The first ever round of Titans RX began this weekend. 13 drivers took part across the weekend with full season entrant Craig Breen joining the action for day 2 with wildcard Andreas Steffen replacing him on day 1. World championship leaders Timmy and Kevin Hansen led the entry list with Topi Heikkinnen also set to challenge for victory.
In the first ever race of Titans RX local driver Antoine Masse made the best start from the middle of the grid and held off Timmy Hansen from the outside. Reinhold Sampl made the worst start and dropped back.
At the end of the long back straight Masse ran wide and gifted Timmy the lead that he would never relinquish. Hansen came across the line to win the first ever Titans RX heat race and with it bag the 30 points for winning his race.
“I need to learn because it’s my first time on the car this morning”
In race 2 Topi Heikkinnen made the best start getting the jump on the whole field followed by female racer Tamara Molinaro with Ronny C Rock and CsuCsu both stalling on the line.
It was a simple drive to the end with Heikkinnen not only winning the race but also topping the qualifying times in Q1. Behind Ronny lost 10 seconds at the start that he couldn’t claw back and CsuCsu broke his car so didn’t even complete 1 lap.
“I come from Rally so it’s all completely different but it seems to be going okay to be honest”
In the final race of Q1 Jerome Grosset-Janin made the best start to lead the pack as Hayden Paddon, Nelson Piquet Jr and Kevin Hansen all squeezed down into single file with Paddon going round the outside to take 2nd. However, Piquet got the cut back out of the chicane to retake 2nd at turn 3.
Despite running wide at the hairpin Brazilian held onto second and set about to overtake Jerome. On the final lap Nelson Piquet repeated his lap 1 move by cutting back after the chicane and diving up the inside of Grosset-Janin. Jerome managed to hold off the charging Paddon and Hansen to the line with those 3 covered by less than a second.
The 3 race winners topped the standing due to the unique scoring system with Topi leading Piquet and Timmy.
CsuCsu made the best start leading Andreas Steffen into turn 1. However, he was forced to retire later in the race with a mechanical issue. Reinhold Sampl would also retire on the final lap with technical issues which left Steffen to take an easy win and set the 7th fastest time with it.
In the second race Kevin Hansen and Antoine Masse made the best starts but with the WRX driver on the inside, Kevin took the lead and romped away to set the fastest time of Q2 with Antoine an impressive 3rd overall. Behind, Tamara also used the fact she was inside of Ronny C Rock to keep ahead of him and the pair finished 7 tenths apart.
In the final race of Q2 Topi again got the jump into turn 1 thanks to having the inside line. Grosset-Janin managed to go round the outside of turn 1 to get the inside for turn 2 and 3 to hold off Timmy Hansen for 2nd. Paddon copied Jerome to get 4th ahead of Piquet. A mistake on lap 2 and 4 dropped Hayden to the back and the slowest time of Q2. Pilling on the pressure, Timmy managed to get the inside line on the final lap into turn 3 and jumped ahead of Jerome into 2nd. The Frenchman tried to get the cut back and the pair made contact but with the positions not swapping again. Topi set the second fastest time in the session with Timmy 4th and Jerome 5th.
“Had a good fight with Nelson and Timmy so I’m quite happy to be here”
Topi led Timmy by 9 points at the top with Antoine a further 9 behind on 101 heading into the final session.
The final qualifying session of round 1 began with a 3 wide run into turn 1. Reinhold backed out and left CsuCsu to take the outside of the first corner which turned to the inside and he took the lead. Hayden held back round the outside and managed to get the perfect cut back on the exit of turn 3 as CsuCsu ran into some of the dust on the outside to take the lead. Despite contact at the hairpin the New Zealander won and set the 3rd fastest time of Q3 with CsuCsu 4th fastest.
In race 2 Jerome made the only clean start with Tamara bogging down, Ronny almost stalling and Andreas Steffen actually stalling briefly but was so quick to restart that he almost overtook the slow C Rock into turn 1. Tamara almost lost the car on the brakes into the hairpin. This gave Ronny a chance to close up and put the European Ladies Rally champion under heavy pressure for the rest of the race but after running slightly wide on the final lap he couldn’t find a way past. Jerome bagged another 30 points for winning the race and set a good time to end up 2nd overall.
