SWEDEN RECAP: WINNERS AND LOSERS
The FIA World Rallycross Championship reached its halfway stage in the forests of Sweden last weekend at Holjes, where the Championship leader took another win as the battle for second on track, and in the Drivers’ Championship points, reached fever pitch.
Kristoffersson’s fifth from six
The reigning World RX Champion was again in superlative form for his home round at Holjes and repeated his 2017 win to claim his fifth victory of the season. The Swedish star almost secured a second clean-sweep in a row, after becoming the second driver in World RX history win take every session at the World RX of Norway three weeks earlier, but he was beaten to the quickest time in Q3 by PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team mate Petter Solberg.
“There’s nothing quite like racing at home – except for winning at home. When I won my home round for the first time last year, I knew I would never forget that feeling and I really wanted it to come back again,” he said. “You definitely get a real boost from the fans in the grandstand – even if a few of them might have been cheering for some of the other Swedes around here! I love this track and these fans. And I love this team – it’s their home race, so a win is special for them too. I didn’t feel the car was completely perfect for me on Saturday, but as the second day progressed it just got better and better.”
Bakkerud moves up
Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud continued an impressive statistic of having stood on the Holjes RX podium each year since 2012 by finishing second in the 2018 edition of the Magic Weekend. Bakkerud won semi-final two when PSRX’s Petter Solberg retired and then passed Team Peugeot Total’s Timmy Hansen on the last lap of the final to take second and moved up to second in the World RX Drivers’ Championship, behind Kristoffersson.
“It was a fantastic weekend with gripping races and a fantastic final in front of my large number of Bakkerud-Blue fans,” said the EKS Audi Sport driver. “Thank you to EKS Audi Sport that gave me such a good car. I’m proud of this result.”
GC Kompetition’s first podium
France’s Jerome Grosset-Janin crossed the finish line of the final fourth at Holjes RX, an great result for the team in its maiden World RX season, but more was to come for the Renault Megane RS driver as he moved onto the third step of the podium when Mattias Ekstrom was given a penalty in the final for contact with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen.
The result is reward of more than two years of work for Guerlain Chicherit’s team, with its Prodrive-built Megane Supercars, and for former French Championship contender Grosset-Janin, who made his first final of the year at Holjes, GCK team the only non-manufacturer backed team to have had both of its drivers in the final this season.
51,600 fans attended at Holjes RX, bathed in glorious sunshine and were treated to even hotter action on track. On one of the drivers’ favorite circuits, the semi-finals and final produced yet more drama in the 2018 World RX season. The battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Kristoffersson couldn’t be closer and with the three manufacturer-backed teams – PSRX Volkswagen Sweden, Team Peugeot Total and EKS Audi Sport having a similar pace, the rivalries can only be set to increase through the second half of the year, especially between Timmy Hansen and Mattias Ekstrom who came together in the final at Holjes.
The Peugeot Trio
Team Peugeot Total brought a multitude of upgrades to its Peugeot 208 WRX to Holjes RX for France’s Sebastien Loeb and Sweden’s Timmy Hansen and the new car had good pace, but Loeb lost time in the qualifying stages after contact wheel-to-wheel contact at turn two with Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov. He didn’t make it through to the final. Hansen meanwhile battled for a podium finish and when the joker laps were all done he lay second to Kristoffersson but was passed by Bakkerud at the Velodrome corner and then retired after receiving contact to the rear from Mattias Ekstrom in the last but one corner. The team’s Individual World RX entry, Kevin Hansen, qualified for the final in the older version of the 208 WRX but retired with a technical problem.
Ekstrom dropped to sixth
Competing at an event he has won twice before, EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom was fourth after the lap six jokers were taken by Johan Kristoffersson and Andreas Bakkerud but moved to third in the final corners by passing Timmy Hansen. Unfortunately for Hansen, Esktrom’s car had made contact with the rear of Hansen’s Peugeot, which forced Hansen to retire. Ekstrom finished third but was given a penalty that dropped him to sixth.
“In the qualifying races, we were unlucky with our grid positions,” said Ekstrom. “This slowed us down somewhat throughout the weekend. We were also lacking speed. In the final, my car was the fastest, but from fifth on the grid it’s difficult to move forward. The last lap was a real challenge. Andreas was directly in front of me when Timmy apparently had a problem. I tried to overtake him as well. Our tyres touched, but I managed to stay on track. Still, the weekend was okay. Andreas did a great job with second place and we’ll continue to fight.”
GRX driver’s chances get deflated
GRX Taneco Team’s Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Gronholm both qualified for the semi-finals and both battled for a place in the final, until both Hyundai i20 drivers had their pace hit by punctures. Timerzyanov had his best weekend of the season, always within the top seven times in qualifying and just missed out on a place in the final to Jerome Grosset-Janin, leaving Marcus Gronholm’s GRX team wondering what might have been.
“We had a real chance to qualify for the final,” said Timerzyanov. “I made a small mistake in the joker lap, but I had still had the pace to finish in the top three. Then I had a puncture in the second lap, so then the only thing to do was to bring the car home to score as many points as possible. I hope we have more luck in the next race in Canada.”
Solberg’s Holjes fortune continues
Norway’s Petter Solberg is one of the most successful drivers in World RX history and has the most Drivers’ Championships to his credit, winning the title in 2014 and 2015. But he has never won at Holjes and that trend continued last weekend, despite being the only driver to beat PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team mate Johan Kristoffersson to a quickest time in qualifying.
Solberg led semi-final two from the front but was forced to retire with a technical problem. “I have been disappointed before in my career, but I don’t know if I can remember a time when I am more disappointed than this. This one really hurt so bad,” said Solberg. “I had the race in my hand, we were going directly to the final where I wanted a win. I wanted it so much. Coming out of one corner, something wasn’t right with the car, I pulled over and that was the end. There’s nothing more to say.”
Eriksson misses’ semi-finals
At his home round of World RX, Olsberg MSE’s Kevin Eriksson finished fifth in 2017 but after a close battle in qualifying just missed out on the semi-finals in 2018. His team mate Robin Larsson made it into the top 12 but retired from the semis with a puncture.Share this story on facebook Share this story on Twitter