Round 6 of the World Championship saw 25 drivers descend upon Holjes for the magic weekend. Not only were the regular drivers set to challenge for victory but a number of local entries were known to be quick and fight for the podium places.
Kevin Hansen won the first qualifying race. From 5th on the grid he squeezed round Kjetil Larsen and Krisztian Szabo at the first corner with Larsen losing his front bumper. Szabo then jokered followed by Oliver Bennett who would later retire. Rokas Baciuska led until he had to joker on the last lap when Kevin took the lead thanks to a slight mistake from the Renault driver. Hansen took the 4th fastest time in Q1.
“Not the perfect run but you cannot have the perfect run with a messy turn 1. I put together what I could. Better now for sure, a good start to the weekend.”
The two fastest drivers in free practice, Timmy Hansen and Sebastian Eriksson both tried and failed to pass the field round the outside and after some contact were spat out into the gravel. Out of the turn 2 jump Timmy landed on his rear left tyre and blew it up, sustaining a puncture and dropping him back. Jonathon Pailler had dropped back at the start which gave his brother Fabien Pailler the lead from fellow countryman Cyril Raymond. Eriksson came back at the leaders.
Cyril took the joker lap to jump ahead of Fabien Pailler and stay ahead of Eriksson who made a great overtake off the jump into the final corner to take 2nd in the race. Timmy managed to finish the race but only set the 20th fastest time.
It was 5 wide into turn 1 with all the cars getting sideways which fired Guillaume De Ridder and Kevin Eriksson into the gravel. Jere Kalliokoski came out in the lead and took the win. Timo Scheider lead into the joker lap and overtook De Ridder on track as did Guerlian Chicherit. On the final corner Scheider was spun round by Chicherit which gave the Renault driver a 5 second penalty.
The Hyundai’s made the best start but after being clipped by his teammate Timur Timerzynov, Reinis Nitiss hit the inside kerb and rolled ending in the gravel trap.
Janis Baumanis followed Timur through the standard lap and the pair finished 1-2 setting the 2nd and 5th fastest times. Philip Gehrman lead Ulrik Linnemann into the joker lap but spun twice joining Nitiss in the gravel at the start of lap 2.
“Good joker lap. The job is done at the moment.”
It was 5 wide into turn 1 with Andreas Bakkerud from 2nd braking the latest to take the lead. Kevin Abbring was turned around by Anton Marklund and both lost time in the gravel with Liam Doran from pole slipping up the inside to joker. Niclas Gronholm had to settle for 2nd in the race and 3rd overall after overtaking Doran behind winner Bakkerud who won Q1. Doran was in 3rd into the final corner but ran slightly wide with a puncture so Marklund squeezed by. The pair made contact and Doran slammed into a grass bank just after the finish.
“Cool to start the weekend like this. Great to be in Holjes Sweden the magic weekend. One every driver would love to win including myself”
It rained about 30 minutes before Q2 so as the session went on times would drop. It was randomly decided that the fastest drivers would go out first so those who were slow would have a chance to jump up the order including 20th fastest Timmy Hansen.
Andreas made the best start and was followed into 2nd by Kevin Hansen. The GRX pair jokered with Gronholm ahead of Timerzyanov. When Baumanis jokered he split the Hyundai drivers but Timur got a 5 second penalty for his second corner cut penalty. Bakkerud kept clear with Kevin in 2nd but was only 12th and 17th fastest.
“It was extremely tricky. I mean there’s mud everywhere. We have dialed it in perfect. Unfortunately, it’s going to be faster and faster.”
Szabo got the holeshot followed by Kalliokoski, Kevin Eriksson and Raymond, the only person on slicks. Eriksson and Raymond jokered. Szabo and Kalliokoski swapped positions twice so when both jokered, Eriksson took the lead from Raymond with Baciuska recovering from a stall to 4th just behind Szabo. Kevin was only 10th in Q2.
“Yeah it was good. Lost a little bit of time when I caught the cars ahead after I took my joker which wasn’t ideal. The sun is coming up but we’ll see with the times.”
Marklund led into turn 1 from pole man Sebastian Eriksson with Scheider going 5th to 3rd which became second when Eriksson, Doran and Fabien Pailler now the only driver on wets all jokered. Eriksson half spun in the joker giving Doran the position until the Brit spun into the fast turn 6 dropping to last before Sebastian went off again at turn 2. Marklund, Scheider and Pailler kept it on the track and duly finished 1-2-3. Marklund went 5 seconds faster than Kevin Eriksson and 11 seconds faster than Andreas Bakkerud to end 5th fastest.
