Mattias Ekström claimed his twelfth career victory at the Neste World RX of Riga (Latvia) at round six of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, to remain in contention for a potential second title.
|PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX.|
It was another relatively strong weekend for KYB Team JC in Riga-Latvia. On Saturday (round five), both drivers made the final, while Mattias finished second after winning his semi-final and Robin Larsson brought his Audi S1 across the line in sixth.
Whilst round five wasn't an ideal result for the team, they worked hard overnight and found some improvements, as KYB Team JC claimed there first-ever double World RX podium finish, with Mattias on the top step and Larsson in third-place.
"What a fantastic result. We had a good day on Saturday, but we struggled a bit with the tyres, so it was good to get a P2 and both cars in the final," Joel Christoffersson, KYB Team JC Team Principal said.
"We had a good debrief overnight and really put our heads together to try and find a setup to try to manage the tyres as well as possible. We worked late, and today it paid off. We had the pace in the morning and through the day, the semi-final went just as we planned, and then in the final, I was a little curious about how Robin wold get on because we didn’t have as many new tyres for him as we did for Mattias, but it was such a nice feeling to get both cars on the podium."
"I’m almost happier for Robin than Mattias because we have worked so hard with Robin and he’s driven so well but we’ve never had the last luck to be on the podium," Christoffersson adds. "Now finally he could step up there and it’s a huge relief for him. It’s so nice to have two top drivers in the team and it’s fun to be looking at the points in both championships."
Joel Christoffersson hopes that Mattias can complete the season with his team.
"There aren't many races left still and I guess I need to call Mattias and try to discuss what we can do in the future. Hopefully, CUPRA and ABT can let us have him back again," he said.
Ekström made a surprising return to World RX this season with KYB Team JC and has brought the team to the forefront with his wise tactical decisions and setups skills. It's also worth noting that the Audi S1 Quattro was built for him by Audi Sport in 2018.
The 2016 World Champion took a maximum points haul on Sunday at the Bikerneiki Sports Complex to close the gap to World RX Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson to 17 points.
For the first time in 2020, championship leader Johan Kristoffersson did not win a qualifying session. The only time Ekström was beaten throughout the day was by teammate Robin Larsson in Q3.
"For me, Sunday in Riga turned out very special, after being dead last in the Q1 grid draw really means having no draw at all, just to take the place that’s left over. It was feeling like a big challenge, but after a good start and a clean Q1, that was the base for our weekend," Ekström said. "Then to win again in Q2 was another key. For Q3 we were just doing tyre management to save the best for the semi-final and final. That was a big strategic thing."
"I can’t say about enough about our starts because that was a key to success too. Robin finished P2 in the semi-final which was very good and important points for the team, and then the final battle with Johan, such a close race from the start into the first corner and all the laps he was on my bumper. I did no mistakes and in the end, finished in front. It felt amazing and probably one of the best victories."
Heading into the Latvian double-header, Ekström was announced as the first driver for CUPRA's entry into Extreme E next year and was given permission by ABT and CUPRA to race in Riga.
"I can’t wait to go home and digest this one and to call the guys at CUPRA and ABT to say thanks for the permission to come here and do this race, and I will also ask for permission to go to the next races," the Swede said. "I hope I will be able to give an update on this soon because that’s what the team wants and what I want also."
Reigning Euro RX and RallyX Nordic Champion Robin Larsson used a good race strategy to finish in third place, his first World RX podium with KYB Team JC, which moved him up to fifth in the Drivers’ Championship.
"I didn’t expect to be as high in the Intermediate Classification on Sunday after the tiny mistake in Q2. We had to use four new tyres in Q3 to go for it to get the fastest time. It went well, and made up a bit for the really disappointing Q2," Larsson said.
"I knew then we couldn’t fight for the win when we used those tyres because you need them so much at the end, so I just tried to be behind Mattias in the semi, and it ended up really well in the final with Niclas Gronholm behind and I could really push on the lap that we took the joker."
"I’m more relieved than happy, that we could show pace, especially for me on this track, I’ve never been fast here and struggled before a lot," he adds. "I’ve tried to look at Mattias and the v-Box and everything to get as much data as I could. I’m really happy for Mattias and the team for the double podium. Finally!"
The next two rounds of World RX championship takes place in Barcelona, Spain on October 17-18.
Written By - Junaid Samodien
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