Latvia held its first FIA World Rallycross Championship event this weekend at the capital Riga, and along with a circuit debut in the Bikernieki Sports Base, it was also the first World RX win for the rally legend and multitask driver Sébastien Loeb, overcoming tricky surfaces like in his WRC days.
This weekend could be counted as the worst one for Petter Solberg, as a contact with Mattias Ekström in Q2 disqualified him from the heat, which was Solberg’s first DQ in his three years of World RX. To worsen the situation, he crashed into the barriers in Q3 as the rain hit the circuit hard and made things really difficult, making him unable to reach the semifinals for the first time, staying in 19th after the qualifiers.
The top of the table saw Johan Kristoffersson as the top qualifier, with Andreas Bakkerud in second with strong performances and Mattias Ekström in third, trying to capitalize more into Solberg’s bad weekend. The other surprise of the weekend was a good one, as the updated SEAT Ibiza RX qualified to the semifinals thanks to DTM ace Timo Scheider, who managed to stay in eighth in the table.
Local presence was the attraction of the first semifinal, with Janis Baumanis achieving third place right at the start, although the local hero ended up in the wall later on. With the top-3 formed by Johan Kristoffersson, Sébastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen being a bit ahead, it would be a tough race for Reinis Nitiss.
Loeb tried to attack Kristoffersson in the final lap, which proved to be the right choice as he won the race by a tiny margin, with Timmy Hansen completing the top-3. Both Latvia representatives couldn’t do much to change their troubled races, ending in fifth and sixth.
The second semifinal started with Timur Timerzyanov chasing Mattias Ekström for first place while Andreas Bakkerud had to deal with a charging Timo Scheider while in third place. With the increasing gap between the first two and the third, it the last Final spot would be down to a battle between Bakkerud, Davy Jeanney and Scheider, with Robin Larsson as the outsider. Both Ekström and Timerzyanov didn’t take any risks, finishing first and second, while Bakkerud’s solid race kept the third spot for him.
The final was expected to be awesome in the rain and Loeb dealt with Ekström quickly, blocking his way and taking first place. Unlike the others, Timerzyanov didn’t go past the first corner, crashing heavily in the wall but leaving his Ford Fiesta ST as quickly as possible without any injuries.
Incredibly solid in the lead, Loeb was able to even open the gap to Ekström, with fastest lap after fastest lap to then go for the Joker in the fifth lap, leaving it without any interference, just having to keep it tidy until the finish line.
Ekström built now a huge lead with his 228 points while Kristoffersson takes second place with 201 points, relegating Solberg to third with his 194 points. EKSRX situation in the teams’ standings got a bit tighter, as they lead with 353 points but Team Peugeot-Hansen is in close pursuit with 345 points.
Estering is the venue for the next World RX event on October 14th, and Mattias Ekström opted to defend his World RX lead rather than race in the DTM season finale at Hockenheim in the same weekend.
PHOTO: Team Peugeot-Hansen