World RX - Kristoffersson begins World RX title defence with a masterclass in Montalegre

  • gb

Johan Kristoffersson began the defence of his FIA World Rallycross Championship title with a masterclass performance at the World RX of Portugal, winning all four of his heats, his semi-final and the final in his Kristoffersson Motorsport Volkswagen RX1e.

Lightning reactions off the Montalegre start line, leading down the long start/finish straight and exiting Turn 1 in clean air were all key to the Swede’s success, as he was never delayed in traffic and was able to pick the optimum time to joker and maintain his advantage each time.

Not even the weather, with hot and sunny dry conditions replaced by thunderstorms and heavy showers of rain each afternoon, could unsettle Kristoffersson – as he completed the opening round of the 2023 series in dazzling form.

“I’m super happy,” said Kristoffersson.

“We did a good job over the winter, and to be able to show the results of that feels great.

“This place just keeps on surprising and to win here you have to overcome so many challenges. Just when you think you have everything under control, the weather and track conditions change again!

“The car was an absolute weapon throughout so big thanks to everybody in the team for making this possible.”

Hansen World RX Team struggled for speed slightly on the opening day of action in Portugal, but the Swedish squad fought back strongly on Sunday – and it was Kevin Hansen who scooped the runner-up spoils behind the wheel of his Peugeot 208 RX1e. The 25-year-old had to contend with a rear left puncture in the final, obliging him to get his elbows out to fend off a feisty Niclas Grönholm as he exited the joker.

CE Dealer Team by Volvo Construction Equipment similarly showed improved pace on day two, with Grönholm at times Kristoffersson’s closest competitor. After finding himself forced wide at the beginning of the final, an early joker strategy paid dividends for the Finn, who duly ascended the rostrum at Montalegre for the third season in a row.

Kristoffersson’s team-mate Ole Christian Veiby finished fourth at the end of a solid opening race weekend, with Klara Andersson displaying strong pace (which included a heat win) on her way to fifth.

Nine-time FIA World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb slipped to sixth after picking up a puncture, as the returning Frenchman delighted fans with his all-out approach in Special ONE Racing’s evocative Lancia Delta Evo-e RX.

Amongst the leading protagonists, it was Timmy Hansen who missed out most. The 2019 world champion saw his bid unravel on the last lap of the second semi-final, when slight contact with team-mate Kevin Hansen sent the Peugeot into a spin that subsequently also collected the Volkswagen of Gustav Bergström.

Guerlain Chicherit (Special One Racing Lancia Delta Evo RX1e) and Timo Scheider ( Münnich Motorsport SEAT Ibiza RX1e) were also eliminated in the semi-finals, after showing good pace in the heats.

In the second round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship, Enzo Ide replicated his 2022 result in Portugal by racing to victory again to soar to the joint top of the points table. The Belgian was a factor throughout, with the fastest time in heat four vaulting him to the summit of the standings, although he lost out to Nyirád winner Jānis Baumanis in the first semi-final.

The Audi driver ran second to Baumanis for much of the final, but the Latvian had to serve a double joker as punishment for making a jump-start. Baumanis did extremely well to finish third behind René Münnich, with pole-sitter and reigning champion Anton Marklund finishing sixth after failing to get away from the start line cleanly.

Damian Litwinowicz followed up his opening Euro RX3 win in Hungary with another victory in Portugal. The Polish driver overcame the challenge from his Volland Racing team-mates Espen Isaksætre and Nils Volland to win an exciting final.

The season continues on 17-18 June with a full bill of racing in Hell, Norway, featuring World RX, Euro RX1, Euro RX3 and the opening round of the 2023 RX2e campaign.

1. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (SWE) Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS….5 laps
2. Kevin HANSEN (SWE) Hansen World RX Team….+ 4.728s
3. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) CE Dealer Team….+ 4.907s
4. Ole Christian VEIBY (NOR) Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS….+ 5.373s
5. Klara ANDERSSON (SWE) CE Dealer Team….+ 6.655s
6. Sébastien LOEB (FRA) Special ONE Racing….+ 8.884s