Norway ruled the roost in France’s sunkissed European Rallycross Championship A Final as Andreas Bakkerud led home countryman Petter Solberg but it was not to be for national hero Sebastien Loeb.
Nine-times World Rally Champion Loeb was a wildcard entry for the event and didn’t disappoint the 60,000-strong home crowd as he quickly got on the pace around the punishing Loheac track. After four heats he had qualified inside the all-important top 12 for one of the two six-car semi-finals.
But fourth place was not enough to out him in the grand finale and he was a spectator as former WRC rival Solberg, also in a Citroen, led its opening laps.
On worn tyres carried over from his semi-final, though, Solberg, ran wide at the hairpin and Bakkerud was through for his second win of the season.
Instead it was rising star Jeanney, in his older C4 model, who received the French fans’ applause in the final as he took third place despite engine worries.
Reigning champ Timerzyanov was fourth but he felt a possible first win of the year had been lost after his Hansen Motorsport Citroen lost valuable time early on when it was repeatedly shoved by Tanner Foust’s Ford Fiesta. Foust eventually crashed into the barriers after the pair made contact yet again.
With two rounds to go, in Germany and Austria, Timerzyanov continues to lead the championship from team-mate Timmy Hansen but Jeanney and Bakkerud have closed sufficiently to now make it an exhilarating four-way fight for the crown.
Swede Hansen, whose pace in the heats had marked him out as a favourite for victory, was ruled out of the final when his car suffered mechanical problems in his semi.
WRC Citroen driver Kris Meeke was also out of luck – he was among the fastest men all weekend in his Albatec Peugeot 208, but two on-track incidents meant he was eliminated before the semis.