The tenth round of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship has gifted Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson with not only his sixth victory of the season, but also this year’s Drivers’ Champion crown. Let’s have a look at the action from the second day.
Race 1 is substantially a battle between Nico Müller and Kevin Hansen, with the heat eventually going the young Swede’s way. Petter Solberg returns after his Q2 mistake with a convincing performance, while Kristoffersson once again sets the benchmark and takes an easy heat win in front of local favourites Nitiss and Baumanis. The last race provides plenty of action with such big names as Sébastien Loeb, Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud, with an aggressive Toomas Heikkinen (the surprise overnight top qualifier) also playing a big part, with the French rally legend taking the win.
The final qualifying round goes to Sébastien Loeb, who closes race 4 ahead of both PSRX cars, although Kristoffersson’s TQ position remains unchallenged. Neither of the MJP Team Austria cars of Timo Scheider and Kevin Eriksson, however, is in contention for the semis, as a consequence of yesterday’s technical troubles: nevertheless, both drivers have posted convincing results on today’s heats.
Kristoffersson and Ekström immediately seize the commanding positions, followed by Bakkerud, Niclas Grönholm, Timmy Hansen and Reinis Nitiss. The Latvian is the first to joker, followed on the next lap by Hansen. As Nitiss tries to regain his place, he touches the back of the Peugeot, apparently damaging the rear left wheel. Bakkerud jokers on lap 4, one lap later Grönholm does too, and the two leading Swede’s clear their joker on the final lap. By doing so, standings leader Kristoffersson secures pole for the final, reigning champion Ekström takes the second row, and Bakkerud closes in third.
Heavy contact at the start puts Solberg off the track, causing the race to be red-flagged. Although the Polo doesn’t seem to be heavily damaged, the restart is delayed as the rescuers extricate the Norwegian from his car and medical checks are performed upon him, effectively withdrawing him from the race. At the restart, Loeb snatches an immediate lead from row 1, chased by Heikkinen, Müller, Kevin Hansen and Janis Baumanis. The Latvian takes an early joker, as does Heikkinen. A mechanical failure, however, causes the Finn to spin off. Contact at the joker merge makes Hansen lose time, being overtaken by local favourite Baumanis. Müller’s lap 5 joker secures him a spot in the final, in what is only his second race in World RX. Last year’s winner Loeb, meanwhile, joins Kristoffersson on the first row of the grid, with Müller second and Baumanis third.
Not a good start for Bakkerud, who stalled on the grid, while Kristoffersson and Ekström take first and second, respectively, while the usual turn-one contact drops Loeb down the order. A hard-charging Baumanis immediately seizes third, much to the joy of his home fans, only to lose it to Loeb at the joker merge shortly later. Bakkerud, who almost immediately caught up with the rest of the field, despite his bad start, would benefit from a good joker strategy to finish fourth, ahead of Baumanis and Mueller but behind Loeb (third) and Ekström. With his sixth victory of the season, and fifth in a row, the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden man secures his first World Rallycross Champion’s title.