“It feels very comfortable to drive this car. I’m very happy to be in Titans RX in this very first race.”
In the final qualifying race the field went 5 wide into turn 1 with Timmy Hansen squeezing Topi to the inside and Antoine Masse squeezing Kevin and Nelson to the outside. The whole field made contact through turn 1 and onto the back straight.
Nelson had dropped back from the pile of cars and came out of turn 3 in last. In the braking zone into the hairpin he ran wide and hit the outside wall and spun back across the track. This brought out the red flag.
At the restart Kevin made the best start and swept round the outside of the pack to lead. Antoine followed the Swede and took second from Topi who had held the inside line into turn 1 from Timmy. Masse kept the inside into turn 3 and went to try and chase down the leader. Into the hairpin, Timmy took 3rd from Topi after forcing his way through. Kevin suddenly slowed on the penultimate lap gifting Masse the lead. On the final lap the top 3 made contact into the hairpin but the positions remained the same to the chequered flag. Kevin Hansen did crawl across the line to score some points for finishing. Antoine set the 3rd fastest time in Q3 with Timmy in 5th.
“We got another start and I gambled a bit to try and take it again but it didn’t work and I came out in the back. I passed Topi and after that there was a big gap to the front.”
In the overall standing Topi won the first ever qualifying round for Titans RX with Timmy second and Masse 3rd. The other Frenchman, Grosset-Janin was 4th with Tamara an impressive 5th. Kevin could only manage 7th after some issues in the races with Piquet down in 10th and starting from the back row in Semi Final 2. Unlike WRX, no championship points were given out after qualifying with the sessions only deciding the starting grid for the Semi Finals.
Due to the high heat and with reliability a concern the semi-finals and final were reduced from 6 and 7 laps respectively to the heat race length of 5 laps.
In the first ever Titans RX Semi-Final the front row of Topi and Masse were side by side into the first corner. Kevin Hansen followed the pair through to third slotting in ahead of Tamara and Sampl with Andreas Steffen left on the line. As the leading pair came through turn 2, Topi got the cut back on Antoine and forced himself up the inside into turn 3. The pair made contact with Topi bouncing into the air. Masse limped round the corner and dropped down to 4th. At the end of the back straight Tamara ran slightly wide thanks to a nudge from Masse and gifted the local driver the final transfer spot to the final. On lap 2 into the hairpin Topi ran wide but despite losing 2 seconds he managed to keep the lead.
Over the following 3 laps Topi extended his lead to comfortably win from Kevin. On the final lap Antoine and Tamara made contact into the hairpin forcing the Frenchman to retire. This was caused when his car shut down after an electrical failure and Molinaro made contact while trying to overtake. This gifted Andreas Steffen the last spot in the final having overtaken Sampl during the chaos.
“He [Masse] had an electrical problem so I saw he was going slow. I gave him a little push but he spun. I was like how is it possible he spun and I got held up behind him.”
When the race got underway Jerome Grosset-Janin got the jump on the field with second place man Timmy Hansen dropping to last. The second row pair of Paddon and C Rock battled for second with the German holding on round the outside of turn 1 and took the position on the inside of turn 2. CsuCsu got underneath Paddon and tried to lunge past Ronny but made heavy contact with both drivers. This gave CsuCsu 2nd down the back straight and dropped Hayden to the back of the leading pack with only Timmy behind.
Piquet kept out of trouble and was in 4th but ran wide at the hairpin and would spin again into the hairpin before the race’s end. At the same time Ronny pushed CsuCsu wide and snuck through to 2nd. Moments later CsuCsu would stop with a puncture. This put Paddon back up to 3rd with Timmy chasing a spot in the final but some 3 seconds down on third with 4 laps to go.
Despite having clear air it was not all plain sailing for Grosset-Janin with one side of his bonnet starting the lift up and his door starting to open on the final lap. Hansen gained 2 seconds a lap to be right on Hayden’s tail with Ronny only just ahead of both. With only 1 lap to pass, Timmy tried to overtake into the hairpin but got very unsettled in the braking zone and couldn’t make a pass. Jerome took the win with Ronny and Paddon in the final transfer spots.
“My thing coming here was to know if I can come back to a good feeling and a good sensation to win. Today it feels really good.”
In the final Topi made the best start with the other cars following line a stern. Jerome slotted into 2nd with Kevin 3rd and Paddon 4th. At the back Ronny dived up the inside of Andreas to take 5th into turn 1.
Every driver held the inside through turn 2 and 3 so as not to risk being overtaken. Grosset-Janin still had his bonnet lifting up despite drifting wide at the hairpin managed to hold 2nd albeit under heavy pressure from Kevin. Into the hairpin on the next lap Kevin got to the inside and forced the Frenchman wide back to 3rd. Hayden tried to take advantage of the situation but had to stay back in 4th. Ronny C Rock had a major technical issue and lost a lap but managed to get back up to speed.
Heikkinnen pulled away at the front with Ronny between the leader and Kevin in second. This left the Fin 6 second clear by the chequered flag to win the first ever Titans RX round. Behind, Hayden tried to dive up the inside of Jerome at each of the final few corners but couldn’t take the final podium spot away. Kevin Hansen was 2nd with Andreas and Ronny bringing up the rear.
“I’m happy to be on the podium. I’m really enjoying it. I’m back to this feeling which gave me this excitement to race.”
“You know it’s not so easy when everyone has the same kind of car. It’s not so easy to nail all the qualifying’s and semi-final and the final.”
That ended day 1 with Toomas Heikkinnen taking the 25 points for winning the final with Kevin on 22 and Jerome on 20. The next day’s action would be a chance for Timmy Hansen to redeem himself and also be the first time for Craig Breen to drive.
After winning the Ypres Rally the day before Craig Breen joined the field. After making the 5-hour journey he slept an hour before hopping into the car.
He took his car back that was driven by wildcard Andreas Steffen the day before leaving the field with 12 cars. The temperature had dropped 10 degrees from the day before making the condition more bearable for the drivers and the cars.
In the first race of Sunday Jerome Grosset-Janin made the best start on the inside and pulled clear of Kevin Hansen and Ronny C Rock. It seemed Jerome would walk to victory but on the final lap locked up into the hairpin and ran wide gifting Kevin the race win. Kevin was the fastest of Q1 with Jerome second fastest.
Molinaro, Timmy and Piquet went side by side into turn 1. Hansen braked the latest but cut across Tamara and spun after contact. This gave Nelson the lead from Molinaro and Reinhold. Timmy got back going and after Molinaro spun in the hairpin on lap 2 and he passed Sampl on the next lap he finished 2nd albeit 10 seconds behind the leader. Tamara would spin again into the hairpin on the final lap to set the slowest time of Q1. Nelson post the 3rd fastest time of Q1.
In the last race of Q1 all the drivers made a good start with Paddon making some contact with Breen and Antoine into turn 1. Latest on the brakes, Topi took the lead from 5th with poleman Breen second. However, in the mess, Antoine went across the grass, pushed a tyre bundle onto the racing line and hit the leading pair.
Despite the contact the leaders remained in the same order with Masse staying ahead of Paddon and CsuCsu. Into the hairpin Antoine pushed Breen into Topi with both running wide and giving the Frenchman the lead. CsuCsu went round the outside of Paddon on the brakes and had the inside for the next corner. After heavy contact CsuCsu was in 3rd with Hayden 4th and Breen in last after running very wide in the hairpin. By the end of the next lap the order had flipped with Breen leading Paddon and CsuCsu.
On the penultimate lap Masse ran slightly wide into the hairpin and Topi forced the issue to take the lead and push the Frenchman into the wall but continued to finish 2nd. Breen was 3rd, Paddon a way back in 4th and CsuCsu even further behind. Topi only set the 4th fastest time to go 3rd in the standings.
“This qualifying was crazy. He [Antoine] pushed me out in the hairpin and I wasn’t so happy. All the rest was okay.”
CsuCsu made the best start and took the lead from Molinaro with Reini dropping to the back. After 5 short laps CsuCsu took the win and set the 4th fastest time.
” I was clean driving in the Q2 so that was good for the times.”
