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Johan Kristoffersson has been named the winner of the World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona, round one of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, after Mattias Ekstrom was stripped of victory by stewards due to an incident with Petter Solberg.
Ekstrom was first across the line in his EKS Audi Sport S1 but the result would remain provisional while stewards investigated an incident between the Swede and PSRX Volkswagen Sweden’s Petter Solberg on lap one.
The pair made contact on the run to turn one, resulting in Solberg being pushed to the inside and into the track markers to bring him to a stop. With Ekstrom continuing in the lead, he’d go on to resist the race-long attentions of Solberg’s team-mate Kristoffersson to win on the road.
However, after reviewing video evidence and talking with the drivers, stewards would determine Ekstrom to be at fault and subsequently disqualified him from the final, promoting Kristoffersson into first place. As a result, Ekstrom is classified with no points from the final race.
The official stewards decision reads: “Having reviewed the video evidence and heard from both competitors and drivers, the Stewards consider that car #5 (Ekstrom) moved left and made contact with car #11 (Solberg) on his left. Car #5 continued to move left, which forced car #11 off track, causing him to collide with track markers at the entry of turn one, and get stuck. Further, the Stewards considered this to be a dangerous manoeuvre and liable to hinder car #11.”
Behind Kristoffersson, who thus begins the defence of his World RX title with a 10th career win, Sebastien Loeb completed a remarkable turnaround to secure a second place finish.
Loeb was initially set to miss out on progressing beyond the qualifying races after issues in Q2 and Q3 left him 13th but would be promoted into the top twelve when Kevin Hansen in the sister Team Peugeot Total 208 withdrew before securing the top three semi-final finish he needed to make the final.
Once there, an early Joker Lap gave Loeb the edge over Andreas Bakkerud to complete an unlikely second place finish ahead of the Norwegian, who spared some blushes for Audi by inheriting a podium finish on his debut with the team.
Making only his second career appearance in a World RX final, Niclas Gronholm gave the new GRX Taneco Hyundai i20 a fine debut with an eye-catching run to fourth position, ahead of Solberg in sixth, who recovered ground but no positions in sixth initially before ascending to fifth at the expense of his excluded rival.
Loeb’s success brought some happiness to Team Peugeot Total on a day that saw Timmy Hansen unable to capitalise on his otherwise rapid pace. The Swede won Q4 and established a large lead over Ekstrom in his semi-final before slowing to a stop with just over a lap remaining, ironically lifting his team-mate Loeb into the spot he needed to progress further.
There was disappointment though for Janis Baumanis, who looked set to make it into the final only to be caught out by the slowing Hansen ahead, dropping him fourth ahead of fifth place Jerome Grosset-Janin.
Timur Timerzyanov, Guerlain Chicherit and Robin Larsson picked up points after finishing a respective fourth, fifth and sixth in their semi-final race.