Wed 22 Nov 2023

Grönholm targeting consistency as he ‘shifts focus’ for 2024

Niclas Grönholm is plotting a renewed approach in World RX in 2024, after falling short of his end-of-season objective despite unleashing a scintillating turn-of-speed in Hong Kong...

Niclas Grönholm is plotting a renewed approach in the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2024, after falling short of his end-of-season objective in Hong Kong despite unleashing a scintillating turn-of-speed around the Central Harbourfront circuit earlier this month.

Grönholm headed to Hong Kong sitting fourth in the Drivers’ standings at the international pinnacle of the sport – and bidding to climb a couple of spots around the first city-centre track in the series’ history.

The weekend got off to a positive start as he posted the second-quickest effort in free practice on the Saturday morning, which the Finn replicated when it mattered in qualifying practice, despite a late ‘off’. Following a race win in wet conditions in heat one, he then flung his CE Dealer Team by Volvo Construction Equipment car boldly around the outside of his rivals at the start of heat two to snatch a lead that he would not subsequently relinquish.

By dint of holding off multiple world champion Johan Kristoffersson, Grönholm grabbed the fastest time of the session to secure second in the intermediate classification, which he converted into victory in his semi-final after withstanding an attack from Ole Christian Veiby into Turn One.

From the front row of the grid, the 27-year-old found himself pushed down to fifth at the beginning of the all-important final, but a decision to dive into the joker on the opening tour would pay dividends as he leapfrogged Timo Scheider, overhauled Veiby on the last lap and benefitted from Kristoffersson’s late drama to climb back to second at the chequered flag – lapping faster than winner Kevin Hansen along the way as he matched his best result of the 2023 campaign.

The next day, Grönholm led a CE Dealer Team one-two in the morning warm-up but then picked up a puncture at the start of his SuperPole lap. Undeterred, he pulled off another ‘round-the-outside’ pass at the beginning of heat one to pip Timmy Hansen to victory and the second-quickest time overall, before doing his best to cling onto Kristoffersson’s coat-tails in heat two.

The Kauniainen native had the better of the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS star in heat three and was on-course to take Top Qualifier honours in front of almost 300 team guests, until his car suddenly slowed literally within sight of the finish line. After battling back to win his semi-final for the second day in succession, he came off worse again in the Turn One shuffle in the final, restricting him to a frustrated fifth at the flag, despite setting the race’s second-fastest lap time.

That meant Grönholm placed third in the title chase for the third consecutive campaign, as CE Dealer Team narrowly beat Hansen World RX Team to the runner-up spoils in the Teams’ table. Next year, he wants more.

“I would like to thank the team and our partners for another great season,” he commented. “To secure the bronze medal in front of all our guests felt good, although I was aiming for silver.

“We had a strong weekend despite some challenges. On the Saturday, finishing second after a start issue in the final was the best we could hope for. With great speed in the car on Sunday, I was hoping to be on pole for the final, as we saw how crucial that was with Johan [Kristoffersson] taking the inside line from the start.

“To win the world championship, you need to be consistent, deliver in every round and finish regularly on the podium, and you also need a bit of luck. I’ll now take some time off and then shift focus to come back even stronger next year.”

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