Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Debutant Rokas Baciuska ready for FIA World Rallycross Championship action in Abu Dhabi

First round of the 2019 championship taking place at Yas Marina Circuit

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship field that will compete in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Victor Besa / The National
The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship field that will compete in Abu Dhabi this weekend. Victor Besa / The National

Teenager Rokas Baciuska has said he is excited about the prospect of making his first appearance in the FIA World Rally Championship as the series debuts in the UAE this weekend.

Round 1 of the season takes place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Friday and Saturday on an especially designed 1,200m course that is based around the North Grandstand part of the track.

Baciuska has joined the series after winning the 2018 European Rallycross title and it will be a new experience in many ways.

"It will be the first time I drive in the night," the 19-year-old Lithuanian said, with a number of the sessions, including Saturday's final, scheduled for the evening.

Spectators will see cars race around a modified track that includes dirt as well as asphalt, and Baciuska has advised people new to the series to particularly watch out for the starts.

"UAE fans will see a lot of action from World Rallycross," he said. "Especially at the start when five cars need to fit in the first corner."

Rokas Baciuska is making his debut in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Victor Besa / The National 
Rokas Baciuska is making his debut in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Victor Besa / The National

The format for the action is made up of two qualifying heats on Friday and two on Saturday afternoon.

The 12 drivers with the best combined results from the heats qualify for the two semi-finals that will start the night session at 7pm.

From there the top six will compete in the final where the weekend winner is crowned.

The Yas Marina facility has impressed many of the drivers. Timmy Hansen, who has competed in all five previous years of the championship, finishing sixth last season, believes it will produce some good racing.

“The circuit here looks the best newly built track I have ever seen," the Swede said. "It’s super-wide with one side of it really fast and the other side on the gravel. It does look very challenging.”

Hansen, whose younger brother Kevin is also in the field, said getting a good start to the year – which culminates in South Africa in November – is important.

“I have been in the sport long enough to know the level of the competition and have prepared well to face the challenges,” he added.

“Indeed it’s a long season but the first one is important. I think everyone here wants to begin with success, especially the first ever World Rallycross in Abu Dhabi.”

Baciuska has rather more cautious outlook for his first weekend of competition, with the goal being on enjoying a solid beginning.

"My expectations for the first race is to reach the final," he said. "That is because we don't know the car works in 38 degrees heat. We will see tomorrow but it is difficult to say."

But Baciuska ultimately is happy simply to be part of the field, having first got into motorsport when he was nine when he competed in karting in Lithuania.

"I'm so excited for this season because finally I will drive in World Rallycross," he said. "It was always my future plan to achieve that and I am here in Abu Dhabi, which is great as the track is really nice."

Reinis Nitiss is returning to the championship after a one-year absence to compete in the European Rallycross series.

Nitiss, 23, who knows how to win on the World Rallycross stage, having won in Norway in 2014, is back with the GRX Taneco Team and the chance to compete under the floodlights at Yas Marina is an enticing prospect.

“I’m really looking forward to competing for the first time in the Hyundai i20, said the Latvian.

“Combined with the all-new Yas Marina Circuit RX track the season opener will be a great and exciting challenge, especially as the first night race.”

Also in action over the weekend are the Yas Super Street Challenge drag racing and also the Emirates Drift Championship.

Updated: April 5, 2019 08:55 AM

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