Mattias Ekström gave his championship challenge a much-needed shot in the arm as he topped qualifying for round eight of the World Rallycross Championship in Barcelona.
The 2016 champion topped both Q1 and Q2, with Andreas Bakkerud taking his second-round win of the year in Q3.
Ekström’s strong morning came as points leader Johan Kristoffersson had his worst qualifying performance of the season so far, ending qualifying in fifth.
The double champion had a conservative run to sixth in Q1, wary that a third infraction of the weekend could result in a five-point penalty in the championship. He fared better in Q2, taking fourth in the round, but was sixth once again in Q3 after finishing last on the road in a hotly contested heat that also featured Bakkerud, both Hansen brothers, and Ekström.
Between second placed Bakkerud and Kristoffersson was Kevin and Timmy Hansen, winner of round seven on Saturday. Kevin Hansen enjoyed his strongest qualifying run so far this season with a brace of overall second places in Q2 and Q3.
Anton Marklund completed the top six ahead of Robin Larsson who will make the semifinals on merit today after advancing at the expense of team-mate Enzo Ide on Saturday.
Niclas Gronholm had a tricky morning, struggling to find speed in his Hyundai i20 – he ended up eighth, ahead of Timo Scheider and team-mate Timur Timerzyanov, while Audi duo Tamas Karai and Ide took the final two transfer spots, although Ide’s place remains subject to an investigation after contact with Oliver Bennett in Q3.
Should he be penalized, Mandie August – who finished qualifying in 13th – will move up.
Bennett, who won his Q2 heat and stood to be in a position to advance before the contact with Ide ended up 14th, ahead of Patrick Guillerme, while Liam Doran’s day ended early, with him down in 16th.
The Brit suffered an engine issue while leading in Q2, which resulted in a spin and contact with the wall as he crossed the finish line, his Mégane R.S. RX not giving him enough power to collect his slide. After that, the GCK-led RX Cartel team opted to retire him from the event due to the problem.
In European Super1600, round one winner Yuri Belevskiy was top qualifier, ahead of Gergely Marton and Artur Egorov, the trio taking a round win each in a closely fought morning of running.
Marat Kniazev and Marius Bermingrud made sue Audi A1s locked out the top-five spots, ahead of the Skodas of Radoslaw Raczkowski, Jan Cerny, Joao Ribeiro, and Josef Susta.
Rasmus Tuominen ended the morning 10th, ahead of Jeremy Lambec and Marcel Snoeijers despite a bizarre incident in Q3 which resulted in his Renault Twingo ending up on its roof after contact with Ribeiro going into turn two.
Despite the hefty shunt, which resulted in him sitting out of the restarted Q3 race, Tuominen will be able to continue with the rest of the event