A massive 287 days since the 2019 World Rallycross season concluded, the 2020 season kicked off at Höljes with two rounds at once last weekend.
Most drivers got points on the board after both rounds, but as is often the case with motorsport, the overall standings don’t quite give the full picture.
Here DirtFish’s Rallycross editor Dominik Wilde and contributor Stephen Brunsdon deliver their verdict on the World RX field, ranking their top 10 drivers from the opening two rounds of the season.
10. Timmy Hansen
It was a rotten weekend for the reigning champion but despite horrendous luck over both days, his class shone through the cracks, helping him appear on this list.
Round one was solid, right up until the final stage where being spun out by Anton Marklund on the first lap was compounded by clipping the inside barrier at turn eight in low visibility, which left him stuck in the gravel trap on the outside of turn nine.
In round two a combination of unfavorable draws, technical issues, and an uncharacteristically scrappy run in his semi-final left him missing out on the main event.
It wasn’t exactly a champion’s weekend for Timmy, but there were still occasions where he managed to show just how good he can be, even if he was constantly swimming against the tide. – DW
9. Timo Scheider
As alluded to in the TV broadcast, Timo Scheider is not a DTM driver anymore. He is a full-on rallycross driver and last weekend was demonstrative proof that the affable German is a dark horse this year.
Without being disrespectful, the Seat Ibiza is definitely not the best car in the field. Yet Scheider made both finals on merit and inherited the final podium spot following Marklund’s penalty in the first round.
His defensive driving at the end of Sunday’s semi-final was sensational and showcased just how far Scheider has come in rallycross. – SB
8. Niclas Grönholm
Niclas Grönholm in a GRX Hyundai is a winning combination. He proved as much twice last year en-route to fourth in the standings.
But Höljes was a tough weekend. There had been flashes of strong pace in the dry and he was just getting into his rhythm before the heavens opened ahead of the final. A stall at the start ruined his chances of any meaningful result as Kristoffersson cruised to victory.
Sunday’s second round was a similar disappointment, having more often than not found himself in traffic. But make no mistake, Grönholm will return to the very sharp end soon enough and unlock the undoubted speed he has. – SB
7. Andreas Bakkerud
Maybe it was asking a bit too much to ask for Bakkerud to be fighting for the event win on his first outing in the GC Kompetition Mégane. Maybe. But on the other hand, it was still an impressive showing from the Norwegian who ran Timmy Hansen so close for last year’s title.
With little testing time in his new car, especially one with the quirks of the Mégane’s design like inboard brakes and double wishbone suspension, even a driver such as Bakkerud had been expected to take some time to get used to the machinery.
He missed the semi-finals on Saturday after an admittedly poor start but come Sunday he showed just how strong the Bakkerud/GCK partnership can become in 2020. A slow burner possibly this year, but one which will only get better each round. – SB
6. Kevin Hansen
It wasn’t the best weekend for Team Hansen but Kevin Hansen managed to make the most of it, salvaging a podium finish in round two.
A winning start to the weekend in his opening round one heat was slowly undone by traffic in the remaining races on that first day, while in round two he consistently held his own against faster drivers to make it to the main event, where his perseverance was rewarded with some silverware at the end.
Arguably the most complete driver in rallycross in 2019, Kevin Hansen still has a shot at this title, but he’ll need to find what makes his Peugeot 208’s new upgrades tick, and get a little luck, first. – DW
5. Krisztián Szabó
Expectations may not have been high for Krisztián Szabó to shine last weekend, given all the attention was on the returning champions Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekström, but the 2017 and 2018 European Super1600 Champion had a great weekend in the third Hyundai i20 run by Set Promotion.
He didn’t make either of the finals but that alone doesn’t tell the full story. His form across the weekend, as well as his race craft and joker tactics, were exactly what you’d expect from a top line World RX driver.
He was bit rusty around the edges but given his limited experience – a solitary full-season in an EKS-run Audi S1 – it was a surprisingly strong performance. – SB
4. Robin Larsson
Had it not been for a wayward slide at the first corner of the final in Sunday’s second round, Larsson may well have opted for a first lap joker.
Had that happened, it may well have been Larsson instead of Ekström taking the fight to – and ultimately prevailing against – Kristoffersson’s Volkswagen Polo. The margins were so fine all weekend that either of the JC Raceteknik Audis could have come out on top.
It’s clear that Larsson, after a dismal season in 2018 with Olsbergs MSE, is back to his best form and has lost none of his speed, nor his racecraft. He was a tad overzealous in Saturday’s semi-final against GCK’s Anton Marklund, which ultimately cost him a place in the final, but Larsson is a fast driver in a very fast car this year. – SB
3. Anton Marklund
It was a tricky weekend for GCK’s Megane runners but Anton Marklund quickly staked his claim as a solid championship contender, winning four out of his six heat races over the two days, and beating some solid opposition in the process.
The end result wasn’t a true reflection of Marklund’s weekend though. A harsh penalty in round one robbed him of a podium, while in round two he missed out on a final berth after an intense battle in his semi-final.
The pace is there. If he can string a full event together, he could be a real dark horse for the title. – DW
2. Mattias Ekström
You wouldn’t have thought Ekström’s entry into the first two rounds of the season was a last-minute, stand-in deal.
With JC Raceteknik’s Audis freshly upgraded, Ekström was able to channel his championship-winning form throughout the weekend. It’s just a crying shame that he might not stick around for the full year…
…or will he? – DW
1. Johan Kristoffersson
A year away playing in the forests and in tin tops certainly didn’t slow down Johan Kristoffersson, who picked up where he left off at the end of 2018 by winning his 10th-straight World RX final in round one, a streak going all the way back to Silverstone in May of that year.
Looking past a minor mistake in the second final, it was a textbook weekend for the two-time champion who is already looking good for a third title in four years. – DW