Grönholm Takes Historic Win In Portugal

Johan Kristoffersson’s unbeaten run in the 2022 FIA World Rallycross Championship is officially at an end after a 10-second penalty promoted Niclas Grönholm to the top spot of the podium. A sensational day of racing was rounded off by the Construction Equipment Dealer Team driver taking his maiden victory in the new RX1e class, fending off Kristoffersson’s teammate Ole Christian Veiby, who took his second second position of the double header weekend, and Grönholm’s teammate Klara Andersson became the first female driver ever to achieve a podium in top flight world rallycross.

The final started innocently enough with 2019 champion Timmy Hansen pulling off a beautiful move around the dusty outside of turn 1, leading the pack for the first lap. Kristoffersson was super aggressive, weaving across the track as they started lap two, his Volkswagen Polo RX1e all over the back of the Hansen World RX Team car. He dived down the inside at turn 1, muscling his way alongside Hansen, and, as the cars squirmed under braking, they came together. Hansen was thrown off to the left, dancing through the gravel trap, before going for his Joker lap, coming out behind Grönholm and Veiby.

Andersson was absolutely sensational in the final. She piled the pressure onto Veiby relentlessly as she fought for what was the final podium position, not letting the Norwegian driver get a moment’s rest. Meanwhile, at the front, Kristoffersson waited until the last possible opportunity to Joker, coming out on track just in front of Grönholm and finishing less than a second in front of him on the road.

Speaking after the race, Grönholm acknowledged the less than ideal circumstances surrounding his first RX1e win, saying “This obviously isn’t the way I like to win and it’s always slightly bittersweet in situations like this…I was confident of challenging for the podium in the final if we got the tactics right. I made a few mistakes towards the end, without which I think I could have got Johan anyway. I know how it feels to be in his shoes, but it’s great for CE Dealer Team and all our partners to get both cars inside the top three. We’ve had a tough season so far, but we seem to be on a good path at last – so hopefully we can keep this going.”

Hansen in the gravel after the contact that landed Kristoffersson a ten-second penalty. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Fortunes were mixed for the rest of the field. Timmy’s teammate Kevin Hansen has been flying all weekend, taking heat wins and generally making his presence felt at the sharp end of the grid. Unfortunately, it all came to an end in his semi-final. At the exit of the first corner, Grönholm ran a little wide, allowing Hansen into a gap. There was a little rubbing of door panels between the two cars and Hansen’s Peugeot 208 RX1e came off worse, spinning into the barrier and breaking his rear suspension, putting him out of the race. Meanwhile, the third KMS driver, superstar teenager Gustav Bergström was denied any chance of success when a late arrival at pre-grid ruled him out of his progression race.

Despite his run being broken, Kristoffersson still has a commanding lead in the championship thanks to both Hansen drivers being unable to capitalise on his ill fortune. In fact, his closest rival is now teammate Veiby, who has secured podiums in four out of five events, the same as Kristoffersson. With six rounds still to go, it is very likely that the championship leader will be back with a vengeance when the WorldRX circus next makes port at the historic and spectacular Spa-Francorchamps on 08/09 October.

RX1e championship standings after round 5