Thu 08 Feb 2024

Grönholm remembers the one that got away

Having placed third in the World RX standings in each of the past three seasons, there is no question that Niclas Grönholm is one of the sport’s leading protagonists. Had fate not intervened, he may also have been a world champion by now...

Having placed third in the FIA World Rallycross Championship standings in each of the past three seasons, there is no question that Niclas Grönholm is one of the sport’s leading protagonists. Had fate not intervened, he may also have been a world champion by now.


Going into the 2019 campaign, Grönholm had yet to ascend the podium in World RX, but his potential was clear to see – and that year, the Finn would truly make his mark in the discipline’s top-flight.


After finishing runner-up in the season-opener in Abu Dhabi and fourth in round two in Catalunya, he was headed for Spa-Francorchamps sitting second in the chase for the crown, just eight points adrift of the top of the table.


Except, Grönholm never got to Spa. Nor Silverstone a fortnight later for that matter, after being diagnosed with appendicitis that ruled him out of both events. Doubtless spurred on by that setback, when he returned in Hell – minus one appendix – he topped the timesheets in three of the four heats before winning his semi-final and the all-important final to tally an emphatic maximum score.


The Kauniainen native reached the final again in four of the remaining five rounds, finishing with a flourish with the runner-up spoils in Latvia and a second career triumph in Cape Town – a result that was somewhat overshadowed by the tense title battle between Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud that ended in such acrimonious fashion.


In many ways, that was a microcosm of Grönholm’s season – best supporting actor when he could and arguably should have been picking up the biggest prize. The bottom line was that his absence in Belgium and Britain cost him 60 potential championship points – and he ultimately missed out on glory by only 25. Of the permanent competitors and taken as an average of points per start, he was the highest scorer of the campaign.


“It still feels pretty bad what happened that season,” the 27-year-old recollects. “I felt that year, I was the most prepared I’ve ever been. I really had a good feeling with the car and the driving and in the team and physically, I was in really good shape. I think every piece of the puzzle was there, and then I got sick and didn’t go to the doctor in time.


“After missing part of the season, it was clear that we could no longer win the championship so the target was to win some races at least. It was nice to win on my return and in the final round of the year.”


Grönholm has vowed to ‘come back even stronger’ in 2024 as he continues to chase that elusive world championship crown.

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