Niclas Grönholm resisted immense pressure from Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström to take his first round win of the 2020 World Rallycross season at Kouvola in Finland.
The GRX Hyundai driver started the final on the front row of the grid alongside Kristoffersson after winning the second semifinal, and by running in the later semi was more familiar with the ever-changing track conditions. He used that to his advantage to better the Volkswagen driver at the start.
The battle between the two slowed the pack and allowed Ekström to join the fray, setting up a nail-biting three-way fight for the win over the six-lap contest.
All three ran together for much of the final, Kristoffersson eager to force a mistake from Grönholm and making contact with his bumper multiple times.
Kristoffersson was quicker, but couldn’t find a way past Grönholm so opted to take the joker at the halfway point. With the wet and muddy track conditions slowing Grönholm’s pace up front, Kristoffersson was immediately able to catch up to him and Ekström to continue the trio’s battle.
Grönholm and Ekström resisted taking the longer route until the final lap though, something that looked to set up Kristoffersson to leapfrog both and take claim victory but the lesser-travelled joker route proved to be marginally quicker in the challenging conditions.
Both emerged narrowly ahead of Kristoffersson, who made contact with Ekström going into the final corner. Kristoffersson came off worse, running wide at the final corner.
That opened the door for Timur Timerzyanov to snatch the final podium spot and Timmy Hansen to also close in. The Russian had kept the front three in his sights for much of the final, so was ready to pounce immediately when things went wrong for Kristoffersson.
Despite sliding wide, Kristoffersson was able to just fend off Timmy Hansen for fourth – his first finish off the podium since Belgium in 2018. Andreas Bakkerud completed the final field in fifth after making a slow start from which he never recovered.
Bakkerud’s spot in the final came at the last minute, with local wildcard Juha Rytkönen, a podium finisher in round one, being relegated out of the final six after being handed a track limits penalty following his third place finish in the first semifinal.
He was joined on the sidelines by Robin Larsson, who was a contender for that final transfer spot until he slowed late on when his windshield wipers broke. Anton Marklund also missed out after his charge was also hampered by a lack of vision, his view also obscured by mud.
In the second semifinal Kevin Hansen missed out to Timur Timerzyanov who, much like his podium result in the final, nicked third on the line and beat the younger Hansen brother by just 0.06s. Timo Scheider and Jere Kalliokoski also failed to advance from that second eliminator.