Norwegian denies Swedes Ekstrom and Hansen a home European Rallycross win in Holjes.
It would be fair to use the phrase ‘ram raid’ when describing Andreas Bakkerud’s win in Sweden’s European Rallycross round, after the Norwegian barged his way past home hero Timmy Hansen with a lap to go to regain the lead he’d just lost.
Bakkerud’s Citroen had led the early laps of the final but emerged from its joker lap behind that of Hansen, who’d taken his own joker early and then made up enough ground in the intervening laps to poke his nose in front.
For a moment – about ten seconds in fact – it looked like all of Sweden would erupt (this is, these days, their ‘Swedish Grand Prix’ after all) only for Bakkerud to crunch into the side of Hansen at the entry to a fast left hand loop.
Sorry did we say Bakkerud? Make that Bakke-rude. There was nothing subtle about the move but it was just about fair, even though the bang was big enough to knock Hansen so far wide that it allowed double DTM champ Mattias Ekstrom – making his European RX debut in the Red Bull-backed Volkswagen Polo – to sneak by into second place.
Bakkerud, Ekstrom and Hansen is how it stayed to the finish in a race befitting of an event in which the championship and the surrounding show seemed to step up a gear in both quality and spectacle – underlined by the record entry of 36 600bhp premier division Supercars and a bulging crowd of at least 30,000 people. In fact every one of Saturday and Sunday mornings’ heats could have been a final such was the level of competitiveness.
Let’s quickly take look at who squeezed into the final:
•Andreas Bakkerud: rising star, former double Euro S1600 champ
•Mattias Ekstrom: double DTM champion
•Timmy Hansen: second in the championship
•Petter Solberg: 2003 WRC champ
•Henning Solberg: WRC ace, Petter’s brother
•Daniel Holten: young Norwegian sensation
Then look at some of those who didn’t make it:
•Timur Timerzyanov: the reigning champ
•Patrik Sandell: former Junior WRC champ
•Davy Jeanney: former French champ who dominated Saturday’s heats
•Liam Doran: winner of two rounds this season
•Pontus Tidemand: current Junior WRC leader
•Johan Kristoffersson: reigning V8 Superstar and Swedish touring car champ
•Tommy Rustad: twice Swedish touring car champ
The list goes on but the upshot is that Timerzyanov, whose Holjes weekend was set back by broken suspension and a spin in his heats still leads the championship but by the much diminished margin of just four points from young Hansen. Click here for full standings.
Plus at Holjes there was the biggest variety of potential race-winning machinery seen for a very long time:
•Ford Focus ST
Now consider that the European RX Championship’s next round at Loehac in France on August 31st is likely to attract even bigger crowds. And that fresh from nine World Rally titles and smashing the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb record for Peugeot last month, national hero Sebastien Loeb will also be taking part in a one-off appearance with Citroen. Other big names are also being bandied about as ‘wild card’ entries. And it marks crunch time in the title race as the first of the final three rounds of the calendar. It's set to be an epic weekend.
Click here for tickets (if you can still get them)