HANSEN TURNS DE­SPAIR IN TO DE­LIGHT A

Swedish driver scrapes into the fi­nal, then wins By Hal Ridge “

Motor Sport News - - World Rallycross - Pho­tos: fi­a­worl­dral­ly­cross.com RE­SULTS Fi­a­world Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship, round 7/12 When: Au­gust 6/7 Where: Trois-riv­ieres, Canada Fi­nal: 6 laps

m I dream­ing? Hope­fully I’m not about to wake up in a minute,” said a stunned Timmy Hansen mo­ments be­fore the win­ner’s press con­fer­ence in Canada on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

The Swede had good rea­son to be stunned: less than half an hour be­fore he had been out of the sev­enth round of the World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship, set to go home af­ter a dif­fi­cult week­end where the team’s Peu­geot 208 strug­gled with a lack of straight-line speed. That is not par­tic­u­larly help­ful on the TroisRivieres street cir­cuit which has the long­est straight of the year.

How­ever, de­spite fin­ish­ing fourth to An­dreas Bakkerud, Timur Timerzyanov and Toomas Heikki­nen in the sec­ond semi-fi­nal, the SwedishFrench team repre­pared the car just in case there was a chance they could make it through to the fi­nal if one of the six qual­i­fiers didn’t make it to the grid.

Just up the road from Hansen in the semi, Timerzyanov had nudged Heikki­nen on his way into sec­ond po­si­tion in the penul­ti­mate cor­ner of the race and was later dis­qual­i­fied for the move. The re­sult of that meant Hansen was moved to the last spot on the fi­nal grid.

At the front of the six-car fi­nal grid, dou­ble World RX cham­pion Pet­ter Sol­berg lined up on pole po­si­tion. When World RX first vis­ited the fa­mous Cana­dian street cir­cuit in 2014, the Nor­we­gian made the event his. On the back of two ‘off form’ events by his own high stan­dards, Sol­berg had set fastest time in three of the qual­i­fy­ing ses­sions and dom­i­nated the first semi-fi­nal, win­ning his penul­ti­mate race of the week­end by al­most five sec­onds.

Timerzyanov had pushed Sol­berg hard through the qual­i­fy­ing stages, the Rus­sian’s World RX Team Aus­tria Ford Fi­esta us­ing a sim­i­lar spec Pipo Mo­teurs en­gine to that in Sol­berg’s Citroen DS3, ben­e­fit­ing both on the cir­cuit’s long straight.

The triple Euro­pean cham­pion had pushed Sol­berg es­pe­cially hard in Q3, in the rear of his car at the first cor­ner hav­ing out­braked him­self. How­ever, with the Rus­sian mak­ing a bad start in his semi-fi­nal and then not mak­ing it to the fi­nal, the event ap­peared to be Sol­berg’s to lose.

The rain that had threat­ened the hot North Amer­i­can weather all week­end fi­nally fell dur­ing the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal RX Lites Cup fi­nal that ran be­tween the World RX semis and fi­nal. With a ‘wet race’ de­clared, de­spite the down­pour hav­ing ended be­fore the main event, four of the six fi­nal­ists opted to race on wet tyres but Sol­berg and sec­ond row starter Heikki­nen elected for drys.

As the lights changed, Sol­berg made a poor get­away while Heikki­nen man­aged to make his dry tyres work off the line and led into turn one. Sol­berg went for the in­side into the first cor­ner but was squeezed, hard but fair, by An­dreas Bakkerud, who slot­ted into sec­ond.

While Sol­berg dropped right to the back of the pack, Hansen snuck up the in­side at the first cor­ner fol­low­ing a slow start and climbed to fourth, be­tween Jo­han Kristof­fers­son and An­ton Mark­lund, who both then took their joker laps at the first op­por­tu­nity.

At the start of lap two, Heikki­nen ran wide into the first cor­ner, Bakkerud pass­ing the Finn on the in­side while Hansen also passed the EKS driver into turn two. Sol­berg had climbed to fourth when the Volk­swa­gen RX Swe­den driv­ers jok­ered on lap one, but dropped back down to sixth when he too took his joker on lap two.

Heikki­nen was the next driver to take his joker on lap three, re­turn­ing to the main cir­cuit right be­tween Kristof­fers­son and Mark­lund as the lead­ing Volk­swa­gen Polo driver set off in pur­suit of Bakkerud and Hansen ahead.

By the start of the fourth lap, Hansen was all over the rear of Bakkerud’s Fo­cus, the Swede then tak­ing his joker in an at­tempt to pass Bakkerud when he too took his ex­tra-route on lap five.

Hansen had put in the lap of the fi­nal to leapfrog Bakkerud for the lead, with the top three then run­ning line-astern to the fin­ish.

Hansen’s vic­tory marked the first for the Peu­geot-hansen squad of 2016, while Bakkerud scored his third podium in a row to close the gap on the lead of the cham­pi­onship and Kristof­fers­son put a string of bad luck be­hind him to fin­ish on the podium for the first time this year.

Heikki­nen fin­ished fur­ther back in fourth, while Mark­lund had dam­aged his left-rear tyre and fought hard to hold off Sol­berg, only to lose out to the reign­ing cham­pion with just a few cor­ners to go.

Fol­low­ing the fin­ish, Mark­lund lost the front brakes on his Volk­swa­gen Polo and hit the rear of Sol­berg’s Citroen ( see head­line news).

De­spite not win­ning the event where he looked like he might be­fore the fi­nal, Sol­berg took the lead of the cham­pi­onship standings in Canada for the first time since Hock­en­heim in May.

Points leader head­ing into the event, Mat­tias Ek­strom fought back from a punc­ture in the very first race of the week­end. The Swede climbed back to fourth at the In­ter­me­di­ate Clas­si­fi­ca­tion and led semi-fi­nal two, but re­tired with a front-left punc­ture. The two-time DTM cham­pion is now four points be­hind Sol­berg in the fi­nal race.

Hansen’s team-mate, Se­bastien Loeb didn’t make it into the fi­nal, the French­man fin­ished fourth in semi­fi­nal one. Amer­i­can Ken Block was clas­si­fied fifth in the same race but didn’t fin­ish af­ter hit­ting a wall and break­ing his Fo­cus’s sus­pen­sion while in a qual­i­fy­ing spot for the fi­nal.

Ols­bergsmse driver Kevin Eriks­son made the semi-fi­nals de­spite crash­ing out heav­ily of Q3. The Swedish team worked hard to re­pair the Fi­esta in time for Q4 and Eriks­son wound-up fourth in semi-fi­nal two.

Hansen is now sixth in the points Hansen bat­tled the con­di­tions – and the other cars – for vic­tory

The field in the fi­nal went on a mix­ture of wet and dry tyres af­ter a short shower just be­fore the race got un­der­way

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