|PHOTO CREDIT: RallyX Nordic|
Level on points with Fraser McConnell after Q1 and Q2 on Saturday, Grönholm picked up where he left off by setting the fastest time in Q3.
Having had the superior pace all weekend. The question remained: Would Niclas have the pace for a clean sweep in qualifying? Soon, we'd get the answers to these questions.
Despite keeping his nose clean during the final qualifying race, it was Anton Marklund who sprung a surprise to claim the top spot in Q4 but based on the points tally over the four qualifying sessions, it was Grönholm clinched the Top Qualifiers honors.
The 2021 specification World RX Hyundai Supercars have had superior starts (launches) all weekend, and in the semi-final, Niclas enjoyed a trouble-free run from the lights to flag, ahead of second-placed McConnell. Whilst Kristoffersson fought back to overhaul Krisztian Szabo to book a spot on the front row in the final.
From pole position, Grönholm had another impressive start to cover off turns 1 and 2, whilst those behind battled for position with fast-starting McConnell taking the inside line for turn 2 forcing Kristoffersson into a lap one joker. Thereafter, Niclas controlled the pace to the flag.
With a desire to win, Kristoffersson pulled off an incredible pass on Andreas Bakkerud to keep some pressure on Grönholm. Soon after, he picked off McConnell who took the joker lap, but his efforts to catch the Finn were ultimately in vain as the Hyundai driver comfortably controlled the pace to cross the line 0.400 seconds ahead of the three-time World RX champion.
"I’m definitely more satisfied with this win than on Thursday!" Grönholm said. "To be honest, the first laps I didn’t know what the gap was behind, they didn’t tell me but it got to the stage where Jussi [Pinomäki] said we need a bit more, luckily I found it and managed to push without making any silly mistakes so that’s something to be satisfied with."
"For sure it feels nice to get these two victories so I’m happy but as always, the hard work continues."
Kristoffersson admits "I did what I could" to challenge Niclas Grönholm in the Supercar final.
"The lap times were just not enough when Niclas got into the rhythm, but it was a difficult place to be in the final starting in the second position, and I have two Hyundai's on the inside. Our starts haven't been good enough, but it was good-ish," Kristoffersson said.
"Niclas had a very good start and I was able to slot in there. Then McConnell came from the outside. I didn't plan to joker on the first lap because of the exact situation that happened. Then tried to get my head down, but it was just not enough. I did everything I could. Right now, it feels shit. I am happy in one way because I could challenge-ish Niclas, but not really because I know that he is controlling it a little bit. The plan was not to make Niclas feel comfortable in the final. I did what I could!"
Round one race winner, Fraser McConnell, brought his Olsbergs MSE Fiesta home in third to keep his championship hopes alive, with Krisztian Szabo finishing in fourth ahead of Enzo Ide, and Andreas Bakkerud who made history for not only winning qualifying races but also making the final in the fully electric STARD Ford Fiesta.
Kristoffersson’s second-place finish in Höljes means he retains the lead in the Supercar standings, 13 points ahead of McConnell and a further 5 points clear of Sondre Evjen whilst Grönholm sits in joint-fourth with Ide following his two-round appearance in Sweden.
Will Niclas Grönholm return for the three remaining rounds of the RallyX Nordic championship?
"You never know. Let's see what happens!" Grönholm said. "There are a lot of things going on not only rallycross, so we need to see if it's possible, but for sure racing is always fun."