Sunday 18 October 2020

Masterful Ekström heads qualifying for second Barcelona round.

Mattias Ekström topped qualifying for round eight of the 2020 World Rallycross season in Barcelona as championship leader Johan Kristoffersson failed to top a session for the second time this season.

The 2016 champion was the pacesetter in Q1 and Q2, with Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel's Andreas Bakkerud topping the table in Q3 to secure a pole position start for semi-final two. 

"To be honest I am surprised [to beat Ekström]," Bakkerud said. "I was the first car into the first car. Oh my god!"

Kristoffersson has not had the Sunday that he had hoped for finishing sixth in Q1 after taking a risk on higher RPM for the launch. While he tried to undercut the Hansen brothers on the inside, he was wary that a third reprimand could result in a five-point penalty, which could prove costly. In Q2, the Swede went backward off the line but came out in third as the race played out he progressed to P2 behind Andreas Bakekrud which meant he would finish the session in fourth overall. 

Q3 saw three five-car races following the withdrawal of Liam Doran. Kristoffersson would start on the outside, but was last through turn 1, while Bakkerud led the way from Ekstrom, Kevin, and Timmy Hansen. 

Ekström jokered earlier than his rivals in hope that he can undercut Andreas Bakkerud ahead, but the Norweigan had other plans and only took his joker lap on lap 3 seeing him leapfrog his former teammate. While Kevin Hansen who stayed out managed to pass Mattias as well to the claim second. 

Stuck behind Bakkerud and Kevin Hansen, Kristoffersson would end the session in fifth place, and for the first time this season, he will line-up on the second row of the grid for the semi-finals. 

Kevin and Timmy Hansen have enjoyed another strong day finding themselves in third and fourth respectively in the standings. 

Anton Marklund completes the top six ahead of Robin Larsson who will make the semi-finals this time after Enzo Ide was sacrificed on Saturday.

Despite winning Q3 Race 1, Larsson went backward off the grid due to a clutch issue, but it was like the seas parted for the reigning Euro RX champion as everyone he closed in on seemed to have an issue and he passed them with ease. 

"I had a problem with the clutch at the start. It slips from the gears to turn one," Larsson said. "The car feels good, but it's been one of those tough weekends when everything goes wrong." 

It's been a tricky morning for Niclas Grönholm who has been struggling to find the pace yesterday but admitted that Sunday has been slightly better. "The car was good in the morning practice, but the track is developing in the wrong direction," he said. "It's hard to be in the last heat. We have no luck!"

Timo Scheider who has had endless mechanical issues yesterday has had a slightly better Sunday splitting the GRX Taneco team-mates with Timur Timerzyanov in tenth. 

Tamas Karai and JC Raceteknik's Enzo Ide take the final two spots in the semi-finals. Ide was investigated for an incident with Oliver Bennett and was handed a three-second time penalty. 

All-Inkl Muennich Motorsport's Mandie August will miss out on a spot in the semi-finals by a single point, while Q2 race 1 winner Oliver Bennett has also missed out and will not progress any further after finishing the three qualifying sessions in 14th overall, ahead of Patrick Guillerme, and Liam Doran.

Doran's day came to a premature end due to engine issues while leading in Q2. The Brit was leading his heat race but an engine misfire earlier in the race led to engine failure on the final lap, which resulted in a spin and contact with the barrier as he crossed the finish line. 

"It started well and lead the race. Then I had an engine problem in the middle of the first lap then had an engine failure," Doran said. "The engine just let go and then had no engine to pull me out of the wall."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

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