Marklund Motorsport’s Topi Heikkinen has won this weekend’s Ladbrokes World RX of Belgium, round three of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. SDRX driver Petter Solberg finished second to establish a 22 point Championship lead in the overall drivers’ standings over Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson. Ford Olsbergs MSE’s Reinis Nitiss claimed the third podium spot.
In the opening round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship (Euro RX), Frenchman Jerome Grosset-Janin took the overall victory in his Albatec Racing prepared Peugeot 208 RX Supercar. He was followed home by 18-year-old Ole Christian Veiby who showed remarkable pace on his debut with Volkswagen Team Sweden. Hungarian Tamas Karai finished third.
“I’m really happy, Belgium is starting to feel like home!,” grinned Heikkinen who repeated his 2014 Mettet victory. The Finn was awarded the coveted Monster Energy Super Charge Award after his rapid start off the line during the final, and also wins a Rebellion Timepieces Wraith Drive Rallycross watch from the Championship’s official timing partner.
Heikkinen added: “I’m feeling really comfortable in the car now – it suits my driving style but I have to say that I am not alone. There is a team of more than 20 people who helped me to win today, my team are amazing and I couldn’t have done this without them. The fight for the Championship is well and truly on and now we get ready for Lydden Hill next week and hope to repeat this all over again.”
Runner-up Solberg astonished the Belgian crowds when he was penalised with a Double Joker penalty after jump starting his Citroen DS3 Supercar in semi-final one. The disadvantage didn’t hinder the reigning Champion, however, as Solberg drove flat out to finish just half a second behind Sweden’s PG Andersson.
Solberg took up the story: “I took a gamble in the semi-final but it didn’t work out. After that, I had to really push to make up for the time I was going to lose from taking two Jokers. All I could think about was going as fast as I could. Then in the final, the plan was to aim for second but when my spotter told me I was only a second behind Topi, I tried to catch him but went into the Joker too fast. Last time we were here, we finished third, this time we came second – maybe next year we can win!”
Third placed Nitiss was quick to congratulate his fans who had travelled from Latvia to support him this weekend but was his own harshest critic. “Of course it’s good to be third for the second event in a row but I need to improve my driving,” said the 19-year-old. “The car feels really good but my times weren’t as good in the semis or the final so I want to work on that.”
After a strong performance in a second Ford Olsbergs MSE car, Nitiss’ team-mate Andreas Bakkerud finished today’s event fourth overall. Fifth place was awarded to Sweden’s PG Andersson who lined up on the front row of today’s final alongside team-mate Heikkinen.
Elsewhere, it was a tough end to the weekend for round one winner Johan Kristoffersson who was top qualifier at the Intermediate Classification after winning heats three and four. The Volkswagen Team Sweden driver was set to win his semi-final until Kristoffersson lost his lead when he clipped a kerb with his Polo RX Supercar and dropped to fifth after incurring a front-left puncture. It was a similar story for Team Peugeot-Hansen’s Timmy Hansen who lost out on a spot in the final due to a front-left puncture.
EKS team-mates Mattias Ekstrom and Anton Marklund had a strong weekend with Marklund reaching the semis but narrowly missing out on a spot in the final after finishing fourth. Ekstrom lined up on the third row of today’s final alongside Solberg but retired after he incurred damage to his Audi S1 EKS Quattro on lap one.
Fredrik Magnussen won this weekend’s TouringCar category, the Norwegian making an incredible comeback after rolling his Ford Fiesta on day one. Anders Braten and David Norgard finished second and third respectively.
A win for Janis Baumanis in the S1600 category sees the Latvian lead the standings after two rounds. Second place was awarded to Russia’s Nikita Misyulya while Frenchman Andrea Dubourg secured the third podium spot.
Martin Anayi, World RX Managing Director for IMG Motorsport, concluded: “It’s been a fantastic weekend in Belgium; not least because of the on-track action, but the organisers have worked extremely hard to make key improvements to the circuit which has received a wealth of positive feedback from our drivers and teams. Home favourites Francois Duval and Koen Pauwels put on a fantastic show in front of the 25,000 fans that visited Mettet this weekend and it’s always encouraging to see such diversity in our Championship after today’s final included four different manufacturers. We’ve had three different winners in three events and Topi was the model of consistency this weekend after a string of quick heat times and a mature, clean drive in both his semi-final and the final. It’s excellent to see Jerome take a win for French manufacturer Peugeot after he impressed on his debut with Albatec Racing. We won’t see the European drivers until Germany next month but for the World Championship drivers, there will be little time to rest as we prepare for our home race at Lydden Hill next weekend.”