The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit saw this Sunday (18) a change in its possibilities of fun with the ninth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and Mattias Ekström continued his winning tradition by leaving Spain with another triumph.
The Swedish heroes Timmy Hansen, Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström shared the qualifier heat wins and were the top-3, with Andreas Bakkerud coming as a strong outsider to ruin the party.
Hansen and Ekström were the top on the grid for Semifinal 1 and both kept their authority with Ekström in first while Petter Solberg’s position climb saw a determined Robin Larsson get in his way, stealing by force the third position.
Larsson’s bet was in an early Joker Lap, and with this he was able to hold Solberg and Sébastien Loeb, but the rally master wouldn’t quit the last spot in the final so easily, chasing Larsson until a crash in the barriers and a spin brought the Team Peugeot-Hansen driver to a halt. The 3-way battle was enough to give room for Ekström to come home first and Timmy Hansen in second, and even though the gap was close, Solberg wasn’t able to offer a challenge to third-placed Larsson.
Second semifinal is a go and while Johan Kristoffersson held the lead a four-way battle for second was won immediately by Timur Timerzyanov. Although pretty close, Kristoffersson and Timerzyanov kept a high pace and distanced themselves from the competition, with Toomas Heikkinen being in a lone third place.
Heikkinen then was trapped by Janis Baumanis when the Finn left the Joker losing his third place, and things just got better for World RX Team Austria, with Timerzyanov overtaking Kristoffersson in the last corner of the final lap and winning the semifinal 2.
Bakkerud was later on excluded due to excessive contact, received then a black flag.
Point a favorite to the final at Barcelona was a difficult task even with the big names there, but Mattias Ekström proved his worth at the start and became the early leader with Timerzyanov on his tail.
Ekström, Timerzyanov and Hansen were delaying the Joker as much as possible due to the tight battle, and going earlier proved to be a bad choice for Timerzyanov as he was unable to hold the leaders, eventually losing even the podium when Kristoffersson passed him after the hairpin. A bit ahead, the EKSRX boss was unstoppable, leaving only the rear view of his Audi S1 to Timmy Hansen as he conquered his fourth win in the 2016 season.
Kristoffersson received a black flag later on and was excluded from the final, promoting Timerzyanov to the podium.
Ekström now holds a 10-point lead in the standings against Solberg, with them having 204 and 194 points respectively, while Kristoffersson can remotely think in the title with his 178 points. EKSRX also leads in the teams standings with 318 points while Team Peugeot-Hansen, their only potential rival, has 297 points.
On October 2nd Latvia officially joins the World RX history with the event at the Bikernieki National Sports Base, with Reinis Nitiss and Janis Baumanis being the main attractions, along with the return of Gigi Galli and his Kia Rio RX.