Timo Scheider is now officially an event winner in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The two-time DTM champion won his first event at the second part of the double-header weekend at the Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town, South Africa, putting an end to Johan Kristoffersson‘s perfect run of form in the 2023 season.
Having had his unbeaten SuperPole record broken on Saturday, Kristoffersson came into Sunday’s single lap shootout determined to get back on top. He put in a dominant display, posting a lap time half a second faster than Kevin Hansen, who had stolen the top honours from him the day before. Teammate Timmy Hansen slotted his ZEROID X1 car into third ahead of 2019 winner Niclas Grönholm. Scheider, who finished a career-best-equalling third on Saturday, had to settle for fifth after suspension damage hampered his pace.
Even in the opening heat, Scheider did not look to be a threat for the overall event win, with a puncture relegating him to the back of the pack. It appeared as though Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday, with Kristoffersson and Kevin Hansen being the fastest, and the rest squabbling for the other positions.
However, Scheider’s pace quickly became apparent. He pipped Timmy Hansen to heat two honours by 0.3 seconds, before beating Kristoffersson on track for the first time during the weekend in heat three. Scheider topped the leaderboard for the first time in his career, with Kristoffersson taking second place, the first time he has not topped the standings in 2023.
From then on, Scheider’s experience of how to win races shone through. He held his nerve brilliantly in the semi-final, fending off a very fast Kevin Hansen to win his race. Hansen is very experienced with these electric rallycross cars, being the manager of his own RX2e team, #YellowSquad. So for Scheider to fend him off is quite the achievement.
Kristoffersson looked to be more on the pace. He was almost two seconds faster than Timmy Hansen in his semi-final, and four seconds faster than Scheider’s winning effort in semi-final one. However, he was caught napping at the start of the final, allowing Kevin Hansen to execute a great first corner move up the inside to claim second place. Less fortunate was his brother Timmy Hansen, who got tangled up in contact with Klara Andersson at the first chicane, scuppering his chances for the rest of the race. Andersson would later be handed a five second penalty for her part in the collision.
For his part, Kristoffersson threw everything at Kevin Hansen to try and get past. Hansen defended mightily, coming out of his Joker Lap just ahead of the reigning champion to claim his second second place of the weekend. But the battle paid dividends for Scheider who was able to hold onto the lead and take a fantastic maiden victory.
Having been aware before the weekend of the technical challenges posed by the Killarney International Raceway, Scheider’s racing experience is what gave him the edge. The effort expended in achieving this first win was obvious in Scheider’s reaction: “I feel quite emotional. I’ve been chasing this win for some time; it hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve kept fighting and I always try to squeeze the most out of what I have.” He complimented his team on their part in the victory: “The level of competition in World RX is so high and we all know how difficult it is to beat Johan, so I’m super-proud for both myself and the ALL-INKL.COM team – they put so much energy into this project and have kept believing in me. It’s quite overwhelming, to be honest.”
Kevin Hansen was also very complimentary, offering “huge congratulations to Timo Scheider for winning on Sunday – to take your first win in World RX is something you will never forget.” He already has his eyes set on the next challenge: “It’s been fantastic to be back racing this weekend in World RX, everyone has been pushing the limits. We have some work to do for sure to optimise this car for the next race, but we have a very good team and we’re excited to progress to Hong Kong.”
With one weekend to go in the championship, Kristoffersson has all but wrapped up the title. He has a 36 point lead over Kevin Hansen, and, with a maximum of 46 points remaining, it would take quite the catastrophe to stop him from taking an astonishing sixth championship title. Timo Scheider has rocketed up to third in the championship, just three points behind Hansen. It would be remarkable indeed if he could snatch second from such an experienced driver and team.However, if this weekend has taught us anything, it is that anything is possible in the 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship.
The final event of the season will take place in downtown Hong Kong at a brand new city circuit on 11/12 November 2023.