Norway’s Petter Solberg started his World Championship title defence in the best possible way by winning the Bompiso Rallycross of Portugal in the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. After a sensational drive Robin Larsson took the runner-up spot, with EKS RX driver Topi Heikkinen rounding out the top three in his Audi S1 EKS quattro.
Andreas Bakkerud narrowly missed out on a podium spot, and ended the event fourth in his Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Focus RS Supercar. Nine-time WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb impressed on his World RX debut after he finished fifth in his Team Peugeot-Hansen run Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar. Unfortunate for the Frenchman he was knocked out of podium contention following a transmission issue.
Q1 winner Johan Kristoffersson from Volkswagen RX Sweden was awarded the coveted Monster Energy Super Charge Award after beating his competitors to the first corner of the final. However last year’s Montalegre RX winner was unable to repeat his 2015 victory, following an on-track collision with Solberg which broke a driveshaft in Kristoffersson’s VW Polo.
“I’m really happy – my team have put in countless hours working on the car in the factory recently and this win is for them,” explained Solberg. “At the end of Q2, I was seventh – I’ve been in worse positions but we had a team meeting and we made some set-up changes. Today started well but we had a faulty launch control system so I had to do a manual start. For the final, we had the same problem but actually I managed okay, sometimes the old fashioned way can work! Last year we had eight different winners throughout the season and in 2016, we have three or four extra drivers who are very capable of winning events so it’s not going to be easy that’s for sure!”
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be here,” admitted runner-up Larsson, who was placed eighth after Q4. “Reaching the semi-final was our goal, so to make the final was a bonus and to finish second is a dream. It has been a bit of a crazy day and to be truthful, the semi-final and the final are a blur but I know that I pushed really hard!”
Third-placed Topi Heikkinen added: “It’s been a weekend of ups and downs but it’s great to be on the podium and to be leading the teams’ standings. I had a launch problem at the start of the final but I kept pushing and managed to keep out of trouble. The season is long and there is still some work to do but generally the car feels good. It is a shame for my team-mate Mattias [Ekstrom] – he was top at the end of Q4 and it would have been good to see him in the final too.”
Elsewhere, it was a difficult weekend for Ken Block who struggled with a software glitch on day one which meant the throttle of his Ford Focus RS Supercar was stuck on open when the American tried to brake into a corner. Last year’s runner-up Timmy Hansen was placed ninth at the Intermediate Classification but retired in the semi-finals after losing his car’s power steering following contact with Ekstrom in turn one. Olsbergs MSE driver Kevin Eriksson and JRM Racing’s Liam Doran both made it to today’s semi-finals, finishing eighth and tenth respectively.