Ekström resists Loeb's pressure for Montalegre RX win

The second round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Montalegre, Portugal, was giving all the chances to win to PSRX Volkswagen, but then a determined Mattias Ekström appeared to turn the table and get the first triumph for current champions EKS RX this season.

The qualifying was like a PSRX Volkswagen show as Petter Solberg dominated the table with Mattias Ekström in second, although Johan Kristoffersson was leading until he messed up things a bit by not going to the Joker on Q3. Another potential contender that was in big trouble for forgetting to Joker was Hoonigan's Andreas Bakkerud, but he compensated his Q2 miss with impressive runs in Q3 and Q4, jumping from 23rd to 10th and qualifying to the semifinals.

On semifinal 1 PSRX Volkswagen cars had the front row all for them, and Solberg took normal route while Kristoffersson went to the Joker as part of their split strategy. Both Polo GTI cars were on a heavy charge with Kevin Hansen between them, but once Kevin went to the Joker the Volkswagen 1-2 returned and Reinis Nitiss appeared from way behind them to steal the last qualification spot to the final as Kevin Hansen was unable to react.

The second semifinal was deemed to be the toughest one, and EKS RX took the upper hand with Mattias Ekström and Toomas Heikkinen while Team Peugeot-Hansen opted for an early Joker for Sébastien Loeb and Timmy Hansen, while Andreas Bakkerud was eliminated due to a contact with Guy Wilks that destroyed the suspension of his Ford Focus RS RX.

While Ekström was leading comfortably, Heikkinen's wing mirrors were full of Peugeots, and Loeb and Timmy took second and third once Topi went to Joker, but although the strategy and pace were good, the French-Swedish combo was unable to pose a threat to Ekström's impressive run, outpacing both 208s and winning the race easily.

The final was a straightforward VW-Peugeot-Audi clash, and Solberg and Kristoffersson were for different tactics to take first and second places, while EKS RX split their cars and Peugeot-Hansen opted for an early Joker.

Solberg lost stability due to a rear left tire puncture on Lap 3 and this cost him big time on the Joker, sending him to the back of the pack, while Kristoffersson had his hands full with Reinis Nitiss, Ekström, Loeb and Hansen, but he was still a contender leaving the Joker in third. Unfortunately for him the pace was huge in the lead battle, and Ekström barely held Loeb for the win.

Ekström reigns supreme on top with 58 points while Kristoffersson and Solberg come behind him with 44 and 42 points respectively. Between the teams, PSRX Volkswagen leads with 86 points, barely ahead of EKS with 77 points, while Peugeot-Hansen and Hoonigan share the third place with 49 points.

On May 5th-7th the World RX visits its second FIA top-grade circuit as Hockenheim will share track time with DTM and its support races.

PHOTO: FIA World Rallycross Championship