EKS RX finished the opening day of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy at the top of the standings with team owner Mattias Ekstrom and team-mate Toomas Heikkinen split by Johan Kristoffersson.
Snow and torrential rain battered Montalegre throughout the week and competitors were greeted with more of the same on a day that Timmy Hansen called the worse rallycross conditions he had ever seen.
Qualifying 1 – Former winner Kristoffersson fastest
The first sessions of the day saw Johan Kristoffersson set the fastest time, as he looks to emulate his first World RX victory that was scored at the Portuguese circuit 12 months ago. The first race was won by the Swede as he fought off the challenge from Topi Hekkinen and Sébastien Loeb; Nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb looked set to take victory as he led the race until the last lap joker as he dropped to third on track and fifth overall in the standings.
Mattias Ekstrom slotted in to second position after securing victory in the last race, finishing the first qualifying races ahead of team-mate Heikkinen. Andreas Bakkerud set the fourth fastest time despite having to take two joker laps for a jump start.
Liam Doran started his season with promise in the JRM Mini RX as he finished second behind Ekstrom, setting the sixth fastest time overall. Timmy Hansen took third place in the race and finished in eighth place, ahead of Kevin Eriksson.
Renis Nitiis took his All-Inkl.com Muennich Motorsport Seat to victory ahead of reigning champion Petter Solberg. Janis Baumanis had a tough race as he fought back to thirteenth place overall. Team-mate Timur Timerzyanov didn’t fare well as he slid on the loose section. Ken Block went off track on the opening lap in his Ford Focus RS RX.
Qualifying 2 – EKS to the forefront
In the second round of qualifying races, Mattias Ekstrom stepped up the game to top the time sheets and finish the day with the fastest time ahead of Kristoffersson and Heikkinen.
“I think the trick in rallycross is to have good starts.” Said Ekstrom to fiaworldrallycross.com. “Over the two years we’ve been doing this, we’ve struggled to have consistent starts. In the winter we tried to improve that. For sure in this weather it’s difficult, but we had two good starts and that’s the base for our performance,”
“The conditions are not really showing the true performance of the cars or the drivers yet.” he added.
Andreas Bakkerud finished the day as the fastest Hoonigan Racing driver as he and team-mate Ken Block got to grips with the all-new Ford Focus RS RX Supercar. The Norwegian finished both qualifying races fourth fastest while Block finished down in seventeenth place.
Sébastien Loeb had a promising first day finishing in fifth place while Petter Solberg hit back with a race victory in Q2 after losing out in Q1 due to losing time from a slide. The defending champion will start the second day in seventh place, just behind Olsbergs MSE driver Kevin Eriksson and 2015 RX Lites Cup Champion Kevin Hansen.