There was plenty of close racing and drama when Round 10 of this years FIA World Rallycross Championship was run in Riga in Latvia.
Timo Scheider had a fire on his car in Qualifying heat 1. He still drove the car over the finishing line, before he leaped out of the car. Fortunately the fire was quickly put out and the mechanics at MJP Racing Team Austria then became busy in repairing the Ford Fiesta ST. The car was ready for Sunday, but the points missed in Q2 meant that he didn’t qualify for the Semifinals.
A rain shower before Q2 made the track very slick, and that sent Petter Solberg into the concrete wall, which ripped the rear wheel of his Volkswagen Polo GTI.
There wasn’t any major drama in Q3 and Q4, and unsurprisingly Johan Kristoffersson was top qualifier, going into Semi 1 alongside Mattias Ekström, Andreas Bakkerud, Timmy Hansen, Reinis Nitiss and Niclas Grönholm.
Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg, Toomas Heikkinen, Kevin Hansen, Nico Müller and Janis Baumanis were all into Semi 2.
Kristoffersson got a great start with Ekström in second. Behind those two, there was a tough battle, where Bakkerud was the first, followed by Nitiss and Grönholm, to overtake Timmy Hansen. Nitiss was first into the Joker Lap, before Timmy Hansen set in there one lap later. Hansen returned to the track right ahead of Nitiss, who slammed into the rear of the Peugeot. That pushed the bumper onto Hansen’s rear tire, with a lot of tire smoking coming from that one. But out in front, Kristoffersson won ahead of Ekström and Bakkerud, going into the finale.
Solberg took the start in Semi 2, but it went completely wrong for the Norwegian going into turn 1, where he tried to cut off Sebastien Loeb. Solberg was all crossed up, and was hit in the side by Janis Baumanis, who didn’t have any chance of avoiding the VW Polo GTI. The race was Red Flagged after the marshals called for medical assistance for Solberg. The Norwegian was complaining about back pain, but thankfully it only turned out to be two broken ribs and a broken collarbone. However, an operation is needed, but it is still too early to say how long he will need to recover.
After half an hour, Semi 2 could be re-run.
Loeb took the start, followed by Heikkinen while Kevin Hansen, Baumanis and Müller was battling for the final spot of the final. At the end of the first lap Heikkinen spun and dropped to last position, without any chance of going into the final. Baumanis made an impressive outside overtaking manoeuvre on Kevin Hensen in the final corner, and when Hansen tried to fight back, he made a small mistake and dropped back. While all that happened, Loeb was able to take a clear win ahead of Team EKS Audi guest driver Nico Müller and local hero Janis Baumanis.
Kristoffersson got the best start in the final while Loeb and Ekström drove side by side towards turn 1. The Swede gently squeezed the French driver going into turn one, and made him fall back. Baumanis took full advantage and went past both. It only took Ekström two corners before he was back in P2, while Müller was all over the rear bumper of Baumanis.
Loeb dived into the Joker Lap on Lap 1, and therefore trying to regain some of the lost ground. He grabbed a position off Bakkerud, when he had Joker’ed on the next lap. Müller fell all the way to last after his Joker Lap, while Baumanis had to drop behind Loeb and Bakkerud, in the fight for the final podium spot.
But nobody could catch Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström out in front, with Sebastien Loeb finishing third.
The victory was enough for Johan Kristoffersson to claim the FIA World Rallycross Championship 2018, since he can’t be caught by any of his competitors any more.
Petter Solberg is still in second, but only with 5 points ahead of Mattias Ekström, who is 10 points ahead of Sebastien Loeb. It will be between those three drivers for the remaining medals.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden claimed the Teams Championship too, while Team Peugeot-Hansen is fairly sure of second position ahead of Team EKS.
But things can still happen when the penultimate round will be held at Estering, just south of Hamburg, in a bit over one week’s time.