GRX Taneco’s Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai i20) made the fourth round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship – World RX of Finland – at Kouvola (Tykkimäen Moottorirata) his and became the third different event winner this season. Grönholm lead the final from lights to flag today (August 30) and won it from Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) and his teammate Timur Timerzyanov (Hyundai i20).
Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5) started day two at Kouvola in the same style as he finished day one.Yesterday the Swede won it all, going from the practice session to Q1, Q2, Q3, to the semi-final and the final. All of his five races on Saturday were also lead from start to finish by the double World champion. Sunday was at first sight almost no different as he set the fastest time in Q1 ahead of Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) – who was in the same qualifying race – and Mattias Ekström who won his Q1 race. Fourth in Q1 was Juha Rytkönen (Hyundai i20) after he won his Q1 race as well.
However, Kristoffersson’s winning streak came to an end in Q2. On the grid for the first race with Timmy Hansen, Ekström, Rytkönen and Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Mégane Mk4) he immediately held off after the start and continued a few laps at a lower pace to find his speed again by the end of the four lap session. Q2 went to Niclas Grönholm who was out on the track during race three. Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208) made it in second, Timur Timerzyanov in third and winner of the first Q2 race Ekström was fourth.
Before Q3 went underway Kristoffersson was asked about what happened in Q2 but he wasn’t sure about it. “We don’t know exactly what the issue was,” he said. “There was some misfiring and an issue with the fuel line and the fuel pressure but we’re not sure if it is related to the fuel pump or if it is electrical.”
During Q3 it turned out that the issues were ‘solved’ for Kristoffersson as he won his heat race in what later turned out to become the fastest Q3 time. Also he might have been helped by the wet weather conditions as the rain intensified during Q3. Bakkerud and Timmy Hansen set a second and third time in Q3. Following his Q3 win, Kristoffersson was the top qualifier – for a fourth time in a row in as many events. Second in the intermediate standings was Grönholm with Ekström, Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud completing the top five.
In the first semi-final Kristoffersson and Ekström were sharing the front row, with Bakkerud and Rytkönen placed behind the Swedes on the second row as well as Robin Larsson (Audi S1) and Anton Marklund (Renault Mégane Mk4) on the third row. Kristoffersson went into the lead once the semi-final went underway with Ekström second and Rytkönen third. Ekström decided to pass through the joker lap section already in the second lap, keeping his second place in the race. The lap after, race leader Kristoffersson and Rytkönen did the same and both kept their race positions. Before the beginning of the final lap Robin Larsson made an attempt to overtake Rytkönen but that didn’t go as planned as Rytkönen defended his position and Larsson lost a place to Bakkerud. Therefore Kristoffersson, Ekström and Rytkönen were initially the qualifiers for the final. However, afterwards Rytkönen received a five seconds time penalty for track markers, meaning that Andreas Bakkerud was brought in and Rytkönen became the first reserve driver for the final.
The second semi-final went underway with Grönholm and Timmy Hansen on the front row, Kevin Hansen and Timo Scheider (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) on the second row as well as Timur Timerzyanov and Jere Kalliokoski (Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST) on the last row. Grönholm lead the final from the start with Timmy Hansen in second and initially Kevin Hansen in third. When the latter passed trough the joker lap section in the opening lap, Timerzyanov moved into third. Positions only changed in the penultimate lap with Timmy Hansen going from second to third following his joker strategy. After the final lap with both GRX Taneco drivers passing through the joker lap section Timmy Hansen claimed second place again on the finish line and got his ticket for the final together with Grönholm and Timerzyanov.
The start of the final was won by front row starter Grönholm who went into the first turn ahead of Kristoffersson and second row starter Ekström. All three drivers were close to each other until Kristoffersson choose for the joker in lap three allowing Ekström to move into second. No one was able to pass Grönholm, who made as good as no mistake. Given the pace and the track conditions the first four were very close together when Grönholm and Ekström made their obligatory pass through to the joker lap section by the end of the last lap. Both managed it to keep the others off and make it a one-two finish. Timerzyanov and Kristoffersson were battling it out for the last podium place eventually in favor of the Russian. Johan Kristoffersson finished outside the podium on four followed by Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud as fifth and sixth respectively.
“I knew that the guys behind would push me in the tight corners in the final,” Grönholm commented afterwards. “I just kept to the inside lines and just accelerating on the straights was enough. I was keeping calm and trying not to do any mistakes at all. I did a few, but not so big mistakes. I felt the pressure but it was basically just to control the race when I got into the lead, and it’s really nice to get a win.”
In the standings after four events Kristoffersson (111 points) stays into the lead, 17 points clear on Ekström (94 points). Today’s winner Niclas Grönholm (76 points) is now third.
The next round of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship is scheduled for September 19-20 at Riga in Latvia with another double header event. The FIA European Rallycross Championship and the Projekt E Series will resume in Latvia as well with the second round of their championship/series.
Supercar final: 1. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), Hyundai i20; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), Audi S1; 3. Timur Timerzyanov (RUS), Hyundai i20; 4. Johan Kristoffersson (S), VW Polo Mk5; 5. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 6. Andreas Bakkerud (N), Renault Mégane Mk4
Drivers (4/10): 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 111; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), 94; 3. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), 76; etc.
Teams (4/10): 1. KYB Team JC (S), 153; 2. Team Hansen (S), 134; 3. GRX Taneco (FIN), 116; etc.