds of the season). Marcin Gagacki (who piloted Mitsubishi Lancer RX in previous rounds) drove it in 6th round of the season (and won). Before 7th round, Gagacki and Topolewski swaped cars. Results? Topolewski won (with a little bit of controversy), Gagacki had a problem with the car in final.
Tomasz Kuchar after winning 3rd round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
The story of the season was 3rd title for Tomasz Kuchar. Peugeot driver won five first rounds of the season. In sixth round he got flat tire and finished second behind Gagacki in Fiesta. He didn't start in final round, because of scheduled surgery few days before round. It was cancelled and Kuchar was in Toruń as a spectator.
Mikołaj Otto in Mitsubishi Lancer RX during 4th round of OPONEO MPRC at Vilkyciai. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
One of the top drivers was Mikołaj Otto in Mitsubishi Lancer. He challenged top drivers many times and fought for second place in the championship. Everything changed during last round. During one of qualifies he had contact with Topolewski which resulted in 25 seconds added to his time. Both of them fought in the final, Otto overtook Topolewski, between them was contact, that resulted in 5 seconds penalty for Lancer driver. Otto crossed the line first, but was classified second and lost 2nd place in championship to Gagacki.
Marcin Gagacki in Mitsubishi Lancer RX during 3rd round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Next season we'll see Supercars Light category. It's inspired by OPEN N class in Polish Rally Championship and it's aimed for drivers, who wants to drive four wheel drive cars, but don't have money to built top tier car. One of the problems of Supercars class this year was gap between top drivers and rest of the field.
SuperNational field during 3rd round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Second class is SuperNational with three groups based on engine capacity: SN 1600, SN - 2000 and SN + 2000. All of them competed together and we had many fights between front and rear wheel drive cars all season long.
Paweł Melon in BMW E46 M3 during 7th round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
It was also only class in which fight for championship was decided in final round. Two drivers of Automax Motorsport, team of former World Rallycross Championship driver Krzysztof Skorupski, Radosław Raczkowski in Volkswagen Golf and Paweł Melon in BMW E46 M3 won their groups (SN + 2000 and SN - 2000 respectivly) and fought for overall title. After final round they had identical number of points meant, that Melon became champion thanks to three wins (compared to two of Raczkowski).
Rafał Berdys in Citroen Saxo VTS during 4th round of OPONEO MPRC at Vilkyciai. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Rafał Berdys in Citroen Saxo VTS won SN 1600 group with Alan Wiśniewski in Citroen C2 despite the fact, that Wiśniewski finished in front of him in overall championship. Both Citroen drivers won two first rounds - Berdys in Słomczyn and Wiśniewski in Toruń.
Beata Borowicz in BMW E36 318 is Coupe during 2nd round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz
First specific for OPONEO MPRC Class is RWD Cup. All the drivers used various BMW 318. This category is very simmilar to most popular class in Polish Racing Championship, 318 IS Cup PL. Przemysław Wójcicki, for example, drove in both of them.
Łukasz Światowski in BMW E36 during 4th round of OPONEO MPRC at Vilkyciai. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Just like Tomasz Kuchar dominated in Supercars, Łukasz Światowski dominated in RWD Cup. OPONEO Motorsport driver won 6 out of 7 rounds. Only Igor Sokulski (seen behind Światowski) was able to beat him during final at second round in Toruń.
Field of SC Cup during 6th round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Biggest class this season was by far SC Cup. In nearly all rounds we had nearly 30 Fiat Seicentos. This car becomes first step in rallycross ladder in Poland, but also is very popular in amateur rallies.
Łukasz Grzybowski in Fiat Seicento during 1st round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Łukasz Grzybowski won title last year and he did that again this season. Out of 35 races, Grzybowski won 31 of them. Only round he didn't won was 5th one in Toruń, when he had engine problems and finished 6th in final. Szymon Jabłoński won that round.
Field of 126p Cup during 3rd round of OPONEO MPRC at Autodrom Słomczyn.
Last class in OPONEO MPRC is 126p Cup. Yes, "Maluch" is raced here! The class was very small this season (only 5 drivers was classified at the end of the season compared to 25 in SC Cup) and promotor decided to cancel it with the end of the year. There is still chance (and hope of many rallycross fans), that little Fiats still will be raced.
Jacek Górniak in Fiat 126p during 7th round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Jacek Górniak became last 126p Cup champ. Like Światowski and Grzybowski, he won 6 rounds this year. Only Mariusz Szczepański was able to beat him in the final during second round in Toruń.
Jacek Ptaszek during 2nd round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Whole championship was covered by TV channel Motowizja. From every single round viewers were able to see 20+ minutes of action from OPONEO MPRC. First two rounds were also broadcasted on YouTube, but this was stopped.
Tomasz Kuchar in Peugeot 208 WRX during 2nd round of OPONEO MPRC at Motopark Toruń. (Photo by Maciej Niechwiadowicz)
Future of rallycross in Poland looks quite nice. Some drivers prepare new cars for next season, we'll have new class. We can only hope for more tracks in the calendar. And maybe less dominance.