A new record was made, when the 9th round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship was run in Latvia today.
Johan Kristoffersson arrived at the weekend with such a huge point lead in the Championship, that no matter how this weekend would go, he would still be in front, after all the racing.
Two Qualifying rounds were run on the Saturday, and there was action right from the get to.
Timmy Hansen was sent into the tire barrier in his Q1 race, while Liam Doran and Niclas Grönholm collided at the exit of Turn 2, making Doran’s car crab for the rest of the heat.
There were troubles between Andreas Bakkerud, Nico Müller, Niclas Grönholm and Guerlain Chicherit in Q2. The four drivers tangled up towards Turn 1, and it took several seconds before the latter three got disentangled again.
The two Team Peugeot Total teammates Sebastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen both had troubles with their front suspension after the contact, which gave the mechanics a lot extra to repair over the night.
Johan Kristoffersson was the leading driver after Day 1, ahead of Mattias Ekström, Petter Solberg and Andreas Bakkerud.
There had been a bit of rain between Saturday and Sunday, so Q3 started on slightly moist tarmac, even though the sun was shining from a clear blue sky.
Alex Wurz had a bit of contact with the barrier in Q3, which luckily only gave a little of cosmetic damage to the Ford Fiesta.
There was a shamozzle between Timo Scheider and Timur Timerzyanov where Janis Baumanis ended up in a sandwich, and got slightly airborne. Scheider got the best out of his luck, and ended up winning that race.
The two Norwegians, Bakkerud and Solberg, had their elbows out in Q3, where the two fierce competitors lost bodywork, after hitting each other. They made it home in P3 and P4.
That battle continued in Q4, where they once again collided, with Solberg ending up in front of Bakkerud this time around. Toomas Heikkinen retired from his Q4, which ended up costing him a spot in the Semi finals.
After all 4 Qualifying rounds had been completed, we had Johan Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekström, Petter Solberg, Niclas Grönholm, Guerlain Chicherit and Timur Timerzyanov in Semi finale 1, while Sebastien Loeb, Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Nico Müller, Kevin Hansen and Liam Doran were in Semi 2.
So that was goodbye to well-known names like Timo Scheider, Janis Baumanis, Toomas Heikkinen, Kevin Eriksson, Robin Larsson and Alex Wurz.
There once again was some bumping in Turn 1 in Semi 1. Ekström won the start, but Kristoffersson still managed to squeeze by. Solberg didn’t make the corner at all, after a very gently push by Chicherit, and ended up with a hard hit on the armco. He didn’t manage to recover, but was 5 seconds behind the rest of the field.
Chicherit was in third ahead of Grönholm, but Timerzyanov in P5 had already taken his Joker Lap. So when Chicherit jokered on Lap 2, he rejoined only centimetres ahead of Timerzyanov.
Ekström was in the Joker Lap on the fourth lap, and rejoined in a safe second position. Kristoffersson and Grönholm waited until the very final lap, but crossed the finishing line in first and third, resulting in a goodbye to Chicherit, Timerzyanov and Solberg.
If you thought you had seen trouble in Semi 1, it was nothing compared to the start of Semi 2. The two Team Peugeot Total drivers Timmy Hansen and Loeb, tried to close the gap on Bakkerud going towards Turn 1, but instead all three went off line, pushing Müller off too. Somehow Loeb still ended up out front, ahead of Doran and Kevin Hansen.
Bakkerud was catching the others quickly, and with an early Joker Lap, he was right behind the competition again. He was however stuck behind Doran, even after the Englishman had taken his Joker, costing the Norwegian a huge amount of time.
So that left the three Peugeot drivers out front, and they only had to figure out themselves, who would finished first, second and third. It ended up being Loeb ahead of Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen, while Bakkerud, Doran and Müller all could start packing.
Kristoffersson got the best start of the final, while Ekström made it into P2, and Grönholm into P3. The three Peugeot drivers rounded of the field. That resulted in Loeb and Kevin Hansen going straight for the Joker, hoping to regain some of the lost, by running in free air. Loeb took his Joker one lap later, and made it out ahead of his two teammates.
Meanwhile, Kristoffersson, Ekström and Grönholm were able to cruise around out front, until Eki and Grönholm jokered on Lap 3. That send Loeb ahead of Grönholm, in the battle for the final podium spot.
Nobody was ever near Johan Kristoffersson, who won the 8th win of the year, which is a new record in World RX. Only Loeb has beaten him this year, in Belgium. Mattias Ekström finished second ahead of Sebastien Loeb, Niclas Grönholm, Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen.
Naturally, Kristoffersson extends his lead in the Drivers Championship, with Mattias Ekström moving up as the closest competitor – but 73 points behind the Swede. Andreas Bakkerud has dropped to third, since he didn’t make it into today’s final, while Sebastien Loeb has moved into P4, right ahead of Petter Solberg.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden is leading the Teams Championship by a country mile ahead of EKS Audi Sport, while Team Peugeot Total has caught slightly up on the teams ahead. GRX Taneco appears to have locked into fourth position, since GC Kompetition is going backwards. Olsbergs MSE is completely without chances of advancement.
Now all the FIA World Rallycross Championship cars will be loaded onto a plane, heading to the USA ,where the 10th round of the year will be run at the Circuit of the Americas, also known as COTA, near Austin in Texas.
Johan Kristoffersson has good chances of lifting the Championship trophy already there, with two rounds still to go. If he leaves with a 61 point lead, he has secured the title once again. He has a 28 point average so far in this season across each round – so something has to go really wrong for him in the USA, if he can’t step into the plane with a bit of extra carry-on baggage on the 29 September.