Spain WRX: Kristoffersson leads way on Audi debut
On his maiden appearance driving the EKS JC Audi S1 in the opening day of the World Rallycross Championship in Spain, triple drivers’ title winner Johan Kristoffersson twice set the fastest time and to top the overnight order.
Starting from the outside grid slot in his Q1 race, Kristoffersson took an early joker lap then delivered what would be the fastest laps of the day to eventually overcome 2019 Drivers’ Champion Timmy Hansen for the race win, and the fastest time.
Having headed the Q1 classification, ahead of Kevin Hansen and Timo Scheider, Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen started on the inside of the grid in the first race in Q2 – the random allocation at the end of Q1 determining that the fastest race of Q2 would be first on track.
But, while Kristoffersson made a good launch into the revised-for-2021 turn one, he ran deep on the brakes, over-rotated the Audi and the loss allowed Timmy Hansen to nip ahead.
In a mirror of their Q1 encounter, Kristoffersson then hunted Hansen down after a lap one joker, for which he was followed by Scheider, and leapfrogged his compatriot on the final lap when Hansen took his joker, Kristoffersson claiming the race win and his second fastest time, as a sweltering hot day Catalan turned to evening.
At the start of the first Q2 race, Scheider dived from the outside of the pack to the inside at turn one and made contact with Kevin Hansen, Scheider’s Munnich Motorsport Seat Ibiza leaping up into the air.
The pair still finished third and fourth in the race and the time sheets, as they had in Q1, to hold the same places overnight.
Another of the pre-event title favourites, Niclas Gronholm, had a difficult opening day of the season. The GRX SET driver carried a technical issue with his Hyundai i20 from the opening Free Practice session that even with a substantial gap in the time schedule between practice and Q1, the team was not able to full rectify.
With the problem effecting the i20’s starts, Gronholm twice made the best of his races to take a pair of wins and wind up fifth in the day one order, ahead of team mate Krisztian Szabo, who had a battle with EKS JC driver Enzo Ide in their Q2 encounter. Ide was handed a five second penalty for his part in the battle by the event stewards post-race.
Dutchman Kevin Abbring had pulled off an around-the-outside move at turn one in his Q1 race, despite having crashed out of Free Practice, but then again broke the front-right suspension on his Unkorrputed Renault Megane in the final corners of the Q2 race, hitting a tyre wall while leading. He dragged the car to the finish line, but his time was significantly hampered and having shown strong pace, he finished the day eighth overall, behind Finn Juha Rytkonen.
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