BAKKERUD COMES OF AGE IN NOR­WAY T

The home­grown hero banks his first win of the year in Hell. By Hal Ridge

Motor Sport News - - World Rallycross - RE­SULTS FIA World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship, round 5/12 When: June10-12 Where: Hell, Nor­way Pho­tos: fi­a­worl­dral­ly­cross.com

he stage was set for a thrilling fi­nal-lap show­down. A re­ju­ve­nated triple Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship-win­ning Rus­sian, hav­ing his best week­end for longer than many in the pad­dock could re­mem­ber, was hunt­ing down the home hero, who was less than a hand­ful of laps away from scor­ing a clean-sweep and max­i­mum points score in a World RX event for the very first time.

Since win­ning back-to-back Euro­pean ti­tles in 2012 and 2013, Timur Timerzyanov hasn’t been able to recre­ate the same kind of form. He switched to an Ols­bergsmse Ford Fi­esta from a Peu­geot-hansen Peu­geot 208 for last sea­son but the move didn’t work, so a fur­ther move was made to the World RX Team Aus­tria squad for this year.

At the fifth round of the cham­pi­onship, Timerzyanov dom­i­nated both free prac­tice ses­sions on Fri­day evening and Satur­day morn­ing, half a sec­ond clear of any­one else. How­ever, come the qual­i­fy­ing races, while Timerzyanov con­tin­ued to run at the front and wound up sec­ond at the In­ter­me­di­ate Clas­si­fi­ca­tion, it was the dar­ling of the crowds, An­dreas Bakkerud who dom­i­nated.

The young Nor­we­gian Hooni­gan Rac­ing Divi­sion driver won each of the four qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions to start on pole po­si­tion for the first semi-fi­nal, which he duly won to se­cure the best start­ing po­si­tion for the fi­nal. Mean­while, in semi-fi­nal two, Timerzyanov led from pole po­si­tion as fel­low front-row starter Pet­ter Sol­berg took his joker lap im­me­di­ately. On the first of the six laps, Sol­berg pushed hard and by the end of lap two, had closed in on Timerzyanov enough that when the Rus­sian took his joker later in the race, Sol­berg could leapfrog into the lead. Timerzyanov wasn’t done there how­ever, the Rus­sian driver set­ting a string of awe­somely fast and con­sis­tent lap times to ex­tend his mar­gin at the front enough to joker on lap six and re­turn to the lead.

Cham­pi­onship leader Mat­tias Ek­strom be­hind had no re­sponse ei­ther and re­al­is­ing he couldn’t beat the leader, backed off to save his tyres for the fi­nal.

It was a sim­i­lar story in the fi­nal, but this time Timerzyanov took the joker on lap one while Bakkerud took the nor­mal route on the main cir­cuit. Both driv­ers made small er­rors on the open­ing lap. Bakkerud was fol­lowed by Timmy Hansen and Sol­berg while Timerzyanov was trailed by Ek­strom and Se­bastien Loeb. Bakkerud pushed hard up front, but Timerzyanov was do­ing the same fur­ther down the road, less than four sec­onds down the road by the start of lap four to be ex­act: the amount of time it takes to do the joker lap at the Nor­we­gian venue.

While Bakkerud re­sponded to a call from the team to in­crease the gap, Timerzyanov’s race was run on lap four, his Fi­esta pick­ing up a punc­ture. From sec­ond, Hansen took his joker on lap five and re­turned to the main track ahead of Timerzyanov. Ek­strom then passed the Rus­sian, fol­lowed by Sol­berg and Loeb.

The fi­nal-lap meet be­tween Timerzyanov and Bakkerud at the joker exit would have to be saved for an­other day, Bakkerud tak­ing his joker with­out trou­ble on the fi­nal tour to se­cure his first vic­tory with Ken Block’s team, and the first for the M-sport Ford Fo­cus RS RX.

The pres­sure to per­form from the hordes of ador­ing fans hadn’t caused Bakkerud to put a foot wrong, even hav­ing to deal with a trans­mis­sion is­sue in the clos­ing stages of the race. The 2016 run­ning of his home round of the cham­pi­onship was the event where the boy pre­vi­ously known as Baby Blue, grew up. Hansen fin­ished sec­ond, with Ek­strom sal­vaging third from a dif­fi­cult week­end for the cham­pi­onship leader.

De­spite Sol­berg tak­ing a pair of points out of his five-point mar­gin at the in­ter­me­di­ate stage, Ek­strom took those two points back in the semi and fi­nal, the gap re­main­ing at five points as the cham­pi­onship nears the half­way stage. Sol­berg also had an off-form event and fin­ished fourth with Loeb fifth and Timerzyanov sixth.

“I’m very, very happy. I’m liv­ing the dream do­ing this at the mo­ment,” said Bakkerud. “I was very ner­vous be­fore the fi­nal. In free prac­tice and warm-up Timur [Timerzyanov] took over half a sec­ond out of me and he was re­ally fast, but I think he had a prob­lem in the fi­nal. I did every­thing I could.”

Hooni­gan Rac­ing Divi­sion team man­ager Derek Dauncey praised the squad’s young charger. “An­dreas was so amaz­ing this week­end,” he said. “He had a lot of pres­sure and he han­dled it in­cred­i­bly well.”

Bri­tish driver Liam Do­ran rolled his JRM Rac­ing Mini RX af­ter first cor­ner con­tact in Q2 on Satur­day af­ter­noon. The team re­paired the car ready for Q3 and he was able to com­plete the event, al­beit down in 17th.

Nor­we­gian was the dar­ling of the large crowd Bakkerud came out ahead of Hansen

Timerzyanov was a form man

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