Epic battle between Mattias Ekström and Johan Kristoffersson at Höljes

Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) won the second round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship – World RX of Sweden – after an exciting final where Ekström battled it out with Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5), winner of the first round this season. Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208), who came in third, got promoted to second in the final result after Kristoffersson received a five second time penalty from the Stewards for track markers. 

The close finish between Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) and Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5) after an epic final at Höljes. (Photo: Tom Banks)

The second leg of the Höljes double header started with defending champion Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) being fastest in the warm-up session. Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai i20) set a second time ahead of yesterday’s winner Johan Kristoffersson and KYB Team JC drivers Mattias Ekström and Robin Larsson (Audi S1). 

In Q1 Kristoffersson beat Ekström for the fastest time after both were out in the second race. In Q2 it was the other way round. Kristoffersson and Ekström were again lined up together on the grid in the final race. Kristoffersson won the start with Ekström making it into the joker lap section straight away. Ekström passed Kristoffersson when the latter came out of the joker lap section and recorded the fastest time. 

The decision on who to become the top qualifier was brought down to Q3 where Ekström and Kristoffersson were starting side by side in the last race. Kristoffersson won the start and Ekström went straight into the joker lap section in an attempt to apply the same tactics as in Q2. Unfortunately for Ekström he got stuck up in traffic behind Larsson and Anton Marklund (Renault Mégane Mk4) and therefore Kristoffersson won Q3 and became top qualifier for a second time in a row this weekend. Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Mégane Mk4), who was second in Q3, qualified third. Robin Larsson and Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208) were respectively fourth and fifth.

Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Mégane Mk4) qualified for the final on Sunday at Höljes. (Photo: Tom Banks)

In the first semi-final, with Kristoffersson and Bakkerud on the front row and Kevin Hansen and Anton Marklund on the second row, Kristoffersson won the start and was chased by Kevin Hansen. Bakkerud made it straight into the joker lap section and joined the main track as fifth. With Marklund and Timur Timerzyanov passing through the joker lap section in the laps after, he climbed to third spot in the race with two more laps to go. Despite a contact with Timmy Hansen (that lead to a disqualification of Hansen from the semi-final), Bakkerud managed it to stay in front of the Swede. Positions after Bakkerud changed almost continuously during the remaining laps but the Norwegian kept the door shut in order to finish third and to join Kristoffersson (winner) and Kevin Hansen (second) to the final.

In the second semi-final the front row was occupied by KYB Team JC drivers Mattias Ekström and Robin Larsson. Larsson had the better start and went ahead of Ekström with Krisztián Szabó (Hyundai i20) third from the second row. Larsson stayed in the lead until lap five where he went into the joker lap section and went down to third. When Ekström and Szabó did the same in the lap after, the positions were settled with Larsson leading ahead of Ekström and Timo Scheider (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) who ran fourth in the semi-final until then. Therefore Scheider drove his SEAT for a second time this weekend in the Supercar final. 

Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208) got eventually promoted to second place after the Sunday final at Höljes. (Photo: Tom Banks)

The final had Kristoffersson and Larsson on the first row. Ekström and Kevin Hansen were on the second row while the grid was completed by Bakkerud and Scheider on the last row. Kristoffersson once more won the start from Larsson with Ekström applying the same tactics as earlier on the day by going straight into the joker lap section. With Larsson, Bakkerud and Scheider going into the joker in the second lap Ekström moved into second and had an open road to start chasing Kristoffersson. The battle was an almost epic one with Ekström closing the gap bit by bit but then Kristoffersson, guided by his spotter, responding with setting the fastest lap of the day. However, the Ekström tactics worked out well this time as he was able to pass Kristoffersson in the final lap where the latter joined the main track again. Behind Ekström and Kristoffersson a battle for third was going on with Larsson running third until in the penultimate lap when he got overtaken by Kevin Hansen and later on also by Timo Scheider. Andreas Bakkerud was the last finisher in sixth place. The Stewards gave Kristoffersson a five seconds time penalty for track markers after the race and therefore in the final result he is third behind Kevin Hansen who was awarded second place.

“In the final it was by far the best it went,” Ekström said. “I had the gap to Kristoffersson over the radio in my ears, I knew how much I needed to push and when I really badly needed a lap I nailed one. I managed to come out in front which was fantastic.”

The podium at Höljes for round 2 of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship. From left to right: Kevin Hansen, Mattias Ekström and Johan Kristoffersson. (Photo: Tom Banks)

“It was a fantastic day, all day long,” said Kristoffersson after his battle with Ekström. “Robin [Larsson] had a very good start in the final, I had a bit of a wiggle with him in the beginning, then from there on just trying to get my head down and bang in the lap times. Mattias [Ekström] did the same, I got over the radio that it was super tight and at one point I had the gap to joker, I think if I had done the joker on the fifth lap it would have been enough, but he got me when I jokered. I gave everything I had in the joker and got a penalty, but anyway we are leading the championship and had a fantastic weekend and we’re looking forward to Kouvola,”

Kristoffersson (56 points) is indeed leading the championship after two events with a two point gap on Ekström (54 points). Robin Larsson is third with 36 points.

The next races – rounds 3 & 4 – of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship are already taking place next weekend (August 29-30) at Kouvola in Finland with another double header event.

Brief Results and Standings

Supercar final: 1. Mattias Ekström (S), Audi S1; 2. Johan Kristoffersson (S), VW Polo Mk5; 3. Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 4. Timo Scheider (D), SEAT Ibiza Mk4; 5. Robin Larsson (S), Audi S1; 6. Andreas Bakkerud (N), Renault Mégane Mk4.

Drivers: 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 56; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), 54; 3. Robin Larsson (S), 36; etc.

Teams: 1. KYB Team JC (S), 90; 2. Team Hansen (S), 62; GRX Taneco (FIN), 43; etc.