Norway World RX: Returnee Gronholm leads after Saturday

Niclas Gronholm, son of two-time World Rally Champion Marcus, mastered the conditions in the opening day of World Rallycross’ Norwegian round in Hell.

Norway World RX: Returnee Gronholm leads after Saturday

Having been forced to skip rounds three and four of the series due to an appendicitis operation, Gronholm prepared for his comeback with a brief shakedown in Finland last week, before topping the time sheets in each session on day one at the Lankebanen circuit. 

Fastest in Free Practice, despite pulling off in the first session and returning to the paddock, Gronholm won the race to turn one from fourth on the grid in Q1 and bettered Andreas Bakkerud’s benchmark by over 1.7 seconds.

The Finn then made the best launch in the last race of Q2, led the final encounter of the day from the front and beat the previous fastest time in the session, set by double DTM champion Timo Scheider, to be fastest, and lead overnight.

Not only does Marcus Gronholm’s team lead a World RX event on day one for the first time, but it’s a one-two for the Hyundai i20 team, with triple European Rallycross Champion Timur Timerzyanov second in the intermediate classification thanks to a pair of first-lap jokers and climbing back through the field.

He was second to Bakkerud on track in Q1 and second to teammate Gronholm in Q2.

While Gronholm’s first day back couldn’t have gone better, it was a frustrating affair for championship leader Timmy Hansen.

Despite making the best start in Q1, the Swede was slowed after contact from Janis Baumanis that sent the STARD driver into a high-speed spin and onto Guillaume De Ridder’s Renault Clio.

As Baumanis dragged his damaged car through the race, De Ridder’s machine was left on the racing line in the joker lap, meaning Hansen lost time on his final-tour extra route.

He then raced in traffic in the final race of Q2, passing former works WRC driver Kevin Abbring during the race and battling with Bakkerud. Hansen is fifth overnight, behind Bakkerud in fourth.

Third after the first two qualifiers is Scheider, the Munnich Motorsport driver having his best day of the season so far, winning both of his races.

Abbring’s first rallycross start since he began his motorsport career racing in the junior division of Dutch rallycross events started well with eighth in free practice, and fifth in Q2.

He benefitted when Bakkerud touched the rear of Gronholm’s i20 at the first corner of their Q2 race and went wide, leaving a gap on the inside.

But the Skoda Fabia pilot dropped time after his lap three joker and was later slowed by an issue on the final tour, eventually ending up ninth in the intermediate classification.

Standings after Q2:

Cla Driver Chassis Q1 Q2 QP
1 Finland Niclas Gronholm
Hyundai i20 50 50 100
2 Russian Federation Timur Timerzyanov
Hyundai i20 42 42 84
3 Germany Timo Scheider
Seat Ibiza 38 45 83
4 Norway Andreas Bakkerud
Audi S1 45 34 79
5 Sweden Timmy Hansen
Peugeot 208 40 38 78
6 Sweden Anton Marklund
Renault Megane RS 36 39 75
7 Sweden Kevin Hansen
Peugeot 208 34 37 71
8 France Cyril Raymond
Renault Clio RS 33 36 69
9 Netherlands Kevin Abbring
Škoda Fabia 39 28 67
10 Latvia Janis Baumanis
Ford Fiesta 26 40 66
11 Hungary Krisztián Szabó
Audi S1 31 35 66
12 United Kingdom Liam Doran
Audi S1 35 31 66
13 Rokas Baciuska
Renault Megane RS 37 26 63
14 France Guerlain Chicherit
Renault Megane RS 30 32 62
15 Finland Jani Paasonen
Ford Fiesta 32 30 62
16 Guillaume De
Renault Clio RS 26 33 59
17 Oliver Bennett
Mini Cooper 29 29 58
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