Spa hailed as the best of new World Rallycross Championship tracks

Liam Doran topped day one of the World Rallycross Championship's Spa debut, and heralded the Belgian Grand Prix Formula 1 venue's RX circuit as the best of the series' new breed

Spa hailed as the best of new World Rallycross Championship tracks

Spa's first mixed-surface event this weekend takes place on a layout that encompasses the famous Eau Rouge corner and a long loose-surface banked final turn.

Seventh fastest in the wet opening qualifier after an on-track battle with title contender Timmy Hansen, Doran was one of only a few drivers to take dry tyres for the second runs.

There he made the best start in his race and led throughout to set the best time.

His RX Cartel Audi team-mate Andreas Bakkerud was fastest in Q1 to break the Hansen MJP Peugeot team's stronghold on the 2019 season so far, but could only manage ninth in Q2.

Such was the mixed-up nature of the order in changeable conditions, Bakkerud remains second at the end of the first day.

"The track looked amazing when I walked it on Friday morning, it's brilliant, it really is," Doran told Autosport.

"There's no other word than it's cool, then when the gravel started breaking up a bit and looked more like Germany [Estering] or Portugal [Montalegre], I was really excited to be honest."

The typically Ardenne Forest wet conditions of free practice, the first time the four-wheel drive Supercars had run at the new circuit, caused rutting in the new loose surface sections, but track maintenance overcame a step in the transition between the unsealed surface and F1 asphalt before Eau Rouge ahead of Q1.

"They've done a brilliant job, this is the first new school rallycross tracks I've seen built at an F1 venue with the flair of the best of the old school rallycross tracks," added Doran.

"There was a little bit of nervousness around the paddock with how it broke up in practice, but with my experience of building tracks, you can't get away from that.

"If you want the excitement we have here, you have to have a track you need to maintain, or otherwise you have a very sealed hard surface that you don't touch.

"I wouldn't change a thing, I think it's brilliant."

In his return to rallycross after a two-and-a-half-year absence, and deputising in a teams' points scoring role for Marcus Gronholm's squad in son Niclas' absence, 2014 Global Rallycross champion Joni Wiman won his race in Q2, also on dry tyres, to put his Hyundai i20 third in the day one classification.

Championship leader Kevin Hansen battled in traffic through the first day and is down in 11th overnight, one place behind brother and team-mate Timmy Hansen, but ahead of 2016 World RX champion Mattias Ekstrom, making a return in his title-winning Audi.

"The lap time is very short," said Ekstrom of the 35-second lap.

"When I looked at the track map I thought the hairpin would be further up [towards Raidillon] and then come back down.

"I think the layout of the gravel section in the stadium section is really cool.

"It wasn't so cool that we had the edges [in the surface] in free practice, but it's a cool layout."

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Series World Rallycross
Author Hal Ridge
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