Friday, July 19, 2024

Kristoffersson Does The Double In Höljes

Reigning champion Johan Kristoffersson picked up where he left off as the 2024 FIA World Rallycross Championship got underway at the “Magic Weekend” in Höljes, Sweden. The six-time world champion dominated in dreadful conditions to take his second win of the weekend, and his 42nd overall career victory.

Racing in the wet in Sweden. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Niclas Grönholm, who narrowly missed out on a place in the final on Saturday, took second place in his electric PWR RX1e. Third place went to fellow KMS – HORSE Powertrain driver Ole Christian Veiby, who overcame a stall at the start of the final to claw his way back to a podium position. Kevin Hansen came fourth for Hansen World RX Team, with Gustav Bergström and Timmy Hansen rounding out the standings.

Race Reports

The “Battle of Technologies” certainly looks likely to provide some scintillating racing as we head through the 2024 season. While Kristoffersson won both of his heat races in his internal combustion engine (ICE) Volkswagen Polo KMS 601 RX, it was electric power that brought victory to Kevin Hansen and Sondre Evjen in their heat races. However, it was Grönholm, the fastest driver in any heats on Saturday’s opening round, who sat second behind Kristoffersson in the intermediate standings after the heats.

Niclas Grönholm was the greatest threat to Kristoffersson on Sunday. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

As the semi-finals approached, the heavens opened. With an absolutely sodden track, visibility for anyone not in the lead became nigh on impossible. This was not a problem for Kristoffersson, who successfully launched away in his semi-final and dominated the race, finishing an astonishing 12 seconds ahead of the competition. Meanwhile, chaos reigned behind him, with all of the drivers missing turn 5 on the first lap due to the atrocious conditions.

2019 world champion Timmy Hansen commented that the wet conditions favoured the ICE cars, explaining that the electric cars struggled under braking, largely due to their added weight. As a result, for the electric cars it was a case of surviving to proceed to the final. Indeed, four out of six cars in the final were electric, with Klara Andersson, heroine of the first day of world rx action, narrowly missing out on a place.

Kevin Hansen battles through the rain in the semi-final. Credit: Philip Platzer / Red Bull Content Pool

In the final, the rain had stopped but the standing water on the track led to aquaplaning. Grönholm got a great launch in the final and looked like he may be able to challenge Kristoffersson for the lead. However, the visibility was appalling and the CE Dealer Team driver was soon suffering from aquaplaning issues, losing control of the car for brief moments, just enough to allow Kristoffersson to speed to victory.

Kristoffersson leaves Sweden on 58 points, a whopping 22 points ahead of nearest rivals Grönholm and Andersson. CE Dealer Team will be very happy with that start to the season, with both drivers tied in second.

The round 2 podium (L-R): Niclas Grönholm, Johan Kristoffersson, and Ole Christian Veiby. Credit: Philip Platzer / Red Bull Content Pool

Driver Reaction

I’m so proud today,” Kristoffersson enthused. “The conditions were extremely tricky, as were the launches. I had a little bit too much wheelspin in the final, but I managed to calm myself down and got a very good exit coming off the asphalt onto the gravel which enabled me to come back at Niclas. This car is a dream to drive in the rain. I’m very happy.

Timmy Hansen was enthusiastic about the championship, despite a disappointing weekend for himself. “I think the ‘Battle of Technologies’ turned out to be super exciting” the Swedish driver explained. “There were definitely strengths on both sides and the races were close. We didn’t really have the performance this weekend, but I think still we got the maximum points that we could have. A lot of work to be done, especially around getting to know the new tyres, and around how to get more performance out of our package.”

Timmy and Kevin Hansen survey the circuit before a challenging weekend of rallycross action. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

It was a frustrating weekend for us” admitted his brother and teammate Kevin Hansen. “We were looking really good for a podium but just struggled a bit with the car in the wet. We weren’t able to hold it through the whole race. I made a small mistake in the final which I think lost me third place today, but we try to bounce back from that. We didn’t expect this to be our strongest track, we need some longer straights for the electric cars to show their power and torque. I’m really looking forward to Hungary. It’s a great track, like the Monaco of rallycross with quick and narrow sections, and I can’t wait for us to bring the ‘Battle of Technologies’ there.”

Klara Andersson is enthusiastic about her performance so far in the season. “It has been a fun, rewarding and educative season opener. I’m incredibly proud of yesterday” she enthused, speaking of her second-place finish in round one. “I’ve never felt this strong in the world championship. Everything just came together in the car and I felt quick right from the first practice. I lacked a bit of experience in the wet today in order to fight for the top. But I am still pleased overall and especially over the team’s performance. It looks like we are in for a very tough and exciting season.”

Niclas Grönholm was rather more laconic in his summing up of the weekend. “Today’s second place was the best we could wish for, no chance to fight for the win,” conceded the Finnish driver, “so I’m happy with the points. We are a little bit on the backfoot in the points now, but it’s early days and we’ll try to close that gap step by step.”

Up Next

The 2024 FIA World Rallycross Championship heads to the legendary “Red Cauldron” that is Nyirád in Hungary on 27/28 July.