Johan Kristoffersson took full advantage of the changeable conditions to secure the top qualifier spot at round four of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross championship in Finland.
Rain greeted the drivers for the first qualifying session of the day and it seemed that the track would be deteriorating as each lap went on. Rene Münnich lined up on pole for race one with Tamás Kárai, Jere Kalliokoski, and Atro Määttä filling up rest of the grid. Off the line, Münnich was immediately spun around after contact and was dropped to the back. Kalliokoski made some nice overtakes and drove a very mature race to come home with the win in the first race of the day.
Race two saw yesterday’s winner, Kristoffersson, lining up on pole next to Jani Paasonen, Timur Timerzyanov, Timmy Hansen, and Guerlain Chicherit. The rain was slowly getting worse but Kristoffersson managed to get an incredible start and he pulled three car lengths clear into turn one. Hansen lost out massively on the start but held back at turn one and made a double overtake to slot into second. The drivers were feeling their way around and the times were way off the pace in the dry. Even so, Kristoffersson pulled off a masterful drive to take the win and the fastest time of the session ahead of Hansen.
Niclas Gronhölm, Timo Scheider, Juha Rytkönen, Anton Marklund, and Robin Larsson lined up for race three. The grid slots were getting wetter and the drivers were struggling for traction off the line. It was Rytkönen who managed to slot in front into turn one. The track was even greasier now and they couldn’t match the times set by Kristoffersson in the previous race. Rytkönen crossed the line for the win. Marklund, with a brand new engine in the Megane, crossed the line for fifth. He was clearly struggling.
Mattias Ekström, Kevin Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Kevin Abbring, and Liam Doran lined up for the final race of qualifying one. Doran was trying something different and decided to put slick tyres on his Megane. Off the line, it was clear his choice was not optimal as he struggled for traction off the line. Ekström got the lead in turn one as Bakkerud slotted in front of Hansen. Again, Ekström couldn’t match the times of Kristoffersson and was only able to manage third. Kristoffersson took another session win in front of Timmy Hansen and Ekström
It would be the top five from qualifying one who would be going first. Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen, Ekström, Rytkönen, and Bakkerud. It was an awful start from Kristoffersson who dropped right to the back of the field. The polo was slowing down and was misfiring, a disaster for the championship leader. Rytkönen led from Ekström. Hansen jokered late into the race and came out in front of Bakkerud but ran wide and Bakkerud went up the inside of turn one but there was once again contact between them.
Hansen was sent sideways into a half spin but managed to save it. The stewards investigated and there was no further action Timmy let Bakkerud know that he wasn’t happy with him on the way back to the paddock, giving him a nudge in the door. Ekström took the win ahead of Rytkönen. Kristoffersson only managed fifth,
Lining up for race two were Scheider, Kevin Hansen, Gronhölm, Larsson, and Marklund. Larsson pulled off an excellent pass around the outside to take the lead into turn one ahead of Gronhölm. Gronhölm was really putting pressure on Larsson and he managed to pull off an identical move to Larsson around the outside of turn one to take the lead. Gronhölm was flying and was setting fastest lap after fastest lap and crossed the line to win and set the fastest time ahead of Kevin Hansen.
Race three saw Timerzyanov, Kalliokoski, Doran, Chicherit, and Abbring. Taking a leaf out of the book of Larsson, Abbring pulled off a move around the outside of Timerzyanov in turn one to lead. Timerzyanov grazed the barrier to allow Doran to slot up the inside. Doran caught up to Abbring and pulled off an overtake a lap later to take the lead. The racing gods once again were not smiling on Doran and coming into the last corner, the right front wheel on the Megane came off and sent him out of the race. Timerzyanov took the lead and the win at the end. The time was good enough for third.
The final race of the session had Paasonen, Karái, Määttä, and Münnich. Määttä jumped the start on the first attempt and was given two joker laps. Off the line, Määttä tried to squeeze everyone into turn one but was sent sideways into turn one and ended up rolling the fiesta in the gravel. Karái took the lead and held onto the win even after Paasonen jumped him at the joker merge. Paasonen had forgotten to joker and was given a thirty second penalty. Speaking afterwards he said: “I was having too much fun, I wanted to do an extra lap!”
At the end it was Gronhölm who took his first session win of the year ahead of Kevin Hansen and Timerzyanov.
The rain started to come down again in Kouvola which meant the drivers had to quickly bolt on the wet tyres on the pre-grid. Timmy Hansen apologised to Bakkerud for the contact in qualifying two saying: “On the footage he was more alongside than I thought and I should have left him more room so I said sorry to him. That’s it“.
On the pole for race one was Münnich with Paasonen, Doran, and Määttä alongside. Paasonen nailed his start but was tagged in the rear in turn one sending him spinning into the gravel. Doran got a terrible start but profited from the chaos to take the lead. He dominated and crossed the line to take a much deserved win but he was unlikely to make the semi-finals.
Race two saw Bakkerud on the pole with Kárai, Timmy Hansen, Kristoffersson, and Chicherit alongside. Kristoffersson guessed the lights and surged in front of Bakkerud. The rain had cleaned the circuit and Kristoffersson took full advantage, lighting up the timing screens. He crossed the line for the win ahead of Bakkerud. Smiling under his helmet, Kristoffersson said: “Yeah, my reactions at the start were very good. I’ll leave it at that!”
Rytkönen lined up on the pole for race three with Larsson, Abbring, Scheider, and Marklund alongside. Rytkönen didn’t get the best getaway but he managed to fend off Larsson and Scheider to hold onto the lead in turns one and two. It was clear the track had gotten worse as there was mud all over the tarmac and the times were nowhere near those set by Kristoffersson. Rytkönen won ahead of Scheider.
The final qualifying race of the weekend saw Gronhölm starting from pole alongside Kevin Hansen, Timerzyanov, Ekström, and Kalliokoski. It was an even start from all five cars with Gronhölm managing to hold the lead. Ekström jokered early and managed to jump Kevin Hansen with a lovely overtake into turn one. Gronhölm executed a brilliant drive out front despite the conditions but couldn’t match the time set by Kristoffersson.
Gronhölm took the heat race win and fourth in qualifying three. Kristoffersson took yet another top qualifier spot to add to his tally. He will start from pole position in semi-final one alongside his rival, Ekström. The semi-finals get underway shortly so stay tuned for all the action.