Defending FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson (Audi S1) drove to victory today (September 19) at Riga (Biķernieki Sport Complex) in Latvia during the fifth round of the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship. For the Swede it was his first win this season. Yesterday’s winner Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai i20) and Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) were allowed to join Kristoffersson on the World RX podium. Jānis Baumanis (Škoda Fabia Mk3) won the final in the Euro RX1 category on home soil.
The second leg of the Latvian double header started with Mattias Ekström (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) setting the fastest time ahead of Johan Kristoffersson in Q1. Yesterday’s winner Niclas Grönholm was able to finish his Q1 race despite a broken gearbox in the Hyundai. In Q2, with a new gearbox in the Hyundai, Grönholm drove to the fastest time with a win in the second Q2 race. He was faster than Kristoffersson and Ekström who finished one and two in the first Q2 race. With a another fastest time set by Grönholm in Q3 he claimed today’s top qualifier. There was some bad luck for Mattias Ekström in Q3 who got stuck on the start grid (propshaft issue) but still made it in fourth in the intermediate classification behind second placed Johan Kristoffersson and third placed Timmy Hansen. Timo Scheider (SEAT Ibiza Mk4) qualified fifth.
The first semi-final in World RX had Grönholm and Timmy Hansen on the front row with Scheider and Kevin Abbring (Renault Mégane Mk4) on the second row. Grönholm had a good start and lead it after the first turns from Scheider and Timmy Hansen. Scheider was the first one of the leading trio to make it into the joker lap section. He joined the main track again as third. Next in the joker was Grönholm joining again in second while Timmy Hansen made it into the joker lap section the lap after and joined again behind Grönholm. Therefore Grönholm, Timmy Hansen and Scheider were the qualifiers for the final.
The grid for the second semi-final saw Kristoffersson on pole and Ekström on the outside of the front row. Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208) and Krisztian Szabó (Hyundai i20) were the second row starters. Also here the pole sitter won the start and lead it from Ekström and Kevin Hansen. The latter passed through the joker lap section in lap 4, with Ekström the lap after and Kristoffersson in the last lap and therefore they eventually came in one to third and qualified for the final.
Grönholm was then allowed to start the final from pole with Kristoffersson besides him. Timmy Hansen and Mattias Ekström were placed on the second row. Timo Scheider who was supposed to start from P5 broke the SEAT on the pre-grid and therefore Kevin Hansen was promoted to P5 and Krisztián Szabó, as first reserve driver, was brought in. Kristoffersson had the best start from the outside and went into the lead ahead of Grönholm, Ekström and Timmy Hansen. Ekström was the first one who went into the joker in lap 4 followed by Grönholm the lap after and finally Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen in the final lap. The outcome of the joker lap strategies was Kristoffersson winning his first World RX event of the 2021 season. Grönholm and Timmy Hansen as respectively second and third completed the podium.
“I got a very good start in the final and took a risk into turn one to get the lead,” Kristoffersson said.
“There was a lot going on inside the cockpit through the first few corners and I had a big power steering lock-up into turn two and thought I was going to spin, but I was fine with that because that would have been pretty normal for 2021.
“Afterwards, our pace was good, and we can definitely still win this championship. You have to fight for every point you can get, and that’s what we’ll do right to the end.
“We’ve had a tough start to the season, we’ve been right on the pace but things just haven’t gone our way, so to finally get this win is fantastic for the whole KYB EKS JC team.”
In the championship after 5 events (out of 9) Timmy and Kevin Hansen are still occupying the first and second place with 130 and 113 points. Kristoffersson is after today’s win third with 110 points.
In round 3 of the 2021 FIA European Rallycross Championship for RX1 cars Latvian Jānis Baumanis became the top qualifier after having set a fastest and second fastest time in today’s Q3 and Q4. Yesterday’s leader Fabien Pailler (Peugeot 208) qualified second with Andreas Bakkerud (Škoda Fabia Mk3), Thomas Bryntesson (VW Polo Mk5) and Peter Hedström (Hyundai i20) completing the places 3 to 5.
