Niclas Grönholm said that his GRX team is heading to Latvia with the “boost we needed” after beating World Rally Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson in a straight fight at Kouvola in Finland.
Privateer Hyundai outfit GRX entered the 2020 season as many peoples’ favorite for the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, but after a tricky opening weekend at Höljes the team was on the backfoot.
After a midweek test, the team showed strongly at its home event with wildcard driver Juha Rytkönen finishing on the podium in round three on Saturday and Grönholm resisting intense pressure from Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström on Sunday to take his third category win. Timur Timerzyanov finished third in the same race, capping off a fine weekend for the team.
“The car is not 100% and my driving is still not 100% but of course this helps my confidence and the team finally gets a result with having two cars on the podium and so it’s nice to go to Latvia with some extra points and then of course a bit more confidence,” Grönholm told DirtFish.
“For sure it’s quite a lot nicer than leaving Höljes with only s*** results and not [being] certain of whether we would improve for this race. It gives [us] that boost we needed.”
In the final, Grönholm was hounded by Kristoffersson for virtually all of the six-lap race, but didn’t once let the two-time champion by, despite the Volkswagen runner’s repeated attempts to unsettle him.
“It’s quite difficult to overtake so I knew that even if he would push and overtake he would probably get a penalty for it, so I was just quietly focused on keeping the car on the driving line.”
With Kristoffersson clearly the quicker of the two, although unable to find a way past, Grönholm credited his result to starting on the front row. What’s more, having run in the second of the two semifinals, he was also much more familiar with the dire track conditions the pair would face in the final.
“We got some data from Juha [Rytkönen, who ran in the first semi], we saw what the same car was capable of, but otherwise for the start it was crucial to be in the first row, to be able to challenge Johan,” he said. “If I had been in the second row, I would’ve had no chance.”
“It was a bummer yesterday that I had the puncture because basically that ruined my chances yesterday to beat these guys,” he continued, referring to the puncture that cost him a stronger result in the final round three heat, and with it a better starting spot in the semifinal and subsequent final, which he ended up finishing fourth in.
“I feel that starting from the second row here when the cars are quite equal off the line it’s quite hard to even be on the podium, especially starting from the third row yesterday. It’s quite crucial to start in at least the second row.”
The Riga round in Latvia on September 19-20 marks the move into the second half of the season, and Grönholm is currently 35 points off the top of the table in third place.