Rallying

Ekström disqualified and Kristoffersson wins season opener

FIAWorldRallycross.com

Mattias Ekström crossed the line first in the final of the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, but was disqualified after a first corner incident with Petter Solberg. Johan Kristoffersson inherits the win.

The two semi-final winners of World RX of Spain in Barcelona were sat side-by-side on the grid; on pole, Petter Solberg had the inside with Ekström next to him. When the lights went green Solberg and Ekström were running alongside each other – into turn one Ekström squeezed Solberg, who ended up with nowhere to go but into the tyre wall. Upon review, it was decided that Ekström would be excluded from the results for causing the incident, eventually leaving him classified as sixth.

Defending champion Kristoffersson picked up second place on track after the first corner incident and gave a close fight with Ekström. Taking his joker lap on the last lap, Kristoffersson came out alongside Ekström who had taken his joker earlier but had the momentum to hold Kristoffersson off.

Kristoffersson crossed the line in second, but his inherited win following Ekström’s exclusion gives him the best start to his title defence, and the team’s title for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.

Photo credit: FIAWorldRallycross.com

Sebastien Loeb didn’t qualify for the semi-finals, having finished 13th in the intermediate points. However, a tactical move from Team Peugeot Total saw them withdraw Kevin Hansen from the second semi-final, allowing Loeb to replace him. Duly promoted, Loeb took second in the semi-final.

An excellent start off of the grid gave Loeb momentum going around the outside into turn one, but contact saw him drop down the field. The Frenchman took the opportunity to get his joker lap in early, progressing through the order as the rest of the field took their jokers. Loeb’s third place result eventually became second once Ekström’s exclusion was applied.

Andreas Bakkerud claimed third position in the amended results, the Norwegian and his EKS Audi S1 making it three different teams in the top three positions. Behind him, Niclas Grönholm moved up to fourth in the new Hyundai i20 for GRX Taneco, and Petter Solberg took fifth.

Timmy Hansen’s fastest time in qualifying heat four meant he looked a safe bet for the final – he was leading the second semi-final by a serious margin even after taking his joker with one lap remaining. However, his Hansen Motorsport Peugeot slowed on the final lap with mechanical issues and he was turned around as the pack passed him.

This leaves Johan Kristoffersson leading from Petter Solberg and Andreas Bakkerud after Round 1 of FIA World RX, but with just seven points covering the top three. PSRX Volkswagen Sweden leads the teams’ points table.

The FIA World RX field heads to Portugal for Round 2, taking place in Montalegre on 28-29 April.

 

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