World RX off to a dramatic start in Barcelona

It looked as though EKS Audi Sport‘s Mattias Ekstrom had taken victory in the first FIA World Rallycross race of the year, but a stewards decision meant it was not to be. After yesterday’s torrential rain, conditions were looking far more favourable for the second day of racing. Q3 and Q4 took place in the morning, with PSRX Volkswagen Sweden‘s Petter Solberg topping the time-sheets in the first and Team Peugeot Total‘s Timmy Hansen going quickest in the latter.

Matthias Ekstrom

The top-twelve drivers then made it into the semi-finals, but notably, Sebastien Loeb was missing from the line-up. Solberg took a dominant win in the first semi-final, coming in ahead of team-mate and last year’s champion, Johan Kristoffersson. Andreas Bakkerud took the third spot in the final after Kristoffersson caught him during his joker lap.

There was a last minute change in the line-up of the second semi-final, with Loeb, who had qualified thirteenth, being swapped in instead of twelfth placed Kevin Hansen. This was a team decision, and a tactical one, as Hansen is an individual entry despite driving under the Team Peugeot Total banner. Any points he scored would therefore not go to the team, so it was a change made in the hope of advancing their position in the constructor’s championship.

Loeb validated the swap by coming in second in his semi-final behind Ekstrom and ahead of Niclas Gronholm. Timmy Hansen had been leading the race from pole, but an issue with the Peugeot 208 meant that he had to stop.

The top six drivers from the semi-finals made it into the final, and it was Solberg who was on pole. It was an even start off the line, but Ekstrom was pressuring Solberg for the lead into Turn 1. He squeezed Solberg, who had nowhere to go but the tyre barrier – ending his race before it had even begun. Ekstrom maintained his new position at the front for the remainder of the race, coming in ahead of Kristoffersson and Loeb.

However, as soon as the race was over, the stewards announced that they were investigating the contact between Ekstrom and Solberg on the first lap. After about an hour, it was announced that Ekstrom had been disqualified from the race, handing Kristoffersson the win and promoting Ekstrom’s team-mate Bakkerud to third place.

Source: The Checkered Flag