Craig Breen and Timmy Hansen were level into turn 1 but with the Irishman on the inside he took the lead. Paddon went round the outside of C Rock to grab 3rd into the first corner. Timmy tried to cut back on Breen but couldn’t pass and instead defended from Paddon who made contact on his rear bumper. Into the hairpin Timmy pushed Craig round the corner while Hayden tried to go round the outside of the leaders but instead lost out to Ronny after some contact. Timmy repeated his attempt on lap 2 and lap 3 into the hairpin, both times putting his nose in a small gap which half spun Breen who managed to not only save the slides but also retain the lead on each occasion.
Then on the 4th lap into the hairpin Timmy got fully alongside but made contact with the inside wall and was half spun by Ronny from behind so had to stay in 2nd. On the final lap Timmy was too far back so settled for 2nd behind the Irishman. Despite a large amount of contact in the race Breen was fastest in Q2 followed by Timmy and Ronny.
“I have to say I’m still on autopilot, don’t know whether I’m asleep or awake but for the minute it’s working. But really enjoyed it.”
Grosset-Janin got the best start but Kevin pulled back alongside in the run to turn 1 and kept the inside to take the lead. Piquet kept 3rd from Topi and Masse. Into the hairpin, Jerome made contact with Kevin but couldn’t find a way past while Antoine ran very wide and dropped 4 seconds behind Topi. Out of turn 3 on lap 2 Kevin lost drive briefly letting Jerome into the lead and also let Nelson through. The Swede tried to dive up the inside of the Brazilian into the hairpin but pushed both of them wide gifting Topi 2nd and dropping Piquet to 4th. Nelson made contact into the hairpin with Kevin on the next lap but couldn’t find a way past. Onto the back straight on the penultimate lap Nelson made contact with Kevin, with the Swede seemingly losing drive out if turn 3 on every lap. An attempt to go around the outside of Hansen into the hairpin almost let Antoine through but after some contact on the exit of the corner Piquet kept 4th.
On the final lap Heikkinnen sent it up the inside of Jerome and took the lead with 3 corners to go. Piquet pushed Kevin round the hairpin and tried to go around the outside of him into the second last corner but instead lost out on the line to Masse.
All the chaos slowed down everyone with Topi only going 6th fastest in Q2 but led the standings with 1 session to go. Debutante Breen was in 2nd with Timmy Hanen, Jerome and Kevin all within 11 points of the lead.
“After the start I was 4th so it was looking really bad. I managed to climb up slowly. I was a bit rough for him but that’s racing and we are still friends in the paddock.”
In the final qualifying session Tamara made the best start but Paddon out braked every from the outside and took the lead. After some contact the drivers spread out and Hayden set the fastest time of Q3.
“When you keep getting taken out and you can’t pass people it gets a bit frustrating. We’ve been dished a few hits so far so we’ll start giving them back.”
CsuCsu and Masse made the best starts with Antoine holding it round he outside of turn 1 to take the inside for turn 2 and 3 to take the lead. Piquet tried to dive up the inside of CsuCsu into turn 3 but had the door firmly closed on him while Ronny brought up the rear. Piquet took to the penalty lap on lap 1 after he jumped the first start. CsuCsu was under heavy pressure from Ronny but held off the German racer even after contact on the final lap. Nelson closed up to the pack on the final lap but still finished last. Antoine set the 3rd fastest time in Q3.
“I’m okay now. The first lap I would have like to overtake Antoine but it was not possible because I touched the wall”
In the last qualifying race Topi made the best start from pole and led the field. Behind Timmy and Craig made contact which left Kevin to come from 5th to 2nd at turn 1. Timmy managed to out brake Craig for 3rd and Jerome dropped to the back. Into the hairpin Topi backed up the pack and him, Kevin, Timmy and Breen all made contact which spun Topi to last. Jerome made an audacious move round the outside to go from 5th to 2nd before being pushed wide by Kevin on the exit of the hairpin and the Frenchman dropped back to 4th. Jerome tried to get past Craig on the next lap, making contact at the hairpin but wasn’t able to pass.
On the final lap Jerome went for a move into turn 3 and spun Craig into the barrier having only got his car level with Breen’s rear wheel. Topi had lost 10 seconds in the mess and had to settle for 5th. However, after the race Kevin Hansen was given a 30 second penalty for hitting Topi dropping the Swede to last in Q3 and Jerome was given a 3 second penalty to drop him back behind Craig Breen. Kevin had actually been given a penalty lap in the race but didn’t take the alternative route which was why the penalty was so large. This gave Timmy the race win and the 2nd fastest time.
