A visit to Mettet in Belgium always promises high drama and action by the race seat full; and at this weekend’s round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, it certainly delivered. Racing in front of a 25,000 strong crowd, Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg nailed an awesome double podium (1st and 3rd), with the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden duo scoring a near perfect two days of racing in the process.
Between them, Kristoffersson and Solberg used their ballistic Polo GTI Supercars to full effect taking victories in all four of the qualification races as well as a first and second position in both semi-finals. For superstar-Swede Kristoffersson, the result at #MettetRX was made even more special as his dominant victory around the treacherous Belgian circuit marks his new team’s first win in the World RX series.
Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud so very nearly joined the VW duo in the finals as well, following a storming performance during the qualifying races. Head Hoonigan in Charge Ken Block came out fighting following his bad luck last weekend at Hockenheim, treating fans to arguably one of his strongest performances in the FIA World Rallycross Championship to date.
Scoring two qualification race wins, which translated to a 4th overall in the timesheets for both Q2 and Q4, was enough to boost Block through to a row two start in semi-final two, alongside current-and-defending world champion Mattias Ekström. After a blistering start, Block had battled his way up to second place, but then disaster struck. A component on the front suspension of his Ford Focus RS RX broke and caused him to understeer into the tyre bales on the exit of the joker lap. It was a super frustrating moment for Block, as the impact pushed him down to fifth, and outside of the cut for the weekend’s grand final.
While Ken Block's team mate Andreas Bakkerud was able to make it to the main final, finishing second in the semis, he too suffered cruelly at the hands of lady-luck come the final flag drop in Mettet. Having been on form all weekend - placing fourth in the intermediate standings - in the wake of a string of solid qualifying performances – including a second place in Q4, Bakkerud was poised to challenge for the podium. Unfortunately contact with Petter Solberg in turn one, while the former World RX champion had drifted out wide battling Timmy Hansen, resulted in broken steering system and a puncture. The accident marked a bitter end to the weekend where both Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Focus RS RX’s had displayed markedly improved pace.
Don’t just take our word for it though, check out the exclusive reaction from all our athletes below. Next up is the World RX of Great Britain on the 27th and 28th May. Full results from the 2017 World RX of Belgium are available, here.
Johan Kristoffersson – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 1st:
“This is special. What an incredible feeling. I know Petter and I have talked about this a few times this year, but I think we are both so happy with the way the team is working with Volkswagen Motorsport and the speed we have had this weekend has shown that. The car has been perfect for me. From when we started the first practice, I have been driving with a huge smile on my face. The final was really good. It was a shame not to be on the front row alongside Petter for the start, but the semi was a tough race and – in the end – it’s only the final that matters. We all know, this is a new team with new people working together. It couldn’t have gone better, it’s the perfect relationship and, you know, we are getting faster and faster all the time. The teams’ championship is really a good place for PSRX Volkswagen Sweden and Petter and I both closed the gap a little bit to [Mattias] Ekström this weekend, which is fantastic as well.”
Petter Solberg – PSRX Volkswagen World RX Team Sweden – 3rd:
“What a weekend! We have seen this kind of speed and race coming for a while. I’m so pleased for Johan, but I’m even more pleased for the whole team. The guys in Hannover at Volkswagen Motorsport and in our factory in Torsby have really come together for this result; the guys from Volkswagen brought the knowledge of the car and we have matched them with the knowledge of the sport. It’s made for a very strong partnership. There was maybe a little bit of frustration when we had the speed but not the results earlier in the year, but here we have really put it all together. It was some tough racing out there this weekend, sometimes I felt a little bit like the meat – or maybe the ham and cheese – in the middle of the sandwich; I was being pushed from the back and from the side, from every direction. But, you have to deal with that and you have to race with that pressure. It was intense, but we did it. On a personal level, three punctures this weekend really compromised my tyre strategy and for the final we really didn’t have much left to choose from – but we made it. Both cars in the final for the fourth consecutive race, two cars on the podium and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s first win. That is a good weekend!”
Andreas Bakkerud – Hoonigan Racing Division – 6th:
“I really think the end result didn’t reflect the pace we had this weekend. Both Ken and I were feeling great and very comfortable in the car. We had good speed in the qualifying races and then were able to push through to good positions in the semis. For sure in the final my race was cut short because of what happened with [Petter] Solberg. I could see what was going to happen when I got to the end of the straight, and I was on the brakes to try and slow down as much as possible going into turn one, but he left me no room. I watched the incident back from the TV coverage and it’s really hard to see what happened. I really tried to avoid him as much as possible but he kept turning left on the exit of the corner and I ended up in the tyre barrier. It broke the steering and gave me a puncture, so that was the end of my race! It is what it is. We scored 19 championship points, and it’s the strongest showing we have had as a team leading up to the semi finals. In the next coming race it should go better for us – Lydden – as a circuit works better for us, so I’m looking forward to fighting back in a couple of weeks time.”
Ken Block – Hoonigan Racing Division – 8th:
“We put in a lot of work as a team to try and gain more speed and aim for the semis. By the end of the qualifiers Andreas was fourth and I was sixth, and we were both through to the semi finals. That represented something really important for us both – it’s the best qualifying result for us as a team in World Rallycross, and during the existence of the Ford Focus RS RX. I’m really stoked about that! It’s such a great payoff for all the testing and hard work we have all put in to get to this point. In the semi both Andreas and I got brilliant starts, and I was actually able to muscle my way around the nearside of Petter [Solberg]. But unfortunately my race really ended on the second lap. Something broke in the front suspension of my car and I understeered into the tyre wall when I took the joker. That’s racing – sometimes parts break! Andreas had a very good semi final, but unfortunately a mistake on Petter’s part caused them to come together and Andreas had to end his race on other side of the track. Overall we’ve got a lot of positive points to focus on from this weekend in Belgium – which points to good things for the next rounds. Thanks to all the fans for turning out this weekend, it’s been awesome to see all the grandstands packed out.”
Guerlain Chicherit – Renault Clio – 20th:
"Mettet RX was a fun, challenging and beneficial weekend. The track was worked on overnight from Saturday to Sunday, so we had a lot of opportunity to gather data and I could really work on my driving, which I'm getting more and more confident with, and we were able to practice and improve considerably. I'm having a lot of fun in the car - we know the Clio doesn't have the power to compete at the top but this is not what this year is about!"