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WINNERS AND LOSERS: ABU DHABI RX

Monday 8th of April 2019

The FIA World Rallycross Championship began in the Middle East last weekend in Abu Dhabi, where Team Hansen MJP’s Kevin Hansen won the first World RX race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The Winners:

Hansen’s First Win

Kevin Hansen didn’t get to stand on the top step of the podium in the event where he achieved his first win, but when the Stewards penalised on-track winner Niclas Gronholm for pushing Hansen’s car during the race to take the lead, Hansen was announced as the winner. The 2016 FIA European Rallycross Champion was TQ (top qualifier) in the Intermediate Classification and won the semi-final and final to lead the World RX Drivers’ Standings.

“I think this was the craziest weekend of my career…so many emotions! Straight away we could see that we had good pace and that we were in the fight; then we had Timmy’s crash, which was a big low, then I had to focus on the semi-final and final, where we finished second. I was leading with a good margin over Niclas until the corner where he passed me: I felt a hit at the rear and I nearly spun. Straight away I thought it should be a penalty, but when it is with the stewards you never know how it will work out…and then after about an hour, I found out I had won; my first win,” explained Hansen. “Of course you never want to win in the stewards’ room but in the end it wasn’t about that: it was all about the pace that we had right from the start of the weekend, which is a great sign for the future. Now we come away with 30 points, which is the best way to start the season.”

Doran’s First Podium

Liam Doran has been racing in the FIA European Rallycross Championship since the first season in 2014, but until 2019 hadn’t climbed onto the podium. In qualifying, it looked like Doran would have to wait at least one more event to be a podium finisher, to add to his European Championship race wins, but solid racecraft in the semi-finals and final for the Monster Energy RX Cartel driver got him into the top three.

Krisztian Szabo

Double FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600 Champion Krisztian Szabo stunned the Supercar regulars in Euro RX last year at Loheac in France when he made the podium on his debut for the EKS team. Szabo has moved into World RX for 2019 in a newer version of the EKS Sport Audi S1 and showed why he already has two championship titles and a Euro RX Supercar podium in his locker by quietly going about his business to finish fourth on his World RX debut.

ESmotorsport – Lasbas GAS

Current FIA Euro RX Super1600 Champion Rokas Baciuska joins Szabo on the list of rookies in World RX this year, and he has an even bigger learning curve ahead of him with a brand new World RX team, and a brand new Supercar in the Skoda Fabia RX. Baciuska raced with the experienced drivers all weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit, was P5 in Q3 and went straight into the semi-finals.

The Losers:

Andreas Bakkerud Misses Semi-Finals

Andreas Bakkerud’s new livery for the Audi S1 he is racing this season was revealed on Thursday before the race in Abu Dhabi. He was P5 in Q1 and P2 in Q2, then challenged Timmy Hansen for the lead of the race in Q3. But after Bakkerud’s Audi made big contact with Hansen’s Peugeot at the joker lap exit, the six-time World RX race winner was disqualified from the session and didn’t make the semi-finals.

Hansen Forced to Withdraw

Team Hansen MJP’s Kevin Hansen took his first win in Abu Dhabi, but his team mate, Timmy Hansen had to withdraw from the weekend after the Q3 crash with Andreas Bakkerud that seriously damaged the Peugeot 208 WRX. Hansen had dominated day one but didn’t get the chance to show what that pace could reward on day two. He is P11 in the Drivers’ Standings.

Difficult Debut for De Ridder

Belgium’s Guillaume de Ridder made his World RX debut with GCK Academy at Abu Dhabi RX but had challenging weekend. A broken radiator fan in Free Practice on Friday damaged the Renault Clio RS RXs radiator and meant he missed Q1, then his car had a further water leak in Q2. Racing in traffic with other drivers in Q3 and Q4 hurt his race times and he was the only GCK driver not to make the semi-finals.

“It’s officially the end of my first ever World Rallycross event and I have to say, it was a tough one. I took so many learnings from this weekend though and really got a lot more confident in the car, which the consistent, good starts and improving pace shows,” he explained. “Now we know the areas to work on and I cannot wait to fight again in Barcelona!”

 

Bennett’s Hopes Roll Over

Britain’s Oliver Bennett’s P13 race time in Q1 was just 1.5 seconds slower than Liam Doran’s, a good start to the season for the Xite Racing driver, but his car refused to work properly in the pre-grid for Q2 and he didn’t start. The Xite mechanics worked until 0500 the next morning to repair the Mini Cooper Supercar’s ECU and Bennett rewarded the work by leading his race in Q3, until he rolled the Mini and caused enough damage to miss Q4.

 

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