Tuesday | 23 Nov 2021

Grönholm eager to end combustion era on top step of the podium

As he approaches the end of what he describes as an ‘up-and-down’ season, Niclas Grönholm is targeting the top step of the podium at the Nürburgring this weekend (27-28 November) – and whilst he acknowledges that his title hopes are perhaps slender, he is nonetheless hopeful of signing off the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s combustion era in style.

As he approaches the end of what he describes as an ‘up-and-down’ season, Niclas Grönholm is targeting the top step of the podium at the Nürburgring this weekend (27-28 November) – and whilst he acknowledges that his title hopes are perhaps slender, he is nonetheless hopeful of signing off the FIA World Rallycross Championship’s combustion era in style.

Grönholm’s bid for glory in 2021 was dealt an early blow when contact not of his own making ruled him out of the final in both Catalunya and Sweden – but he responded with a podium finish in France, winning Q1 behind the wheel of his GRX-SET World RX Team Hyundai i20 and then fighting back from a slow semi-final start to take the chequered flag third in the all-important final.

Riga marked an undeniable ‘purple patch’ for the 25-year-old, as he launched himself into contention for the crown with his first victory of the campaign on the opening day, backing that up with the runner-up spoils 24 hours later in the second leg of the Latvian double-header – after setting the pace in two of the three qualifiers to snare TQ honours. His 56-point haul was also the highest of the weekend.

Disappointment was to follow in Belgium, as Grönholm was forced wide and demoted down the order at the start of the second semi-final, but he took full advantage of the breathless battle between Timmy Hansen, Johan Kristoffersson and Kevin Hansen last time out in Portugal to leapfrog them all and secure his second triumph of the season.

That leaves the Finn 29 points adrift of the summit of the standings with 60 remaining to play for in Germany – a tall order, perhaps, but never say never...

“It’s obviously been a bit too much up-and-down and not really the season we were hoping for,” he candidly reflected. “The first two rounds put us immediately on the back foot in the points, but since then, things have gone better with some podiums and wins. The highlight was definitely Riga. We had good launches, good speed on-track on both days and I was able to drive with a lot of confidence and could trust what I was doing 100 per cent.

“My hopes for the Nürburgring are to win on both days – that’s the goal, to try to be on that kind of form to push for victory and end this era in a good way. I’m a bit sad that we are not really in the championship fight; ok, anything can happen, but it looks difficult. Third place is more than possible, though, so I will try to collect as many points as I can to achieve that.

“Preparation for the weekend is quite difficult, since we have no idea how the track will look. I’ve only seen one video of it, so the work we do with the set-up of the car after the track walk will play a bigger role than usual. At a circuit we have raced on before, it’s obviously a bit easier – we have knowledge and old set-ups to look through. It’ll be trickier at the Nürburgring, but we will give it our best shot...”

Championship Position 4th
Points Scored 149
Finals Reached 4
Final Wins 2
Podium Finishes 4
Semi-Final Wins 2
Top Qualifier Spots 1
Qualifying Session Wins 5