Barcelona WRX: Ekstrom wins from Scheider in season opener
Mattias Ekstrom began the defence of his World Rallycross Championship title in style with victory at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, by leading the final from lights to flag.
Ekstrom seized the lead at the first corner from pole position and led throughout, taking his joker lap on the fifth tour.
But, while the Swede led out front, fellow double DTM champion Timo Scheider impressed on his first start for MJP Racing Team Austria by climbing from the second row of the grid to second position at Turn 1.
He shadowed Ekstrom throughout the encounter, Scheider’s Ford Fiesta crossing the finish line just 0.362s behind Ekstrom’s Audi S1.
Having won the first semi-final of the season to make the front row of the final, Johan Kristoffersson’s PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo bogged on the start line, causing his teammate Petter Solberg to take immediate evasive action.
While Andreas Bakkerud hung his Ford Focus around the outside of the first corner to move into third, Solberg cleared Peugeot 208 driver Timmy Hansen to run fourth on the opening lap.
By the time the pack entered the circuit’s hairpin for the first time, Kristoffersson had closed in on the rear of the field, and made a last-moment call to follow his teammate Solberg into the joker on the first tour.
Hansen was next to take his joker on lap two, and dived up the inside of Kristoffersson into the first corner of lap three after the Polo driver had a sideways exit from the Spanish circuit’s final corner.
Bakkerud, fighting back from a non-finish in Q2 on Saturday after heavy damage sustained from hitting the wall on the outside of the first corner, took his joker on lap three and passed Solberg around the outside in turn one of lap four in a slingshot move.
That move would prove critical to the outcome of the race.
As the leading pair pulled away at the front of the field, Bakkerud began to back up the rest of the pack, meaning that when Ekstrom and Scheider took their jokers on the fifth tour, they maintained their positions, Scheider pushing his former DTM colleague right to the finish.
Bakkerud held onto third to complete the podium, with Solberg fourth, Hansen fifth and Kristoffersson making up the order.
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