Ekstrom Regains Championship Lead

WRX hit Barcelona last weekend for round nine of the championship. A combination of Formula One tarmac corners and tricky technical dirt sections would be the challenge for the drivers on what was a a glorious weekend.

Loheac had seen around 80,000 fans attend the event which was eventually won by Johan Kristoffersson and catapulted him up the standings.

“We’ve been working hard and everything his about winning in the end.” Kristoffersson said.

Petter Solberg came to Barcelona with a very slim lead over rival Mattias Ekstrom with just five points separating the two drivers. With his win at Loheac, Kristoffersson sat third with a one point lead over Bakkerud who was sixteen points ahead of Sebastien Loeb. That was the top five as WRX landed in Spain.

“It’s a good competition, I’ve started to think about the championship now. Obviously five points is not a lot, but Ekstrom has been extremely good.” Solberg commented.

In the team standings EKS lead the way followed by Team Peugeot Hansen and then VW RX Sweden. It is the team sittig in fourth place who have begun to impress in 2016. In their debut season, Hoonigan Racing Division with Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud had been testing in between rounds with the Ford Focus and it looks like those tests are starting to pay off.

The circuit is 1137m in length, but with the joker it is extended to 1288m. A track that is 59% asphalt and 41% dirt it is challenging and runs in an anti-clockwise direction. An uphill start to the first long left hander and downhill to turn two, shift down a couple of gears into the left hander and the drivers will meet their first transition to dirt into a right and then left hander, trying to stay clear of the tyre walls. They will have to fight for traction downhill towards the first of the hairpins, a handbrake turn, accelerate uphill to the tarmace and then back onto the dirt into the left hander. The cars will need to stay tight through the right and then left turn before negotiating the jump into the right hander. This is where the drivers will decide whether to go straight on for the joker or go round to do it all over again.

Welcome to Barcelona.

Sweden’s Mattias Ekstrom took a lights-to-flag victory at World RX of Barcelona, round nine of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, to regain the World RX Championship lead from Petter Solberg. It is Ekstrom’s fourth victory of the season for EKS.

Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timmy Hansen was runner-up while World RX Team Austria’s Timur Timerzyanov took his first podium of the year after placing third. In the FIA European Rallycross Championship, where Barcelona marked the penultimate round, it was Kevin Hansen who took the victory and also won the Championship with one event still remaining.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy,” said the elated 18-year-old.

One round of Euro RX remains in Latvia in two weeks’ time but Hansen’s four event wins and 30-point lead makes it impossible for his competitors to catch him in the overall standings. Norwegian drivers Tommy Rustad and Tord Linnerud finished second and third respectively.

“I’m really happy – to win a race in World RX makes me smile every time,” admitted Barcelona RX winner, Ekstrom, who also scooped the Monster Energy Super Charge Award for beating his competitors to the first corner during today’s final. “At the start of the season, there were only a few drivers who could take a victory but now there are so many who can win – the competition is very tough and you need to be on your A-game throughout the weekend to be in with a chance. This weekend the competition has been fierce so this win feels even more special.”

Ekstrom’s victory this weekend now sees the Swede lead the World RX driver standings by 10 points but the question remains as to whether he is able to miss a round of DTM in order to compete at Buxtehude in Germany next month. Ekstrom took up the story:

“The entry deadline for the Buxtehude race is next week so I’ve been getting asked about what I’m doing a lot at the moment. I haven’t missed a single DTM race in 15 years so it’s a big discussion. I will speak to my bosses tomorrow morning to see what they say but it’s in their hands so I will respect whatever decision they make.”

Runner-up Timmy Hansen was Top Qualifier at the end of the four qualifying sessions, and spoke positively about the performance of his Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar over the weekend.

“The car has been working very well – the whole weekend we’ve had very good starts and the team have done a great job with the car following my test last week,” explained the 24-year-old. “I want to say that I’m very proud of my brother Kevin, who has already won the Euro RX Championship with one round remaining – I’ve always known how fast he’s been and I’m really happy for him.”

World RX Team Austria had an impressive weekend with its Ford Fiesta RX Supercars as team-mates Timerzyanov and Janis Baumanis finished third and fourth respectively. It is the first time this season that both World RX Team Austria drivers have reached the final and Timerzyanov started on the front row after winning the second semi-final. The result is even more special for the Austrian-based team after an incident with Timerzyanov’s car at the previous round in France meant the squad had to change the chassis in order for him to drive this weekend.

“We are delighted with this result after a difficult season and we are now looking forward to Riga,” said team boss, Max Pucher.

Audi privateer driver Robin Larsson finished fifth, the Swede having retired from today’s final after damaging a wheel. Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson initially finished third but was later demoted to sixth place for pushing. Reigning Champion Solberg finished the weekend in seventh position.

“Frustration is definitely the word from here,” explained Solberg. “We made it through qualifying into the semi-final and that race started OK. I made a good start from where I was on the grid. I was behind Loeb going down the hairpin and then Larsson hit me and knocked me wide. After that, I did everything I could, I tried my best to come back at them [Loeb and Larsson fighting ahead], but the final wasn’t possible this time. I’m really disappointed, but let’s look forward and push on for the next race.”

