There was plenty of drama during both rounds of the 2020 World RX of Catalunya as Johan Kristoffersson fought his way to a crucial 27 point lead over Mattias Ekström in the championship.
Both Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen won a round and finished second in the other on a weekend full of mistakes and tough racing.
Kristoffersson battles his way to the top
After a surprise defeat on Saturday, Kristoffersson found himself in trouble as traffic and difficult grid draws throughout qualifying on Sunday prevented the dominant Swede from getting a front row start in the semi-finals.
The crucial moment was his lap after the joker lap in semi-final one for Kristoffersson. It was the first time he had clean air all day and he took advantage of it to undercut Ekström and emerge ahead to win the race.
A controversial final saw Kristoffersson escape punishment after contact with Andreas Bakkerud on the way down to turn one.
For me, Kristoffersson left enough room so the stewards got it right and it was just a racing incident. Unlike Saturday, Kristoffersson had the pace of the field and was able to do what he does best which is blowing his rivals away in style.
The two-time FIA World Rallycross champion will be relieved to add to his advantage in the championship as well as winning on a Sunday for the first time this season.
Timmy Hansen back at his very best
2020 has been tough for the defending champion Timmy Hansen but he showed his class at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona with a superb performance.
Most people thought Kristoffersson had Saturday wrapped up, but on new tyres Timmy took an early joker lap and pumped in the sectors and lap times, driving every corner at 100% to close the gap to Kristoffersson and beat his fellow Swede in a highly intense final.
Hansen said he “beat the unbeatable” which says a lot about how highly the grid thinks of Kristoffersson but that was Hansen at his best. Under big pressure, he delivers and he’s demonstrated this skill of performing at his best when it matters on numerous occassions.
The Peugeot 208s were very strong in Spain last year too so they will be hoping their form at the weekend was not track specific and they can fight for victories in the remaining events.
Mistakes prove costly for Ekström and Kyb Team JC
Clutch problems for Ekström and a mixture of bad fortune and driver errors from Robin Larsson meant their lead in the teams’ championship was trimmed to sixteen points over Team Hansen.
Ekström was on course to bounce back in style on Sunday but he just did not have the pace of Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen as they were chasing the car throughout the double-header.
A twenty-seven point deficit for Ekström to Kristoffersson will now be very difficult to overcome and the Spanish rounds were a missed opportunity for the 2016 champion to make inroads into Kristoffersson’s lead.
It was as if Kyb Team JC and Team Hansen switched form in Spain from what we have seen in 2020 and the format which sees 30 points up for grabs per day is exacerbating mistakes and lack of ultimate car pace because there is very little time to find a solution.
Bakkerud back on form
Andreas Bakkerud was very happy with his weekend despite the startline incident in the final race in Spain. Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel tested in France prior to Barcelona and it paid off as Bakkerud was finally able to drive the car as he wanted and had a clean weekend.
The Norwegian’s qualifying wins on Saturday and Sunday means he now holds a unique record of winning qualifying rounds with four different cars from three different manufacturers.
Liam Doran had yet more frustration as engine related issues coupled with driver errors prevented Doran from being on the pace of Bakkerud. However, the team should be proud of the progress they have made and that the potential in the car is definitely there because Barcelona is one of the most technical circuits on the World RX calendar.
Marklund returns to the podium
Anton Marklund was one of the dark horses going into the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship and looked strong during the season-openers in Höljes.
Since then, the pace has not been there but all three Renault Megane machines were up there at the weekend. Whether it was the track or whether GCK have found the optimal operating window it is yet to be seen but Marklund went under the radar as he took advantage of the chaos in Sunday’s final.
Marklund did not have ideal starting slots either and executed his races nicely considering how much of a disadvantage it was to be on the outside of the grid at the start.
Worst weekend of the year for GRX Taneco
GRX Taneco will be extremely disappointed with their performance at the World RX of Catalunya. The thing that will confuse the team and the drivers is that they did not make any mistakes, it was simply a lack of outright speed.
Niclas Grönholm and Timur Timerzyanov both looked like they were struggling with grip. Traction is key to a good lap time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and the Hyundai i20 was very weak in the rear.
The teams’ title is now out of reach for GRX Taneco so the focus will be trying to repeat their from from last year at Spa-Francorchamps, which is the next event on the schedule.
Ide impresses on wildcard appearance
Enzo Ide had a great weekend to make the top twelve on both days in Spain, even though he was pulled out of Saturday’s semi-finals due to a “car problem” which promoted Robin Larsson into the knockout stages.
The Belgian former GT driver remarkably recovered from an accident at home which left him in a coma and a stay in hospital for several months and he had strong pace given the little practice and testing he has had in the Audi S1.
Mandie August and Oliver Bennett had good runs too in their respective car, and will be looking to get back on the grid on a more regular basis as soon as possible.