Countdown to WRX of Spain (CEST)

days
0
-102
-7
hours
-1
-8
minutes
0
-1
seconds
0
-8
19 Apr 2016

WRX: RND1 debrief

Category: News, WRX Posted 19.04.16 19:09 by

With the WRX season opener in Montalegre, Portugal done – the first round gave us some good insight into how the 2016 season could pan out.

 

A thrilling event of ups and downs. Extreme weather, epic racing and patterns already emerging. The opening round in Montalegre did not disappoint; but what can we take from this first event, as the championship gets set for Hockenheim in under three weeks time?

 

Solberg and Larsson lay down statements

Who ever said factory-backed cars were best…

The two-time world champion has no doubt laid down an early claim for a third successive title mount having won the first round of the championship from a seemingly bad position after day one. The Norwegian struggled in appalling conditions during Q1:

We had terrible conditions. 1st qualification was all about surviving in the rain and mud. I had a great start, but was pushed out in the mud and didn’t stand a chance.’ When I slid wide in the first race and we ran into the mud, everything looked quite dark. The weather was so bad and the mud so deep, the car wasn’t working like we knew it could be.”

But Petter and his team pushed on into day two, with the weather on their side. A perfect day two performance that even saw him compete in both the semi-final and final with no launch system – in order to take the round win.

Larsson’s performance also suggests that he and his team have serious targets for the 2016 season.

Larsson performed with a level of consistency throughout qualifying, and had it all to do during the finals.

The final was tightly fought, and highly aggressive.  Solberg got out ahead, with the Audi S1 driver Robin Larsson being Solberg’s closest challenger, even having started from back of the grid.

It was an impressive performance by both that proves that privateer teams still rule the roost in Rallycross.

 

ERC24.com

Portugal final: Larsson chasing event winner Solberg. © JKR/ERC24

 

Bakkerud impressed for HRD

A new team and new car didn’t stop Andreas Bakkerud from performing brilliantly in Portugal. Despite a clear lack of testing, Bakkerud guided his Hoonigan Racing beast to a 4th place finish – with some truly excellent performances along the way. In the right hands, the Focus RS RX is clearly a force to be reckoned with, as Bakkerud showed in the semi-final battle with Kevin Eriksson, and the race off the line with Petter in the final.

 

EKSRX consistency could prove key

Ekström flew into the semi-final, having guided his Audi S1 Quattro through qualifying with two convincing round wins during the most difficult conditions of the event.

After four rounds of Qualifying, things were looking good for Ekström:

1) Mattias Ekström
2) Petter Solberg
3) Johan Kristoffersson
4) Andreas Bakkerud
5) Robin Larsson

Ekström: “I know that things like this happen in rallycross,” said Ekström, “of course we are here to get the trophies. But after all the work and effort we’ve done over the last few months it’s more important that we have a really great car now.

“The starts are good – that’s important in RX. And after the setup changes we’ve done it’s a really big pleasure to drive this S1. And it’s also pretty fast.

Toomas ‘Topi’ Heikkinen also proved that he has the talent to fight for the title. Despite having to adapt to a new car and team, Heikkinen took the last step of the podium having fought hard through the finals.

But of course what’s key is that both EKSRX drivers gained good points, so much so that they took the lead in the team standings. Ekström agrees:

“After this weekend I’m even more convinced that we can fight for the World Championship title.”

 

Ekstrom will start on the front row alongside Johan Kristoffersson in Semi-Final 1. © JKR/ERC24

Ekstrom having gone ahead after day one. © JKR/ERC24

 

Doran is back

Liam Doran is finally back. JRM have clearly provided him a good platform to compete in the championship this season. Having battled through qualifying, Doran made some good moves in his semi-final. When it matters, Doran has always shown the potential to fight-off challengers in ‘semis’ and finals. But for the past few seasons he has struggled to get into those positions because of a lack of consistency.

It was an enjoyable weekend and it was great to be on the pace and to be able to fight at the front in my first event.The World RX competition is insane this season so making the semis at round one should give us a lot of confidence.”

“I’m looking forward to building on what we’ve achieved here when we travel to Hockenheim for the next round,” said Doran.

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

 

ERC24.com

Liam Doran having finished second to Mattias Ekström’s Audi S1 in his opening Q1 race. © JKR?ERC24

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