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MID-SEASON REPORT: TOP 10 MOMENTS SO FAR

Monday 1st of July 2019

The FIA World Rallycross Championship is at its halfway stage as the teams and drivers prepare for the Swecon World RX of Sweden at Holjes next weekend.

With five rounds down, it’s a fitting time to pick out some highlights of the season so far. And so, in no particular order, here’s the top 10: 

 

Hansen Vs Bakkerud

The 2019 season started in almost the worse way possible for Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud and Sweden’s Timmy Hansen, as the pair clashed in Q3 while fighting for the lead of the race on lap three. Thinking it was the final lap and charging for the finish line, Bakkerud crashed hard into the side of Hansen’s Peugeot 208 WRX. The damage put Hansen out of the event, then Bakkered was disqualified from the race, meaning he also didn’t make the semi-finals. In round four at Silverstone, Bakkerud and Hansen also came together at the start of the final, but this time both survived and Hansen took the win.

Wiman Stuns on Rallycross Return

Finland’s Joni Wiman was entered in a third Hyundai i20 Supercar for the GRX team in round three at Spa, but when Niclas Gronholm fell ill Wiman was drafted into a points scoring role for the team and stunned the regulars with his pace. He won his semi-final to start on the front row of the final, but when he and Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud went wide at the first turn, it was Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov who took the win. Wiman was still on the podium on his first Supercar start in over two years. He continued to stand in for Gronholm at Silverstone and again showed good pace, but rolled the i20 in the semi-finals.

Brothers One-Two in Catalunya 

For only the second time in FIA World Championship history, brothers finished first and second in an event when Sweden’s Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen took the top two steps of the podium in round two at Catalunya-Barcelona for Team Hansen MJP. Only the Schumacher brothers, Michael and Ralf, had achieved the same feat before, in Formula One!

Nitiss Launches GRX Career in Abu Dhabi

Latvia’s Reinis Nitiss won the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercar in 2018 and for this season has signed for the GRX team in World RX as test and development driver, and will also make some wildcard appearances. In round one in Abu Dhabi, Nitiss battled into turn one of the semi-finals, but got forced into the side of a kerb, which sent his Hyundai i20 skyward, and onto the roof of GC Kompetition’s Anton Marklund’s Renault Megane RS RX. Nitiss returns to World RX next week at Holjes and will hope his only airtime is over the famous jumps. 

Abbring’s Star Debut

ESmotorsport Labas-GAS’ test driver Kevin Abbring made his race debut with the team at World RX in Norway and even though he had never driven a rallycross Supercar in competition before, he starred. He overtook Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov twice in the semi-finals even led the final in wet conditions. He eventually finished fourth with the impressive performance and will be back for a second race with the team at Holjes.

Rain Hits Norway = Chaos!

As if Abbring’s debut wasn’t a big enough challenge, the dry round in Norway changed to extreme wet conditions just ahead of the semi-finals, which made for three chaos races. GCK’s Guerlain Chicherit made the best start from P6 on the grid in semi-final one but was spun at the first corner, Monster Energy RX Cartel’s Liam Doran did the same in semi-final two and went straight into the joker and eventually won his race to take a front row start from the final. Doran did make a good start from the front of the grid in the final and took an early joker again. He looked on course to take the victory but a technical failure dropped him to fifth and after some post race penalties it was Finland’s Niclas Gronholm that took the win.

Gronholm’s Fight Back

Niclas Gronholm’s Norway win was an amazing result as the GRX Taneco driver had missed the rounds in Belgium and Great Britain through illness. Not knowing what to expect after time out of the car, Gronholm returned with a bang. He was quickest in Q1 and was TQ (top qualifier) on Saturday, then was TQ in the Intermediate Classification and took his first win.

Timur Wins at Spa

GRX Taneco’s other driver, Timur Timerzyanov also won a round in the first half of the season. In his 64th World RX event Timerzyanov made some brilliant overtakes in Q3 Race 3 and then again at the first turn of the final to take the lead and his first World RX win. His celebrations both inside and out of the car afterwards showed just how happy he was.

Jump Battles

Sweden’s Timmy Hansen got stuck in during Q3 Race 3 at Spa, with contact over the jump with Timur Timerzyanov, Kevin Hansen, and Guerlain Chicherit three laps in a row. His brother Kevin Hansen then went side by side with Great Britain’s Liam Doran over the jump in the semi-finals, fighting for a place in the final, where Doran came out in front as Hansen hit the wall. Doran could be seen as a master of in-flight overtakes after his pass on Scott Speed in Americas Rallycross at Silverstone in 2018 and he also made passes over the Silverstone jump this year, as be overtook Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis and Oliver Bennett. 

Baumanis’ Last-Gasp Move 

Latvia’s Janis Baumanis qualified for the final in four of the first five rounds of the season, but his overtake on EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo on the last lap of the semi-final in Catalunya was one of the moves of 2019 so far, a pass that put him into a final qualifying position.

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