Bristol-based FIA World Rallycross Championship driver Oliver Bennett heads to Abu Dhabi this weekend for the first round of the 2019 series.
Competitors will get their first taste of action at the Yas Marina rallycross track, which incorporates part of the Grand Prix circuit that the FIA Formula 1 World Championship use.
XITE Energy-backed Bennett has already had a brief experience of the track after helping out with the launch of the circuit in March, giving VIP and media high-speed rides in the XITE Racing Ford Fiesta.
For 2019 Bennett returns with an upgraded version of the XITE Racing MINI Cooper SX1 and a new look as he switches away from a mainly white car to a black base.
Bennett will be up against sixteen other competitors this weekend as World RX steps in to a new era for the series with no manufacturer-backed teams entered for 2019, leveling the field and presenting a more equal opportunity for all drivers to progress to the finals.
What work has been done to the car since your first shakedown of the season in February?
“The shakedown for us was a combination of all the updates we had planned in 2019, and to see the true performance gains.
“Since then it has just been a case of tidying up all of those updates and making sure its ready to race and all of the spares are packed”
What are your expectations for the weekend ahead?
“We have high hopes, the XITE Racing Mini Cooper SX1 is performing very well and super fast in comparison to last year.
“I also head in to the weekend with some basic knowledge of the circuit from the World RX of Abu Dhabi launch last month.
“The main hope is to nail it into the semi finals and then see what we can do from there!”
How do you think the weekend will pan out across the field?
“Hard to say, people have for sure pushed hard with their cars, knowing there is a chance of winning now with VW gone!
“It will be interesting to see whose had the biggest gains and I’m sure that will show on the track.
“It’s a pretty easy track to learn with lots of overtaking spots so the fighting should be intense! “
With no manufacturer entries this year do you expect the racing to be closer?
“I think it should be very close, I wouldn’t want to put money on who will win! (apart from myself)”
Bristol-based FIA World Rallycross Championship driver Oliver Bennett had his first look at the new rallycross circuit at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi last week at the official launch alongside fellow World RX drivers Niclas Gronholm, Timur Timerzyanov and Reinis Nitis.
XITE Energy-backed Bennett was on hand for media duties before getting chance to drive the new circuit which incorporates part of the Grand Prix circuit that the FIA Formula 1 World Championship use.
While the circuit is still undergoing its final development ahead of the opening round, Bennett took his XITE Racing Ford Fiesta around the circuit providing rides for local media and VIP’s.
Despite not being the XITE Racing Mini Cooper SX1 that he will be driving in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship, Bennett was impressed with what he had seen of the circuit already.
What are your first impressions of the circuit?
The circuit is great, it has a really good layout with fast and wide over taking spots and some really nice natural features like the hill drift, so I think the racing is going to be very interesting with all the passing places.
What was your favourite part of the new track?
It has to be the big hill onto the left-hand hairpin. You can just keep it nailed all the way from the bottom of the hill and just send it. Should make some pretty cool racing action!
Where do you think there will be the most action during races?
Turn 1-2 will be pretty crazy off of the start and then you have some big overtaking spots on Turn 3 and down the back straight. Up the hill could also make for some interesting inside moves too.
The entry list for the full season entries was released by the series organisers yesterday, featuring 15 other drivers that Bennett will compete against.
You’ve seen the entry list now for the new season, what are your thoughts? Who is going to be the drivers to beat?
It looks like it is going to be a great season. Good to see so many strong entries and see the top cars back from last year like Audi, Peugeot, GRX + GCK
I think we have a good mix of current high-level drivers like Timmy and Kevin Hansen, and Andress Bakkerud. This is alongside the introduction of some Euro + Lites champions that have already proved themselves in the lower classes.
I think you should see a big mix up in the grid this year! Liam Doran in the Audi S1 might throw something in too that’s usually impressive and fun to watch… I wouldn’t want to call it!
Aside from pre-season preparation and attending the Abu Dhabi RX launch it has been a busy time for Oliver Bennet and the XITE Racing team, supporting the launch of Codemasters Dirt Rally 2.0 game where the XITE Energy-backed Ford Fiesta can be driven in-game.
How does it feel to have your livery in the new Dirt game?
Crazy good fun to send it in the game with the Fiesta! And very cool to see the fans driving it and sending me videos and screenshots too! Maybe we can get the mini in there?
Any news about the Fiesta and a potential guest entry for another driver?
Nothing yet, but I think you will see it in a World RX round at some point this year.