Argentina again is the place for the season finale of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, but this is also the last event to be held at Rosario as the circuit will give place to Cape Town, South Africa, from 2017 onwards. Andreas Bakkerud got the last win of the season, and EKSRX celebrated their first teams’ championship title.
With the title race lost, Petter Solberg promised to go for the event win, and in the qualifying heats he proved his will by winning from Q1 to Q4, leaving no chance for the opposition. While that, the teams’ title was still up for grabs, and EKSRX was with the upper hand with both Mattias EKström and Toomas Heikkinen in the semifinals, while Team Peugeot-Hansen only had Sébastien Loeb to keep fighting as Timmy Hansen missed the advance by a little.
Semifinal 1 started with Ekström doing a jump start and adding a Joker lap to his account, and then when things went for real, Ekström and Johan Kristoffersson had clear path ahead while Timur Timerzyanov made a mess into turn 1, throwing away the good start of Janis Baumanis and promoting Petter Solberg to third place.
Unfortunately for Solberg, damage in the left front wheel slowed him down and ended with his hopes when he crashed into the barriers on lap 5, with Heikkinen getting the third place. Right ahead, the double Joker that Ekström had to make took his lead away and Kristoffersson won the heat. Solberg still drove the smashed car to the finish and the team started fixing it while hoping to capitalize in a protest, but the effort went to nowhere.
In the second semifinal, more first corner mess shuffles positions except for the leader Andreas Bakkerud, with Timo Scheider and Robin Larsson coming in second and third.
Bakkerud was miles ahead while Scheider was having a comfortable run, with only Larsson having to keep pushing to escape from Loeb. The WRC champion tried a maneuver, only to be thrown out by Larsson. Bakkerud won it with Scheider keeping his second place and Larsson crossed in this, finally without opposition.
Bakkerud started the final with a strong lead with Kristoffersson and Heikkinen going for the chase. Ekström was the first to Joker, but it would need more to overcome Bakkerud’s pace.
Curiously, EKström was blocked by Heikkinen when the Finnish driver left the Joker, and with both EKSRX cars way behind, Bakkerud’s job was to just go to the Joker and hold Kristoffersson at bay, which the Hoonigan boy thoroughly did, winning his third event in the season, more even than Solberg.
The bad final run for Solberg cost him the runner-up place as Kristoffersson ended the championship in second with 240 points and Bakkerud had the same 239 points of Solberg, but had more wins in the season. EKSRX clinched the teams’ championship with 422 points against 387 of Team Peugeot-Hansen.
The 2017 season starts on April 2nd at Barcelona, but we still have a 2016 season review coming here.
PHOTO: FIA World Rallycross