Volkswagen driver Petter Solberg continued the PSRX team’s 2017 title-winning form by topping the order in the first day of the new World Rallycross season in Barcelona.
Second fastest in Q1 behind former DTM racer Mattias Ekstrom, Solberg took the lead of the final race of the day in Q2 when leader Sebastien Loeb spun his Peugeot 208 mid-way through the opening lap and Ekstrom’s teammate, Andreas Bakkerud, served his joker lap at the first opportunity.
From there on, Solberg led the race comfortably to set the fastest time and move into the top spot in the Intermediate classification, as Ekstrom behind battled with Bakkerud.
Reigning champion Johan Kristoffersson had been third fastest in Q1, but was fifth and last of the runners in the final Q2 race on lap one.
He cleared the EKS duo when they served their jokers as Peugeot driver Loeb had his spin, then re-passed Ekstrom at the final corner after losing the position when taking his last lap joker.
After a day of horrendously wet and slippery wet conditions, rain falling heavily for the duration of Q1 then easing for Q2, three of the most experienced drivers in the field, Solberg, Ekstrom and Kristoffersson hold the top three positions overnight.
Bakkerud had a consistent opening day as an EKS Audi driver to be fourth, while Peugeot runner Kevin Hansen recovered from a spin in Q1 and 12th fastest time to be third in Q3 and move to fifth overall.
Second in the Q2 timesheets was his older brother Timmy Hansen, who had retired with damage sustained in a Q1 impact with a concert barrier but was elevated to seventh by his Q2 time, four places ahead of teammate Loeb.
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb was 17th and slowest in Q2, hampered by broken left rear suspension, but 11th in the combined standings.
STARD driver Janis Baumanis impressed with sixth overnight in the Manfred Stohl-developed Ford Fiesta, despite being docked five seconds in race one for hitting a track marker.
On the debut of GC Kompeition’s new Prodrive-built Megane RS RX, Jerome Grosset-Janin was the French squad's best-placed driver in seventh, his teammate Guerlain Chicherit in the hunt for a semi-final start in 10th, ahead of Loeb and GRX Hyundai i20 driver Niclas Gronholm.
Gronholm's teammate Timur Timerzaynov chased Bakkerud in their Q1 race but was slowed racing in Q2 traffic and is 13th at the end of day one.