There was a huge mix of rain, tears, elation and epic racing as the FIA World Rallycross Championsip kicked off its belated season with a double-header at Holjes in Sweden – with former champion, Johan Kristofferson remarking his territory by winning the opening round and then being demoted a position in the second event.
Sweden’s Kristoffersson, the 2017 and 2018 World RX Drivers’ Champion, claimed his 21st career victory in the final held after a torrential downpour at the Holjes circuit, and with it – together with being TQ (top qualifier) and winning semi-final one – claimed maximum points to take an early lead of the Drivers’ standings, driving a Volkswagen Polo.
KYB Team JC’s Mattias Ekstrom, the 2016 World RX Drivers’ Champion, also scored a podium on his return to the sport. He set the quickest time in Q2, won semi-final two and finished second in the final with a strong run in the wet conditions, driving an Audi S1.
Germany’s Timo Scheider, the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport driver, racing a Seat Ibiza, finished third. He was promoted onto the podium when Sweden’s Anton Marklund, racing a Renault Megane for GCK Bilstein, was given a 30 second penalty for contact on lap one with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen, the 2019 World RX Drivers’ Champion. GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm, from Finland, Marklund and Team Hansen’s Hansen completed the final results.
Ekstrom’s result, together with points scored by team mate Robin Larsson, gives KYB Team JC the lead in the Teams’ standings.
“It was very different preparation to an event for me, to know like two weeks before that I would race here. Finishing second is never something I dream about, but Johan did a good job and you have to say they have a very good car. We have developed our car as good as we can, but when the sky opened and we had a full dry setup for the final I knew I would not stand a chance.”
Scheider’s success marked the first ever World RX podium for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport.
“It was kind of a chaotic start to the season, given the weather conditions we had here. We’ve had okay speed in the dry, but not too good in the wet. But, we made the semis, finished third there and started P6 in the final. We had a good chance, and finally, with a bit of luck in the end due to Anton Marklund’s penalty, we finished third. I’m mega happy for the ALL-INKL team, it’s the very first World RX podium for those guys, so it’s a mega start to the season for us.”
Sweden’s Robin Larsson was classified fourth in semi-final one, following a three second penalty for contact with Marklund during the race. Hungary’s Krisztian Szabo, driving a Hyundai i20 for GRX SET, was fifth and Unkorrupted’s Rokas Baciuska, from Lithuania, was sixth. In semi-final two, 2019 World RX of Sweden winner Sebastian Eriksson, racing a Honda Civic for the Olsbergs MSE team, was fourth. Team Hansen’s Kevin Hansen, from Sweden, and GRX Taneco’s Timur Timerzyanov, from Russia, were fifth and sixth.
The Sunday morning dawned bright and clear for Round 2 of the series and some robust racing led to the final where KYB Team JC’s Mattias Ekstrom claimed a dramatic victory.
Sweden’s Ekstrom started from the second row of grid for the final at Holjes and took his joker on lap one. He then moved into second position when he overtook Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud at the end of lap one, before his team mate, Sweden’s Robin Larsson and ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider, from Germany, took the joker lap on lap two.
From there on, Ekstrom chased the race leader, Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson – the round one winner. Setting very equal pace, and exchanging the fastest lap times of the whole weekend at Holjes, Ekstrom eventually closed the gap enough to take the lead when Kristoffersson took his joker on lap six.
Kristoffersson finished second on track, but was classified third following a track limits penalty. Team Hansen’s Kevin Hansen finished second to make it an all-Swedish podium. Scheider was fourth, Larsson was fifth with a puncture and Bakkerud was slowed by problems and finished sixth.
The result marked Ekstrom’s 11th career World Rallycross Championship victory.
“It was an amazing weekend for me to come here and be competitive straight away. In the final it was by far the best it went. I had the gap to Kristoffersson over the radio in my ears, I knew how much I needed to push and when I really badly needed a lap I nailed one. I managed to come out in front which was fantastic. I really appreciate the effort that KYB has spent to develop our car’s dampers with EKS, and now that JC Raceteknik can profit from this is a nice feeling. To win and to beat Johan fair and square on pace is an outstanding feeling,” said Ekstrom.
Kevin Hansen’s podium marked the first top three finish of the season for Team Hansen. “We worked all weekend and really had to think and progress, which I think we were not pushed for as hard last year. It’s really nice to find new ways in the team and to understand what we need to do on the car and in the team to improve. We have great challengers now, we have to take the fight, keep calm and do the work. We learned a lot about the car in the wet and the dry in the changing conditions, we have to work hard in the next few days before Finland next weekend but we are up for it and I can’t wait for Saturday,” said Hansen.
America’s Ken Block made history by becoming the first driver ever to win an international electric rallycross event in the new Projekt E category. Driving a Ford Fiesta ERX, Block took the TQ (top qualifier) position to claim pole position for the final, and led the race from start to finish. All three drivers on the podium drove Fiesta ERXs fitted with three motor, 450 kW electric powertrains developed by Projekt E technical partner STARD. Great Britain’s Natalie Barratt finished second and Austria’s Hermann Neubauer was third.