Championship leader Petter Solberg had dominated the seventh round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Canada last month, but wasn’t expected to shine in Loheac last weekend, a circuit that historically favors a smooth, circuit racing driving style – not Solberg’s spectacular sideways approach behind the wheel.
True to form, if was former single seater racer Timmy Hansen who dominated the heat stages, fastest in the first three he was fourth in heat four to top the Intermediate Classification. Andreas Bakkered had a poor day one, twice having issues at the start line but topped heat four to haul himself into the semi-finals. Hansen had made blinding starts all weekend, but set the RPM on his launch control too low for the semi-final and had a poor start. He fought his way back up second for a place in the final, behind Pontus Tidemand and ahead of team mate Timur Timerzyanov. Marklund Motorsport pairing Toomas Heikkinen and Anton Marklund both missed out on a place in the final. In semi-final two, Solberg led from start to finish, chased by Reinis Nitiss and Ken Block, the latter having run at the front all weekend but hampered by forgetting to take his joker in heat one. Bakkerud finished fourth behind Block and missed out on the final.
As the lights changed in the final, Solberg made it to the first corner first, with Nitiss moving up to second ahead of Tidemand. Hansen was hot of his fellow Swede’s heals, and as Timerzyanov tried to pass the pair of them around the outside, contact was made resulting in the Russian drivers race ending in the barrier. Tidemand and Block took their jokers on lap one, but couldn’t match the front trio as they edged away, Nitiss taking his joker on lap four promoting Hansen to second, the positions swapping again when Hansen took his joker on the final tour. Solberg had pulled a lead and took his joker on the final lap, returning to the head of the field to win his third event of the season on the most unlikely of circuits. Nitiss returned to the podium in second to move back about Heikkinen in the championship standings, the result also moving OlsbergsMSE above Marklund Motorsport in the teams title race. Hansen scored Peugeot-Hansen’s third podium in a row with third at Peugeot’s home round of the series, while Block just missed out on his second podium in as many appearances. Tidemand finished fifth, slowed with a puncture in the latter part of the race.
Many expected French drivers to shine at Loheac, European Championship regular Jerome Grosset-Janin was top of the home drivers at the Intermediate Classification but could only finish sixth in his semi-final, one place behind Andy Scott who had a great run in France to make the semis, beating French Championship leader Fabien Pailler in his final heat race. 2012 French champion Geaten Serazin made the semi-finals in his new Peugeot 208 but finished a lap down with a puncture.
Davy Jeanney just missed out on a place in the semi finals, 13th overall he would have made it but for getting excluded from heat one due to a technical infringement. Team mate Henning Solberg failed to finish two of his heats, suspension damage and then a blown turbo the causes. Mattias Ekstrom’s Audi S1 was again driven by Edward Sandstrom, but like Belgium, the Swede struggled to get the most from the car at the start line and he ended up 14th overall. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg was disappointed not to make the semis in 15th. British driver David Binks stood in for Jacques Villeneuve in the Alabtec Racing squad as was 20th, one place behind Derek Tohill. Fellow Irishman Ollie O’Donovan was classified 28th, while Kevin Procter debuted his new and largely untested 1760cc Ford Fiesta and ended up 30th, but showed good potential from his new Super2000 based car over the course of the weekend. Simone Romanga made his first of three appearances for the PSRX team and was spectacular but unlucky in traffic. Lessons learnt in France and Germany next time out will aid his cause of a good result at his home round in Italy.
French Super1600 star Steven Bossard returned to the category in a Set Promotion Renault Clio and finished one place better than in 2012 with victory. Nikita Misyulya finished second after a dramatic pass on Andrea Dubourg in the last corner, Sergej Zagumennov finished fourth. Ulrik Linnemann attracted his usual bad luck with a puncture in the final. Double 2014 event winner Janis Baumanis failed to make it into the semi-finals. TouringCar was dominated by Norwegian David Nordgard, finding good form in Loheac to put in the most impressive performance of his career so far. Championship leader Daniel Lundh finished just behind in second, with Anders Braten in third. Belgium winner Filip Bealus returned to the championship and wound up fourth in his Volvo C30.
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