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17 Apr 2016

WRX: Solberg seals RND 1

Category: News, WRX Posted 17.04.16 18:47 by

Petter Solberg takes the round win at the WRX season opener in Montalegre, Portugal. The reigning champion takes semi-final win with no launch control, to go through to Final to take victory in thrilling race.

 

The Norwegian two-time World Champion has laid down an early claim for a third successive title mount having won the first round of the 2016 World Rallycross Championship.

 

Petter Solberg leading the pack as he takes event win in Portugal. © JKR/ERC24

Petter Solberg leading the pack as he takes event win in Portugal. © JKR/ERC24

 

Solberg, who struggled on day one, upped the ante on day two storming through Q3 and 4.

During the two semi-finals, Petter held on to the win following a good start. Behind him Hoonigan Racing driver Andreas Bakkerud hung on to third, following a great battle with Kevin Eriksson. Solberg’s late joker was taken in enough time for him to get back out in front.

Perhaps the biggest shock came in the first semi-final. Mattias Ekstrom, who claimed the top position after day one, and remained on top leading into the semi-finals – failed to qualify from his race. Johan Kristoffersson took the win, from Sébastien Loeb and Robin Larsson. Mattias Ekström was pushed back during the first two laps. Contact also resulted in a DNF for Timmy Hansen.

The final was tightly fought, and highly aggressive.  Solberg got out ahead, with Audi S1 driver Robin Larsson being Solberg’s closest challenger, even having started from back of the grid. Heikkinen who managed to qualify to represent EKSRX got off to a bad start but fought his way up the rankings. Loeb took an early joker, exiting well enough to find himself right back in contention. Perhaps the most dramatic sequence saw Kristoffersson fly off the track, following contact with Petter during his exit from the joker. The contact prompted many post-race to question whether or not Solberg’s pass was fair, with the current World Champion confirming via Norwegian TV that he did touch Kristoffersson with the rear of his car.

 

ERC24.com

Bakkerud off to a good start, with Heikkinen and Solberg tight into turn one. © JKR/ERC24

 

Significant damage to Kristoffersson’s front wheel meant that he was unable to finish the final. Loeb also suffered mechanical failure, leaving Larsson free to push on behind Solberg.

Despite a push, Larsson never got close enough to dethrone the Norwegian title holder, while Toomas Heikkinen proved the pace of the EKS Audi squad by finishing third.

 

ERC24.com

Robin Larsson started from the back of the grid in the final. © JKR/ERC24

 

Solberg finishes the weekend with an impressive 29/30 points classification, and lays down a strong signal of intent during the early stages of the 2016 season.

World RX Montalegre Supercar Final Results:

1) Petter Solberg
2) Robin Larsson
3) Toomas Heikkinen
4) Andreas Bakkerud
5) Sebastien Loeb
6) Johan Kristoffersson

 

SF2:
1) Petter Solberg
2) Toomas Topi Heikkinen
3) Andreas Bakkerud

SF1:
1) Johan Kristoffersson
2) Sébastien Loeb
3) Robin Larsson

 

The Championship returns in three weeks time with round two in Hockenheim, Germany.