It just wouldn’t be the first quarter of a fresh World RX season without a visit to the legendary Hockenheimring for the ultimate in dirt-meets-tarmac throw down. For the third year in a row, the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, touches down in West-Germany with its signature brand of motorsport mayhem hosted alongside the German Touring Car Championship (The DTM).
After an intense three days on track, putting pedal to the metal in the shadow of the famous Sachs Curve stadium section, PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson emerged as the top M-Claw driver – taking second place – between Peugeot’s Timmy Hansen in third, and current series champion, points leader, and #HockenheimRX winner Mattias Ekström.
Kristoffersson had been absolutely on fire all weekend at the wheel of his Polo GTI Supercar, qualifying in third place overall, and then going on to win his semi-final race, before taking his second podium of 2017. The result from the 28-year-old Swedish ace also puts PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden further ahead in the Teams’ championship standings – pulling 17 points clear of the Audi Sport-backed EKS outfit.
Petter Solberg completed the duo of Volkswagen Polo GTI’s in the event’s last race – meaning the Volkswagen squad maintain a 100% record of attendance with their cars in 2017 World RX grand finals. By his own admission however, it had been a real rollercoaster of a weekend. The two-time World RX Champion had been fastest in free practice, but serious damage to his Polo GTI in Q2 threatened his entire weekend. Solberg then bounced back again with a win in Q3 and a second place in Q4, qualifying him in fifth overall for the finals. While Solberg’s efforts in the semi-final, and fourth place in the main final, meant a haul of points in the both the teams and drivers’ standings, the Norwegian star was forced to leave Hockenheim without a trophy this year – having previously won the inaugural edition of the German event in 2015.
The rollercoaster tag line doesn’t even come close to describing the weekend that Hoonigan Racing Division had to endure in Germany however. Despite being in blistering form, with both Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud grabbing individual top-ten finishes in the qualifying races; only one of the Ford Focus RS RX’s was to make the semi finals. In a role-reversal, Head Hoonigan in Charge Ken Block used a string of solid finishes – including 4th in Q2 – to secure a place on the grid of semi final two, while Andreas was left outside of the cut for Sunday’s races in 14th overall.
Seemingly able to find grip where others couldn’t, Ken made a fast getaway at the lights rocketing ahead of Timmy Hansen, Timur Timerzyanov and Timo Scheider. Battling hard with Topi Heikkinen, and managing to keep his chasing rivals at bay, from the grandstands at least it looked like Block was set to challenge for a place in the main final. However while flicking into the entry of turn six, Ken was tagged from behind by Timo Scheider sending him into a spin, and out of contention. It was arguably a tough end to a weekend, which could have potentially seen Block repeat his third place podium at Hockenheim in 2016.
Both Ken and Andreas, along with the entire of the World RX crews, wont have to wait long before their next chance to fight for the silverware, as round four of the championship – in Mettet, Belgium – looms large on the horizon on May 13th & 14th. In the meantime scroll down for the exclusive reaction from our athletes. Full results from the 2016 World RX of Germany are available, here.
Johan Kristoffersson – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 2nd:
“PSRX Volkswagen Sweden did an amazing job this weekend. This team is still really new – don’t forget we didn’t start until just a few months ago – but in round one the team was fourth in the final, last time we were third, this time we are second… in Belgium we will continue this progression and hopefully make first! Petter had a tough one, but for me things were a bit more straightforward. The Polo GTI Supercar is showing amazing speed and we did this again this time, but we came up against a really tough guy in the final. I have to give full respect to Mattias [Ekström]. He drove six really strong and mistake-free laps in that last race. The big thing for me, for Petter and the team is what we are doing in the teams’ championship; 17 points clear is very, very impressive for this new team. We’re still learning, we’re still developing and we’re still getting faster – but this weekend we showed how to work as a team. I’m proud to be part of PSRX Volkswagen Sweden.”
Petter Solberg – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 4th:
“The first part of qualifying was really tough, but that’s when you have to dig deep. I’m going to be honest now; it was absolutely terrifying when I was hit by another car in Q2. I have had some big crashes in my career, but that one really scared me. When I came out of that race, I didn’t know what would happen. As a team, we were a little bit in crisis. We came together and talked about the technical and sporting side of what had happened and what we thought we could achieve with the rest of the weekend. At that time, just making the cut looked like it could be tough. But I wouldn’t want any other team around me at a time like this. PSRX Volkswagen Sweden showed what it’s all about this weekend; we used all of our experience; knowledge, strength and determination to put this weekend back together. And it worked. Making the final, for me, was like winning the final. This one really was unbelievable.”
Ken Block – Hoonigan Racing Division – 11th:
“A pretty tough weekend to be honest. In the semi final I had to get the absolute best start I could to be in the correct track position for turn one – and that is exactly what I did. Running up to Sachs Curve I was exactly where I needed to be, and was in third overall. Into turn three I was getting hit from behind quite a lot, and I did the best job I could to defend. But by turn six I got pushed completely sideways, and into the tyre bales. I lost too much time from that and couldn’t rescue the result unfortunately. I had the start, I had the position, but the guys behind me didn’t want me to have the finish! That’s rallycross, and racing, but I’m not happy about it at the moment! The track here in Germany fits our car and my driving style really well – and we actually improved on last year’s times; when we came away with a podium. Overall it was great to be in the semi finals, it’s just not the end result that we should have had. I’m looking forward to Belgium now; we completed a little pre-season testing there, so I’m just going to go as fast as possible. It’s going to be awesome!”
Andreas Bakkerud – Hoonigan Racing Division – 14th:
“I was so excited to come and race here this weekend – the track is just so much fun to drive. It is hard to overtake and the start line is very slippery which makes it difficult to get the start nailed. Clearly I didn’t have the pace this weekend. Quick in practice, but in real terms, practice means nothing. In the heats I struggled with grip; I think I went the wrong way with the set-up. I got a little bit unlucky with the incident in Q2 – I don’t want to blame anybody else. I’m realistic and I see that I just didn’t have the speed this weekend. I don’t think I did a good enough job this weekend. There’s only one week until Belgium now and I think we need to analyse everything we can – look under every stone so to speak – and see what we can do. We need to work on being more consistent in our performances for sure. I’m looking forward to being back in the car in Mettet.”
Guerlain Chicherit – Renault Clio - 21st
“It’s been a tricky event here in Germany. We miscalculated the set up at the beginning of the weekend, which meant I didn’t get the full amount of practice time in the car. After that in Q1 we were just trying to get to grips properly with the circuit; as it was my first time racing here in Hockenheim – focusing on slowly building the speed up. I got hit really hard in Q2, which severely damaged the rear of my car, and actually jammed on one of the rear brakes. It was still glowing red hot when we got it back to the paddock – so that cost me a lot of time on track. The second day was a big improvement again though, with Q3 and Q4 going a lot better. Honestly, I really got into it and enjoyed the feel of the track for the first time that weekend. We did find a fault with the engine during Q3 also, so now we will push to get as much fixed as possible before next weekend in Mettet. It’s been a tough start to the season – but we knew this was all in preparation for 2018. Of course as a professional driver I'm frustrated when things go wrong but I do see the bigger picture and I’m super happy to have great support and a good team around me!”