Latvia World RX: Kristoffersson closes in on title with win
Swede Johan Kristoffersson cruised to victory in Latvia to put himself within touching distance of a second World Rallycross crown.
Having fended off a fast-starting Mattias Ekstrom at the start of his semi-final to take the lead at turn one and secure a victory that netted pole position for the final, Kristoffersson beat fellow front-row starter Sebastien Loeb into turn one in the final and, after setting the fastest lap of the race on the first tour, led throughout to score his eighth win of the campaign.
Loeb, the only man to win a World RX event so far this season aside from Kristoffersson, was forced wide by another rapid start from Ekstrom into turn one, the result of which also pushed Loeb’s Peugeot colleague Timmy Hansen towards the wall on the outside, allowing Niclas Gronholm to climb to third on the exit of turn two.
Having dropped to sixth in the first corner melee, Hansen then passed the third Peugeot, driven by younger brother Kevin for fifth on the opening lap into turn three.
Followed by Kevin Hansen, Loeb was first to take his joker on lap one, leaving Timmy Hansen to close onto the rear of Gronholm’s Hyundai.
The older Hansen brother was next to take his extra route on the second tour and returned into the final corner alongside Loeb, but lost track position.
In a bid to cover off the Peugeots behind to have a chance of a maiden World RX podium, Gronholm responded by following Ekstrom into the joker on lap three but just lost out to Loeb.
Alone up front, Kristoffersson and cruised to another victory, while second to fourth ran nose-to-tail, Gronholm applying increasing pressure to Loeb for the final podium spot until the finish line.
While Kristoffersson claimed another win in his second successive record-breaking season, his PSRX Volkswagen teammate Petter Solberg spun at the first corner of his semi-final in a very similar incident to the one that hospitalised the Norwegian at the same corner 12 months earlier.
Solberg did get going again but was out of contention and finished the semi-final fifth.
Much to the delight of the partisan crowd, Reinis Nitiss secured the European rallycross title at the end of qualifying, then stormed to victory in the final to cap his title winning season in style.
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