After a dry Saturday, the weather changed completely for Sunday, with rain falling over the French track in Loheac, at the 9th Round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Qualifying Heat 1 and 2 happened without major incidents on Saturday, but the Sunday rain, gave plenty more action on the circuit.
The most action in Qualifying Heat 3 was when Petter Solberg stalled on the grid and guest driver for EKS, the DTM driver Nico Müller, was turned around in turn one by Kevin Hansen. Müller didn’t collect enough points to get into the Semi final, but the team has elected to call him up again for the Latvian WorldRX Round too.
The other races in Q3 ran pretty smoothly.
You can’t really say that about Q4, with the rain increasing.
Timur Timerzyanov and Niclas Grönholm collided in their heat, while Guerlain Chicherit and Geatan Serazin had a clash in their heat, with the 4-wheel driven cars were sliding around on the tarmac.
Toomas Heikkinen started on the outside lane in his heat, and even though he got the best start and was first into Turn one, he couldn’t stop the car, and slid wide into the gravel, and ended up running last in the heat.
The results from the 4 Qualifying Heats meant that Johan Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekström, Petter Solberg, Ken Block, Timo Scheider and Toomas Heikkinen went into Semi Final 1, while Sebastien Loeb, Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Kevin Hansen, Janis Baumanis and Reinis Nitiss went to Semi Final 2.
Hekkinen got a great start, but was hit by Ken Block in Turn 1, and was send far into the gravel. Scheider was quick to drive into the Joker Lap on the first lap, and rejoined in 5th. One lap later, Ken Block himself ended up in the gravel, spinning by his own. While all this happened, Kristoffersson easily went into the Final ahead of Solberg and Ekström.
Loeb took the lead in Semi Final 2, and controlled the heat. Nitiss got problems with his windscreen wiper, and couldn’t see a thing due to all the mud and rain covering the car. Timmy Hansen and Loeb had everything under control, after Hansen sneaked by Loeb after the Joker Lap had been run, and took a Peugeot 1-2 ahead of Bakkerud in P3. Nitiss finished the heat, but was far behind the leaders, though not so far behind Kevin Hansen, who had a puncture.
Those results send Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen on the important front row for the Finale – important due to the visibility going into Turn one.
Johan Kristoffersson took the start ahead of Timmy Hansen and Sebastien Loeb. Petter Solberg went too wide in the first corner, and fell all the way back to P5. Ekström and Solberg went for the Joker Lap on the first lap, and was ready to attack the others, and they would have to do theirs later. That didn’t work out for Solberg, who had picked up a left front puncture.
Timmy Hansen made a small mistake, resulting in Loeb sneaking past him. Timmy Hansen suddenly stopped on Lap 4, resulting in Ekström almost rear ending him.
But nobody could catch Kristoffersson, who took his 4th victory in a row this year, while the local hero Loeb finished second and with Ekström in third. They were followed by Andreas Bakkerud in P4, making it four manufacturers in the first four places – VW ahead of Peugeot ahead of Audi ahead of Ford.
Johan Kristoffersson builds his lead in the Championship even further to Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekström, but Sebastien Loeb, Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud all have theoretical changes of a top-3 with three rounds left. Kristoffersson has the opportunity to seal the Championship next time out, if everything goes his way.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden leads the Teams Championship with a big margin to Team Peugeot-Hansen and EKS. Hoonigan Racing Division have a chance for P3 too, with just 25 points up to EKS. But it’s very much needed for Bakkerud and Block to start beating Ekström and Heikkinen regulary through the rest of the season – but everything can happen in Rallycross.
The next round will be run in Latvia on September 15-17.