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Fri 27 Jan 2023

Around the outside: Recollections of Germany’s ‘epic’ Estering

Mention Germany’s Estering to anybody involved in rallycross – indeed, motorsport in general, given how viral this particular move went – and chances are, five words will come to mind. Kevin Eriksson around the outside.

The popular and traditional Estering circuit – located just outside of Buxtehude, near the major German port city of Hamburg – appeared on the original FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar in 2014 and remained there until 2019, becoming a European-only event in its final season on the schedule.

Two-time champion Petter Solberg was the first winner there, pipping future title-holder Mattias Ekström by the hair’s breadth margin of just five thousandths-of-a-second as the Norwegian power-slid out the joker on the last lap and his Swedish rival raced towards the finish line on the regular course. The result remains the closest in World RX history.

Frenchman Davy Jeanney secured the first of his two World RX victories at the Estering in 2015, before that performance by Kevin Eriksson the following year. In a final featuring the likes of Solberg, Ekström, Johan Kristoffersson and Andreas Bakkerud, few would have put money on the Olsbergs MSE driver making it to the top step of the podium – but by dint of throwing his Ford Fiesta boldly around the outside of his adversaries in the first corner from fourth on the grid to snatch a lead he would not subsequently relinquish, that is precisely what the plucky Swede did.

“Aside from all the good races that have taken place there, my favourite memory from the Estering is that pass from Kevin Eriksson,” recalls 2019 world champion Timmy Hansen, a spectator that autumn afternoon, having been knocked out at the semi-final stage. “That was an epic rallycross move!

“I’m happy to go back to these classic tracks where we’ve seen so much good racing, and hopefully we can have even more fun battles this year. The new electric cars have generated some great action and many opportunities to fight and overtake. It’s going to be an exciting season!”

Hansen has a strong record at the Estering himself – having taken the chequered flag third in 2015 and second in 2017 – while younger brother and Hansen World RX Team stablemate Kevin Hansen has progressed to the final in each of his three starts there, with a best finish to-date of fourth in 2016, barely half-a-second shy of the rostrum.

“The Estering is one of my favourites, and the style of the circuit really seems to suit me,” the 24-year-old acknowledged. “I love the track and have always been very fast there, although I haven’t quite managed to get on the podium – yet!”

2017 saw Ekström exact his revenge over Solberg for three years earlier, finding himself narrowly pipped to the top spot by his fellow champion in the heats before producing a dominant display to clinch his tenth career victory.

That same day, Niclas Grönholm advanced to the World RX final for the first time, going on to finish fifth – with the Finn improving again to fourth 12 months later.

“The Estering is legendary and a circuit I like even if it’s difficult to race head-to-head there,” the Construction Equipment Dealer Team ace reflected. “It’s very narrow and challenging – but also fun!”

Prior to October 2018, the Buxtehude-based track was the only one at which Kristoffersson – the most successful driver of rallycross’ current era – had not reached the rostrum, but the Swede put that statistic to bed in emphatic fashion to defeat EKS Audi Sport duo Ekström and Bakkerud for glory.

Jānis Baumanis has similarly triumphed there – at Super1600 (now Euro RX3) level in 2014 – and counts three consecutive semi-final appearances to his credit at the Estering in World RX. It is a circuit the Latvian remembers fondly.

“I would say it’s one of the top three tracks that has ever been in the World Championship – super-narrow, a super-cool first corner where you can go in on the outside and come out leading, a very quick straight and generally just a lot of fun to drive,” enthused the former European champion. “I’m really looking forward to going back to Buxtehude. The fans are very friendly and enthusiastic and there’s always a great vibe. I have only good memories of racing there.”