Johan Kristoffersson (Audi S1) won the penultimate round of the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship today (November 27) at the Nürburgring Müllenbachschleife in Germany. The Swede was the top qualifier, won his semi-final and therefore scored maximum points. With one more event to come and 30 championship points still up for grabs Kristoffersson now lowered the gap to championship points leader Timmy Hansen (Peugeot 208) to only four after the latter got disqualified from the final.
The Nürburgring Müllenbachschleife played host for the final World RX weekend of the 2021 season. Initially scheduled to take place on July 31 – August 1 the double header event was moved to the last weekend of November as a consequence of the flooding in the area back in July this year. 14 drivers were allowed to take part in the event. Similar as in the previous round in Portugal permanent driver Kevin Abbring (Renault Mégane Mk4) was missing on the start list. For World RX of Germany the Dutchman was replaced by GCK’s Guerlain Chicherit. Also Anton Marklund (Hyundai i20) made another appearance in the World championship in the Hedströms Motorsport Hyundai i20 after having raced the car in Belgium. Frenchman Davy Jeanney (Hyundai i20), who has been a frontrunner in the past in the French, European and World Rallycross Championship entered for the event with the Patrick Guillerme Hyundai i20. Also on the starting list was FIA RX3 European Rallycross Champion Yury Belevskiy (Audi S1) with a by Volland Racing Audi S1 RX1 car.
Apart from the battle for the World title with five eligible drivers prior to the weekend, it will also be the last events in World RX history running with internal combustion engine cars before the move to an all electric series in 2022. Timmy Hansen, Johan Kristoffersson, Kevin Hansen (Peugeot 208), Niclas Gönholm (Hyundai i20) and Krisztián Szábo (Hyundai i20) were all able to win the championship. Timmy Hansen was holding a 17-point lead on Kristoffersson and an 18-point lead on his younger brother Kevin [Hansen]. Pragmatically and most likely the title was going to be decided between the Hansen brothers and Johan Kristoffersson.
The first practice on Saturday morning was delayed because of a snow covered track. Nevertheless the sun came out soon, still the weekend started in pretty slippery conditions. As the weekend was a double header only three qualifying sessions were supposed to take place – instead of the usual four – together with the semi-finals and the final. Later on the day, after some more delays, it was decided by the Stewards of the Meeting to drop Q3 for World RX and to stay with only two qualifyings, the semi-finals and the final.
In the first Q1 race Kristoffersson was off to a good start with a win in the opening race – setting the fastest time – before a long delay occured following the accident of Hervé “Knapick”. After that delay Belevskiy won the second heat race and set the second fastest time overall. Timmy Hansen, who was in the third Q1 race, won it from Jeanney in a third fastest time. After another long delay eventually Q2 went underway. For the final Q2 race the top five of Q1 were lined up on the grid. Timmy Hansen won the start but got overtaken by Belevskiy while Kristoffersson closed in on third. Belevskiy who passed through the joker lap section in the final lap managed it to stay in the lead and beat Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen. In the Q2 result he was second behind Grönholm who won the second Q2 race and set the fastest time.
With only two qualifyings Kristoffersson was the top qualifier (fastest and third fastest) ahead of Belevskiy (second fastest twice) and Grönholm. Timmy Hansen and Krizstián Szábo completed the top five. Kevin Hansen, another title contender, only qualified as ninth. Kristoffersson and Grönholm afterwards started the first semi-final from pole with Kevin Hansen placed on the third row. The first semi-final became a lights-to-flag win for Kristoffersson that remained him to stay on schedule to score maximum points. Grönholm and Szábo finished second and third and were also through to the final. Kevin Hansen came in fifth after the engine stalled at the start. Therefore he was out for the final and also out for the title. The second semi-final was dominated by Belevskiy. He won the start and came out of turn one ahead of Timmy Hansen, then controlled the race and came in first ahead of Timmy Hansen. Enzo Ide (Audi S1) finished third and qualified for another World RX final. However for Timmy Hansen’s action (‘pushing and overtaking’) on Enzo Ide in turn two in the opening lap the Swede received a five second time penalty putting him eventually on the third row for the final.
The final had Kristoffersson and Belevskiy on the front row. Grönholm and Ide were on the second row while Timmy Hansen together with Szábo completed the grid on the third row. Kristoffersson won the start, not free of any incident. Belevskiy was second after turn one ahead of Timmy Hansen. The latter was the first one to pass through the joker lap section in the second lap while Kristoffersson and Belevskiy only passed through it in the final lap. Hansen’s joker lap strategy turned out to be successful as he was able to overtake Belevskiy when the Russian came out of the joker lap section to claim second place behind winner Kristoffersson. After the final the Stewards started investigating the incidents during the start of the final and came up eventually with a disqualification of Timmy Hansen as well as Enzo Ide both for ‘Pushing and Overtaking’ on Niclas Grönholm. Following these disqualifications Yury Belevskiy was promoted to second place and Krisztián Szábo to third.
“Mentally, it was a tough day today but I really enjoyed it,” Kristoffersson said after his victory.
“The conditions were extremely difficult, and we had to try to adapt as quickly as possible to a new track, in the snow and without studded tyres. That was maybe the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in a Rallycross car, but it’s always fun as a driver taking on big challenges.
“I didn’t have the best starts in Q2 or the semi-final but the final was better.
“The biggest problem was visibility with the low sun, particularly at the bottom end of the track. It was almost like driving blind at times.
“But I knew it would be even harder for the guys behind, so I tried to take it steady and drive just fast enough to secure the points.”
With Kristoffersson (191 points) scoring maximum points today and the disqualification of Timmy Hansen from the final, he now lowers the gap with the championship points leader to four points ahead of Sunday’s season finale. The title will be decided among the two Swedes.
In the FIA RX2e Championship the Nürburgring Müllenbachschleife is also the final round of the championship. On Saturday Q1 and Q2 were completed with Jesse Kallio (RX2e) and Guillaume De Ridder (RX2e) tied for the overnight lead. Third is Patrick O’Donovan (RX2e).
The Nürburgring weekend continues tomorrow Sunday with the final round of the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship and the decision for the World title as well as the conclusion in the 2021 FIA RX2e Championship.
World RX – Final: 1. Johan Kristoffersson (S), Audi S1; 2. Yury Belevskiy (RUS), Audi S1; 3. Krisztián Szabó (H), Hyundai i20; ; 4. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), Hyundai i20; -. Timmy Hansen (S), Peugeot 208 – DSQ; -. Enzo Ide (B), Audi S1 – DSQ.
RX2e (after Q2): 1. Jesse Kallio (FIN), 95; 2. Guillaume De Ridder (B), 95; 3. Patrick O’Donovan (IRL), 79; 4. Pepe Arqué (E), 77; 5. Isak Sjökvist (S), 77; 6. Pablo Suárez (E), 77, etc.
World RX (8/9): 1. Timmy Hansen (S), 195; 2. Johan Kristoffersson (S), 191; 3. Niclas Grönholm (FIN), 171; 4. Kevin Hansen (S), 169; 5. Krisztián Szabó (H), 147; etc;
World RX Team (8/9): 1. Hansen World RX Team (S), 364; 2. GRX-SET World RX Team (FIN), 318; 3. KYB EKS JC (S), 296;