Mattias Ekström wins second leg of Latvian double header

The second leg of the Latvian double header – round 6 of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship – was won by Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) today (September 20), his second win of the year. Ekström managed it to beat yesterday’s winner Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5) at Riga’s Biķernieki Sport Complex. Ekström’s teammate at KYB Team JC Robin Larsson (Audi S1) finished third and completed the podium.

Start of the final with Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) going into the lead ahead of Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo Mk5). (Photo: © Johnny Lox)

Qualifying on the second day in Riga went to Mattias Ekström – the first time this season in six races that he was able to claim the top qualifier spot. Ekström opened on Sunday morning with a fastest time that was set in the very first race of Q1. He added another fastest time to this in Q2. Then a sixth place finish in Q3 was still sufficient to top the intermediate classification. Kristoffersson was second after a fourth and twice a second time in qualifying. Robin Larsson who was fastest in Q3 got classified third.

Mattias Ekström (Audi S1) on his way to set the fastest time in Q2. (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

Both KYB Team JC drivers were on the front row for the first semi-final. And also after the start both went one and two. Larsson in second was chased by second row starter Niclas Grönholm (Hyundia i20) until the latter passed through the joker lap section in the third lap. In lap five Larsson made it into the joker himself and managed it to join the main track again ahead of Grönholm. The team tactics for KYB Team JC worked perfect and both finished one and two. Grönholm was the remaining qualifier for the final following the result of the first semi-final.

Robin Larsson (Audi S1) and Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai i20) finished second and third in the first semi-final. (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

In the second semi-final the front row was another Swedish one with Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208). Similar as the first semi-final the front row starters ran the final as one and two. Second row starter Timo Scheider (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) was third until he went into the joker lap section in the penultimate lap. He then joined the main track ahead of Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Mégane Mk4) who completed his joker the lap before. In the final lap Bakkerud, in an attempt to overtake Scheider on the inside, made contact with the German and hit the tires pretty hard resulting in severe damage of his Renault Mégane. The semi-final was eventually red flagged by the race director. Scheider who was third behind Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen got disqualified from the semi-final by the Stewards of the Meeting for ‘not respecting Bakkerud beside him and forcing Bakkerud off track into the wall’. Bakkerud himself commented on the incident afterwards. “I caught up to Scheider twice in the semi-final and knew I had the opportunity to overtake him,” he said. “I saw him break a little late to defend and I took a wider line, cut back to then take the inside line. Then I just felt one big punch into the front side of my car that changed its direction entirely and hit the barrier on the left doing 120km/h at the time. There were parts everywhere and I literally just closed my eyes hoping that Marklund and Doran would avoid me. At that speed, you never know what can happen.” Bakkerud, who was promoted to third in the semi-final result after the disqualification of Scheider, was of course unable to take on his place on the grid. Following the regulations Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208), as first reserve, was brought in to start in the final.

The Renault Mégane of Andreas Bakkerud in the second semi-final after he was forced off track into the wall. (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

The grid for the final was made up of Ekström on pole and Kristoffersson beside him. Larsson and Timmy Hansen were on the second row while the grid was completed with Grönholm and Kevin Hansen. Ekström beat Kristoffersson in the start and was already in the lead after turn one. Larsson was third after turn two ahead of Grönholm. Kristoffersson stayed on Ekström’s bumper until the penultimate lap when he went into the joker lap section. He managed it to stay in second after he joined the main track again. Despite Kristoffersson had no traffic ahead of him he was unable to lower the gap in the final lap and therefore Ekström, passing through the joker lap section in that last lap, was first at the finish line. Kristoffersson came in second while Robin Larsson completed the success for KYB Team JC by finishing third. Timmy Hansen, Grönholm and Kevin Hansen finished the final in respectively four, five and six.

