Heikkinen becomes sixth different World Rallycross winner in Belgium

by Hal Ridge |

Great championships are built on great winners, and the word ‘winners’ plural, is certainly applicable in this instance. As the FIA World Rallycross Championship reached it’s halfway stage at Mettet in Belgium, Toomas Heikkinen became the sixth winner in as many events, just before teams pack everything into series of containers and head west to Canada, and a whole new world for the sport.

The World RX drivers entered Belgium with a clean sheet of paper, nobody had previously raced on the circuit but that appeared to matter little, all the regularly fast guys were immediately on the pace on a technical track where the start was as important as ever. After failing to match his impressive practice times with heat results in Holjes one week earlier, Johan Kristoffersson had a better run of things in Belgium, and qualified on pole for the final and made the best start to the first corner too. But, it was Heikkinen who seized the lead down the hill into turn two, followed by Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg, who had made a poor start from the front row but recovered with a great move around the outside at the first corner. The Norwegian was quickly up to second, passing Kristoffersson on the back straight, before the Swede took his joker. Pontus Tidemand ran fourth on lap one, third when Kristoffersson took his and second when Heikkinen also took the extra route on lap two. Timmy Hansen started from the back row of the grid and was ran fourth at the halfway stage, around the same time that Solberg broke his right rear suspension, although still led.

Tidemand pushed the ailing Citroen hard, as Heikkenin and Hansen also closed in, but Solberg held on. Tidemand retired on lap five, while Solberg jokered on lap six, Heikkinen taking his first World Championship victory, Hansen finishing just meters behind and Kristoffersson in third. Solberg finished fourth, and now leads the championship from Reinis Nitiss by three points. Anton Marklund had been top at the end of day one in Belgium, and was second at the Intermediate stage behind team mate Heikkinen. He made it to the final but had a relatively quite race and was fifth. Of those not to make the final, Timur Timerzyanov came closest, he lost out in the first corner of his semi final and was unable to get back up to third, while the Monster Energy World RX pairing of Davy Jeanney and Liam Doran both made it into the top 12 but retired early on in the semi. Robin Larsson was fast all weekend but was fourth in semi final one, while Reinis Nitiss had a coming together with Henning Solberg in heat two and retired which hurt his position, the Latvian made a poor start in the semi final and finished fifth, ahead of Peter Hedstrom who spun on the first lap.

Edward Sandstrom stood in for Holjes winner Mattias Ekstrom in Belgium. Despite struggling to get the car off the start line on day one he set quick lap times and was 13th at the Intermediate Classification, just one place off the semis. Emil Ohman was 14th, he would have made the semis but for a puncture in heat four, while Jacques Villeneuve is still to make the top 12, he was 15th ahead of WRC men Henning Solberg and Francois Duval, who retired from heat one and spent several heat races stuck in traffic. Andy Scott returned in his fully rebuilt car, but several times lost out in the first corner and was 21st, while Andreas Bakkerud had a nightmare weekend. The engine in his OlsbergsMSE Fiesta  failed in heat one, so he also missed heat two. Back for day two, he broke a rear damper in heat three and destroyed any chance of progressing, he wound up 30th of the 32 starters.

Janis Baumanis claimed his second victory of the season in Super1600 ahead of team mate Timur Shigaboutdinov and Janno Ligur’s Skoda Fabia. Nikita Misyulya was the only championship front runner to make it to the final, joined by Ondrej Smetana and Rasul Minnikhanov. Ulrik Linnemann had another torrid weekend, summarised by retiring from the semi final, while Sergej Zagumennov was disqualified from his semi after contact. Local drivers Denis Remans and Bart Stouten both made it to the semis but could go no further, while in TouringCar it was the Belgian who shone, Filip Baelus winning the event ahead of Anders Braten and Torleif Lona. Fredrik Salsten had the pace for the podium but could do nothing to get by Braten in the early stages, who put on a great display of defending. Kjetil Larsen and Nick Snoeys both retired in the final, while championship leader Daniel Lundh didn’t make it to the final again, but still heads the order at the top of the table.





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