Solberg wins Argentinian World Rallycross finale

by Hal Ridge |

The FIA World Rallycross Championship travelled the furthest it has yet, to South America and it’s finale. In the town of San Luis, Argentina at the most southerly rallycross event ever staged, Petter Solberg cemented his authority in the World RX championship by dominating and winning his fifth event of the season.

In the heats, Solberg didn’t have things all his own way. Having been fastest in the first run, the Norwegian was beaten in a head to head race by Latvian Reinis Nitiss in heat two, and when the hot and dry conditions turned to rain on day two, Solberg was caught on slicks. Sliding off the track on several occasions, Solberg’s Citroen DS3 windscreen was misted up. This is the stage were most drivers would slow down but it made little difference to the double FIA champion’s commitment. 14th fastest, he was down to third in the overall in the standings, only to blitz the field in heat four to regain his position at the top of the Intermediate Classification. Finn Toomas Heikkinen had been top after three heats, but blew the engine in his Marklund Motorsport VW Polo within sight of the finish line in heat four, giving the Marklund mechanics a busy couple of hours ahead of the semi-finals.

In the first semi-final, Solberg led from lights to flag, as the action happened behind. In the first corner, fourth place runner Anton Marklund out braked himself, making contact with the rear of Kevin Eriksson who in turn hit Andreas Bakkerud. Marklund and Bakkerud both ran wide, allowing local newcomer Miguel Baldoni into second place behind Solberg. Bakkerud eventually climbed back to third by the end of the race, with Eriksson second in an impressive Supercar debut. Marklund failed to make the final, and as a result the Teams Championship was almost certainly to go the way of rivals OlsbergsMSE, which the Ford team secured in the final. Balgoni finished fifth with Andy Scott in sixth.

In the second semi-final, Reinis Nitiss won from pole position, Toomas Heikkinen took his joker on the first lap and would finish second, while Timmy Hansen fought his way to third having had a two lap duel with former WRC podium finisher Manfred Stohl in the second PSRX Citroen. Stohl retired mid race from accident damage, while Hansen’s team mate Timur Timerzyanov retired at the start of lap two with technical issues. Star of the race was Irish driver Ollie O’Donovan, who on his debut for Albatec Racing made it to fourth by the first corner and held the position at the end of the final lap – missing out on the British squad’s first final of the season.

As the lights changed in the final, Solberg, Nitiss and Heikkinen ran three abreast into turn one, but stuck on the outside of the right hander Heikkinen could do nothing to improve his starting position. He took his joker on the first lap, dropping to sixth, but climbed to fifth when Hansen took his joker on lap two. The Finn climbed another place when Bakkerud took his joker on the penultimate lap and lost time in the longer section. Solberg, Nitiss and third place runner Eriksson took their compulsory joker laps on the final tour, the lead pair maintaining their positions, while Eriksson was passed into the penultimate corner by Heikkinen for third, only to get the position back in the final turn when he Finn spun, Eriksson scoring an impressive debut podium. Hansen finished fourth, Heikkinen recovered to fifth with Bakkerud sixth.

Of those not to make the semi-finals, Liam Doran had a frustrating return to World RX. Fast at times, his Citroen DS3 suffered misfire problems throughout the event. He had qualified in 12th and inside the semi’s after heat four, but was excluded for a technical infringement in heat two, plummeting the Brit to 17th overall. Irishman Derek Tohill suffered from a down on power engine from the first free practice session and missed the semi-finals by one place. LD Motorsports stable mate Henning Solberg missed practice all together on Friday morning, and put on an impressive display on the first lap of heat one, hanging onto the coat tails of Timmy Hansen having not done a lap of the track previously. The Norwegian missed heat two with a mechanical issue and didn’t qualify for the semi’s. Jos Jansen and Bohdan Ludwichak completed four heats at the new San Luis venue to round out their world championship year.




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