The Lånkebanen circuit at Hell, Norway, was the venue of the fifth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and in this sunny weekend, Andreas Bakkerud won his first race in 2016 and made history for Hoonigan Racing Division.
The charismatic Norwegian did what Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekström tried and failed in previous races, as he had four perfect runs in the qualifiers and led without a doubt. Along with him, Timur Timerzyanov appeared as another Ford surprise this weekend, as his good runs gave him the second place in the intermediate standings. On the other edge of the table and of the luck, Ken Block had various problems with his car and a weekend to forget.
No thought of slowing down passed through Bakkerud’s mind in the first semifinal, as he rocketed his Ford Focus RS RX, leaving only dust to Timmy Hansen, Johan Kristoffersson and Toomas Heikkinen.
An early Joker Lap wasn’t a successful strategy for Sébastien Loeb after starting side by side with Bakkerud, but he was still able to salvage a third place, being unable to overtake his team mate Timmy Hansen, and miles away from semifinal winner Bakkerud.
In the second semifinal, Timerzyanov took early lead while his World RX Team Austria team mate, Janis Baumanis, was victim of the pace and aggressiveness of Mattias Ekström, who sent Baumanis off the racing line and almost into the barriers.
Unlike last year, when Timerzyanov destroyed his Ford Fiesta ST RX and some other cars in the process, the rapid Russian kept it clean, safe and in the lead from lights to flag, resisting to pressure from Ekström who was following him closely. Petter Solberg got the last spot to the final, trying everything in terms of driving to evade the pursuit of Davy Jeanney and Robin Larsson.
The surprises of the weekend were in the front row in the final, and took different paths as the race was on, with Bakkerud in the normal route while Timerzyanov went to the Joker Lap.
After that, Bakkerud’s job was trying to keep his good pace to be ahead of Timerzyanov at the exit of the Joker, but contact on Lap 5 took the Russian out of contention, promoting Timmy Hansen to second place and Mattias Ekström to third, but neither of them was able to cast a shadow into Bakkerud’s victory.
As a member of a new team, Bakkerud made history in various ways: first win of the Ford Focus RS RX after just five World RX events, first non-Scandinavian team to win in World RX and Hoonigan is the first American team to win in World RX.
Ekström still leads the championship with 125, but Solberg is right behind with 120, while winner Bakkerud is ffith with 81 points. EKSRX leads between the teams with 195 points against 151 Team Peugeot Hansen.
In three weeks time, on July 3rd, Höljes, in Sweden, completes the Scandinavian tour before World RX leaves Europe.