For the second time this season Mattias Ekström was allowed to climb the highest step of the podium. (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

For Ekström the starts were key for his success today as he mentioned afterwards. “I can’t say enough about our starts because that was a key to the success,” he said. “Robin [Larsson] finished second in the semi-final which was very good and important points for the team and then the final battle with Johan [Kristoffersson], such a close race from the start into the first corner and all the laps he was on my bumper, but I did no mistakes and in the end finished in front. It felt amazing and probably one of the best victories.” Earlier this season Ekström won the second round of the championship at Höljes after an epic battle in the final with Kristoffersson. “That win in Höljes was really nice,” he said. “But somehow it felt like everyone was saying the final was great, but this time the whole day was great. I would rate this one higher.” In the standings after six events Ekström (149 points) – who scored maximum points today – faces now a 17-point-gap on points leader Kristoffersson (166 points). Third in the standings is Niclas Grönholm with 117 points.

Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST) leading it from Sondre Evjen (VW Polo Mk5) during the Euro RX final. (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

In the 2020 FIA European Rallycross Championship the second round of the championship took place alongside ‘World RX of Riga’. Sondre Evjen (VW Polo Mk5) was leading it in Euro RX on Saturday evening after Q2. Q3 and Q4 today both went to Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST) who drove to the fastest time twice and brought him into second in the intermediate standings. Top qualifier in Latvia was Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Peugeot 208) who signed for second fastest times in Q3 and Q4. Evjen won the first semi-final ahead of Jean-Baptiste Dubourg and Tamás Kárai (Audi S1). The second semi-final had a though battle between Oliver Eriksson and Ben-Philip Gundersen (Audi S1) eventually won by the first named. Andréa Dubourg (Peugeot 208) was third and qualified for the final as well. The Euro RX final was won by Oliver Eriksson who lead it from lights to flag. It was basically a battle between Eriksson and Evjen who already went one and two after the first and second turn. Gundersen kept the pressure on Evjen until just over half way a collision between Gundersen and the three other cars gave all the room to Evjen and Eriksson to decide it among themselves. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg eventually came in as third. For Eriksson it is, after Höljes, his second win in the championship. Eriksson (59 points) now holds an eleven-point-lead in the championship on Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (48 points) with one more event to come.

Cyril Raymond (Citroën C3 ERX) won Projekt E at Riga ahead of Jānis Baumanis (Ford Fiesta ERX). (Photo: © Johnny Loix)

In Projekt E Cyril Raymond (Citroën C3 ERX) was the top qualifier with fastest times in Q2, Q3 and Q4. In the four-car-final he lead it from start to finish and won it from Jānis Baumanis (Ford Fiesta ERX). Svein Bjarte Holten (Ford Fiesta ERX) beat Natalie Barratt (Ford Fiesta ERX) for third place.

The next rounds of the championship are at the time of writing scheduled for October 17-18 at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona in Spain with another double header event for the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship and the first two rounds of the 2020 FIA European Super1600 Rallycross Championship.

Brief results:

World RX final: 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), VW Polo Mk5; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), Audi S1; 3. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 4. Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 5. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), Hyundai i20; 6. Robin Larsson (S), Audi S1.

Euro RX final: 1. Oliver Eriksson (S), Ford Fiesta Mk7 ST; 2. Sondre Evjen (N), VW Polo Mk5; 3. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (F), Peugeot 208; 4. Andréa Dubourg (F), Peugeot 208; 5. Ben-Philip Gundersen (N), Audi S1; 6. Tamás Kárai (H), Audi S1.

Projekt E final: 1. Cyril Raymond (F), Citroën C3 ERX; 2. Jānis Baumanis (LV), Ford Fiesta ERX; 3. Svein Bjarte Holten (N), Ford Fiesta ERX; 4. Natalie Barratt (GB), Ford Fiesta ERX.

Brief standings:

Drivers (6/10): 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 166; 2. Mattias Ekström (S), 149; 3. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), 117; etc.

Teams (6/10): 1. KYB Team JC (S), 250; 2. Team Hansen (S), 207; 3. GRX Taneco (FIN), 176; etc.

Euro RX (2/3): 1. Oliver Eriksson (S), 59; 2. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (F), 48; 3. Sondre Evjen (N), 40; etc.

Projekt E (2/4): 1. Natalie Barratt (GB), 35; 2. Ken Block (USA), 24; 3. Cyril Raymond (F), 24; etc.