Niclas Grönholm capitalized on an early joker and intense fighting from the championship frontrunners to take his second World Rallycross win of the season at Montalegre in Portugal.
The Hyundai driver led a three-car joker train on the opening lap as title protagonists Timmy Hansen and Johan Kristoffersson charged into the first corner neck-and neck.
What followed was an intense fight between the lead pair for the first three laps with Kevin Hansen shadowing both.
On the third lap, Kevin Hansen made a daring move in the dirt section to get by Kristoffersson, forcing the Audi driver wide. He subsequently cut the next corner, destroying a track marker in the process to maintain position – a move that subsequently resulted in a five-second penalty.
That altercation gave Timmy Hansen some much-needed breathing room out in front, but all the while the clear air afforded by Grönholm’s early joker enabled him to move into victory contention.
With both Hansens and Kristoffersson finally jokering on the final lap, Grönholm was able to narrowly overhaul Timmy Hansen, who remained on the bumper of the eventual winner.
Kristoffersson finished third on the road ahead of Kevin Hansen, promoted to the podium post-race as a result of Krsitoffersson’s penalty. Krisztián Szabó and team-mate Enzo Ide also slotted in ahead of the penalized Kristoffersson.
With a disappointing seven-car entry list for this weekend, British Rallycross regular Ollie O’Donovan was the only driver who failed to make it to the final.
In European RX3, Yury Belevskiy made up for having a certain 2020 title taken from him by the pandemic-caused shortening of the racing calendar by wrapping up the 2021 title in the front-wheel-drive class.
The Audi driver had already ensured himself of the championship ahead of the final, but started it from pole and won regardless with a dominant drive to make it four event wins out of five this year.
Marat Knyazev finished second on the road, but third the championship, while Kobe Pauwels – the only other driver to win a round this season – took third on the road and runner-up spot for the season as a whole.
Damian Litwinowicz and local driver Nuno Araújo were the final finishers in fourth and fifth, while Timur Shigabutdinov bounced back from a dramatic flip on Saturday to make it into the final, but hit more trouble, spinning into the wall on the race start.
Following the final, Belevskiy confirmed that Montalegre would be his final event in RX3, with the Swiss-licensed Russian eyeing a move into European RX1 or RallyX Nordic Supercars next year.
Final results (6 laps)
1 Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai) 3m56.426s
2 Timmy Hansen (Peugeot) +0.537s
3 Kevin Hasen (Peugeot) +1.977s
4 Krisztián Szabó (Hyundai) +2.270s
5 Enzo Ide (Audi) +3.762s
6 Johan Kristoffersson (Audi) +5.754s
SF1: T Hansen, SF2: Kristoffersson
Q1: T Hansen, Q2: T Hansen, Q3: T Hansen, Q4: K Hansen
1 T Hansen 178 2 Kristoffersson 161 3 K Hansen 159 4 Grönholm 149 5 Szabó 127 6 Kevin Abbring 97 7 Ide 89 8 Timo Scheider 75 9 Juha Rytkönen 52 10 Mattias Ekström 37