Former F1 and Indycar World Series Champion Jacques Villeneuve will join Dumfries-based Albatec Racing in the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship (RallycrossRX). The French-Canadian will drive one of the team’s 600bhp two-litre, 16v Peugeot 208s in the 12-round series, which starts in Portugal in May.
Villeneuve is the only active racing driver to have won the Indycar World Series Championship (1995), the Indy 500 (1995) and the Formula One World Championship (1997), and remains the only Canadian to claim the Indy 500 or the F1 Drivers’ titles. He will join the team that ran World Rally Championship star Kris Meeke in the series’ flagship event in Lohéac, France last year. Although the first F1 star to race in RallycrossRX, Villeneuve will not be the first to drive with Albatec – he follows Mika Salo who tested for the team in a private session in Finland.
Villeneuve’s vast experience across single-seaters, NASCAR, and Sportscars proved a huge advantage during a recent two-day test at Dreux in France, where he posted competitive lap times from the outset. His Andros Trophy expertise is also likely to be an asset when he lines up alongside the RX series regulars for the opening round at Montalegre over the weekend of 3/4 May, while later in the year, his home fans will get to see him in action at Trois-Rivières, in Quebec.
Since coming into rallycross last season, the fledgling Albatec Racing team has notched up numerous heat wins across British and European competition, and secured a dominant overall Supercar victory in its last race of the year, the final round of the British Rallycross Championship at Croft. Now the pairing of Villeneuve, alongside Team Principal Andy Scott, 2011 British Rallycross Vice-Champion, brings the team high hopes of delivering some strong results amongst a class field of the best rallycross racers in the world.
Rallycross is currently the fastest growing form of motorsport in the world and RallycrossRX is the only FIA sanctioned Rallycross Championship. The ultimate motorsport battle, each RX event is centred on a series of short, sharp all-action races, over a mixed circuit of asphalt and loose gravel, with the most elite category Supercars boasting twice the power of World Rally Championship cars, and accelerating faster than a Formula One car, delivering 0-60mph in less than two seconds.
Andy Scott, Team Principal, Albatec Racing: “I am delighted to welcome Jacques to the Albatec Racing team. He brings with him a wealth of experience, and an outstanding pedigree across all disciplines. He is renowned for his technical excellence and ability to drive any car to its limit and I am very excited to see how he settles into the 600bhp Peugeot 208, during his debut year in rallycross.
“The 208 has undergone some incredible technological developments over the winter months and during its first test of the season at Dreux covered around 250 trouble-free laps, during which Jacques got the chance to sample the 600bhp for the first time. I was very impressed with how quickly he got to grips with the car and his ability to feed back vital information allowed him to rapidly progress over the two days and consequently set some very quick lap times.
“Rallycross itself is moving into a very exciting phase and the new FIA World Rallycross Championship offers a fantastic commercial opportunity for the team, and provides us with the perfect opportunity to showcase what we believe to be the best and most advanced Supercar on the grid. It’s testament to the hard work of everyone within the team during its first season that we now approach 2014 with a very realistic chance of challenging for outright victory.”
Jacques Villeneuve, Albatec Racing driver #25: “I am really looking forward to entering the rallycross arena with Albatec Racing. With my previous ice-racing experience, I’m excited about driving sideways in a 600bhp, four-wheel-drive Peugeot 208 over the combination of loose and tarmac surfaces, not to mention the jumps. With the added incentive of it being an FIA World Championship, the opportunity was really too good to miss.
“We had a very successful test in France, I was very impressed with the quality of the team, particularly on the engineering side, it reminded me of my time in F1. The car is just so responsive, the power is amazing, and with 600bhp to play with, who wouldn’t be excited by that. I was pleasantly surprised by how reactive the car is to any changes, and I’m very much looking forward to getting into the events.
“I’m a racer and of course I want to win, but there are lots of unknowns going into a new championship, and with a new car. I certainly hope to win races, but I appreciate there are a lot of things I don’t know, so 2014 will be a learning year.”
Martin Anayi, Managing Director, RallycrossRX: “Albatec Racing is a young team, but to have recruited a driver of Jacques’ calibre and reputation is testament to the investment Andy Scott and his loyal crew have put in and the progress that has yielded. I am sure Jacques will be a tremendous asset to the Championship and a firm fans’ favourite as World RX continues to go from strength-to-strength.”