The Lion roars in France: Hansen brothers race to third consecutive one-two
Timmy and Kevin Hansen maintain early-season momentum with top two lockout at Lohéac
Niclas Grönholm races to first rostrum finish of 2021 for GRX-SET World RX Team
Popular support series victories for Dorian Deslandes, René Münnich and Kobe Pauwels
For the third time in as many FIA World Rallycross Championship rounds, Timmy and Kevin Hansen delivered Hansen World RX Team a commanding one-two finish at Bretagne World RX of Lohéac today, as the ‘Lion’ roared on home soil in front of 25,000 enthusiastic fans and Johan Kristoffersson once again found himself out of luck.
The Hansen brothers struggled for outright pace in their Peugeots on the opening day in France, sitting just fourth and fifth overnight but a change of set-up and shrewd tyre strategy paved the way to a much more competitive day on Sunday.
Timmy Hansen – who entered the weekend holding a six-point advantage at the summit of the championship standings – produced a demon start and a scintillating turn-of-speed in Q4 to top the timesheets and launch himself onto the front row of the starting grid for the first semi-final alongside arch-rival Kristoffersson.
Two fastest times out of four secured the KYB EKS JC ace Top Qualifier honours, but driveshaft failure while leading the semi-final spelt disaster for the three-time world champion, allowing Hansen and ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport’s Timo Scheider to sneak past on the last lap.
Kristoffersson narrowly fended off Kevin Abbring for third place, but was then unable to take up his spot in the final as the gearbox in his Audi was also found to be damaged. Despite a herculean effort by his team to replace it, he unfortunately did not make it to the grid within the specified time limit.
That set up a Hansen front row lockout, after Kevin had outgunned GRX-SET World RX Team star Niclas Grönholm at the start of the second semi-final to assume a lead he would never relinquish. Following a textbook getaway in the final, the brothers then sped away from their pursuers to extend their winning run, with Kevin shadowing Timmy right the way to the chequered flag for a third consecutive one-two.
Behind the Hansen pairing, Q1 pace-setter Grönholm overcame his slow semi-final start to achieve his first podium of the campaign and a strong points haul – a welcome tonic for the Finn following a difficult season to-date – with Abbring going well again for fourth, despite having to contend with a slipping clutch that hampered his hopes of a rostrum result on Unkorrupted’s home turf.
Krisztián Szabó maintained his record of progressing through to the final at every event so far in 2021 in fifth position for GRX-SET, with Scheider completing the top six.
Timmy Hansen, Hansen World RX Team (1st), said:
“What an amazing season we are having! I think this is a time in my career and our lives that we will always remember, with one-two finishes for the team in each of the first three events – it’s just magic.
“I must say I was lucky in many ways to get the win – it was a shame that Johan [Kristoffersson] had his technical issue – but that’s the way it goes sometimes and today it went my way. Rallycross is about much more than just being quick, and there have been many races in my career where I have had the speed but not come away with the result.
“Kevin was super-fast in the final – he was on my bumper the whole time, so I had to keep pushing as hard as I could. To share the result with him once again is fantastic, and this victory is 100 per cent for the team, who worked so hard to get us back on-track after yesterday. I’m super grateful to each and every one of them.”
Kevin Hansen, Hansen World RX Team (2nd), said:
“The competition seemed closer than ever this weekend, with a lot of drivers battling for the top times, but I felt really good in the car throughout. I must admit, Timmy and I didn’t plan to be side-by-side for quite so long at the start of the final, but we sorted it out pretty nicely!
“We both had good pace and good tyres left, and I felt really fast so the team told me over the radio to stick with him. We never really got the chance to break free and try something – Niclas [Grönholm] was just a bit too close for us to take that risk – so in the end, we focussed on bringing home another one-two finish, which I think is quite incredible. Now, we need to continue working hard to extract more pace, and our car should suit Riga well, so I’m really excited to go there next and try to win.”
Niclas Grönholm, GRX-SET World RX Team (3rd), said:
“I’m a bit disappointed, because we had the opportunity to win today. I felt we were up there with the top guys at last, after a difficult first couple of rounds where our pace has been quite up-and-down. This weekend, we were on it right from Q1 and whilst we maybe made some bad choices in Q2 and Q3, after that we found a good set-up in the car and I felt comfortable to push.
