Latvia WRX: Kristoffersson takes third win in dominant style
World Rallycross points leader Johan Kristoffersson played a perfect tyre strategy in the first instalment of the series’ Latvian double-header to cruise to his third win of the campaign.
Having opened the day with the first fastest time in the qualifiers, Kristoffersson was beaten to top of the order in the Intermediate Classification by Niclas Gronholm.
But come the semi-finals and final, Kristoffersson unleashed three and then two new tyres onto his Volkswagen Motorsport-built, Kristoffersson Motorsport-prepared VW Polo to dominate both races and claim his third win from five, and extend his points advantage.
Such was Kristoffersson’s margin that he pulled an almost two-second gap over Robin Larsson on the opening lap of the second semi-final, and with Gronholm beaten to victory in the first semi by Mattias Ekstrom, it was Kristoffersson who took pole for the final.
In the main event, Kristoffersson made the best start, while Ekstrom moved to the inside of the Bikernieki circuit, on the outskirts of Riga, to defend his position from a fast-starting Gronholm.
Ekstrom’s KYB Team JC teammate Robin Larsson meanwhile made a move around the outside of the tight left-hand turn one, but into the even tighter turn-two right-hander just a few meters later, Larsson clipped the rear of Kristoffersson’s Polo, then in the scrum was spun around the front of 2016 champion Ekstrom’s Audi.
Facing the wrong way, Larsson’s Audi S1 was hit by Gronholm’s Hyundai i20, while Timmy Hansen also lost time.
Kevin Hansen in the sister Team Hansen Peugeot 208 meanwhile climbed to second behind Kristoffersson, having started sixth on the grid. The younger Hansen brother took his joker on lap two to cover off Gronholm, who had used the compulsory extra-route on the first tour, and maintained track position.
As the Swede fended off pressure from Gronholm, the Finn later spinning after the circuit’s biggest jump on the fifth tour, Ekstrom took his joker on lap four, and returned to the main circuit in third.
Out front, Kristoffersson, using a pair of new front tyres, had pulled out a 1.4 second lead on the opening tour, took his joker on lap five and sailed to victory.
Timmy Hansen, who had not only lost time at the start of the final but also at the start of his semi-final when he and Andreas Bakkerud ended up in the loose gravel on the outside of turn two, jokered on lap six and beat his younger brother Kevin at the joker merge for the final podium place, behind Ekstrom.
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