Tuesday 6 August 2019

REPORT: Bakkerud slides into title contention after victory in Trois-Rivieres

Andreas Bakkerud has clinched his first victory in 981 days at the World RX of Canada in Trois-Rivieres and is now firmly in contention for the World Rallycross Championship title with three rounds remaining. 

The Norweigan has come close to victory on two occasions this year – second in Belgium and Great Britain – but it finally came good at the challenging street circuit in Quebec.

Bakkerud acknowledged the efforts of his RX Cartel team after finally securing a win that he thought might never come. “We have worked hard as a team and I was hoping and praying that this day would come even though with all the bad luck and near misses we have had this season, I thought it might never happen,” he said.

“We have had some challenging months in getting the team together for the first round in Abu Dhabi. We were so close in Belgium and Silverstone and we were strong until the semi-final in Sweden."

The Monster Energy RX Cartel driver admitted that he did not expect his Audi S1 Quattro to suit the Trois-Rivieres track layout. 

"Tracks benefit different cars and I thought coming here that this track would not benefit us," he said.

Bakkerud claimed the Q1 race win and was ranked second overall after day one. On Sunday, the Norwegian finished third in Q3 and nearly failed to progress any further, but luck was on his side when Timmy Hansen, Liam Doran, and Timur Timerzyanov collided.

"Winning Q1 was amazing - staying up there and fighting," he said. "We were a bit lucky - especially when Timmy, Liam and Timur crashed together in Q4 - and I came through from out of nowhere."

"In the final, I burnt the clutch at the start and broke the sub-guard on the rear. It was awful to drive on the dirt because of that. I was everywhere, but I still tried to push. It was really tricky to brake into every corner," he adds. "I think Janis [Baumanis] said: 'you were so slow on the dirt'. Yeah, I have a reason."
Bakkerud passing Hansen, Doran, and Timerzyanov to progress to the semi-finals.

"I am just happy that the car stayed in one piece, and I am super proud of the team - the first win for RX Cartel and the first win for EKS Audi Sport, I think since the start of 2017"

The win in Canada has enabled Bakkerud to usurp Timmy Hansen who was second in the drivers’ standings heading to Canada and close to within five points of championship leader Kevin Hansen.

Championship leader Kevin Hansen was disqualified from the final after the stewards decided he was at fault in an incident with Anton Marklund at the exit of the joker lap.

Kevin now leads the overall standings on 143 points with Bakkerud second on 138 and Timmy third with 129.

Bakkerud thinks that the championship fight could go down to the wire in Cape Town. “It’s so close, the races are very unpredictable," said Bakkerud. "I think it will be a race to the chequered flag in Cape Town (the final round of the 2019 championship in November)."

“It’s not going to be easy to win the championship. You need some results and some luck. It’s going to be tricky but you never know.”

It was a weekend to forget for the Hansen brothers. But despite the challenges, Kevin progressed to the finals. His older brother Timmy was the biggest loser in Canada after a crash in Q2 and a chaotic race four of Q4

Timmy's Peugeot 208 was severely damaged and he eventually crawled sideways across the line where it was retrieved by a recovery vehicle.

The incidents meant he missed the semi-finals and emerged from the World RX of Canada with only four points.

Second to Bakkerud in the final was Janis Baumanis who went one better than his third place in round five in Hell, Norway.

"Last year, I got the first trophy from World RX for Monster Energy Supercharge Award, and now standing on the podium in P2 between these two guys," he said. "I'm really pleased to be here." 

"We have worked hard to be on the podium and even make it through to the finals. I think that this is the fifth final of the season or fourth, but it doesn't matter. I am really pleased with the teamwork - especially what we do with analysis during the day - during the night also. We just need to keep on working like this and a podium is then real."

Third was Timur Timerzyanov, who had pipped Bakkerud for the spoils at Spa-Francorchamps in May. The Russian had earlier wrestled his Hyundai i20 to a semi-final victory despite bent suspension. 

"I think it was better to drive with the bent suspension then crash into the tyres. It was actually nice to drive," the Russian jokered. "The suspension was bent on the right direction. All the right corners were easier to drive then the left corners with the gravel corners, just sliding in."

“In the final, third place was a present for me. I think I think that I was fifth after stopped before Kevin (Hansen) and Anton (Marklund) crashed into each other after the joker lap. I was lucky today.”

Guerlain Chicherit finished fourth to round out an impressive weekend for GC Kompetition. Marklund was classified fifth following the clash with Kevin Hansen which caused extensive suspension damage to his Renault Megane R.S. RX.

Niclas Gronholm, who had set the early race weekend pace, and finished as top qualifier, looked set to challenge strongly for overall victory.

However, he paid the price for a costly joker strategy in semi-final one where he finished fourth +0.686s behind Kevin Hansen and thus failed to make the final.

Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza reached semi-final two but a clash with Liam Doran resulted in bodywork damage and sixth place. The incident dropped Doran to fourth in the semi-final when it had seemed a place in the final beckoned for the Briton.

EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo, sporting a ‘just married’ sticker on the rear bumper of his Audi S1, celebrated with a race win in Q2 en route to fifth place in his semi-final. 

Rokas Baciuska, the GC Kompetition Academy driver was on the back foot from Q1 after being handed a five-second time penalty for twice hitting track markers. The misdemeanors dropped him to ninth place after Q2. 

The Lithuanian recovered to reach semi-final one where he finished fifth after clipping the tyre wall. Fellow GCK squad member Cyril Raymond was thwarted by a mechanical failure in the same semi-final.

Guillaume De Ridder’s run of bad fortune continued finishing in 14th place overall.

After a strong run to ninth in Q3, Oliver Bennett’s weekend ended in race 3 of Q4 when he was sandwiched off the line and suffered broken front right suspension.

It was an eventful outing for Jani Paasonen for Team Stard. Paasonen's issues began in free practice with contact with one of Trois-Rivieres’ famed concrete walls.

His Ford Fiesta then crabbed its way over the line in race three of Q2 after further contact with a tyre barrier resulting in damage to the right rear suspension. He would eventually finish in last place. 

ESmotorsport - LABAS Gas were fined €50,000 for failure to participate in Canada - "A permanent individual competitor has a responsibility vis-à-vis the FIA to ensure that the car entered takes to the grid for each competition of the championship."

The Lithuanian outfit issued a statement prior to the event in Canada citing a scheduling conflict for not participating - "Due to scheduling conflict Kevin Abbring was not able to attend Canada event, as agreed from the start he would be able only to manage Norway, Sweden and South Africa."

"From now our team will take a short pause from the races. We will continue our car testing and development based on feedback that we have received from the drivers this season."

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

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