Niclas Grönholm raced to Construction Equipment Dealer Team’s maiden FIA World Rallycross Championship victory at Montalegre today (18 September), as Klara Andersson made history with a breakthrough podium finish and Johan Kristoffersson’s unbeaten run finally came to an end.
Kristoffersson was peerless throughout the heats on the second day of Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal to top the intermediate ranking once again behind the wheel of his Volkswagen RX1e, but he had to give best to Kevin Hansen in a thrilling duel in the pair’s progression race before bouncing back to take the second semi-final.
After losing out to the sister Peugeot 208 RX1e of Timmy Hansen at the start of the final, Kristoffersson spied an opportunity heading onto lap two and made a late dive to the inside entering Turn One, but contact sent his countryman skating into the gravel.
While the Kristoffersson Motorsport ace proceeded to hold sway at the front of the field – digging deep on the penultimate lap to stave off a charging Grönholm – he was subsequently penalised ten seconds for the clash, relegating him to the foot of the final positions for the second year running.
Right from the outset on Sunday, CE Dealer Team looked a much sharper proposition than 24 hours earlier – although a puncture in heat one did not get Grönholm’s challenge off to the smoothest of starts. The Finn unleashed a strong turn-of-speed in his progression race and then converted fifth on the grid into a semi-final win, surviving a coming-together with Kevin Hansen that left the Swede with broken suspension.
In the final, Grönholm opted for an early joker strategy that looked set to pay dividends as he chased Kristoffersson down, only for the Swede to produce a scintillating penultimate lap that allowed him to take his own joker and still emerge just in front – but it would ultimately prove academic, as the stewards’ intervention elevated Grönholm to the top step on the podium for a seventh career triumph.
“This obviously isn’t the way I like to win and it’s always slightly bittersweet in situations like this,” the 26-year-old reflected. “We struggled in the first four rounds, but today was a bit better and we finally came away with a result.
“From the progression race onwards, I had a good feeling in the car, and I was confident of challenging for the podium in the final if we got the tactics right. I made a few mistakes towards the end, without which I think I could have got Johan anyway. I know how it feels to be in his shoes, but it’s great for CE Dealer Team and all our partners to get both cars inside the top three. We’ve had a tough season so far, but we seem to be on a good path at last – so hopefully we can keep this going.”
Ole Christian Veiby replicated his runner-up result from the previous day – the Norwegian’s fourth top three finish from five starts in 2022 – as he again ran team-mate Kristoffersson close, with Andersson hassling him all the way to the chequered flag in third, impressing with her pace and racecraft weekend-long. Not only did the 22-year-old complete a double podium for CE Dealer Team, but she also became the first female to reach the rostrum in top flight international rallycross history.
Timmy Hansen ultimately wound up a disappointed fourth on a day that had at one stage promised so much more for Hansen World RX Team, with younger brother Kevin enduring a real rollercoaster ride, from the high of brilliantly overtaking Kristoffersson – twice – in the first progression race to the crushing low of exiting proceedings at the semi-final stage, just as he had seemed poised to truly take the fight to the championship leader.
In the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport SEAT Ibiza, René Münnich displayed much improved form compared to day one as he significantly narrowed the deficit to his World RX rivals, while KMS rookie Gustav Bergström’s day ended when he was ruled out of the progression race due to a late arrival at pre-grid.
CHAMPIONS CROWNED IN SUPPORT SERIES
Anton Marklund secured his third FIA European Rallycross Championship title in Portugal today, although the Swede’s path to glory in Euro RX1 was far from straightforward. Following his joker merge collision with Jānis Baumanis yesterday, the SET Promotion star found himself bundled wide into Turn One in the final, which was then compounded by a rare mistake in the joker.
With the bit between his teeth, he fought back to fourth at the flag, which – with Baumanis finishing second – was enough to get the job done with one round still to go. Enzo Ide celebrated his first rallycross victory following a superb drive for EKS, with experienced campaigner Ulrik Linnemann claiming a second podium of the season in third.
An emotional Kobe Pauwels fulfilled a ‘childhood dream’ as he dominated proceedings in Euro RX3 to similarly clinch the coveted crown with a round to spare. The Belgian teenager was on imperious form in Portugal, and betrayed no nerves in the final as he led from lights-to-flag. Damian Litwinowicz produced his finest performance of the season so far to take second place, with Nuno Miguel da Costa Araújo sending the partisan fans home happy by reaching the rostrum for the first time in third.
FINAL RESULT: WORLD RX
1. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) Construction Equipment Dealer Team 5 laps
2. Ole Christian VEIBY (NOR) Kristoffersson Motorsport + 2.853s
3. Klara ANDERSSON (SWE) Construction Equipment Dealer Team +4.412s
4. Timmy HANSEN (SWE) Hansen World RX Team + 4.821s
5. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (SWE) Kristoffersson Motorsport +9.241s
Full results for all classes can be found here