Monday 16 September 2019

REPORT: Recovery drive sees Timmy Hansen regain championship lead.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Timmy Hansen won the Neste World RX of Latvia, claiming his fourth win of the season and regaining the lead of the drivers' championship by just one point over Andreas Bakkerud, who finished third at the Bikernieki circuit.

Andreas Bakkerud led the drivers' championship standings by two points at the start of the weekend and finished third in the final behind Niclas Gronholm. While Kevin Hansen has dropped to third in the drivers' standings behind his older brother and Bakkerud after finishing the final in fourth place.

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship has been awash with drama since the opening round in Abu Dhabi in April and will have its grand finale in Cape Town on November 9-10.

Timmy Hansen was in recovery mode on Sunday after dropping to 15th place overall after Q1 on Saturday. But the Swede responded to top Q3 and was untouchable in his semi-final.

“It was tough yesterday because I know what is on the line in terms of the championship so we came here wanting to do well. But to have a start like that was tough," he said. 

"The whole team came together. At first, we were really disappointed but you need to make the decision if you are want to be angry or if you want to be happy and we came together and had a nice evening dinner. This morning, we play some nice music and everyone in the team was pumped up because we kept believing that if we have the perfect day anything is possible."  

"I tried to focus on what I needed to do, and just drive my best despite all the circumstances that I found myself in with the championship and the wet track conditions after being so low down the order yesterday."

"This win really came from the heart. I think its a massive win for the team. To sit here after where I sat after day one feels amazing. It shows that we are honestly strong and that we can perform." 

"Now we go to Cape Town. I hope all three of us Andreas, Kevin and myself, have a clean weekend," he adds. "Then the best man will stand on top at the end. Whoever can stay strong and keep their head in the game and it's about driving well in South Africa."

Bakkerud started from pole position in the final but did not quite have the pace to match Timmy Hansen after his Swedish rival had the better launch and lead at turn one.

"I definitely feel that we had the best pace this weekend but at the end of the day that is not good enough if you want to beat these guys who had the control on their launches and they were flying away today," he said.

"I tried my best and was chasing down both Niclas and Timmy but when you are driving on the edge, it's very easy to make a mistake. I overshot the jump a little bit and ran wide at turn eight and that was my chance gone."

"Credit to Timmy (Hansen) I think it was a strong fightback from yesterday (Saturday)."

"This is good for the fans as they get to see a good show in Cape Town. I don't think the fight will be over until the checkered flag," Bakkerud said. 

“Anyway, it is good for the fans as they get to see a good show in Cape Town. I don’t think the fight will be over until the chequered flag (in the final) in Cape Town. Now I have the job to chase and Timmy is the leader so he will be thinking of me for the next eight weeks. So, sleep well! [Just kidding]."

GRX Taneco's Niclas Gronholm felt that he had the speed to win in Latvia. 

"The first lap wasn't that good, but the second lap was good and I felt that maybe we can challenge for the win and so did the guys in the spotter's tower," he said. "Then they said: 'okay, we are fighting for the win' and I knew that I would need some more pace. Then something went wrong in my head and I started to overdrive a little bit. Not big mistakes, but small ones and in the end, it cost me quite a lot."

"The result is okay. It was a difficult day with bad launches and really struggling and then in the final, we had a decent launch."

Despite dropping eight points behind his older brother, Kevin Hansen believes that Team Hansen MJP has made progress with start launches in Riga.

"We definitely made some big steps on the launches this weekend," he said. "That was the key to staying in front and being fourth at the end of qualifying, then second in the Semi Final."

"We knew that we were too weak in that area and we knew that if we want to win the championship, we would have to improve there."

Timur Timerzyanov had a very good launch on the back row of the grid in the final but ran wide and nearly hit the tyre wall at turn one. He then opted for an early joker lap and would finish in fifth place ahead of Monster Energy RX Cartel's Liam Doran. 

There was no fairytale ending for Latvia’s Reinis Nitiss and Janis Baumanis both failed to progress from semi-final two. It was a similar story for Krisztian Szabo in the EKS Sport Audi S1 who was fifth in the same semi-final.

On Instagram, Nitiss said: "I had the pace for the final (fastest lap of SF2), but the other Latvian driver had a different agenda and that left me frustrated."

Rokas Baciuska was poised to pick up where he left off in Loheac, France by again finishing as the top qualifier after day one. However, for the second successive event, Baciuska tangled with the Timo Scheider in semi-final one.

Scheider dropped to fifth place as a result just ahead of his Lithuanian rival.

GCK's Anton Marklund led the charge by putting his Renault Megane in P2 overnight, launched a last-gasp charge in semi-final one but lost out in the battle to the line with Doran.

It was a mixed bag for the rest of the GC Kompetition squad. Guerlain Chicherit had a promising start and reached P3 after Q3 but was subsequently disqualified from Q2 for “pushing the launch button when the car was in motion”. He eventually finished 15th overall.

GCK Academy's Cyril Raymond incurred a five-second penalty for hitting the track limits markers in Q4 and would finish in 13th, while Guillaume De Ridder had a much better outing in Latvia challenging for victory in a few qualifying races and finished 14th overall. 

Oliver Bennett had his share of bad luck in Latvia with clutch failure in Q2, and his luck was no different on Sunday when the Briton had set-up issues in Q3 and finish 16th overall.

Russian Matvey Furazhkin made his second World RX appearance in Latvia in the ES Motorsport – Labas and finished in 17th. Pal Try finished in 18th.

Newly-crowned FIA European Rallycross Champion Robin Larsson had an eventful return to World RX with JC Raceteknik. The Swede made contact with Timmy Hansen and Szabo in Q2 and was disqualified from the session after he was deemed by the stewards to have “caused a collision”. He would end his return to World RX in 19th overall.

All attention now turns to the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship title decider at Killarney International Raceway in Cape Town on November 9-10.


Written By Junaid Samodien

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