Sunday, 18 October 2020

Kristoffersson comes out on top in Barcelona despite a first corner incident

Johan Kristoffersson claimed his fourth win of the 2020 World Rallycross season in Barcelona, after an action-packed final.

It was a challenging day for the double world champion who was stuck in traffic all day, while his championship rival capitalized in clean air to claim the top qualifiers spot. 

Could Kristoffersson fight back?

The heat was on.. In the semi-finals, Kristoffersson started on the second row of the grid but made quick work of Kevin Hansen and Robin Larsson to claim second-place behind Ekström, he then leap-frogged his championship rival with an earlier joker lap to secure a front-row start for the final. 

Having struggled in the first half of the season, Andreas Bakkerud showed some great pace, and actually won Q3 ahead Mattias Ekstrom, and that was not all folks. Andreas also won semi-final two ahead of Timmy Hansen and Anton Marklund to claim pole position for the final. 

Lining up for the final, Andreas and Johan used two new front tyres, while Timmy Hansen behind had a set new tyres on his Peugeot 208 and Ekström behind with one new right front tyre. 

At the start, Kristoffersson got away well and briefly pulled a cars length clear of Bakkerud who was on the inside. On the turn into the first corner, Johan took a tighter line squeezing Andreas who hit his rear and bounced up. Seconds later, Bakkerud caught the wall on the inside as a direct result of that pitching him into the tyre barrier and ricocheting into the path of Robin Larsson who had nowhere to go. 

The collision instantly took Bakkerud and Larsson out of the race, while Mattias Ekström who had a bad start and had to steer around the stranded car.

Kristoffersson made it through turn one with a missing front wing (fender), while Timmy Hansen and Anton Marklund sneaked through the turn one melee, and the pair began to there race. 

Marklund jokered on lap one promoting Ekström to third, while Timmy Hansen closed the gap and was glued to Kristoffersson's rear bumper. The Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS driver opted for an early joker on lap 3 and was immediately on the rear of Ekström who was running in third at the time. 

On the next lap around, the two-time champion posted the fastest lap of the race, a 44.113-second lap. 

While Mattias Ekstrom made a rare mistake going into the final corner and running off the track. Stalled for a few seconds, and later got going well behind Marklund. 

Timmy could not capitalize on the clean air upfront, while Kristoffersson inched closer lap after lap. The gap fell as Kristoffersson upped his pace. Hanging on upfront, Hansen jokered on the final lap and come out in second 2.737-seconds behind Kristoffersson who claimed his 24th career win. 

After the race, Kristoffersson was asked what happened at turn one, to which he replied: "I didn't see anything because I was in front."

"I had a very good start, there was a lot of grip on the start line. I saw Andreas bog on the start in pre-launch and I bogged in pre-launch, and then I turned everything on, and then I had a great start. I saw Andreas drop back. So, I didn't expect him to be there. I thought that he was further back then he was... I almost had a car length and when I braked into the first corner he came like a rocket. I couldn't do anything differently to be honest."

Kristoffersson joked after the race that he jokered ahead of Timmy Hansen this time, after losing out yesterday (round 7). 

"I saw that Timmy had four new tyres and I had two new tyres. But today I gave it absolutely everything to manage to get him and I am just so happy," he said. "We had the pace all day, but we couldn't really show it because we have been in traffic every session. First of all the semi-final was very nice and then the final. So, I feel a bit relieved."

Heading into Barcelona, Team Hansen conducted an extensive testing programme and found some much-needed performance after lacking traction at earlier events. 

Timmy is quite pleased with his weekend overall at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona. "As a whole, it's a fantastic result. We have been putting in all that work and it paid off this weekend," he said. "The win yesterday will definitely be the highlight. That is something that I will carry with me and to share the podium with Kevin yesterday." 

"Today, it didn't quite go our way in the race. I think our pace was actually maybe better for us today and the car is going definitely progressing. I was lucky in the final with the carnage and came out quite well and in a good position. After that, I tried to take the battle to Johan, but today it went to him. So, congratz to him!" 

Anton Marklund, who also escaped the first corner carnage opted for a first lap joker, and after Ekström's mistake, he followed Hansen across the finish line in third place to claim his first podium of the season, while Ekström eventually finished the final 19.397 behind the race winner. 

"It's a big relief because we had that podium in Holjes in the first race and we finished P3, and unfortunately we got a penalty and moved down and after that, we didn't have the pace and the team has been working so hard and Bilstein have been working there arses off, and now it starts to pay off," Marklund said. "The car is starting to behave very well and we started to have the pace."

The FIA investigated the first corner incident between Kristoffersson and Bakkerud, and deemed that Bakkerud was at fault:

"After reviewing all of the video evidence MVRC from several angles car #3 (Kristoffersson) and #13 (Bakkerud) were in front row. #3 had a better start with a full car length ahead leaving enough space on his left side. Then #13 drove full speed without braking before T1, he then collided with #3. #13's right front wheel touched the left hand rear wheel of #3 and crashed into the wall. #13 was then pushed by #4 who could not avoid the collision. Based on the above facts the stewards decided to take NO FURTHER ACTION."

After a strong start on Sunday, Kevin Hansen started on the front row for semi-final one but was covered off by Ekström with Larsson attacking around the outside and Kristoffersson on the inside. With a first lap joker, Kevin attempted to undercut the field, but unfortunately, he got stuck behind Tamas Karai and was unable close the gap enough to Larsson in the closing stages of the semis and would go no further. 

While Timo Scheider also had good pace today but also missed out on a spot in the semi-finals along with Tamas Karai.

Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov had a day to forget, as they both failed to progress past the semi-finals. It was no different for Enzo Ide (JC Raceteknik) whose day also ended after the semi-finals.

With two rounds of the championship remaining, Johan Kristoffersson now has a 27-point lead at the top of championship standings, meaning should he score four more points than Ekström in Belgium, he would be crowned a three-time World RX champion. 

While Timmy Hansen is still in with a mathematic chance just 56 points behind Kristoffersson with two rounds remaining. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien 

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