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• GCK founder full of praise for official World RX feeder series
• Raymond and De Ridder first RX2 graduates to step up to highest level
• Frenchman and Belgian will join forces at GCK Academy in 2019

GC Kompetition founder Guerlain Chicherit has hailed the role played by the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires in training drivers for the highest level, after recruiting Cyril Raymond and Guillaume De Ridder to drive for the new GCK Academy in the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship.

It was announced earlier this week that 2017 RX2 champion Raymond and 2018 championship runner-up De Ridder would graduate to the pinnacle of the sport behind the wheel of a brace of Renault Clio R.S. RX Supercars, prepared by French engineering specialist FORS Performance.

Having witnessed the growth of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Chicherit has created the GCK Academy team as part of the GCK family with the aim of providing an opportunity for junior drivers to develop at Supercar level.

The French athlete – four times a world champion in freeriding and a multiple stage-winner on the Dakar Rally prior to making the switch to rallycross – has personal experience of the RX2 car from competitive outings in Canada and South Africa in 2017. He explains that he has always maintained a keen interest in the official World RX feeder series.

“I’ve been following Cyril and Guillaume closely over the last couple of years,” Chicherit acknowledged. “I met Guillaume when I raced in RX2, which was an incredible eye-opener for me and a great stepping-stone on the road to World Rallycross, and I’m really impressed with his continued improvement and development.

“Cyril’s path has been just as impressive. He absolutely dominated a strong RX2 field in 2017 and showed everyone that he was ready for the jump into Supercars then, so I’m really excited to see him take the GCK Clio R.S. RX to the start-line this season.

“2019 is a really big year for GCK. To enter the World Championship with four cars is a big step, and it allows me to support two super-talented junior drivers to develop on the biggest stage. I can’t wait to see what the season will bring!”

From a rallying background, De Ridder immediately stood out in RX2 when he made his debut two years ago. After finishing third and top rookie in the 2017 standings, the 26-year-old Belgian went on to challenge eventual champion Oliver Eriksson all the way in 2018, ultimately winding up second in the Drivers’ classification. From 14 career starts, he achieved two victories and seven podium finishes.

“This is like a dream!” enthused De Ridder, who has been closely monitored by Chicherit since the pair raced against each other in 2017. “It’s been my goal for the past 16 years to compete at the highest level in motorsport, so to now be offered such a fantastic opportunity to graduate to the pinnacle of international rallycross is simply incredible. Being selected as one of the two junior drivers representing the team is an awesome recognition.

“I want to thank Guerlain and the entire GCK crew from the bottom of my heart. What they are doing to help promote young drivers in the discipline is unique and serves as an excellent example. Yes, investing in youth can sometimes be a risk, but I strongly believe it is the right strategy for the sport long-term.

“There’s no question that I would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for RX2, which has played such a major role in my journey to World RX. The series organisers have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the championship and all of the drivers in it, and my two years there gave me a thorough schooling in the discipline of rallycross. As a single-make series, it offers the perfect opportunity to learn and hone your ability on a completely level playing field.

“RX2 has rapidly established itself as the natural proving ground for the World Championship and in my opinion, is a vital step on the ladder up to the highest level. The visibility that the series enjoys both within and beyond the rallycross sphere is a major asset when it comes to showcasing your skills to the World RX teams – not to mention potential sponsors. In other words, it’s a fantastic launch pad for anybody targeting a career in World RX.”

Following his dominant title-winning campaign in RX2 in 2017, Raymond continued to turn heads last year. Contesting four rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championship, he topped the intermediate rankings on his debut at Mettet, popularly won on home soil at Lohéac and went on to finish third in the overall points table.

“Honestly, it’s a dream come true for me to be able to participate in a full FIA World Rallycross Championship season,” the 25-year-old Frenchman enthused. “I owe special thanks to Guerlain for his visionary approach and initiative in creating this ‘Junior’ team. This is a really important moment in my career, and one I’ll never forget.

“For me, RX2 is the best school in international rallycross, and the Supercar Lites machinery is ideal for preparing drivers for Supercar graduation. It’s a lot of fun to drive – a bit like a four-wheel-drive version of a go-kart – and very easy to get to grips with and fine-tune. In a single-make series in which everybody has the same car at their disposal, the driver and set-up really make the difference.

“The calibre of the competition is extremely high, and I loved the two-and-a-half seasons I spent in the category. As an official support series to World RX, RX2 puts drivers right in the shop window and is an ideal opportunity to learn the discipline’s major tracks. For me, there’s no question that it’s the best series around for young drivers looking to step up to Supercar level.”