EKSRX driver Mattias Ekstrom secured victory at the second round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship, the World RX Of Hockenheim. Team-mate Topi Heikkinen followed him home to complete an historic 1-2 for the EKSRX squad.
In an action packed Supercar Final, Heikkinen started his Audi S1 from pole position after winning Semi-Final One. Alongside him on the front row was Semi-Final Two winner Liam Doran in his JRM World RX BMW Mini, who secured victory in an exciting Semi-Final two and he is due credit due to the fact the car is using a 1.6 litre turbocharged engine for the second event in a row.
Row two saw Ekstrom lining up against Portugal winner Peter Solberg in his Citreon DS3, who suffered a a rare engine issue in Q4. The back row saw Robin Larsson line up his Audi A1 alongside Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block in his Ford Focus RS RX.
Heikkinen took the lead on the opening lap ahead of Ekstrom, who managed to fend of a challenge from the fast starting Doran. However once the drivers arrived at the two hairpins, there was contact between Block, Larsson and Doran which saw the British Bomb fall down to fifth place by the end of the race. Block benefited from this and found himself in third place as the two EKSRX sped off in the distance.
On lap two coming out of the left hand turn before the joker section, Solberg clipped the outside wall and this caused Larsson to take avoiding action which led to him rolling his Audi and falling to the back of the field, managing to get going again. With all this happening behind him, Block managed to keep a gap between him and the double World RX Champion which he would keep to the chequered flag.
Heikkinen took his joker on lap one and managed to keep his lead, however team-mate Ekstrom waited until lap three to take his joker and using the faster exit to his advantage, he passed the Finn around the outside of the final turn and took the lead into lap four.
From this point on the two EKSRX drivers stayed in formation flying and came across the line in an historic first 1-2 finish for the team. Block would come home third ahead of Solberg and Doran whilst Larsson crossed the line in sixth place.
“I’ve never been happier in my entire life – to win in World RX and now in front of my loyal DTM fans is a dream come true,” said Ekstrom, who was overjoyed with his first victory in 2016. “Topi is a great racer, he certainly made it tough for me! I had my opportunity at the Joker Lap and I managed to take it a smooth line ahead of Topi. What an amazing day but it’s not over yet as now it’s time for DTM!”
“This is an excellent result for the entire team, we have to be happy with this result,” said the equally happy Heikkenen. “The car is super-fast and we have a great team behind us. In the final, I was struggling with tyre-wear but I’m complaining about first world problems as that was our only issue. Now we have to keep the momentum going and gain more points in Belgium. Mettet is one of my favourite tracks, I’ve won there for the past two years so why not making it a third next week?!”
Ken Block was satisfied to give the new Focus RS RX its first podium finish, while admitting to still learning about the car.
“This is a huge accomplishment – not just for me but for the whole team who have worked so hard to make this happen,” explained Block, “We are still trying to learn the car and there have been lots of set-up changes to try and figure out what can make the Focus work as well as possible. We are definitely on the right path but some more experimentation is still needed.”
Team Peugeot-Hansen suffered a difficult weekend where Timmy Hansen and Sebastien Loeb were both amongst the fastest drivers however lady luck did not shine upon them. Hansen suffered a fire in his Q3 race and after a quick turn around for his Q4 race, he was later disqualified for the Peugeot 208 WRX being underweight.
Loeb faired better and managed to qualify for Semi-Final one with Davy Jeanney in the Hansen Academy 208, however after passing Jeanney for third during the race, both cars were then passed by Larsson who kept the position for the Final.
Another major casualty in the Semi-Finals was Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson who took the lead in Semi-Final two, however contact in the first corner damaged the rear bumper of his VW Polo and this eventually led to his tyre de-laminating. This do not stop Kristoffersson as he defended as best he could against the rest, but he would eventually lose out to miss a place in the Final.
The next round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship, the World RX Of Belgium, takes place in 7 days time and sees both Solberg and Ekstrom tied at the head of the Drivers Championship on 48 points whilst Heikkinen, who has won the event for the last two years in a row, lies in third place three points and will be looking for a third straight win.