Johan Kristofferson overturned a four-point deficit to claim a record-breaking fourth World Rallycross title, as Niclas Grönholm won the final round of the season at snowy Nürburgring.
|PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool|
Before proceedings kicked off for the final day in Germany, the FIA issued Herve Knapick with a €250 fine for a breach of the COVID-19 quarantine protocol after the Frenchman tested positive for COVID-19 after two positive tests (Antigenic and PCR tests). This all happened after he was transported to the hospital following a scary accident in Q1 yesterday.
Having demonstrated that he is a force to be reckoned with just a day earlier (Saturday), a calm Kristoffersson approached the final in the same attacking fashion.
Q1 saw the three-time World Champion lead from the front winning the session by 1.541s over Timmy Hansen followed by Krisztian Szabo, Anton Marklund, Niclas Grönholm, Yuri Belevskiy... with Kevin Hansen down in tenth.
The conditions were a lot better on Sunday, as Timmy Hansen beat rival Kristoffersson in the Q2 heat, but it was Enzo Ide who won the session by 0.366s ahead of Hansen. After a strong second qualifier, Kevin jumped up the rankings to fourth followed by the GRX-SET duo of Szabo and Grönholm.
With one qualifier remaining (Q3)... who will come out on top?
|PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool. |
It was a straight fight between the two-title protagonists - Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristoffersson.
Belgian Enzo Ide was on pole for the final qualifier with Hansen alongside, Kristoffersson and Kevin Hansen right behind.
The 2019 Champion had a very good start from second but ran deep into turn one, and with a smart cutback, Johan took the lead where he would remain to the checkered flag with Timmy Hansen right behind in second. The result meant that the KYB EKS JC driver claimed the top qualifiers spot ahead of Niclas, Timmy, and Kevin Hansen.
The Hansen World RX Team were declared teams' champions after the three qualifying sessions.
Having finished second behind Johan - the three-time World Champion took one point out of Hansen's 4 point lead. The race to be World Champion was well and truly on!
In semi-final one, Johan was in pole position with team-mate Enzo Ide alongside. Ide did not have the best of starts, as he hit Szabo (in the rear bumper), whilst Yuri Belevskiy also hit his rear bumper sending the Hungarian into a spin.
The FIA Stewards failed to note or investigate Ide for the incident placing the blame solely on Belevskiy who was later disqualified from the semi-final.
Kristoffersson won his respective semi-final ahead of Ide with Guerlain Chicherit claiming the final spot in the final.
The second semi-final was rather dramatic... Timmy Hansen had a rather poor start from pole position, as Niclas Grönholm immediately tried to cover him off by blocking the inside line, but because he was not entirely clear. The momentum of both cars sent Niclas sideways and he slid off at turn one.
|The dramatic turn one incident in semi-final two|
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
The Hansen World RX Team driver lead from turn one to the checkered flag with younger brother Kevin right behind followed by Gronholm, Anton Marklund, Stefan Kristensson, and Davy Jeanney.
Hansen was later handed a 7-second time penalty for "pushing and overtaking" demoting him to the final row of the final in Germany.
With a one-point between the championship protagonists. Everything indicated that Johan would be champion if he makes it through turn one first...
Snow began to fall, as the tension built up on the grid for the season finale. Johan Kristoffersson on pole with Kevin Hansen alongside, and Timmy Hansen on the back row.
Pole wasn't the place to be, as Kevin Hansen pulled clear of his fellow countrymen to lead into turn one, as Enzo Ide, Timmy, and Niclas got too close for comfort... a rallycross sandwich, with Ide on the outside spinning before the aggressive kerb at turn one.
Through turn one Kevin lead the way from Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen, Niclas Gronholm, Chicherit, and a recovering Ide.
Feeling like he was being held up, the Audi driver immediately took the joker lap with Timmy on full attack diving into the joker carrying so much speed and momentum that the two made contact. They both emerged from the joker ahead of Enzo Ide... The race was on!
In an attempt to come out ahead of a flying Kristoffersson, Kevin Hansen took his joker a lap later and merged right in front of Chicherit, Kristoffersson, and Timmy.
Into turn one, Kristoffersson used his straight-line speed to immediately dive up the inside of UNKORRUPTED driver to claim third in the running order. Whilst Timmy Hansen got stuck behind Chicherit but a few corners later he took the joker lap allowing Hansen to close on his rival ahead.
Halfway through the final, Kevin Hansen began to slow the pace down controlling an attacking Kristoffersson behind in hopes of his older brother closing in and overtaking him. With the pace slowing down, Niclas was able to keep pumping in faster laps and create a good buffer for Hansen in second.
As Kristoffersson continued to pile pressure on Kevin, his older brother slowly started dropping off the pace The younger of the Hansen brothers' did not buckle under the immense pressure holding him off as best as possible.
With just one lap in the final, the KYB EKS JC driver had another look on the inside of Kevin Hansen into turn two, as the Finn took the last lap joker to comfortably win the final by +4.011s ahead of Kevin Hansen closely followed by Johan Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen, Guerlain Chicherit and Enzo Ide.
Directly after the final, Grönholm said: "The target was to try and win at least one race this season and we achieved that. We had quite good speed all weekend. There was some carnage in the first corners. It didn't look good for me after turn one, but I managed in the end. The guys calmed me down after the semi-final incident. It was good at the end and good tactics with the two cars in taking the joker, and I knew if I was the third car I would lose out. After that, I pushed hard for six laps."
Kristoffersson finishing ahead of Timmy Hansen in the final meant the title rivals were level on points, a scene similar to that seen in 2019 in Cape Town, where Timmy Hansen came out on top, but this time it was not to be for the Swede, as he's fellow countrymen Johan Kristoffersson claimed the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship title on countback (of victories).
"To be able to take the fourth title with a new team, a new car/brand is just fantastic. It's been an extremely hectic season as well," Kristoffersson said.
"In Q1 Race 1, Barcelona we got a penalty and were disqualified at that point we didn't think about it because it was going to even itself out over the year. But, when it comes down to the last race in the last event then when every point counts it's extremely important.
"So, I am just very happy to be able to be here we had an extremely difficult start to the season, especially in France when we were looking good for a win and when I came back to the team they were just in tears. Now, I am looking forward to going back to them with a championship-winning trophy, and they will be in tears again."
1. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) GRX-SET World RX Team - 6 laps
2. Kevin HANSEN (SWE) Hansen World RX Team +4.031
3. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (SWE) KYB EKS JC +4.259
4. Timmy HANSEN (SWE) Hansen World RX Team +5.480
5. Guerlain CHICHERIT (FRA) UNKORRUPTED +8.759
6. Enzo IDE (BEL) KYB EKS JC +16.091
2021 2021 WORLD RX DRIVERS STANDINGS:
1. Johan Kristoffersson, KYB EKS JC - 217pts
1. Timmy Hansen, Hansen World RX Team - 217
3. Niclas Grönholm, GRX-SET World RX Team - 197
2021 WORLD RX TEAMS STANDINGS:
1. Hansen World RX Team - 408pts
2. GRX-SET World RX Team - 359
3. KYB EKS JC - 342