Ekström leads EKSRX 1-2 at Hockenheim

Mattias Ekström was like the fans present at Hockenheim, splitting attention between the FIA World Rallycross Championship and the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters. Although the Swede was as always trying his luck in two different competitions in the same day, at least the rallycross part was done deal for him, as EKSRX was the dominant force in German lands.

His domination started in the qualifying heats, as Ekström and Toomas Heikkinen were spread by a strong Johan Kristoffersson in a VAG Group 1-2-3. The huge blow of the Saturday was on Timmy Hansen’s side, when during the Q3 his Peugeot 208 WRX went down to flames, which were immediately controlled. The Team Peugeot Hansen driver went back to race in the Q4 with an emergency fix in the car, but the No. 21 Peugeot was underweight, and as a result, it was disqualified.

Then came the Sunday and the first semifinal, the EKSRX drivers protected their 1-2 from the Peugeot Hansen army right behind, with Topi Heikkinen taking the lead. While the Finnish driver opened the gap, Ekström acted as his shield from the fury of Sébastien Loeb, who missed the target and went down to fifth.

Eventually, both Peugeot Hansen cars missed the opportunity to pass Ekström, and this backfired on Davy Jeanney and Loeb, as Andreas Bakkerud put his Ford Focus RS RX in front of them and Robin Larsson in his Audi A1 RX, while Loeb had a hot meeting with the tire barrier. Larsson took advantadge of a swift Joker Lap and then jumped to third.

Heikkinen and Ekström were a mile ahead of the rest and guaranteed their places in the final, and in the other group, Jeanney tried a desperate move into Larsson but spun in the last corner after clipping the barriers. The outcome was an Audi 1-2-3, and Peugeot Hansen had a weekend to forget at Hockenheim.

The second semifinal went green with Johan Kristoffersson keeping the lead and being hit in the left rear corner of his Volkswagen Polo RX by Petter Solberg. Then the Volkswagen RX Sweden driver started the most epic position defence seen in World RX, as the left rear tire was touching the bent bodywork, and eventually got cut by it, leaving the Swedish driver with only three tires, but he led the field in pure Liam Doran style.

Do you think we forgot the rest of the field? No, as hell was raised between Janis Baumanis, Liam Doran and Petter Solberg, and as Baumanis left the Joker on Lap 4, Kristoffersson blocked his way and the same left rear corner of the Polo RX acted as a moving wall to Baumanis’s Ford Fiesta ST RX, destroying the front bodywork. Kristoffersson lost the lead in the start of the last lap, still trying to combat Ken Block to get the third place, but the effort was in vain, as Liam Doran won it, Solberg was second and Block got the last spot to the final.

As World RX voice Andrew Coley said: “You don’t get this in any forms of motorsports.” If you wanna see the modern iteration of a gladiator arena in form of a race, check the video below.

Final race is where everything is decided, and EKSRX continued the good work by having Heikkinen again in the lead while Ekström protected his second place. Ken Block then tried to press Ekström, but no gap appeared. On Lap 2 Solberg went too quick and almost hit the wall, and Larsson who was following him made it a bit more spectacular and rolled, but he went back to its wheels and kept going.

The Hockenheim Joker was the most favorable possible, and Ekström dashed into the outside of Heikkinen and took first place. The gaps then spread too much to let an opportunity to overtake, and this was enough for Ekström to win his first event of the season, for Heikkinen to complete the EKSRX 1-2, and for Block to repeat his best World RX, dating back from his one-off race at Hell, in Norway, in the 2014 season.

Ekström’s second race of the Sunday in DTM had him starting from the back of the field and although he fought his way through it, he had to retire due to problems from contact damage. Contact also happened in the DTM Race 1, where Ekström finished 9th, with Antônio Felix da Costa and later on with Gary Paffett, making the British driver very upset about it.

The World RX drivers’ standings has Ekström and Solberg tied with 48 points and Heikkinen on their heels with 45 points. Between the teams, EKSRX capitalized through its successful weekend with 93 points against 48 of Volkswagen RX Sweden and 40 of the Hoonigan Racing Division.

Take the short time until the World RX of Belgium to breathe a bit, as it will be held on May 15th at the Circuit Jules Tacheny, Mettet. François Duval is the wildcard entry of the event, keeping his tradition of participating of the Belgian round.

PHOTOS: EKSRX, Team Peugeot Hansen