All this meant Timmy Hansen topped the qualifying standings on 162 from Craig Breen and Topi. Antoine Masse was 4th with the other local driver Jerome in 5th. Kevin had another poor qualifying and was 10th and would start from 5th in Semi-Final 2.
With the weather a lot cooler than the day before the semi-final and final would both be run to their normal length of 6 and 7 laps respectively.
In the first semi-final Timmy made the best start to lead Topi into turn 1. CsuCsu slotted in behind the pair closely followed by Jerome. Tamara was in 5th with Piquet at the back. Into the hairpin CsuCsu pushed past Topi after some contact from Jerome behind with both drivers going past the Fin. Topi then made contact on consecutive laps into the hairpin and the second time around pushed Grosset-Janin wide and took the last spot in the final.
Timmy stayed clear to win comfortably by 4 seconds. Nelson couldn’t get past Tamara before the race end and ended his weekend without reaching the final.
“It was a really good launch. It’s easy to stall the engine, it’s also easy to get a lot of wheelspin. I made a really good start, that was the key.”
Craig Breen made the best start with second place Masse slotting in behind. Kevin Hansen came from 5th to 3rd round the outside with Hayden Paddon in 4th and Reini in 5th. Ronny stalled at the start and set about from a few seconds behind. Into the hairpin Kevin was squeezed between Antoine and Paddon but all the drivers continued without swapping positions. The next lap Kevin pushed Antoine into the hairpin and after a helping push from Paddon behind, Masse was pushed down to 4th. Into the next corner Antoine took the inside line back and pushed Hayden wide to gain 3rd back. The New Zealander pushed Masse through the hairpin on each of the next 2 laps without gaining the position on either occasion.
On the penultimate lap coming out of turn 3 the local driver ran slightly wide and as he took the racing line came together with the front of Paddon and spun off into the barrier with a broken rear right wheel. The race was red flagged on the final lap with half the track blocked. Craig Breen won from Kevin with Hayden in the last transfer spot. C Rock was 4th with Reini 5th.
“I did a rally in Beligum yesterday and drove all the way through the night. I literally got an hours sleep in the car.”
Hayden Paddon was due to start 5th but was replaced by Jerome Grosset-Janin as the New Zealander’s car was too damaged to start.
The Hansen brothers made the best start with Timmy leading. Breen had the inside line over Kevin who cut across the grass at turn 2 and slotted into 2nd. CsuCsu was just behind in 4th with Topi overtaking Grosset-Janin for 5th and Topi 6th. Breen tried to take back 2nd and ran side by side with Kevin until he backed out going into the hairpin.
CsuCsu made heavy contact into the back of Breen which pushed Kevin round the corner and let CsuCsu go through on Craig. At turn 2 Breen tried to get the cut back on CsuCsu and dived up the inside into turn 3 but made contact and spun CsuCsu to last. Topi tried to take advantage and put the Irishman under heavy pressure. Kevin took a penalty lap for cutting turn 2 at the start and slotted in just ahead of Breen still in 2nd which gave Timmy a comfortable lead.
On the next lap Jerome tried to force a way past Topi but had to let the Fin hold onto 4th. With 2 to go Topi got the cut back on Breen at turn 3 and took the final podium position with Craig running very wide but holding onto 4th ahead of Jerome even with Grosset-Janin hitting him on the exit of the hairpin.
After the race Breen was given 2 penalties and put back to 6th after his contact with CsuCsu.
Timmy won the second round of Titans RX and celebrated with some donuts. In the paddock the Hansen brothers celebrated their 1-2 finish by standing on top of the roof of Timmy’s car.
“I saw there was a big gap. There was a lot of carnage behind. I brought it home and it feels so so good right now.”
With Topi finishing in 3rd he managed to retain the championship lead.
“I wanted to be on the podium and that was the target to take some good points. I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to win so badly.”
The next round is in Lydden Hill in a month’s time with Andrew Jordan joining the field for the first time. 12 drivers are expected to do battle at the home of rallycross.
Word By Callum House – Xlerate
Photos: Titans RX