Petter Solberg entered the ninth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship with a 28 point lead in the drivers standings and a plan to stay out of trouble to increase his points lead. While he was not trouble free, he did score a huge points haul, winning the event in another thrilling final.
Held at the Estering in Germany, the event is notoriously difficult for it’s bottleneck first corner. In 2013 Solberg had crashed out before making it to the first corner and again at the first World RX round to be held at the venue, Solberg experienced first corner difficulties. Top of the order at the end of day one, the Norwegian picked up suspension damage in heat three after contact with Anton Marklund’s VW Polo. He fought back in heat four to be fifth overall at the Intermediate stage, and then capitalised when semi-final front row starters Timmy Hansen and Timur Timerzyanov both ran deep at turn one. That allowed Solberg into the lead and onto race victory. Robin Larrson claimed the win in semi-final two to join Solberg on the front row for the final, ahead of the EKS RX duo of Mattias Ekstrom and Pontus Tidemand on row two. Toomas Heikkinen and Timmy Hansen shared the back row of the grid.
A notable absentee was Solberg’s closest challenger to the championship, Reinis Nitiss, who suffered turbo failure in heat three and would not make the semi-finals. It was a perfect opportunity for Solberg to increase his margin, but he made a slow getaway from the start of the final. Larsson took the lead while Solberg slotted into second and the EKS RX pair squabbled over third. Ekstrom took the position, then jokered on the first lap. Larsson appeared to have the measure of Solberg, but made two mistakes in the same number of corners on lap three, allowing Solberg into the lead. Larsson immediately took his joker, returning momentarily behind Hansen but was back in third by the first corner of lap four. Solberg was hampered by an anti-lag issue, but pushed as hard as he could for the final two laps, taking his joker at the last opportunity and coming out to cross the finish line neck-and-neck with Ekstrom. It looked like a dead heat, but the timing screens never lie and Solberg had claimed his fourth victory of the season, the third in succession and by a margin of five thousandths of a second from Ekstrom, who made his first start in the series since winning at Holjes in July. Larsson finished third to earn his second World RX podium, Tidemand continued his recent run of form in fourth with Heikkinen fifth and Hansen sixth.
Andreas Bakkerud had a huge moment on day one which put him on the back foot. He made it to the semis but would only finish fourth. Fellow Norwegians Tommy Rustad and Frode Holte both made their first semi-final appearances of the season while Swede Johan Kristoffersson retired for the second semi-final after spinning at the tarmac hairpin. PG Andersson was the first to miss out on a place in the semis in 13th, ahead of Jerome Grosset-Janin who several times lost out in the first corner. Henning Solberg again proved a strong pace in Liam Doran’s Citroen DS3 but suspension damage in heat four left him down in 15th position, one place up on Nitiss who’s championship challenge took a huge dent in Germany.
Of the World Championship regulars, Anton Marklund also lost out in first corner battles and was 17th, Derek Tohill was pleased with his performance in 20th and Davy Jeanney ended up 23rd. After a fantastic run at Loheac for round eight, it was a tough weekend for Albatec Racing. Andy Scott retired from heat three after suspension damage, while Ramona Karlsson made her debut for the squad and was committed. She was black flagged in heat two for contact with Alexander Theuil which hampered her weekend. Rene Munnich’s new Audi S3 proved a strong pace at his home event but had usual new-car niggles. Once sorted the WTCC racer will be challenging for the semi-finals.
Camilla Antonson became the first female winner of the TouringCar division with an impressive victory, while Janis Baumanis claimed the Super1600 win. Championship rivals Sergej Zagumennov and Nikita Misyulya experienced troubles in the semi-finals inflicted by accident damage.
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