“It was absolutely the right choice to go for slick tyres but obviously on the wetter parts of the track you have like 40cm to go on which was a dry line. For sure on the last lap the dry line was quite big so I’m predicting the guys behind us will be even quicker than us.”
Abbring made the best start and from there won to set the 3rd fastest time. Timmy Hansen cut back behind Kjetil Larsen to take the lead in the joker lap from 5th on the grid but came out behind Jonathon Pailler and Ulrik Linnemann who ran wide 2 corners in a row to drop to 4th. Timmy lost some time before Pailler jokered on the next lap before closing on Abbring who almost spun over the jump. Timmy was the 4th fastest in Q2.
“We had a good start and then maintained the lead and then it for me I tried to set my boundaries and push like hell. I could have been more neat but we keep learning.”
The slowest and the retirements from Q1 started the last race which was set to be the fastest race and it delivered. Nitiss went fifth to first and led poleman Chicherit. The Latvian used his joker to cover off Guerlian and won the race and Q2 after being upside a couple of hours before. Gehrman retired with Bennet and De Ridder not even completing a lap.
This catapulted Nitiss from 25th to 5th in the standings with Bakkerud leading and 3rd to 20th covered by 8 points.
“5th. Okay that’s surprised. Now I can smile at least. Yeah it’s a tough day. Tough start of the day. First roll in my career and it was in supercar in Holjes. Thank you so much for the boys who’ve been working all day.”
More rain before the session meant a greasy track and the first runner all started on wets.
In the first Sunday race Timerzyanov got the jump from Baumanis with De Ridder and Bennett following. Baumanis stayed ahead of Gehrman when he jokered and managed to overtake Bennett on track.
Raymond came out just behind Baumanis but the Latvian ran wide, giving Raymond 2nd and was then hit into the wall but continued in 3rd. Timerzyanov won but clipped the track limits marker for the 3rd time this weekend and was disqualified.
Fastest in warm up, Doran made the best start from 5th and cut across the field but hit Kevin Hansen and spun into the gravel to last. Gronholm led the joker lap from Kalliokoski with Baciuska following Hansen into the standard lap. Niclas got held up behind Raymond and finished just behind Kevin after the joker laps played out with the pair 3rd and 4th fastest in Q3.
“I had a really good start. I was going into turn 1 and Liam came a bit from nowhere and hit me. I cannot disappear man so that was a bit a shame.”
Bakkerud pulled clear of the field immediately and with clear air won Q3. Raymond spun from 2nd which gave Szabo the position but the Hungarian spun later in the race.
“I drove my own race. Feeling confident. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t with me.”
Scheider got the jump and led the field with the 3 local drivers, Eriksson, Eriksson and Linnemann coming together with Kevin Eriksson taking to the standard lap and Scheider leading Ulrik into the joker lap. With a reasonable lead Timo spun on lap 2 and dropped to last. Sebastian won the race when Kevin jokered on the last lap with F given a penalty for not jokering.
It worked out quite nicely to go joker on first lap. Unfortunately, he [Fabien] forgot to take the joker so I was a little bit held up on the last lap.”
Timmy Hansen cut across the field into turn 1 and with clear air went 2nd fastest in Q3 to go 2nd in the standings. Behind, Niclas and Marklund followed Hansen with Chicherit leading Abbring into the joker lap. Gronholm and Marklund both jokered early and covered off Chicherit. Abbring got past him as well on the last lap when the Frenchman had a puncture.
“It’s so hard to be fast around here. This was quite a safe run from me. I knew we were in the lead. Obviously after yesterday we were 16th overall. P2 we are in the game again.”
The first two races saw all 10 drivers fail to make the semi-finals. In race 1, early leader Timerzyanov got a puncture and pulled off. Szabo clipped the joker lap exit wall and spun while race winner Schieder was disqualified after hitting his 3rd corner cut. Larsen, Fabien Pailler, Jonathon Pailler and Oliver Bennett set reasonable times but still couldn’t gain enough points.
Doran was only 10th fastest and as Chicherit couldn’t get past the Brit both missed a semi-final place. Raymond ran wide off the turn 2 jump, hit the wet grass and rolled the car ending another horrid weekend for the Frenchman.
“It was quite a battle to fair. I wasn’t going fast enough.”
Abbring led from 5th on the grid and with the clean air went 2nd fastest in Q4. Baumanis had tried to overtake the Dutchman using his joker lap strategy but instead got held up behind Linnemann and had to settle for second. Gehrman was only 11th to end up out of the top 12 in qualifying with Linnemann disqualified again, in the previous session because of a technical issue and this session for cutting the track 5 times. Kalliokoski’s consistency in each session gifted him the last transfer spot.
“We needed to win the heat. I’m really happy that it dried up for everyone. Good start is all you need and I had it and maintained it without any nice slides like I had yesterday.”
