Niclas Grönholm broke Hansen Team’s stranglehold on the 2021 World Rallycross Championship to win the first of two rounds in Riga.
After Timmy and Kevin Hansen swept the first three rounds of the year, Grönholm claimed his fourth career win in dramatic fashion in the Latvian capital, after coming together with polesitter Johan Kristoffersson at the start of the final.
The Hyundai driver started the main event on the front row of the grid by virtue of his win in the second semifinal, and it was Audi driver Kristoffersson who made the better getway of the two, but only just, with the pair heading towards the first corner side-by-side.
That contact quickly escalated, with reigning champion Kristoffersson coming off the worst, spearing off the track to the right. While he was able to get out of the tire barrier and keep going, his hopes of getting a first 2021 event win were to be prolonged.
Behind that lead battle, Timo Scheider quickly settled into second ahead of Grönholm’s GRX team-mate Krisztián Szabó and the Hansen duo who made a conservative start to the race further back.
Scheider’s hopes of a first podium since last year’s season opener were soon dashed however, as he pulled off the course with a mechanical issue on the first lap.
That opened the door for a GRX 1-2, with Grönholm taking off out front, while Szabó held the fort in second. He was at the mercy of the Hansens though, with the pair playing their joker strategies to perfection to overhaul him.
Timmy Hansen took the longer route on the first lap, with Kevin following a lap later. Szabó had space as a result, but the clear air afforded to both Peugeot drivers meant that by the time Szabó jokered on the fourth lap, both Hansens had been fast enough to get by.
None of this mattered to Grönholm, whose lead was already at 3.7 seconds before Szabó jokered, and had stretched to 4.6s over Timmy Hansen by race end.
Kevin Hansen held on for third to continue his team’s 100% podium record for 2021, while Szabó had to settle for fourth for the second time this season and third time in his career as that wait for a maiden podium continues.
Despite the first corner contact, Kristoffersson was classified fifth, albeit a lap down, while Scheider’s early exit from the final gave him sixth overall for the event.
Scheider’s result compounded a tough end to the event for the Münnich Motorsport squad which began the day with strong pace.
Wildcard returnee Mattias Ekström topped Q2 for the team, and he was on target to qualify for the final too until a puncture resulting from lap one contact dropped him out of contention in the first semifinal.
1 Niclas Grönholm (Hyundai)
2 Timmy Hansen (Peugeot) +4.641s
3 Kevin Hansen (Peugeot) +6.034s
4 Krisztián Szabó (Hyundai) +7.209s
5 Johan Kristoffersson (Audi) +1 lap
Ret Timo Scheider (Seat)
1 T Hansen 107 2 K Hansen 96 3 Kristofferson 81 4 Grönholm 80 5 Szabó 75 6 Kevin Abbring 67 7 Scheider 48 8 Enzo Ide 46 9 Juha Rytkönen 34 10 René Münnich 16