“I really thought we could go all the way, but unfortunately the stall at the start of the semi-final ruined the weekend, because you really need a good grid position in the final if you want to win. I did what I could and tried to fight back, and I guess third place from the last row is ok, but I’m here to win. We have the pace in the car – we just need a little bit of luck, and then the results will come.”
DESLANDES DAZZLES WITH VICTORY ON RX2e DEBUT
Dorian Deslandes was an 11th-hour addition to the high-quality FIA RX2e Championship field at Lohéac, but the teenage French prodigy starred from the outset on his maiden appearance in the all-electric single-make series, stunning his more experienced rivals to win the first two qualifiers and top the intermediate classification.
From there, Deslandes produced a peerless performance in both the semi-final and final, converting pole position into victory on both occasions to cement a stunning success on his four wheel-drive debut – defeating a number of former World Championship stars in the process.
Two of them joined the 18-year-old on the podium. On his return to the paddock, Reinis Nitišs – the youngest World RX event-winner in history – went from strength-to-strength over the course of the weekend, leading the way in Q3 and ultimately going on to overhaul championship leader Guillaume De Ridder in the final for the runner-up spoils. The Belgian’s chief title rival Jesse Kallio finished fourth, ahead of American Conner Martell and Sweden’s Isak Sjökvist.
Cyril Raymond – who clinched the RX2 Series crown at Lohéac in 2017 – similarly showed sufficient speed to reach the final on his RX2e bow, but several wheel-banging duels at the semi-final stage saw him narrowly miss out.
MÜNNICH RACES TO MAIDEN EURO RX1 TRIUMPH
René Münnich emerged from a dramatic Euro RX1 final to claim a maiden triumph for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport ahead of Andréa Dubourg and Tamás Kárai. The German was on the leading pace throughout to place fourth in the intermediate standings and seal a front row starting spot for the second semi-final.
A sensational start propelled the SEAT Ibiza into an immediate lead that Münnich would retain to the end, and from the front row again in the final, he looked set for a podium finish in second – until that podium turned into victory when leader Andreas Bakkerud suddenly slowed and stopped with barely a lap left to run.
Münnich duly raced past to take a popular first win in the European Championship, followed home by fans’ favourite Dubourg, whose brother Jean Baptiste – second in the title chase arriving at Lohéac – exited proceedings before the semi-final stage after a Q4 clash with DA Racing team-mate Romuald Delaunay left him with a broken arm.
Kárai celebrated his own milestone result in third to cap an excellent weekend, while Bakkerud managed to get his ESMotorsport Škoda re-started to take fourth – a result that has elevated the Norwegian to the top of the points table – ahead of team-mate Jānis Baumanis and Fabien Pailler, who was on-course to finish second at his home track before retiring due to a battery problem.
IRREPRESSIBLE PAUWELS IGNITES EURO RX3 TITLE DUEL
Kobe Pauwels has been threatening to depose Volland Racing team-mate Yury Belevskiy from the highest step of the podium since the beginning of the campaign, and in France today, the Belgian teenager finally succeeded to truly ignite the Euro RX3 championship battle.
Pauwels had never raced at Lohéac before this weekend, but he is nothing if not a quick learner and after posting the fastest time in Q3, he proceeded to dominate the second semi-final and duly line up on the front row of the grid for the final.
Following an early joker, the 16-year-old – one of the youngest and least experienced drivers in the Euro RX3 field – hunted down pole-sitter Belevskiy and seized the initiative following the Russian’s own joker. He subsequently held on to the chequered flag to secure a hugely popular breakthrough victory, with the Russian placing second to retain the championship lead and Timur Shigabutdinov rounding out the rostrum to complete a Volland top three lockout.
Marat Knyazev finished fourth, with Jan Černý and local specialist Maximilien Eveno leading the Škoda charge in fifth and sixth respectively.
The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship campaign resumes in a fortnight’s time at Riga in Latvia on 18-19 September, featuring a double bill of World RX action and round three of the Euro RX1 season.
Copyright-free images are available for media download via the World RX Newsroom on the Red Bull Content Pool.
1. Timmy Hansen (SWE) Hansen World RX Team 6 laps
2. Kevin HANSEN (SWE) Hansen World RX Team + 0.652s
3. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) GRX-SET World RX Team + 2.235s
4. Kevin ABBRING (NLD) Unkorrupted + 4.729s
5. Krisztián SZABÓ (HUN) GRX-SET World RX Team + 4.968s
6. Timo SCHEIDER (FIN) ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport + 12.702s
Full results can be found at www.fiaworldrallycross.com