Elsewhere, double DTM champion Timo Scheider made his return to World RX and finished 17th in the Intermediate Classification standings in a Munnich Motorsport Seat Ibiza, one place ahead of Ken Block who had a challenging weekend in his Hoonigan Racing Division prepared Ford Focus RS RX after suffering gearbox problems in Q3.

In the fifth round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, Denmark’s Ulrik Linnemann triumphed in his Peugeot 208. Hungary’s Luigi finished runner-up at the wheel of his Skoda Fabia and Lithuania’s Kasparas Navickas was third in another Skoda Fabia.

In the penultimate round of the supporting RX Lites Cup, it was Cyril Raymond who took three qualifying wins and the overall victory. Norwegians Thomas Bryntesson and Simon Wago Syversen finished second and third. Raymond’s win this weekend has seen the Frenchman extend his lead over Bryntesson in the overall standings by eight points. World RX Managing Director for IMG, Paul Bellamy, concluded:

“We’ve had 28,000 passionate motorsport fans travel to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend. Well done to Mattias who took a well-deserved victory and in doing so managed to move ahead of Petter in the overall standings, which has made this year’s title fight even more exciting. Now it remains to be seen whether Mattias will be able to compete in Germany or whether he will be required to race in DTM. Either way, it’s going to be a very exciting final three rounds. It’s also been a very positive weekend for Peugeot with Kevin Hansen crowned Euro RX Champion and Timmy Hansen finishing second in World RX. The Hansen family now have 15 Euro RX titles between them, which is a staggering achievement. We now look forward to Riga with the World Championship visiting Latvia for the first time.”

A new location awaits the World RX crews for round 10 of the World Championship as the team prepare to compete at the all-new rallycross circuit at the Bikernieki circuit in Riga, Latvia. Neste World RX of Latvia will take place in just under two weeks’ time (1-2 October).

STANDINGS

SUPERCARS – WRX

1st – Mattias Ekstrom – Audi S1 – 204pts

2nd – Petter Solberg – Citroen DS3 – 194pts

3rd – Johan Kristoffersson – VW Polo – 178pts

4th – Andreas Bakkerud – Ford Focus RS – 170pts

5th – Sebastien Loeb – Peugeot 208 – 154pts

6th – Timmy Hansen – Peugeot 208 – 143pts

7th – Toomas Heikkinen – Audi S1 – 114pts

8th – Robin Larsson – Audi A1 – 85pts

9th – Timur Timerzyanov – Ford Fiesta – 84pts

10th – Jani Baumanis – Ford Fiesta – 75pts

SUPERCARS – ERX

1st – Kevin Hansen – Peugeot 208 – 117pts

2nd – Tord Linnerud – VW Polo – 87pts

3rd – Jerome Grosset-Janin – Peugeot 208 – 82pts

4th – Tommy Rustad – Peugeot 208 – 67pts

5th – Fredrick Salsten – Peugeot 208 – 66pts

6th – Tamas-Pal Kiss – Peugeot 208 – 58pts

7th – Peter Hedstrom – Ford Fiesta – 53pts

8th – Alexander Hvaal – VW Beetle – 39pts

9th – Tamas Karai – Audi A1 – 35pts

10th – Joni-Pekka Rajala – VW Beetle – 33pts

SUPER1600

1st – Ulrik Linnemann – Peugeot 208 – 114pts

2nd – Krisztian Szabo – Skoda Fabia – 108pts

3rd – Timur Shigabutdinov – Renault Twingo – 71pts

4th – Artis Baumanis – Renault Twingo – 64pts

5th – Janno Ligur – Skoda Fabia – 62pts

6th – Kasparas Navickas – Skoda Fabia – 61pts

7th – Ondrej Smetana – Ford Fiesta – 54pts

8th – Luigi – Skoda Fabia – 51pts

9th – Ernestas Staponkus – VW Polo – 48pts

10th – Pavel Vimmer – Skoda Fabia – 45pts

TOURING CARS

1st – Ben-Philip Gundersen – Ford Fiesta – 72pts

2nd – Magda Andersson – Ford Fiesta – 61pts

3rd – Fredrik R. Magnussen – Ford Fiesta – 54pts

4th – Per-Magne Royras – Mazda RX8 – 51pts

5th – Anders Nymoen Braten – Ford Fiesta – 44pts

6th – Philip Gehrman – Ford Fiesta – 41pts

7th – Daniel Lundh – Volvo C30 – 38pts

8th – Torleif-Haugenes Lona – Ford Fiesta – 38pts

9th – Kjetil Larsen – Skoda Fabia – 32pts

10th – David S. Nordgard – Ford Fiesta – 27pts

RX LITES

1st – Cyril Raymond – 158pts

2nd – Thomas Bryntesson – 150pts

3rd – Simon Olofsson – 128pts

4th – Joachim Hvaal – 115pts

5th – Simon Wago Syversen – 103pts

6th – Sondre Evjen – 78pts

7th – Tejas Hirani – 78pts

8th – Thomas Holmen – 39pts

9th – Alexander Westlund – 38pts

10th – Saeed Bintouq – 33pts

See you at the chequered flag.

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

All photo credits: FIAWorldRallycross.com

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