Kristoffersson and Ekstrom shine at the Neste World RX of Riga-Latvia
The Lithuanian circuit CSDD Bikernieki has hosted the fifth and sixth rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, where Euro RX and Projekt E races, the new electric rallycross, have also been held.
Johan Kristoffersson arrived in Riga as the championship leader, after winning the World RX in Finland, followed, by less than 20 points, by Mattias Ekstrom. After three weeks without races, the two drivers came to the fifth and sixth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship with the goal of winning, either to consolidate their leadership (Kristoffersson) or to cut distances with the leader (Ekstrom). Result; one victory for Kristoffersson and another for Ekstrom, who keeps the distance between drivers in the world championship.
The first of the two races at the Neste World RX in Riga-Latvia ended in a well-deserved victory for Johan Kristoffersson, after leading the race from start to finish driving his Volkswagen Polo. “I want to thank the team, as we have made some changes between Q3 and the semi-finals, which have greatly improved the car. It always feels good to bet on new changes and go in the right direction,” said Kristoffersson. With this first place, Kristoffersson achieved his third victory in the 2020 World RX, thus expanding his leadership at the top of the world rankings.
Very close to the Swede, his compatriot Mattias Ekstrom crossed the finish line, ending up in second place. Ekstrom had a tricky start, with poor performances in the first qualifying rounds. “The result was not what we wanted, we wanted to win, but in Q1 we weren’t quite up to it, which didn’t allow us to get ahead of Q2 and Q3. When you start badly, getting up and finishing in second place is not a bad result. This shows that we have to be focused all the time if we want to win races,” said Ekstrom. With this result, the Swede reached his 25th podium of his career in World RX.
Completing the podium came the actual World RX champion, Timmy Hansen, that had a complicated performance, after a rough start. “It’s been a difficult day. We are starting to see better results in the car, but we still have a lot to improve on the exits to be able to be ahead from the start, because otherwise it becomes very difficult to overtake so many rivals. In any case, finishing third is a good result and I am convinced that tomorrow will be better” said the Swede after the race. The final ended with Kevin Hansen in fourth place, followed by Niclas Grönholm and Robin Larsson.
On the same day, the FIA European Rallycross Championship races were also held, in which the Norwegian Sondre Evjen (Volkswagen Polo) won. The Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Peugeot 208) finished second. In third place was the Norwegian Philip Gundersen (Audi S1). The current leader of the European World Championship, Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta) finished in fifth place.
The first day of racing at the Lithuanian CSSD Bikernieki circuit ended with the second round of the Projekt E, the electric rallycross race. On Saturday was the turn for the qualifying rounds, which ended with Frenchman Cyril Raymond in first place, driving a Citroen C3 ERX, followed by Lithuanian Janis Baumanis (Ford Fiesta ERX). Britain’s Natalie Barratt, who also drove a Ford Fiesta ERX, finished third.
After Kristoffersson’s convincing victory in the fifth round of the World RX, a new round started at the Neste World RX in Riga-Latvia. The Swede had a golden opportunity to gain distance in the world rankings. Kristoffersson, however, could do nothing against the absolute dominance of Mattias Ekstrom, who led all laps of the semifinals and final. Ekstrom scored as many points as possible and managed to cut the distance between the two drivers in the global standings.
Mattias Ekstrom’s mechanics were working hard on the Audi S1 until late night to improve on the mistakes that had penalized him in the first rounds of the previous day, an effort that resulted in victory for the Swede. “I have no words to describe our starts today, as they have been the key to success. The final was very tight with Johan, but I didn’t make any mistakes and that allowed me to win. It is one of my best victories“, commented Ekstrom, who with this result achieved his second victory in the 2020 World RX.
Johan Kristoffersson finished in second place, but he was satisfied with the points he had been able to get in this sixth round of the World RX. “I fought until the end but it wasn’t meant to be. Mattias has been very strong since the first qualifying rounds. We tried different tire strategies for the semi-finals and the final, but it was not possible to pass Mattias” explained Kristoffersson.
Mattias’ teammate Robin Larsson finished third, pleased with the team’s double podium but saddened by his mistake in Q2. “We made a mistake in Q2, which has conditioned our entire tire strategy, as we had to push a lot in Q3. Anyway, I’m happy to finish third, as I’ve never been fast on this circuit until today.” Timmy Hansen, Niclas Grönholm and Kevin Hansen completed the final positions.
Euro RX, semi-finals and the final
After the qualifying rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championships the day before, Sunday was the turn of the semifinals and final. Oliver Eriksson (Ford Fiesta) took the win, after fighting hard in the semifinals, where he reached pole position. In the final, Eriksson led all six laps, Sondre Evjen (Volkswagen Polo) was second and and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (Peugeot 208) finished third.
Projekt E, the final
As for the new Electric Supercars project, Sunday was the day that the final classification of the second round of the World Electric Championship had to be defined. Frenchman Cyril Raymond took the win, driving the Citroen C3 ERX. In second place came the Lithuanian Janis Baumanis (Ford Fiesta ERX), his main rival. Finally the Norwegian Svein-Bjarte Holten (Ford Fiesta) completed the podium.
Next stop, Catalunya
Thus, after the Neste World RX in Riga-Latvia, Johan Kristoffersson maintains the leadership of the World RX, with 166 points, followed by Mattias Ekstrom 20 points. Niclas Gronholm, has regained third place in the world, with 117 points, after Timmy Hansen took his place with the result of the World RX in Finland.
The next stop of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will be at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on October 17th and 18th, where the World RX of Barcelona-Pirineus 2030 (Saturday, seventh round) and the World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona will be held (Sunday, eighth round).