Sebastian Eriksson made the best start with Rokas second and De Ridder in 3rd. Behind, Marklund jokered with Kevin Eriksson who had a jump start penalty as well. Out front Sebastian set the fastest time of Q4 with Baciuska the 7th fastest.
“It was good. Finally I got a good launch and that’s the key I think now. Also the track is getting a little bit better for every session. But I had a clean run.”
Nitiss made the best start to lead Kevin Hansen into turn 1 from 5th. Kevin opted to joker immediately and was followed by Gronholm with Timmy Hansen in 2nd and Bakkerud 3rd both on the standard lap. Bakkerud held up Kevin and Nitiss by not jokering until the penultimate lap. When Nitiss and Timmy jokered, Kevin took the lead from with Niclas in between Nitiss and Timmy. The race was really close with the group ending 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 9th overall in Q4.
“For sure the line is very narrow. Everything is still really greasy still from the rain. I put together a good start. I enjoyed it and quite important to get the race win.”
Bakkerud won qualifying with one off entrant Sebastian Eriksson 2nd in only his 4th WRX start. Kevin Hansen bagged some good points in 3rd with Nitiss 4th despite rolling in Q1 and Timmy recovering to 5th. Kevin Eriksson and Jere Kalliokoski both made it into the semi-finals despite neither being regular season entrants while Timerzyanov, Scheider, Doran and Chicherit all missed out.
At the start Kevin Hansen dropped into the clutches of the second row but held the inside of the standard lap and followed Bakkerud to 2nd. Timmy went round the outside of his brother to take the lead into the joker lap with Marklund and Kevin Eriksson. On lap 2 Bakkerud slowed and Kevin tucked it up the inside to take the lead from Abbring. The Norwegian continued to slow but not before holding up title rival Timmy.
Kevin used the extended gap to joker and came out alongside his teammate. They touched and went side by side through the chicane and velodrome but with Timmy on the outside he had to yield second place. Abbring jokered on the next lap and kept it up the inside Timmy into the chicane, forcing the Swede wide. Timmy then made a forceful move into the final corner, hitting Abbring wide to retake 2nd. The Marklund couldn’t find a way to the final in 4th with Eriksson 5th having been spun by Anton. 4th and 5th was switched by the stewards while Bakkerud was a very slow 6th.
“Yeah I got a big hit from the joker. But we saved it. We did the best we could and I think we are in the final which I really good.”
“Well I had a very good start. It all felt very good. Drive shaft broke, unfortunately. It’s meant to be isn’t it.”
Front row pairing Sebastian and Nitiss led until each jokered and dropped behind Gronholm. On the final lap Gronholm landed heavy off the turn 2 jump which meant his tyre deflated with 2 corners to go gifting Eriksson the semi-final win. Nitiss couldn’t pass his teammate but took the last place in the final. Baumanis, Kalliokoski and Baciuska both lost a large amount of time on the final lap and ended their weekend.
“Ah that’s perfect. I was a little bit lucky with Niclas problems. I’ve got some problems myself, it’s over heating a little bit so I lost a lot of power on the end. So I need to go back and try and cool it down for the final.”
Kevin Hansen again made a bad front row start but this time dropped behind Gronholm and Timmy. Gronholm was in 2nd and jokered but clipped the back of leader Sebastian Eriksson’s car and was overtaken by Timmy in the tight joker lap. Niclas cut across the second part of the chicane and stayed ahead of Nitiss and Abbring but would get a 5 second penalty. Kevin Hansen was the only other person to take the standard lap and stuck within a second of Eriksson.
Kevin jokered on lap 3 but Timmy had already closed the gap and Kevin had to settle for 3rd. Worried about overheating, Sebastian jokered to cover off the Hansens. At the same moment Timmy’s right front deflated and dropped him to last giving Kevin 2nd place again. Sebastian came out in the lead but like in the semi-final started to lose power due to overheating. On the final corner Kevin made a lunge but after making contact backed off and let Sebastian Eriksson win his first World Championship event at only the 4th time of trying. Nitiss came through to 3rd with Abbring another impressive 4th and Niclas Gronholm in 5th after his penalty.
“It was a bit of a revenge from 2014 when I was leading and the car broke. We can see now we are clearly on the pace. I really gave it all today. I haven’t done a race in the world rallycross championship for a long long time so to come back and be able to win is amazing.”
Kevin Hansen now leads the championship again by 6 points over his brother Timmy with Andreas another 14 points behind. Gronholm has now jumped up to 4th but is 34 off the championship lead with only 4 rounds to go.
After a 4 week break the championship heads to Canada for the only street circuit of the season
Word By Callum House – Xlerate