|PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool|
After maintaining his unblemished SuperPole record by a tenth-of-a-second from nearest challenger Timmy Hansen, Kristoffersson picked up a puncture in the first heat race. With smoke pouring off his right-rear tyre, the damage got progressively worse as the Swede wrestled his Polo RX1e around the circuit, with the tyre letting go completely on the last lap and ripping the right-rear car door off in the process. And after a stellar repair job by the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS crew, Johan came out on top after a battle with Niclas Grönholm in heat two – which included a thrilling pass in the banked gravel corner – before winning his progression race.
The four-time World Champion subsequently fended off countryman Kevin Hansen in the second semi-final to secure pole position for the all-important final – and following a textbook launch, he was thereafter never headed, racing clear of his pursuers to take the chequered flag by 3.995 seconds. The result has extended his advantage at the top of the title standings to 41 points with only two race weekends remaining – a fact not lost on the four-time world champion.
"You need to be in the right place at the right time, and thankfully, we were," he said. "The team is delivering a perfect car every time we go out and we worked hard on our starts today, because they weren’t the best yesterday. That paid off in the final, and thankfully there was no squeeze into Turn One because the wall there is pretty unforgiving.
"From there, I saw there was some fighting going on behind and once I had established a gap, I could just cruise to the finish while taking care not to get any more punctures. It was a very good race."
"Big thanks to the team for making this possible. It's been hard work. Sometimes we have returned to the paddock almost with only the steering wheel in our hands," he added.
”It was a tough day, but everything went well from the semi-final and onwards," Grönholm said. "I had good launch, and some great fights in the final. Yesterday we had the pace to challenge for the win, and it was a bummer that I made a mistake in turn one. From there on, it was hard to do anything. Today I played it smart in the first corner and was able to come out in second. Pace-wise, this was the best weekend so far. This is good to build on for the future."
Buoyed by his breakthrough podium finish on Saturday, Gustav Bergström rebounded from a broken driveshaft in heat one to pull off a gutsy overtaking move on Grönholm in the final, and while he ultimately didn’t have quite enough pace to keep the Finn behind, he nonetheless impressed with another third-place finish.
"Of course I was keen on second spot as well, but I must be satisified with another podium finish," the Kristoffersson Motorsport driver said.
Kevin Hansen wound up fourth after sliding wide in the last corner – finding himself inadvertently clipped by Grönholm in the process – with Ole Christian Veiby classified fifth, he failed to reach the checkered flag due to coming off worst in a first corner crunch with Bergström and Hansen in turn one that broke his Volkswagen’s steering.
Once more, 2019 world champion Timmy Hansen looked set to take the fight to Kristoffersson, but yet again luck was not on he's side, as he's Peugeot 208 took a knock on the rear in the semi-final which caused the Swede to miss out on a place in the final.
CE Dealer Team's Klara Andersson was impressive yet again - pulling off some incredible starts, but unfortunately, she too failed to reach the final, whilst All-Inkl Munnich Motorsport's Rene Munnich couldn't quite keep the pace of the cars ahead and finished at the tail end of the field in the Ardennes.
The next stop on the 2022 calendar will be World RX of Catalunya, a weekend that could ultimately decide the drivers' championship should Kristoffersson reign supreme again. Can anyone stop the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS driver? Time will tell!
ROUND 7 - FINAL RESULT: WORLD RX OF BELGIUM:
1. Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS)
2. Niclas Grönholm (Construction Equipment Dealer Team) + 3.995s
3. Gustav Bergström (Kristoffersson Motorsport) + 4.932s
4. Kevin Hansen (Hansen World RX Team) + 9.305s
5. Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS) + 5 laps