SEASON REVIEW: 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship – Simply Mega – Part 2

by Nigel Chiu

Can you think of a season in any motorsport category that has seen as much drama, as much excitement, as much madness and unpredictability than the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship?

Before 2019 World RX was nearly dead according to many fans because the three manufacturers of Peugeot, Audi and Volkswagen all pulled out at the end of last year.

But the series has still survived on the back of privateer entries which gave us the closest competition ever and a championship that went down to the wire.

After 196 races, 40 qualifying rounds, 20 semi-finals and 10 finals, the championship was decided on countback as Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud tied on points. The first half of the season set up an almighty run-in as the excitement continued and never let up.

For Part One of the Season Review, take a look here. Below, is Part Two and our thoughts on the incredible season.

Round 6: Sweden – Can it get any crazier?

2019 was a crazy season and the craziest event of them all has to be the World RX of Sweden. The Magic Weekend in Holjes produced some magical moments of its own and the action was on from the get-go.

Reinis Nittis rolled his Hyundai i20 in Q1 before making an extraordinary comeback just two hours later to win Q2. The GRX driver went from being upside down to top of the leaderboard which would never happen in any other motorsport.

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Rain saved Timmy Hansen‘s chances who was down the order after Q1. A key championship moment with the weather playing a key role in the season.

Andreas Bakkerud was looking very good all weekend, topping qualifying and putting himself in a great position to take a huge amount of points. But, disaster came in his semi-final as the Norwegian broke his driveshaft and failed to make the final.

Meanwhile, Timmy and Kevin Hansen had an almighty scrap not only in the semi-final but the final. The battles were very exciting as the drivers lit up the tyres and went door to door through several corners.

Sebastian Eriksson showed his talent in his one-off appearance in 2019.

The Swede had exceptional pace considering the limited amount of testing he has had in a rallycross car and the fact that the team have a limited amount of parts and money to spend on their Ford Fiesta.

Eriksson won his semi-final and got his redemption, after nearly winning in Holjes in 2014, by holding off Kevin Hansen in the dying laps to win the final in style.

To win as a wildcard entrant with no major sponsorship backing in arguably the most competitive world championship series there is, is an incredible achievement.

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Round 7: Canada – Championship Changer

The teams headed off to North America for the World RX‘s annual appearance in Canada and the Hansen’s were in control of the championship with Bakkerud lying 22 points behind. This all changed after some chaos in Q4.

Bakkerud was on the pace yet again with Timmy and Kevin Hansen hot on his heels in qualifying. Things took a dramatic turn in the last race of qualifying when Bakkerud was spun around going down to turn one.

Niclas Gronholm romped away before Timur Timerzyanov suffered a puncture and was turned around by Liam Doran. Timmy Hansen got caught up in the incident but all three cars came to a standstill at the hairpin and all had to reverse to get underway again.

In a split second, Bakkerud came round and went past them all as Hansen came off worst and had to limp to the finish line with a damaged car. This cost Hansen, and cost him badly.

He did not qualify for the semi-finals, losing huge ground to his championship rivals.

Bakkerud won his first World RX event since Argentina 2016 and he put himself to within a handful of points away from championship leader Kevin Hansen. The game was certainly on.

Credit: GRX Taneco

Round 8: France – The cream rises to the top

Things were slightly calmer in Loheac but the championship got tighter than it had ever been. The three championship protagonists all made it to the final with Bakkerud in prime position.

However, a desperate move to hold off Niclas Gronholm going into turn one in the final saw Bakkerud lose positions as the rest of the field swept by. Timmy Hansen took full advantage and dominated to take the win.

Kevin Hansen pushed super hard to go from the back to the third step of the podium with a fighting drive.

Yet again, Timmy bounced back from a setback and showed that psychologically, he was able to pick himself up and drive better than ever before to recover from misfortune.

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Round 9: Latvia – Hansen hits back

Despite, a very tricky start in Riga with two collisions with Robin Larsson, Timmy Hansen responded brilliantly by moving himself from outside the top 12 to a front row start for the semi-finals.

The Swede went onto winning the event and taking the championship lead by one point. Bakkerud played things safe with the help of Mattias Ekstrom throughout the weekend.

Perhaps Bakkerud should have taken more risks with hindsight so he could drive more naturally and get more out of his Audi S1.

Kevin Hansen continued to drop precious points in the title fight and left himself with a lot to do going into the finale in Cape Town.

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Round 10: South Africa – An emotional, controversial ending

Everyone knew what was at stake and for most of the weekend, the championship contenders stayed out of trouble.

Gronholm was very strong and had the better of the field. But, the combination of Timmy Hansen and the Peugeot 208 looked incredibly tough to overcome for Bakkerud.

On the first Sunday race, Bakkerud responded with a fantastic race time putting the pressure onto Hansen. But, Hansen resisted the pressure that Bakkerud had put on Hansen and went even faster to win Q3. Hansen described it as “the best four laps of his life.”

Bakkerud and Hansen went on to win their respective semi-finals and with Kevin Hansen no out of championship contention, the title battle came down to the last race of the season between two drivers who have built up a strong and ever-growing rivalry over the last few years.

Credit: Red Bull Content Pool

It was Bakkerud who got an amazing launch in the ‘winner takes all’ finale. Hansen looked to have the slightly quicker car and was all over Bakkerud’s rear bumper.

At the tight turn six right-hand turns, it all went wrong as Hansen went for a bold move down the inside and made contact with Bakkerud, turning them both around. Hansen came off worse but it allowed Gronholm to take the lead and cost Bakkerud dearly.

Luckily for Hansen, he had very little damage and just one lap later, Timo Scheider’s retirement put Hansen back in championship-winning position.

Bakkerud did not have the pace to catch Gronholm and did not get the win he needed to become champion.

Hansen did it by virtue of having more wins than Bakkerud (three versus Bakkerud’s one) and emotions were sky-high post-race. The Hansen brothers’ refused to shake Bakkerud’s hand as they celebrated and Bakkerud understandably kept his sunglasses on during the podium and was extremely angry and disappointed.

The stewards gave no penalty despite many people arguing that penalties have been given for incidents that have been minor than that this year. To win the championship in the steward’s room though is far from ideal and it’s just a shame that things had to end that way.

Credit: IMG / FIA World RX

Final Thoughts – Simply Mega

Nevertheless, it has been the greatest motorsport season you could ask for. So much happened and even though many are not happy about the final result, you have to take a step back and acknowledge that we have been treated to an absolute classic of a World RX season.

We have never seen this before and we probably never will see a season like this one for a long time. It had everything you could hope for and went down to the wire after so much drama and countless twists and turns.

Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud both would have been deserving champions. The way they have both fought back after they collided in Abu Dhabi has been phenomenal and the way they both withstood the pressure and the intensity of the fight was exemplary.

Sadly, only one could be champion but that’s sport for you. What an amazing sport rallycross is, and what a wonderful season 2019 has been for the FIA World Rallycross Championship. It does not get any better.

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