Four-time World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristofferson crossed the finish line first in a thrilling finale to the fifth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Montalegre today, but it was not to be as a post-race penalty handed victory to Niclas Grönholm.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
On the second day of action in Portugal, the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS drivers' were untouchable in Super Pole, with Kristoffersson leading team-mate Ole Christian Veiby by 0.244 seconds, whilst the pursuing pack were over half a second a drift.
Kristoffersson was peerless throughout the heats topping the intermediate rankings once again, and had a thrilling duel with Kevin Hansen in the progression race. He came out second best to the young Swede. Whilst he's fellow stablemate Gustav Bergstrom failed to make the progression round after arriving too late to the pre-grid area.
In the first semi-final, Niclas Grönholm had a great start from the fifth grid slot, and challenged Kevin Hansen into turn one. Having emerged fractionally ahead of the Finn, who was on the outside. The two made contact, which resulted in damaged rear suspension for Hansen - DNF.
Semi-final two was not any easier for Timmy Hansen who spun in the joker and finished behind Kristofferson and Veiby. Hansen's pace was enough to secure a place in the finals.
The tension was high in the final, but as we've seen throughout the weekend, the driver starting from the fifth grid spot is always able to carry more speed into turn one, a scene we saw repeated in the final with Timmy Hansen. He fully sent it into turn one and managed to stay ahead of Kristoffersson who slotted in behind (in second). Having shown decent pace on Sunday afternoon, Grönholm opted for an early joker strategy to try and capitalize on the fight ahead.
|Timmy Hansen recovering after contact with Kristoffersson into turn one.|
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
However, after the race had finished, the FIA Stewards deemed that Kristoffersson was guilty of pushing, and thus was handed a 10-second time penalty, as a result Grönholm was promoted to victor ahead of Ole Christian Veiby and Klara Andersson in third, who today has became the first female to reach the podium in top flight international rallycross.
"This obviously isn’t the way I like to win and it’s always slightly bittersweet in situations like this," he said. "We struggled in the first four rounds, but today was a bit better and we finally came away with a result."
"I felt good in the car since the progression round. I had a feeling that we could fight for the podium in the final. Our plan from the start was to go as a wild card unless we became the leader. Unfortunately, I didn't get a clean lap the lap before Johan Kristoffersson made his joker. I could have beaten him on the track as well, but I would have been happy with the second place as well."
The FIA Stewards released there reasoning for penalizing Kristoffersson, saying: "Having reviewed the MVRC evidence, the stewards find that Car #1 pushed in the braking zone prior to T1 to the right side near front wheel of Car #21."
Despite extending the championship lead, Johan made it clear that he disagrees with the FIA's decision: "I don't agree with this decision. If you misjudge a situation and get penalised, that's ok. But I can't understand how they can find me guilty in a situation where he turns in on me."
Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal: FINAL RESULT.
1. Niclas Grönholm (CE Dealer Team)
2. Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS) +2.853s
3. Klara Andersson (CE Dealer Team) +4.412s
4. Timmy Hansen (Hansen World RX Team) +4.821s
5. Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS) +9.241s (due to time penalty)