KRISTOFFERSSON BLOWS THE DOORS OFF HIS RIVALS ON SCINTILLATING SPA DAY
Johan Kristoffersson blew the door off his car in heat one at Benelux World RX of Spa-Francorchamps today (9 October), and then blew the doors off all of his rivals to clinch a sixth victory of the 2022 campaign and take another significant step towards a fifth career crown.
After maintaining his unblemished SuperPole record by a tenth-of-a-second from Timmy Hansen, Kristoffersson picked up a puncture in his first heat race at the legendary Belgian Grand Prix venue. With smoke pouring off his right-rear tyre, the damage got progressively worse as the Swede wrestled his Volkswagen RX1e around the circuit at barely abated speed, with the tyre letting go completely on the last lap and ripping the right-rear car door off in the process.
Following that Gilles Villeneuve-esque performance and a stellar repair job by the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS crew, Kristoffersson came out on top of a spirited scrap with Niclas Grönholm in heat two – which included a crowd-pleasing pass in the banked gravel corner – before winning his progression race at a canter.
The Swede subsequently fended off countryman Kevin Hansen in the second semi-final to secure pole position for the all-important final – and following a textbook launch, he was thereafter never headed, racing clear of his pursuers to take the chequered flag almost four seconds to the good. The result has extended his advantage at the top of the title standings to 41 points with only two race weekends remaining – a fact not lost on the four-time world champion.
“You need to be in the right place at the right time, and thankfully, we were,” beamed Kristoffersson after tallying the 33rd triumph of a career that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. “The team is delivering a perfect car every time we go out and we worked hard on our starts today, because they weren’t the best yesterday. That paid off in the final, and thankfully there was no squeeze into Turn One because the wall there is pretty unforgiving.
“From there, I saw there was some fighting going on behind and once I had established a gap, I could just cruise to the finish while taking care not to get any more punctures. It was a very good race, and I was super happy to share the podium with Gustav [Bergström] again – and I have to say, the championship is looking pretty good now…”
Grönholm sealed second to cap a weekend of continued progress for Construction Equipment Dealer Team – not to mention some stellar starts. The Montalegre winner had to give best early on in the final to young KMS rookie Gustav Bergström, but he fought back to snatch the runner-up spoils – his second podium finish of the season.
Buoyed by his breakthrough rostrum result yesterday, Bergström rebounded from a broken driveshaft in heat one to pull off a gutsy overtaking move on Grönholm in the final, and while he ultimately didn’t have quite enough pace to keep the Finn at bay once the joker strategies had played out, he nonetheless impressed with another third-place finish.
Kevin Hansen wound up fourth after sliding wide in the last corner – finding himself inadvertently clipped by Grönholm in the process – with Ole Christian Veiby classified fifth, although the Norwegian did not reach the flag due to coming off worst in a first corner crunch with Bergström and Hansen that broke his Volkswagen’s steering.
Once more, 2019 world champion Timmy Hansen looked set to take the fight to Kristoffersson, but suspension damage in his semi-final caused the Swede to miss out on a place in the final by less than half-a-second. The driver that denied him that spot – CE Dealer Team rookie Klara Andersson – also failed to reach the final despite again taking the fight to her more experienced adversaries. René Münnich brought up the rear in his SEAT Ibiza.
Patrick O’Donovan defeated fans’ favourite Viktor Vranckx in a thrilling FIA RX2e Championship duel, with the pair separated by a scant 0.150s at the finish line. Competing on home soil, championship leader Vranckx was playing catch-up all weekend, but the pace was clearly there and he and good friend O’Donovan went toe-to-toe in the final.
The Belgian thought he had done enough following an early joker strategy, but his British rival turned the tables on the very last lap to exit his own joker marginally in front – in so doing, making it back-to-back successes after winning in Rīga last time out. Pablo Suárez scored his second career RX2e podium behind the pair in third.
Anton Marklund celebrated his third FIA European Rallycross Championship title triumph with a dominant performance in Euro RX1, as the Swede – let off the leash with the trophy already in the bag – showed just why he is the new champion with a peerless performance to claim a third victory of the campaign.
On his return to the paddock, Juha Rytkönen was a front-runner throughout and deservedly clinched P2 ahead of Jānis Baumanis, whose third rostrum visit of the season secured the Latvian second in the standings. Home hero Enzo Ide – who similarly had designs on the runner-up laurels – saw his bid scuppered by a technical issue at the start of his progression race.
The next stop on the 2022 schedule will be World RX of Catalunya on 29-30 October.