Following the start of the first semi-final, with both of the by ES Motorsport prepared Škoda Fabia’s on the front row, Baumanis had the better start while Bakkerud hit the tyre wall in the first corner. Hedström came out of the first corner as second while Andréa Dubourg (Peugeot 208) made it to three from a last row starting position. During the six lap semi-final the first three kept their positions when passing through the joker lap section. Bakkerud eventually crossed the finish line as fourth and was out for the final.
The second semi-final went to Fabien Pailler who added another 6 championship points to the 15 points he earned following the intermediate classification. The Frenchman was holding of Norwegians Thomas Bryntesson and Sivert Svardal (VW Polo Mk5). The top three positions didn’t change until the final lap when Bryntesson almost spun his car allowing Svardal to become second. Hungarian “CSUCSU” (Renault Clio Mk4) was third and the last qualifier for the final.
The final had a front row of Baumanis on pole and Fabien Pailler beside him. The second row was occupied by Hedström and Svardal while Andréa Dubourg and “CSUCSU” completed the grid on the final row. The six-lap-final was a success for local hero Jānis Baumanis who lead it from lights to flag. Fabien Pailler – who ran second all the time – scored more useful championship points. Peter Hedström was third after the first turns in the opening lap and managed it to keep third when he came out of the joker lap section. Nevertheless the continuous pressure from Andréa Dubourg the Swede resisted and scored his first podium with the Hyundai i20.
“I can’t find the words to describe what this means to me,” Baumanis said afterwards. “We had a difficult start to the season, so to then come to my home circuit, win the semi-final and final and score full points feels just great.
“We put a real focus on our starts ahead of the weekend, and that definitely paid off.
“There’s a lot of pressure when you race at home. The cameras were pointing at me all the time and in the past, I’ve not always dealt so well with that, but this weekend I was able to fully concentrate on my driving and analysing the data back in the paddock.
“Honestly, the fans here have been amazing and the team really deserves this result, this win is for all of them too.”
With one more round to come – at Francorchamps in Belgium – the standings table after three events has now Fabien Pailler in the lead with 62 points ahead of Andreas Bakkerud (60 points) and Andréa Dubourg (54 points). Today’s winner Baumanis is now fourth with 48 points.
The next rounds of the different championships are taking place at Francorchamps in Belgium on October 9-10 with round 6 of the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship, the championship decider in Euro RX1 as well as the penultimate rounds in the 2021 FIA RX2e Championship and the 2021 FIA European Rallycross Championship for RX3 cars.
World RX – Final: 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), Audi S1; 2. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), Hyundai i20; 3. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 4. Mattias Ekström (S), SEAT Ibiza Mk4; 5. Kevin Hansen (S), Peugeot 208; 6. Krisztián Szabó (H), Hyundai i20;
Euro RX1 – Final: 1. Jānis Baumanis (LV), Škoda Fabia Mk3; 2. Fabien Pailler (F), Peugeot 208; 3. Peter Hedström (S), Hyundai i20; 4. Andréa Dubourg (F), Peugeot 208; 5. Sivert Svardal (N), VW Polo Mk5; 6. “CSUCSU” (H), Renault Clio Mk4.
World RX (5/9): 1. Timmy Hansen (S), 130; 2. Kevin Hansen (S), 113; 3. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 110; 4. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), 107; 5. Krisztián Szabó (H), 88; etc;
World RX Team (5/9): 1. Hansen World RX Team (S), 243; 2. GRX-SET World RX Team (FIN), 195; 3. KYB EKS JC (S), 167;
Euro RX1 (3/4): 1. Fabien Pailler (F), 62; 2. Andreas Bakkerud (N), 60; 3. Andréa Dubourg (F), 54; 4. Jānis Baumanis (LV), 48; 5. Thomas Bryntesson (N), 46; etc.