Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5) scored his second victory in the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship by winning World RX of Finland on Saturday (August 29). The Swede was unbeatable at the Tykkimäen Moottorirata outside Kouvola in the south-east of Finland. In the final he won it from local hero Juha Rytkönen (Hyundai i20) and defending World Rallycross champion Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208).
“The final was very, very good,” said Kristoffersson afterwards. “I had a very good start, like I had all day and from there on, the track was similar to how it was in the semi-final, so we could adapt a bit and do some small changes for the final which worked out well.”
Only six days after round two of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship was concluded with an epic battle in the final between Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) and Johan Kristoffersson at Höljes in Sweden, drivers and teams gathered again for round three of the championship in Finland.
The Finnish double header event was added to the 2020 World championship calendar only relatively late amid the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and is an organisation of Jussi Pinomäki’s Set Promotion. The track – new to a number of drivers – was part of the inaugural World championship season back in 2014 when the Supercar event was won by American racer Tanner Foust beating a certain Andreas Bakkerud.
Today, 19 drivers were present to take part in the event with a few changes compared to the opening rounds. One of the changes was the replacement of Unkorrupted’s Rokas Baciuška from Lithuania by the teams development driver Kevin Abbring (Renault Clio Mk4) from the Netherlands. In the past Abbring participated twice in the FIA World Rallycross Championship with as best result a fourth place last year in Norway. Unfortunately for Abbring, today he didn’t qualify the Clio for the semi-finals.
Furthermore 2019 Finnish Rallycross champion Juha Rytkönen was at the wheel of the GRX Set Hyundai. Hungarian Támas Kárai (Audi S1) – who was on the Euro RX entry list last weekend in Sweden – now entered for the World championship. Add to these also Finns Jere Kalliokoski (Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST) and Atro Määttä (Ford Fiesta Mk7) and the list of Kouvola starters was complete.
Qualifying on Saturday was opened with Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) winning the first race followed by Mattias Ekström who won the second race. Then in race three it was up to Johan Kristoffersson to set the fastest time while Juha Rytkönen won the final Q1 race and made it to a fine fourth fastest overall. Quickest was Kristoffersson ahead of Ekström and Timmy Hansen.
Q2 was run according to the ‘fastest first’ protocol meaning that the first race saw Kristoffersson, Ekström, Timmy Hansen, Rytkönen and Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai i20) placed side by side on the starting grid. The win was for Kristoffersson – setting another fastest time in qualifying – ahead of Ekström. Only Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Mégane Mk4) was able to set a time within range of the first session. He won the second Q2 race in a third time overall. Behind Bakkerud Timmy Hansen, Grönholm and Rytkönen claimed place 4 to 6.
Q3 became the decider to find out who Saturday’s top qualifier was going to be. The fastest guys until then were all together in the final heat race of the day that was won by Kristoffersson who lead it from lights to flag. Consequently Kristoffersson was the top qualifier – for the third time this season in as many races. Ekström who, received competition from Grönholm just before the uphill, set an eight time in Q3. However, that was still sufficient to claim second place in the intermediate standings. Timmy Hansen made it in third with Juha Rytkönen in fourth.
The first semi-final with Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen on the front row, Grönholm and Bakkerud on the second row and Timur Timerzyanov (Hyundai i20) and Anton Marklund (Renault Mégane Mk4) on the third row resulted in a one-two finish of the front row starters with Kristoffersson ahead of Hansen. Shortly after the start Bakkerud was running third but after he passed through the joker lap section he lost a place in favor of Grönholm. Those positions didn’t change anymore and Grönholm was the third qualifier for the final.
In the second semi-final the front row was occupied by Mattias Ekström and Juha Rytkönen. Behind them were Swedes Robin Larsson (Audi S1) and Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208) on the second row and Timo Scheider (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) and Jere Kalliokoski (Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST) on the third row. Rytkönen won the start from Ekström and was leading it from him until Ekström, in lap two, was forced to retire. From there Rytkönen was in a comfortable position to pass through the joker lap section in lap three. Behind the Finn Kevin Hansen made it in second and Timo Scheider in third. The German drove the Münnich Motorsport SEAT for the third time in a row into the final.
Rytkönen was lined up beside Kristoffersson on the front row for the Saturday final. Both of the Hansen brothers were on the second row and the grid was completed by Grönholm and Scheider. Kristoffersson went into the lead after the green light was shown followed by Rytkönen, Timmy Hansen and Grönholm. The latter choose for an early joker at the end of the first lap. When Rytkönen came out of the joker lap by the end of lap three he joined the main track as third ahead of Grönholm. Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen both passed through the joker lap section in the end of the final lap allowing Rytkönen to climb to second. Timmy Hansen finished in third, holding off Grönholm and scored his first podium this season. Scheider and Kevin Hansen were the last finishers in fifth and sixth.
“It was a hard final, I came out in third and from there it was a race of pace,” third place finisher Timmy Hansen said. “When Rytkönen took the joker I knew that we were racing for position. Dad [Kenneth Hansen] was pushing me so hard on the radio, especially the two last laps was absolutely everything I could give. It wasn’t enough for more than third today but I’m happy for this.”
In the drivers standings after three events Johan Kristoffersson (86 points) stays in the lead with now a 16-point-gap on Mattias Ekström (70 points). Behind them are the Hansen brothers with 50 points each. Team KYB JC (119 points) stays in the lead for the teams championship with Team Hansen (100 points) currently second.
The 2020 championship continues tomorrow at Kouvola with round 4 of the series. Action is scheduled to go underway from 9 am local time.
Supercar final: 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), VW Polo Mk5; 2. Juha Rytkönen (FIN), Hyundai i20; 3. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 4. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), Hyundai i20; 5. Timo Scheider (D), SEAT Ibiza Mk4; 6.Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208.
Drivers (3/10): 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 86; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), 70; 3. Timmy Hansen (S), 50; etc.
Teams (3/10): 1. KYB Team JC (S), 119; 2. Team Hansen (S), 100; 3. GRX Taneco (FIN), 72; etc.