Johan Kristoffersson proved that the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship is the most open and unpredictable season so far for the series as he became the fifth winner of a World RX event this year.
The Swede, whose last victory was the 2015 World RX of Portugal, suffered on Day One in the drier conditions as he struggled to keep his Volkswagen RX Sweden VW Polo inside the top 12 in both Q1 and Q2. However he was able to improve on Day Two where the track was in a wetter state and showed his impending pace by going fastest in both Q3 and Q4.
Classified second in the Intermediate standings behind TQ Mattias Ekstrom in his EKS Audi S1, Kristoffersson lined up on pole position for Semi-Final Two where he duly led from start to finish to line up on the front row for the Final alongside Hoonigan Racing’s Andreas Bakkerud. Once the Final got underway, Kristoffersson took the lead into the first corner and proceeded to dominate the race to secure his first win of the season.
The Swede explained how hard both he and the team worked on improving the car over the weekend:
“We couldn’t get it right on Saturday – I was P10 after Q2 and the car didn’t feel right. My team worked really hard on the car overnight and in the rain this morning, the car felt amazing. This car and my driving style work very well together in the wet conditions,” explained Kristoffersson.
“In the final, I pushed really hard and made sure to avoid the kerbs so as not to get a puncture, and concentrated on a clean race. Similar to last year, Andreas [Bakkerud] and I are very close in the leader board and now I’m starting to catch up on Mattias and Petter who are not so far in front – I just hope to continue from where we left off when we got to Barcelona. We got a podium there last year so hopefully we can do the same in two weeks’ time.”
In what was one of the most frantic World RX Supercar Finals of the year, Bakkerud took pole position ahead of Kristoffersson after Ekstrom suffered a puncture on the last lap of Semi-Final One meaning that the German driver would miss out on a place in the Final.
On the second row were old WRC sparring partners Petter Solberg and Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Sebastien Loeb, who was looking for a podium finish on home turf. The back row was completed by Bakkerud’s team-mate Ken Block, who qualified for his first Supercar Final of the season along with Reinis Nitiss. The Latvian driver secured third place in SF1 and qualified the Muennich Motorsport SEAT Ibiza RX for its first Final appearance in what was the last event for Nitiss with the team as they part ways for the rest of the season.
As Kristoffersson ran off into the distance, the action behind saw Bakkerud, Solberg, Loeb and Block swapping places in the first three turns on lap one alone, however the order soon settled with some tense moments that followed. With Bakkerud and Solberg fighting for position, Loeb managed to get past both of them to take second place away at turn three.
Two laps later and the Frenchman went to take his joker lap at the same time as the young Norwegian driver, with Bakkerud coming out ahead. Block dropped down to fifth place after taking his joker on lap five, however after some bumping and barging with Loeb, the American driver would see his race end in the wall on the last lap.
Kristoffersson secured the win ahead of Bakkerud and Loeb, with Solberg taking fourth and extending his lead in the Driver championship by five points over Ekstrom. Nitiss secured fifth place in the Final ahead of Block. Ekstrom was classified in seventh place with 2015 winner Timmy Hansen in eighth after suffering a puncture in his Semi-Final. Davy Jeanney secured ninth with Robin Larsson classified in tenth place ahead of Kevin Hansen and Albatec Racing Team Principal Andy Scott.
Bakkerud praised the team for their hard work on the car, “It was great to have both myself and Ken [Block] in the final for Hoonigan Racing Division. I feel like we are making progress each round – I’ve had four podium finishes in the last four rounds so I must be doing something right! I struggled a bit in Canada with the starts and I had some similar issues here but the performance of the car on the track is fantastic. I’m really proud of the team – they’ve done a fantastic job with the car.”
Loeb was happy to take his first podium on home turf, “I’m really happy with this result and I’ve had some amazing support from the crowd this weekend too. It’s been a tough battle to get here – we are always looking to find more speed and unlike Johan [Kristoffersson] we struggled in the wet conditions. For sure, we lost a few seconds in the rain which meant we didn’t have the position that we wanted for the semi-finals. It turned out to be a good semi for us and in the final I pushed hard. It feels really good to be here.”