WRX Round #2 – Montalegre, 28-29.04
Sébastien Loeb got off to a flying start in Portugal by winning Q1 and finishing 2nd in Q2, making him the points leader overnight on Saturday. While he felt a bit less confident in the wet and slippery conditions of Q3 and Q4 on Sunday morning, he comfortably went through to the semi-final with the 600-horsepower 208 WRX. The Frenchman finished 2nd in the semi, which earned him a place in the final, which was held just as the snow started to fall hard. After an intense sideways battle around the spectacular Montalegre circuit, Loeb finished 2nd overall in the final: the same result that he achieved in Barcelona, to boost his position in the championship rankings.
Timmy Hansen was the only person to beat Loeb in a race on Saturday, winning Q2 in front of his illustrious team mate to lie 2nd overnight in the overall points rankings. He too easily qualified for the semi-finals, and the news got even better for the Swede on Sunday afternoon when he won his semi-final, again in front of Loeb. Hansen was set for a strong finish in the snowy final but unfortunately hit the guardrail and spun while pushing hard for the win, dropping him to the back of the order. There were no prizes in the final for him, but plenty of points from the weekend.
Kevin Hansen also had a great start in Portugal and seemingly got better and better as conditions became more challenging: finishing 5th and 9th in the wet Q3 and Q4 sessions on Sunday morning. These strong results promoted him to the semi-final but disaster struck when he was caught out by a rival who braked early and went into the back of him, breaking the intercooler on his car. To save the engine from terminal damage, he chose to switch it off, and his promising weekend was sadly over – although a point had been well and truly proved.
«It has been a good weekend! Even though on paper the results look quite similar to the first round in Spain two weeks ago, it’s more positive as we score plenty of points towards both championships. Sébastien Loeb has scored 25 points, which makes him the second-best performer of the weekend behind Kristoffersson, who scores 26. And in the team rankings, we are the joint best performers of the weekend together with Volkswagen. What’s positive is that our cars have shown good pace and good reliability throughout the weekend, with no technical issues. The cars have gone better in the dry than in the wet, but it’s still very encouraging. A solid performance. »
Sébastien Loeb, PEUGEOT 208 WRX #9
« I had a really good feeling with the 208 WRX from the beginning. In the dry, the car was easy to handle, and I felt very confident: I could concentrate on the lap time rather than what I was doing with the car itself. The Q1 and Q2 sessions were good but in Q3 the conditions were different, and I was struggling a bit more to find the line. Luckily in the semi-final the conditions were dry again, then the final was run in amazing conditions. It was a good fight all weekend and I really enjoyed it; it’s not normal to see snow! The battle is so close between everyone, but we are right up there too. You have to do everything perfectly if you want to have a good weekend in rallycross. It’s not always easy but very satisfying when it happens.»
Timmy Hansen, PEUGEOT 208 WRX #21
« In the final, I was going well but Kristoffersson was faster, and I made a mistake when I was trying to keep up. The weather changed for the final and we didn’t have time to adapt the car to the slippery conditions: we still had the set up from the dry run before. So, I think that was part of it, but it was also my mistake. I went too fast into the corner, hit the rail and spun round. That’s racing sometimes, mistakes can happen. At least we had a good weekend, a good qualifying and a win in the semi-final, with very tricky conditions. It’s a shame we can’t celebrate on the podium now, but I think the pace is there every time we’re on track; there’s no reason to feel negative. »
Kevin Hansen, PEUGEOT 208 WRX #71
« I had a really good start again in the semi-final and I was just behind Ekstrom: I was sure he was going to go for the joker. Then he braked, and I didn’t have time to stop: I hit him in the rear and broke the intercooler. So, that was it. I’m a bit disappointed: you’re really excited and then suddenly it’s all over on the straight and there’s nothing you can do. On the positive side, we’ve got good speed and I’ve been making better starts than Barcelona. We’ve had two events now and I’ve been through to the semi-final on each occasion. I feel very good with the car and I trust it: especially when you have to go sideways like you do here. Without the incident in the semi, I think we could have been in the final, so that’s great.»
1. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON / Volkswagen Polo R – 53 pts
2. Andreas BAKKERUD / Audi S1 – 44 pts
3. Petter SOLBERG / Volkswagen Polo R – 43 pts
4. Sébastien LOEB / PEUGEOT 208 WRX – 39 pts
5. Timmy HANSEN / PEUGEOT 208WRX – 36 pts
6. Mattias EKSTRÖM / Audi S1 – 36 pts
7. Niclas GRÖNHOLM / Hyundai i20 – 28 pts
8. Janis BAUMANIS / Ford Fiesta – 22 pts
9. Guerlain CHICHERIT / Renault Mégane RS – 20 pts
10. Timur TIMERZYANOV / Hyundai i20 – 17 pts
11. Kevin HANSEN / PEUGEOT 208WRX – 16 pts
12. Robin LARSSON / Ford Fiesta – 15 pts
13. Kevin ERIKSSON / Ford Fiesta – 14 pts
14. Jérome GROSSET-JANIN / Renault Mégane RS – 12 pts
15. Grégoire DEMOUSTIER / Peugeot 208 – 3 pts
1. PSRX Volkswagen Sweden – 96 pts
2. EKS Audi Sport – 80 pts
3. Team PEUGEOT Total – 75 pts
4. GRX Taneco – 45 pts
5. GC Kompetition – 32 pts
6. Olsbergs MSE – 29 pts
The 3rd round of the championship will takes place in Mettet, Belgium, from May 12-13. The Circuit Jules Tacheny is located close to Charleroi, totalling 1.149 kilometres in length and with a 61% asphalt surface plus 39% gravel. Compared to many of the other tracks visited by rallycross, this one is quite technical with some low-speed corners and twisty sections. Unlike Portugal, the joker comes at the very end of the lap – which can set up some dramatic finishes. With Belgium being a heartland of rallycross, Mettet is always an extremely popular event.