Top-level rallycross wasn't seen in Spain since the late 80s, when guys like Martin Schanche, Will Gollop, as well a younger Kenneth Hansen, teared the ground with their Group B monsters. In 2015, the action returned with the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the Circuito da Catalunya-Barcelona, famous for hosting the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix yearly, but now seeing what Petter Solberg can do when he is in full guts mode.
Solberg initially saw Timmy Hansen top the qualifying heats as he had a problem in the Heat 3 and lost terrain, but a sixth place would still put him in the finals. The star guests of the round, Timo Scheider and Tanner Foust, also had their ups and downs. Scheider struggled to make good results as it was his first outing in a rallycross supercar, and he was eliminated, while Foust turned a failure in one of the heats into excellent performances in the other three ones, barely putting him in the finals.
The first semifinal starts and Mattias Ekström slingshots himself ahead, but he carried too much speed into Turn 1, paying him an off-track trip and making him lose positions as Timmy Hansen, Reinis Nitiss and Robin Larsson gone ahead, with Larsson overtaking Nitiss a while after. Nitiss put himself in more trouble as Andreas Bakkerud pulled an inside move to pass his Olsbergs MSE team-mate, jumping to third position.
On lap 4, Ekström would try to use the advantadge of an early joker into the leaders, but the strategy didn't work. In a flawless race, Hansen brought his Team Peugeot-Hansen 208 to the finish with a lot of gap, while Larsson came in second. The blow for third-placed Bakkerud came exactly in the joker, as Tanner Foust took the opportunity to pass, the third spot and a place and in the final.
In the second one, Johan Kristoffersson jumps ahead while Davy Jeanney gets his mirrors full with the pressure of Solberg and Toomas Heikkinen. The Team Peugeot-Hansen's French side made sure Solberg won't pass under any circumstances, as even hitting the tire barriers and exposing Peugeot's front suspension didn't seem to be a problem.
The situation hasn't changed until the last lap, with Kristoffersson winning by a good margin, and Solberg driving in the limit to make sure that even after doing the joker he won't lose a spot to Jeanney, and so he did, finally claiming the second place while Jeanney stayed in third.
Results of the Barcelona RX semifinals
Lights were green for the final, and Hansen forces Kristoffersson to the outside of Turn 1 to take the lead, but both wouldn't count with a sneaky Solberg taking the inside line and doing a double overtake.From that moment on, Solberg made light mistakes, but started to open a comfortable lead, with both Team Peugeot-Hansen cars behind, as if playing catch with the Norwegian driver in an effort to put Hansen in the lead because of the championship.
But both Peugeot drivers would have more surprises, as when both made their jokers, Johan Kristoffersson pulled ahead, jumping from fourth to second. Solberg then just had to carry his SDRX DS3 to the finish, while Kristoffersson held a charging Hansen to stay in second.
Result of the Barcelona RX final
After a burst of enthusiasm and celebration, Solberg talked to Neil Cole about his third triumph in the championship, as he said: "We're fighting for the World Championship. We were colse so many times, but the team made a good job in the car. I've worked in the details all weekend and tried to do as I did now."
Solberg is still the king of the hill in the drivers championship, as he leads with 243 against 208 of his sole title rival Hansen, but the Team Peugeot-Hansen still leads between the teams, with 374 points against 297 of Olsbergs MSE and 267 of SDRX.
The next stop of the World RX spectacle will be in a former F1 circuit, as the Istambul Park in Turkey will hold the eleventh round of the season, on October 2nd.
PHOTOS: Petter Solberg, Team Peugeot-Hansen