Kevin Hansen took his first ever victory in the opening round of the World RX season after Niclas Gronholm was awarded a three-second penalty for contact with Hansen in the final.
The opening round of the World RX season got underway on Friday at the Yas Marina international circuit with Niclas Gronholm topping free practice. Timmy Hansen set two blistering times in both qualifying heats to win Q1 and Q2 and become the overnight TQ. Timo Scheider impressed in the Seat to take P2 in Q2.
Q3 began with Oliver Bennett clipping the kerb in Turn 1 and rolling his Mini, bringing an end to his efforts. Even more drama was to come. Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud, the favourites for the victory, came together in a big way at the first corner as Bakkerud tried to defend from Hansen. Hansen carried on to take the heat race victory but was forced to retire from the event due to the damage on the left-hand side of his car. Bakkerud was deemed at fault for the incident and was disqualified from the event which allowed Kevin Hansen to take his first ever TQ spot of his career.
We are pleased to report that both drivers are OK. pic.twitter.com/EAxOHOQDZ3
— FIA World Rallycross (@FIAWorldRX) April 6, 2019
Semi-Final 1 saw Reinis Nitiss take flight off the kerbs in Turn 1, landing on top of Anton Marklund’s Megane. Marklund carried on to take 5th but Nitiss was forced to retire. Kevin Hansen took the semi-final win with Timo Scheider taking P2 with an incredible drive and Liam Doran taking P3 after an amazing battle with Timerzyanov in the i20.
Rokas Baciuska impressed the paddock by making it to the semi-final in his very first event in a supercar with a brand new team. Niclas Gronholm took semi-final number 2 with Janis Baumanis in the brand new STARD Fiesta impressing everyone with a P2 and Krisztián Szabo making it through to the final on his debut with EKS. The attention moved to the final.
Kevin Hansen started on pole for the very first time in his career with Niclas Gronholm alongside him on the front row. Away from the line, it was Hansen who got the jump on Gronholm and led into Turn 1. However, it was clear that Gronholm had more pace than the Peugeot and he was desperate to get past. Hansen ran wide on the entry to the uphill hairpin which gave Gronholm the opportunity to make the pass. He stuck his car up the inside but there was little to no room for him to do so. He tagged the back of Hansen’s car which caused him to half-spin, allowing Niclas to go through and win the opening round of the World RX season with Hansen taking P2 and Liam Doran taking an amazing P3. Or so he thought.
After reviewing the incident the stewards deemed that Gronholm gained an advantage due to the contact and awarded him a 3 second time penalty. This demoted him to P2 and gifted Kevin Hansen his first ever win in the championship.
— FIA World Rallycross (@FIAWorldRX) April 7, 2019
Speaking afterwards, Kevin said; “A win in the stewards’ room is not the perfect way. It has been a great job by all the guys in the team to get the cars here and prepared. But this one is for Timmy as he should have been on the podium.”
Gronholm was bitterly disappointed and said; “It was not an intentional hit but sometimes the stewards look at things differently to us so I have to accept it, move on and fight back in Barcelona,”
The first appearance of World RX was a resounding success and provided some incredible action that leaves fans hungry for more.
The 2nd round of the FIA World Rallycross championship gets underway on April 27-28th at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.