Johan Kristoffersson and Anton Marklund have proved their worth as champions of the FIA World Rallycross Championship and FIA European Rallycross Championship respectively. The pair dominated the first day at Montalegre, Portugal, despite battling treacherous conditions as the day progressed.
Kristoffersson has continued his remarkable record of winning every single SuperPole in World RX history. The Swedish superstar completed his lap 0.508 seconds faster than Kristoffersson Motorsport teammate Ole Christian Veiby, stamping his authority early on the 2023 season. He continued relatively untroubled in the two heat races of the day to take the maximum of 100 points into tomorrow’s heats.
Veiby sits second in the standings with Niclas Grönholm just behind him in third. Grönholm provided some great entertainment in heat 1 as he battled with returning hero and 9-time World Rally champion Sebastian Loeb. With a fabulous display of talent from both drivers, they battled sideways on a rapidly dampening track after merging at the Joker merge on the last lap absolutely together. Ultimately it was Grönholm who took the honours, but Loeb has made his competitive intentions for this season very clear.
Timmy Hansen sits in fourth, sandwiched between Grönholm and Loeb, with brother Kevin Hansen in sixth. Hansen World RX Team must surely be scratching their heads wondering what they can do to take the fight to the all conquering Kristoffersson. Klara Andersson, Gustav Bergström, Timo Scheider (in a 2022 SEAT Ibiza) and Guerlain Chicherit complete the running order at the end of day one. There were only 7 seconds separating all of the competitors in heat 2. With conditions expected to be tricky on Sunday, it is truly the case that anything could yet happen.
In the Euro RX1 category, it was Marklund who took the first two heat wins of the weekend. Enzo Ide, the winner of 2022’s event at Montalegre, has been right in the thick of the action all day, finishing just behind Marklund in heat 1. Janis Baumanis, winner last time out at Nyirád, Hungary, has also been in the mix, finishing second in the heat 2 and lies third in the overnight standings. Patrick O’Donovan has been Captain Consistency all day, and sits fourth overall. Tamás Kárai has put in a solid performance as well to finish day one in fifth position.
But it was in heat 3 when things were really turned on their head. With a spectacular thunderstorm as the background to proceedings, the track conditions worsened throughout the heat. As a result, Sivert Svardal, who suffered damage early on in the day, managed to recover and take a fantastic heat win at the close of the day, shooting him up the standings to sixth. It will be fascinating to see how the changeable conditions impact these standings by the end of the action on Sunday.
Overall, while it may seem like the fields in both World RX and Euro RX are dominated by familiar faces, their positions are anything other than secure. With adverse weather conditions threatening to disrupt the day on Sunday, the event is still very much up for grabs.