BAKKERUD BANKS A WIN
Norwegian prevails, but has to settle for third in the points. By Hal Ridge
wo years ago at the final round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Argentina, Petter Solberg arrived having already secured the drivers’ championship title and dominated the event.
With the Argentine round now held in Rosario rather than San Luis, Solberg entered the season finale having already lost the title to DTM star Mattias Ekstrom and was without the pressure of having to fight for his third successive crown.
With yet more updates to his Citroen DS3, which he was racing for the 37th and final time last weekend, the Norwegian was at his confident best and dominated the opening qualifying race on Saturday. After that, the heavens opened and Q2 had to be moved from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning due to torrential conditions and a submerged circuit.
Double champion Solberg continued his dominance in Q2 with another fastest time, before also stopping the clocks first in Q3 and Q4 to qualify on pole position in semi-final one. But Solberg’s event would effectively be over two corners later. A slower start than Ekstrom meant Solberg slotted into second at the start of his semi as World RX Team Austria driver Janis Baumanis attempted a move around the outside into the first chicane, similar to a move that European champion Kevin Hansen successfully pulled off 12 months earlier on his Supercar debut.
There was minor contact between Baumanis and Solberg, which became major when Baumanis’ team-mate Timur Timerzyanov drove into the back of his colleague, causing damage to Baumanis’ Fiesta’s left-rear and the steering on the left-front of Solberg’s DS3.
Five laps later, with broken steering Solberg spun into a tyre wall, destroying the front of his car. He crawled to the finish.
Ekstrom had initially jumped the start in the semi-final but survived the first corner melee and made it into the final.
Johan Kristoffersson won the race and was joined by semi-final two winner Andreas Bakkerud on the front row for the final.
Heading into the event, Kristoffersson, Bakkerud, Solberg and Sebastien Loeb were embroiled in a fight for second in the points, but as both Loeb and Solberg failed to make it into the final, it was left to Kristoffersson and Bakkerud to play the final cards. Bakkerud secured pole having won the second semi-final and finished as the higher driver at the Intermediate Classification.
The Hoonigan Racing Division driver made the best start, Kristoffersson holding a high line on the banked first corner before diving into the apex to be second as Toomas Heikkinen climbed to third at turn one, passing EKS team owner Ekstrom, Timo
Points (after 12/12 rounds): 1 Mattias Ekstrom 272pts; 2 Kristoffersson 240; 3 Bakkerud 239; 4 Petter Solberg 239; 5 Sebastien Loeb 209; 6 Timmy Hansen 178. Teams Championship: 1 EKS 422; 2 Team Peugeot-hansen 387; 3 Volkswagen RX Sweden 316; 4 Hoonigan Racing Division 302; 5 World RX Team Austria 226; 6 Olsbergsmse 132.
Scheider and Robin Larsson.
Bakkerud and Kristoffersson ran their own race out front, Bakkerud setting fastest laps while Kristoffersson followed at a distance to secure the top two positions, taking their jokers on the final lap.
Kristoffersson’s second place moved him to second in the drivers’ championship points, just one point ahead of Bakkerud and Solberg, who tied for third place but Bakkerud claimed the position on wins’ countback.
Ekstrom took his joker on lap two, with Heikkinen following suit two laps later, the pair running side-byside into the early part of the fifth tour before Ekstrom was forced to concede into the chicane.
Heikkinen maintained the position. Ekstrom then ran wide at the next corner while still pressuring his younger colleague and lost track position to his fellow double DTM champion Scheider.
The positions remained the same to the finish, with Larsson sixth. Heikkinen’s first podium finish since round two at Hockenhiem and Ekstrom’s points haul confirmed EKS as 2016 Teams’ Champions, having led the standings for the entire year.
The 2015 champions Team PeugeotHansen was the only squad capable of beating EKS in the final round, but Loeb’s retirement from the semi-finals and an off-form weekend for Timmy Hansen meant he didn’t even make it into the semi-finals, and the team could do nothing to retain its crown.
Kevin Eriksson also didn’t make the semis, admitting that mistakes in the slippery conditions of Q1 had seriously hampered his chances of qualifying.
Former British Rallycross Group N champion Nick Jones made his World RX debut for the JRM Racing team, but retired in Q1 ( see separate story).
approved by Merton Council.
More than 13,000 people have signed a petition against those plans, protestors include some high profile figures such as former Formula 1 driver and short oval racer Derek Warwick.
Campaigner Peter Gray said: “Our constant requests by our action group for meetings with Merton Council and indeed the football club have fallen on deaf ears, which is an immense shame.”
The petition being presented to Downing Street also raises concerns about the transport infrastructure, ongoing flooding on the site, traffic congestion in the area, and the plans for policing large crowd numbers on match days, several points that the local residents are concerned about.