|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media|
Sebastien Loeb scored an emphatic victory at the wheel of Team Peugeot Total’s Peugeot 208 WRX in the Coyote World RX of Belgium, round three of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Petter Solberg finished as runner-up in his Volkswagen Polo R Supercar, while Timmy Hansen made it a double podium for Team Peugeot Total by taking the third podium spot.
In a dramatic final, EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom finished fourth, taking his joker on the final lap and beating Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson to the line. Sweden’s Kristoffersson was fifth and continues to lead the World RX Drivers’ Championship, nine points ahead of Loeb, who moved up to second with his Belgian victory. PSRX Volkswagen Sweden continues to head the Teams’ Championship.
“It’s just great to win here, it’s been a long time trying. It’s not easy, the battle is always really intense and the level is really high, so it’s a nice achievement,” said Loeb. “I’m really happy for the whole team, it’s a new team this year and to be able to bring them their first victory is really a pleasure. I thought that Mattias [Ekstrom] had already jokered before [in the final], so I was fighting for second and in the last corner he went to the joker and I won. I didn’t expect to win, so it’s even more of an incredible feeling when it’s like that.”
Two-time World RX Drivers’ Champion Solberg finished second, despite being fourth on lap one after a side-by-side moment with team mate Kristoffersson, who’s Polo was sent onto two wheels at the first corner.
“It’s been a very tough weekend. Yesterday went well, we were lucky there, but today, in the rain this morning and the cold conditions you know it’s pretty tricky to get a good start and to get a clean run,” commented Solberg, who won the Monster Energy Super Charge Award for the quickest reaction off the start line. “I don’t know what happened in the first corner [of the final]. I was fourth out of the first corner and then I jokered and, honestly, I went absolutely flat out and took a little bit of risk. It was very close, but still I’m very happy with a podium.”
25-year old Hansen celebrated his first podium of the season. A collision at the start of semi-final two left him last but a strong recovery drive to third allowed him to progress to the final. As high as second after a good start, Hansen ended the event in third place
“I had a massive moment in the final, I thought I was going to roll, when I finally got the car to the apex of the next corner I thought that it was definitely broken, but it was still in one piece and I could continue following Sebastien [Loeb] which was quite interesting because I started sixth and exited the first corner second behind Seb. I was chasing him all final. We jokered together and Petter came out in the middle between us. This victory for Seb and the double podium that we got together, Team Peugeot Total has really earned it,” said Hansen.
EKS Audi Sport’s Andreas Bakkerud rounded out the top six, battling with team mate Ekstrom in the final. Just missing out on a place in the final was GRX Taneco’s Niclas Gronholm and Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis, who were fourth in semi-finals one and two respectively.
All six of the permanent World RX teams were represented in the semi-finals. GC Kompetition’s Guerlain Chicherit finished fifth in semi-final two, but Olsbergs MSE’s Robin Larsson was forced to retire from semi-final one.
Fan favourite Francois Duval raced a Comtoyou Racing Audi S1 RX Supercar in his home round of World RX and just missed a place in the semi-finals. He qualified 13th in the Intermediate Classification.
In the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercar, reigning Champion Anton Marklund raced from the second row of the grid to lead the final from the first corner to claim his first win of the season. Round one winner Reinis Nitiss was second and reigning RX2 International Series Champion Cyril Raymond concluded his maiden Euro RX Supercar appearance on the podium in third, having started from pole position.
Norway’s Ben-Philip Gundersen won the opening round of the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires to begin his first campaign in the single-make category in style. Compatriot Sondre Evjen finished second having qualified sixth in the Intermediate Classification, while newcomer Henrik Krogstad made it an all-Norwegian podium in a top-four lock-out for the JC RaceTeknik team. Gundersen took the points lead, three points ahead of Vasiliy Gryazin, who retired after contact in the first corner of the final.
The first round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for TouringCar was won by Sweden’s Fredrik Salsten, driving his title-winning Citroen DS3 from 2015. He claimed victory through an early joker lap strategy to beat Belgium’s Steve Volders and 2014 TouringCar Champion Daniel Lundh. Volders leads the Championship standings.
Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG, concluded: “The fans in Belgium are some of the most passionate in the world, and the 27,000 that attended Mettet over this weekend were treated to some incredible action. That all three of the manufacturer-backed teams set a fastest time in qualifying and battled for victory in the final shows just how close the competition in World RX is this year, it really is too close to call. Congratulations to Sebastien Loeb and Team Peugeot Total for their first win of the year, it was very well deserved and we can’t wait to see the Championship battle continue at Silverstone in two weeks’ time as part of the Speedmachine Festival on May 25 – 27.”