The third round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship took place in Hell, Norway and proved to be another exciting encounter with more twists and turns taking place in this year epic season.
In the buildup to the event it was confirmed that Gymkhana Star Ken Block would make his World RX debut in his famous Mk 7 Ford Fiesta Supercar whilst DTM star Mattias Ekstrom also joined the Championship in his own ESRX team, running two Audi S1 Supercars in Red Bull colours for himself and Pontus Tidemand. However there was drama for the Albatec Racing squad before the event took place with Jacques Villenueve rolling his Peugeot 208 in testing Holjes leading to Team Principal Andy Scott stepping aside to allow Villeneuve to use his own 208 Supercar.
With another high number of 35 Supercars entered for the event, competition would be close over the weekend with a lot of teams and drivers looking to improve on previously poor weekends this season and Practice confirmed this. Peugeot-Hansen Superstar Timmy Hansen set the fastest time in his Peugeot-Hansen 208 WRX Supercar whilst team-mate Timur Timerzyanov was right behind him with the benefits of testing showing for the team.
Day one of the Heat Stages showed some impressive performances from different drivers. Villenueve beat Petter Solberg to take his first ever heat race win whilst Liam Doran won his heat race showing improved pace after two dire weekends. The ESRX Audi S1's were on the pace through the first day as well whilst Ken Block settled himself in for the weekend.
At the end of Day One and Heats One and Two, it was Ford OslbergMSE's Reinis Nitiss leading the standings from Doran and VW-Marklund's Toomas "Topi" Heikkinen with Timerzyanov, Hansen, Anton Marklund, Solberg and Emil Ohman completing the top eight positions. Villeneuve and Block were twelfth and thirteenth respectively with Championship leader Andreas Bakkerud down in 21st position after a poor Day One.
Day Two saw the Heat Three races get underway with Tommy Rustad winning race one whilst local man Daniel Holten won race two. Race three was won by by Petter Solberg's team-mate Alexander Hvaal in a better showing whilst Henning Solberg took victory in race number four. The fifth race in Heat Three was won by Andreas Bakkerud after early leader Peter Hedstrom in his Skoda took a late Joker lap and Dorans team-mate Krzysztof Skorupski retired.
Race Six saw a jump start for Tidemand, meaning he had two Joker laps to do whilst Marklund took the win ahead of Block. Race Seven saw impressive performances from Timerzyanov and Doran with Doran taking the race win from the Russian on the last lap in what was a very close final heat three race. This left Doran leading the Heat Three standings from Nitiss, Timerzyanov, Heikkinen, Marklund, Hansen, Solberg, Block, Emil Ohman, Villeneuve, Henning Solberg and Tidemand with Bakkerud in thirteenth place outside the cut off.
After Heat Four was completed, the places were set for the two six lap Semi-Finals to take place with Doran, Timerzyanov, Petter Solberg, Marklund, Holten and Henning Solberg all confirmed in Semi-Final One.
At the start, Doran and Timerzyanov squabbled for the lead into turn one whilst the two Solbergs and Marklund opted for an early Joker lap. Timerzyanov took the lead from Doran who stayed close to the Russian in the lead battle. Holten fell back with issues as Petter Solberg closed on the lead two with Henning Solberg ahead of Marklund. Doran fell back with a puncture which led to a broken wheel. Solberg took the lead on the final lap as Timerzyanov took his Joker Lap leaving Petter to win ahead of the Peugeot Hansen driver and Henning Solberg completing the top three.
Semi-Final Two consisted of Nitiss, Heikkinen, Hansen, Block, Ohman and Bakkerud on the grid. Hansen made a great start from row two to lead Bakkerud and Heikkinen into the Joker Lap whilst Nitiss led Block on track. Heikkinen spun around after contact with Bakkerud as the conditions became worse. Ohman retired on lap three as Hansen hunted down Block and Nitiss. As Nitiss and Block took their Joker Laps on the final lap Hansen slotted into second place and pursued Nitiss, bein beaten by the Latvian over the finish line by a hundredth of a second with Block third.
The SuperCar Final saw Nitiss on Pole from Petter Solberg, with the two Peugeot-Hansen drivers of Timerzyanov and Hansen on row two and Block joining Henning Solberg on row three. Nitiss led away from the grid, however the fast starting Petter Solberg took Hansen, Henning and Block with him on the Joker lap with Henning making contact with Hansen, allowing Block into fifth whilst Nitiss led Timerzyanov on track. Solberg set about catching the lead pair as Block took fourth from Henning Solberg who had suspension issues after his earlier contact with Hansen.
Timerzyanov took his Joker Lap on lap four, allowing the flying Petter Solberg to take second place and also allowing Ken Block to pass through into third. Meanwhile Nitiss kept setting fastest times to build a big enough gap to allow him to take his Joker Lap on the final lap and come out in the lead still, ahead of Solberg who pushed the Ford all the way to the line, but it was Nitiss who would take his first World RX Supercar win from Solberg and Block with Timerzyanov, Henning Solberg and Hansen completing the race.
This all means that Reinis Nitiss now leads the Drivers Championship by three points from Petter Solberg with Toomas Heikkinen in third and Andreas Bakkerud dropping to fourth.
FIA World Rallycross Drivers Championship
1. Reinis Nitiss 72 points
2. Petter Solberg 69 points
3. Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen 60 points
4. Andreas Bakkerud 56 points
5. Timur Timerzyanov 41 points
6. Anton Marklund 39 points
7. Timmy Hansen 37 points
8. Robin Larsson 25 points
FIA World Rallycross Teams Championship
1. Ford Olsbergs MSE 128 points
2. Volkswagen Marklund 99 points
3. PSRX 78 points
4. Team Peugeot-Hansen 78 points
5. Monster Energy WorldRX Team 18 points
6. Albatec Racing 14 points.
After this weekend, it was good to see both tge Peugeot-Hansen Team and the Monster Energy World RX Team show some good, fast pace and score some good points in both championships. This weekend was also Round Two of the European Rallycross Championship with Championship leader Robin Larsson suffering this weekend in his Audi A1 Supercar with gearbox and suspension problems but he was still fast and will be a constant title contender. Henning Solberg now leads Larsson by four points with Emil Ohman tying for second place as well.
The next round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, the World RX of Finland will take place at Kouvola from 28-29 June. Thats also the same weekend where the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Croft...which means a cracking weekend of tintop racing!!!