A downpour ahead of the semi-finals turned the form book on its head as Anton Marklund secured his maiden World RX victory - only to have it stripped away
Throughout qualifying, the event was shaping up as you might expect - the Hansen brothers looking strong along with the two Hyundai’s of Niclas Gronholm and Timur Timerzyanov, with home hero Andreas Bakkurud in the mix, too.
However, ahead of the semi-finals, a rainstorm turned the track into a lake and all hell (sorry) broke loose. Guerlain Chicherit made such a good start to go from last to first by the first corner, only to miss his braking point as spin. As Gronholm built a lead out front, rallycross rookie Kevin Abbring stunned everybody by fighting his way ahead of Timerzyanov to take second, with Janis Baumanis also fighting through to third on the final lap to secure a spot in the final.
Semi-final two was a little more sedate. Liam Doran had initially failed to qualify but when Rokas Baciuska was disqualified for a technical infringement, he found himself promoted onto the back row. Like Chicherit in the first semi, Doran went from last to the lead but managed to get his car stopped, taking the joker on the opening lap. That proved enough for him to win the race with Marklund second, while Kevin Hansen deposed his teammate and championship leader Timmy Hansen on the final lap, putting himself through to the final and knocking his brother out.
Then came the final. Doran shot through into the lead and jokered on the first lap again, leaving rookie Abbring out in the lead. He looked comfortable, too, pulling out a lead in the opening lap. Could a rookie really be about to win on their debut?
No. As the race settled down the field began to catch him. He tried to cover them off with a joker but it didn’t work and he slipped down the order. Gronholm was stuck behind Hansen and it looked like Doran and Marklund’s early trip through the joker was about to pay dividends.
However, on the final lap, Doran’s car hit an issue. Marklund shot through to take the lead and the first win for both himself and the GCK team. Or at least, it should have been…
Hansen finished second ahead of Gronholm, although after the race the positions were swapped as the stewards deemed Hansen had been too aggressive with an early move on Gronholm. Baumanis finished fourth, Abbring fifth and Doran sixth.
Then, incredibly, Marklund was disqualified from the event for a technical infringement regarding the front bumper, promoting Gronholm to his first victory, Hansen back to second, and Baumanis to third. That’s gotta hurt for Marklund…
The result means that Timmy Hansen retains a three-point championship lead ahead of his brother with Bakkerud a bit further back in third, Timerzyanov fourth, and the ever-consistent Baumanis in fifth.
It’s been a brilliant season so far, with different drivers coming to the fore at different events, however the sheer consistency of the Team Hansen Peugeots is starting to make them look like the most likely bets for the title as the championship reaches the halfway stage. If Gronholm hadn’t been sidelined for two races with appendicitis, it might be a different story…