The penultimate round of this year’s FIA World Rallycross Championship, which was also the final round in Europe for the 2018 season, was run at Estering, just south of Hamburg.
While Johan Kristoffersson was already crowned World Champion before the weekend, the fight was really on for second place, with just a few points between Mattias Ekström, Petter Solberg, Andreas Bakkerud, Sebastien Loeb and with Timmy Hansen a bit further behind.
After the Saturday running in Q1 and Q2, Kristoffersson was heading into the Sunday as the leader, ahead of Solberg, while Bakkerud, Kevin Hansen, Ekström and Timmy Hansen were just behind. Even Niclas Grönholm was faster than Loeb.
The Sunday Q3 started on a dew moist track, with perfect sunny weather all weekend long. It was actually so dry, that the dust combined with the low-hanging morning sun made it really hard for the drivers.
Oliver Bennett had a crash in the Joker Lap, where his Mini Cooper hit the concrete quite hard, so his mechanics had to get busy before Q4.
Guerlain Chicherit got a really bad start in his Renault Megane RS, and was caught in the dust behind the 4 others. Janis Baumanis and Sebastien Loeb collided in Turn 3, which sent Loeb into the gravel. Luckily he had four-wheel-drive on the car, so he was able to dig himself out again. Loeb caught up with Baumanis again, pushing him out of the way, in the fight for third.
A war broke out between Bakkerud, Kevin Hansen and Timmy Hansen in Turn 1, where the Norwegian made it ahead of the two Swedes, with a gentle push. Kristoffersson got squeezed by Bakkerud towards Tun 1, and ended up P4 in the heat. Kristoffersson was extremely unhappy about the manoeuvre and marched to Bakkerud, and ripped his door open, using a lot of unpleasant Swedish words.
In Q4 there was a clash between Janis Baumanis and Guerlain Chicherit in Turn 1, with the two dropping far back. That cost Chicherit a position in the semi finals, just by a single point.
Liam Doran was heading towards the semis but was disqualified from Q1, since the scrutineers found out that he had hit the Launch Control button during the heat, which isn’t allowed, since it could work as Traction Control. Even though it was just an unlucky touch of the button on his handbrake leaver, rules are rules, stating that he had to be disqualified.
Kevin Hansen and Kevin Eriksson had a contact with each other, so the front wheels of Hansen shortly were into the air, before he landed again – and completed the pass. These Rallycross boys never lift off the throttle.
The last heat in Q4 was a huge mess going into Turn 1, where Timmy Hansen, Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud were all broadside, hitting each other. Timmy was the fastest driver to get the car straight up, while Solberg almost stalled at the start, ended up dead last, since he didn’t have the speed for more.
After the four Qualifying rounds we had Johan Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen, Petter Solberg, Kevin Hansen, Anton Marklund and Janis Baumanis in Semi 1, while Andreas Bakkerud, Mattias Ekström, Niclas Grönholm, Sebastien Loeb, Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson in Semi 2.
Famous names like Guerlain Chicherit, Timur Timerzyanov and Liam Doran took no further part in the weekend.
It was carnage at the start of Semi finale 1, where Kristoffersson got a bad getaway, but tried to close the door on Solberg, who had gotten a much better start. Solberg got squeezed between Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen. In Turn 1 we had a collision between Kristoffersson and Solberg out front, which slowed the whole field down, so Marklund, Baumanis and Timmy Hansen collided. Baumanis was the first of those three to get away, while Timmy and Anton hit each other again, going towards Turn 3. That led to Marklund retiring with heavy damage to his car, while the others could continue.
Kevin Hansen took his Joker on the 4th lap, while Kristoffersson followed one lap later.
Kristoffersson ended up winning Semi 1 ahead of Solberg and Kevin Hansen. Goodbye to Janis Baumanis, Timmy Hansen and Anton Marklund.
Ekström got the best start, while Grönholm sneaked ahead in Turn 1, followed by Bakkerud. Bakkerud sneaked past on the second lap, making it an EKS Audi Sport 1-2. Grönholm and Larsson were the first two to Joker, while Eriksson took his on the penultimate lap.
There was a hard contact between Sebastien Loeb and Kevin Eriksson on the penultimate lap, where Loeb tried to squeeze his way past on the inside, but had an Armco on one side and a Ford Focus RS on the other side, ripping the front wheel off his Peugeot 208 WRX, and had to retire only a few meters later.
Ekström won ahead of Bakkerud and Grönholm, while Kevin Eriksson, Sebastien Loeb and Robin Larsson were out.
That left just the final to be decided.
It was a dramatic start to the final, where Solberg tried to take the long way around the outside, but ended up leaving the track himself. Bakkerud took the lead, when Kristoffersson pushed Ekström into the barriers.
Kristoffersson pushed his way past Bakkerud on the second lap.
The race was red-flagged on Lap 4, when Kevin Hansen hit the barriers very hard, so his yellow Peugeot 208 WRX ended up in the middle of the track. Due to the impact, the medical persons were scrambled right way, so they could check if Kevin was OK. The Swede complained about back pain, so he was taken to the hospital for more checks, but luckily everything was OK.
The first 4 laps didn’t count, and the 5 remaining cars would start the final once again.
Kristoffersson got the best start at the restart of the finale, ahead of Ekström and Bakkerud, while Solberg and Grönholm were last.
Grönholm opted to do his Joker Lap right away, to get clear track. Solberg jokered one lap later.
Bakkerud was in the alternative lane two laps later, exiting right ahead of Solberg and Grönholm, who were bumper to bumper.
Solberg’s engine boiled over, so he had to park it on the penultimate lap.
Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström were in the Joker on the very final lap, and nobody could stop the Swede taking his 10th out of 11 rounds this year. Andreas Bakkerud finished third, ahead of Niclas Grönholm.
The fight for second in the World Championship still has Mattias Ekström ahead of Andreas Bakkerud, Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb while Timmy Hansen is out of the battle for the medals.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden won the Teams Championship with the results today, while EKS Audi Sport is still second ahead of Team Peugeot Total. GRX Taneco, GC Kompetition and Olsbergs MSE are sure to finish 4th, 5th and 6th, with no chance of any position changes.
The season finale in the FIA World Rallycross Championship will be run on 24-25 November in South Africa.