Volkswagen Team Sweden driver Johan Kristoffersson has taken his maiden win at the opening round of the 2015 FIA World Rallycross Championship at Montalegre in Portugal.
The Swedish driver was on the pace all throughout the weekends action, which took place in wet conditions. After lying in 14th position after Heat One, Kristoffersson went on to be classified third in the remaining three heats, putting him fourth overall and qualifying for the Semi-Final stage. A win in Semi-Final two ahead of both Peugeot-Hansen drivers Timmy Hansen and Davy Jeanney meant all three would qualify for the Supercar Final.
Fighting for the top positions all weekend were 2014 WorldRX Champion Petter Solberg in his SDRX Citroen DS3, Overnight leader Andreas Bakkerud in his Ford OMSE Fiesta and Hansen. The three men traded times throughout the heat stages along with EKSRX Team Boss Mattias Ekstrom in his Audi S1, showing that he had lost none of his speed from last year. Whilst Solberg, Bakkerud and Hansen progressed through to the Final whilst Ekstrom was knocked out in Semi-Final One.
Marklund Motorsport new-boy Per-Gunnar Andersson progressed through the stages in what is his first full season of WorldRX and after finishing third in Semi-Final One, he retired from the Final after making contact with Hansen, causing damage to his left rear suspension.
Solberg took the lead in the Final, heading Hansen into the first turn as Kristoffersson, Jeanney, Bakkerud and Andersson all took their Joker Lap straight away. Coming out of the Joker Lap, Bakkerud fought his way past Jeanney and Andersson, but he would fall down the order later with issues. Andersson passed Jeanney on lap two, only to be repassed by the Frenchman and then pass him back again. Contact with Hansen would rule him out later on.
As the conditions grew worse, Hansen took his Joker Lap on Lap Three whilst Solberg took his Joker a lap later and this promoted Kristoffersson to a lead he would never lose. Successful strategy during the weekend showed that taking the joker lap on lap one often yeilded a race win. As Kristoffersson took the win, Solberg finished second with Hansen completing the podium for Peugeot-Hansen. Jeanney and Bakkerud finished in fourth and fifth respectively with Andersson retiring with damage.
Johan Kristoffersson was overjoyed to take his first ever WorldRX win.
“I am so, so happy,” insisted Kristoffersson. “I nearly stalled the engine on the start line and the whole circuit was unbelievably slippery but I drove a clean race. I couldn’t see out of the side windows so it was more about survival than actual racing.
“I want to say a big, big thank you to Volkswagen Sweden and to my entire team who have done a fantastic job over the past few months. They have worked very hard to build this car which has been working well all weekend. It’s the best possible start to the season.”
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsport commented on the weekend’s action.
“We’ve witnessed some sensational driving in Portugal this weekend and the performance displayed by our younger drivers in such tricky driving conditions is particularly impressive,” reflected Anayi. “Kristoffersson joins us as a permanent World Championship driver for the first time this year and the fact that he can win on his debut with Volkswagen Team Sweden is testament to the high standard of drivers that we have competing in World RX.
“It’s excellent to see three manufacturers – Volkswagen, Citroen and Peugeot – finish on the podium and the development on the cars over the winter hiatus has been very impressive. It’s always a pleasure coming to Montalegre – the Portuguese fans are extremely passionate and still flocked in their thousands despite the rain.
“With four races in five weeks, the teams have got little rest-bite now as we head straight to Hockenheim for our first ever event alongside the highly-acclaimed DTM series.”
The next round of WorldRX takes place at Hockenheim in seven days time, during the same weekend as the DTM opening rounds.