Mon 13 Nov 2023

Heroes of Hong Kong: Cooper Tires’ final ‘Racers of the Weekend’

The 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship campaign reached a thrilling conclusion with a dazzling double-header on the streets of downtown Hong Kong (11-12 November). Fans were captivated by the electrifying entertainment on-track, but who stole the show in the season finale to scoop the coveted Cooper Tires ‘Racer of the Weekend’ awards..?

World RX Saturday: Niclas Grönholm


Niclas Grönholm has rarely enjoyed the rub of the green in World RX in 2023, but the Finn was on fine form on the first day of action in Hong Kong – and for once, his luck held out. Right from the outset on the Central Harbourfront circuit, Grönholm was in maximum attack mode, showcasing his commitment and car control as he threw his ZEROID X1 around with brio.


Second-quickest in qualifying practice, he held his nerve around the outside at the start of both heat races to snatch a lead he would not subsequently relinquish – in the second of them, fending off champion-elect Johan Kristoffersson right the way to the chequered flag to post the fastest time of the session.


Another win in his semi-final secured the CE Dealer Team by Volvo Construction Equipment star a front row grid slot for the all-important final, but at the start, he found himself shuffled down to fifth. A late decision to dive into the joker at the end of the opening tour paid dividends, however, as he leapfrogged Timo Scheider and then fought past Ole Christian Veiby on the last lap. Allied to Kristoffersson stopping on-track, that earned Grönholm the runner-up spoils, matching his best result of the season – and deservedly so.


World RX Sunday: Patrick O’Donovan


Patrick O’Donovan headed to Hong Kong insisting that he did not fear reputations and was simply looking forward to seeing how he shaped up against international rallycross’ crème de la crème. The answer was pretty well – and after missing out on making the final on the opening day when he found himself tucked up behind 2019 world champion team-mate Timmy Hansen in the pair’s semi-final, he exacted his revenge on day two.


O’Donovan atoned for a mistake in the morning SuperPole shootout by taking the fight to experienced campaigners Kristoffersson and Scheider in heat one, before overhauling the German and Klara Andersson for a race win in heat two. Following another strong performance in heat three, the two-time British champion narrowly staved off Scheider to book his berth in the final, where from the back of the grid, he vaulted immediately up to third at the start – and there he would stay.


Belying his comparative lack of experience, O’Donovan proceeded to keep the elder Hansen brother at bay throughout, flashing past the chequered flag in third position to ascend the podium on his maiden weekend at the highest level. It was an impressive debut by any standards.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM