The FIA World Rallycross Championship visited Germany again this weekend, but now the venue was the classic Estering circuit in Buxtehude. In a weekend when Mattias Ekström ditched DTM in favor of his World RX title chances, the Swedish driver didn’t disappoint, finally getting the crown that was from Petter Solberg until today.
This was the opportunity to see the definition of the title race between Petter Solberg, Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström, but also a chance to see the Euro RX drivers facing the full time World RX competitors after the end of the European season, which included the 2016 champion Kevin Hansen. Petter Solberg had excellent runs on Q3 and Q4 and was the top qualifier, barely ahead of Ekström, and behind them we had two surprises as Kevin Hansen in third and Q1 winner Janis Baumanis in fourth.
Semifinal 1 started with Solberg having to deal with a hard charging Kevin Hansen, but once he was able to stick his Citroën DS3 RX ahead, he was no match for the rest of the field. Solberg’s pace was in another level compared to his opponents, but Kevin Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud were also fast, enough to leave the tricky Estering joker without losing positions, and so eliminating Timmy Hansen, Sébastien Loeb and Toomas Heikkinen.
Ekström needed to do his job in semifinal 2 after Solberg’s impressive performance, and he delivered the expected performance right at the start, not giving a slight chance to Kevin Eriksson to overtake him. A bit behind, johan Kristoffersson did a nice maneuver to jump to third, leaving Davy Jeanney behind.
Ekström and Eriksson were way faster than anyone, and went to the finish keeping their positions, with Kristoffersson barely qualifying to the final by beating Janis Baumanis after the joker.
The final had Ekström and Solberg on the first row, but it was a question of a corner to see Kevin Eriksson steal the attention and the lead of the race by going totally sideways while Ekström was thrown to fifth due to a mistake. Eriksson’s mission would be tough with Solberg and Bakkerud close to him, and somehow the circuit’s tricky layout helped him to keep the first position and get his debut win with some ease. Solberg still had to battle with Bakkerud for the second place, being able to pass only before the finish line, and Ekström didn’t go past fifth place, but this was enough to secure the 2016 season title.
Ekström’s advantage of 30 points to Solberg (251 vs. 221) gives the first World RX title to the EKSRX owner after two seasons as a full time competitor. He can still lift the teams’ trophy in Argentina as the battle is still open, with EKSRX having 385 against 368 from Team Peugeot-Hansen. The season finale at Rosario will be on November 25th.