Tuesday 22 September 2020

"We still have some work to do" - Niclas Grönholm.

The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship has been filled with ups-and-downs for early championship favourites, GRX Taneco. 

And, despite a win in Kouvola-Finland, the Finnish squad still has a long way to go to beat the likes of Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström [KYB Team JC]. After six rounds, there have been glimpses of pace, while GRX SET's Juha Rytkonen showed the true pace of the Hyundai i20 after a magnificent performance in Kouvola. 

The fifth round of the championship, also held in Riga, Latvia, saw Niclas Grönholm claim the top qualifiers spot. Lining up alongside, Ekström in the semi-final, the 2016 Champion had a much better launch with Niclas making it into turn two in second-place where he would finish the race. 

While teammate Timur Timerzyanov did not have a good start in semi-final two and got through turn two in fourth-place. However, it went from bad to worse when the Russian got a knock on the rear, which damaged his rear suspension and meant he was crabbing around the track fighting to keep his Hyundai going in a straight line. He  finished the semi-final in fifth-place. 

The round five final was a heated affair with six drivers jostling for position, while the 24-year-old Finn came out of turn two in fourth-place. And, later on in the final, Niclas was faster than Kevin Hansen and tried an alternative line to get past the young Swede. But luck was not on his side and he hit a barrier. Grönholm crossed the finish line 6.275 seconds behind Kevin in fifth-place. 

Sunday (round six) was slightly more challenging for GRX Taneco, with both drivers in fifth and ninth after three qualifying sessions. Niclas progressed to the semi-finals, while Timur could only manage a fifth-place finish. In the final, the Finn claimed a fifth-place finish. 

"Quali runs were up-and-down again and starting from the outside didn’t help. I had a quite good start in the Final and came out of the first turn as fourth," Grönholm said. "I managed to keep up with the frontrunners for a couple of laps, but eventually my tires overheated and I lost the pace."

"We came here well prepared and with high expectations, but couldn’t capitalize on that. The car was better than in first races of the season, but we still have some work to do."

Despite some good clean runs in qualifying, Timur wasn't able to achieve his plan of making it into the Semi-fiinal, and ended round six in eighth-place. 

"P5 in the Semi-final was not the result I was hoping for, especially after the good and clean run in Q2, where I finished 4th," Timerzyanov said. "We had a plan for the Semi-final, but it didn’t play out as we anticipated and even though I was driving as fast as possible, it was not enough to proceed to the Final."

Jussi Pinomäki, GRX Taneco Team Manager adds that it has been a frustrating weekend in Latvia, but admits that his team needs to keep working and improving throughout the season to reach the level of their rivals. 

"This weekend in Riga was a difficult and sometimes even a frustrating one, but I know that everyone in the team did their best and I am proud of them," Pinomäki said. "For sure we would have wanted a better result, but races in Riga prove the level of the sport and that we have to keep working and improving throughout the whole season."

Krisztian Szabo in the third Hyundai i20 run by GRX SET had a topsy turvy weekend, and while Saturday (round 5) was much smoother. Sunday (round six) saw the Hungarian's car catch alight in Q2 due to a broken manifold. The GRX team was able repair the car and got him out for the remainder of the weekend where he was able to finish in sixth-place in the semi-finals. 

"I was missing a couple of tenths here and there comparing to yesterday and I can’t really explain why it was like that. Still, I reached the Semi-final and I am satisfied with this result, especially after the thrilling Q2 session," Szabo said. "In Q2 I noticed smoke inside of the car, but I kept going until, on the last lap, when an actual fire came into cockpit and I was forced to stop. Mechanics did an unbelievable job, getting the car ready for Q3, where I set the 5thfastest time."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

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