Did you ever hear the one about the Swedes and the Norwegian? Rallycross history is full of drama surrounding drivers from the Northern part of Europe and it was no different on day one at Franciacorta, Italy for the tenth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Swede Timmy Hansen was fastest in heat one, ahead of countryman Johan Kristoffersson, who was then quickest in heat two to top the order at the close of play on day one. Hansen was third fastest in heat two to be second overnight, while their compatriot Anton Marklund was fourth then second to be third overall. As the European Rallycross Championship draws to a close, Swede Robin Larsson is sixth at the end of day one, and ahead of his rivals for the crown. A good day for the Swedes.
So what of the Norwegian? Petter Solberg enters the final three rounds of the championship with a 51 point lead at the top of World RX. If he can leave Italy with a 60 point cushion over the rest of the pack (Toomas Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss are the closest challengers) then he will be crowned FIA World Champion for the second time in his career.
However. Solberg had a stressful first day at Franciacorta. His Citroen DS3 developed an oil leak in practice, and after hurried preventative measures in the PSRX camp, the issue continued into the first heat. His engine block was cracked. Ninth fastest in heat one, the team again removed the gearbox to clean the clutch and try and seal the crack in the block before heat two and crossed their fingers. The fix worked, and Solberg was again able to set ninth fastest time despite oil leaking onto his clutch, causing it to slip. To compound issues further, he also broke a damper at the end of his heat two race. Solberg is seventh overall at the end of day one, and the PSRX squad will be busy tonight changing the engine back to one last used in Canada. They haven’t broken any engine seals and won’t be getting a 15 point penalty. Title rivals Toomas Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss are doing their bit to keep things exciting, they are fourth and fifth overnight.
Petter’s older brother Henning is in with a chance of winning the European crown but he needs to beat Larsson by more than 10 points here. It’s a big ask. Made bigger by being tenth overall at the end of day one. Andreas Bakkerud jumped the start in heat one and had to take the two joker lap penalty. He then clipped some tyres on the joker entry and picked up a puncture. He later won his heat two race, but was excluded for exceeding the track limits and is 37th overall as a result. A tough day for the Norwegians.
Elsewhere, former WRC driver in the shape of Gigi Galli is having a great day and is eighth on his World RX debut, one place ahead of reigning champion Timur Timerzyanov. Morten Bermingrud had a good day and is 13th, one place up on Supercar debutant Rickard Goransson. EKSRX had a difficult day one, both Pontus Tidemand and Edward Sandstrom had problems and are out of the top 20, while Jacques Villeneuve had a battle with Petter Solberg in race one and a first corner duel with team mate Andy Scott in heat two before he broke a driveshaft, the Canadian is 27th. Jos Jansen’s team put in a mammoth effort to get to Italy after the Belgian crashed heavily in Germany last week. With his engine and transmission put into the ex-Michael De Keersmaecker Mk2 Focus, Jansen had a troubled day one, first corner contract eliminating him from the first heat. He is 36th.
Anders Braten heads the order in TouringCar, while Janis Baumanis leads Super1600 and Kevin Hansen leads the RX Lites division after three heats.
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