Six rounds down, four to go. Yes, we’re into the second half of the 2020 World Rallycross Championship season – who thought we’d get here at the start of the year?
With more than half of the schedule now in the rear-view mirror, it’s the perfect time to assess the field’s performance so far. DirtFish’s rallycross editor Dominik Wilde is back to rank his top 10 drivers of the season so far, and with the strong performance of certain drivers at the uncharacteristically dry Biķernieku Kompleksā Sporta Bāze just outside Latvian capital Riga, there’s been a few key changes.
10. Timo Scheider (-1)
It wasn’t the best weekend for Timo Scheider, who’s often been the most solid competitor outside the big three teams and Johan Kristoffersson this season.
Saturday got off to a bad start with electrical trouble but a decisive win in Q2 looked to put him back on track, but a hard charge in his semifinal wasn’t enough to make the final.
Sunday began with a customary solid if unspectacular run through the heats which netted him a semifinal spot. He was on course for his fourth final spot of the season – his first since round three – until he came together with Andreas Bakkerud. The less said about that, the better…
9. Liam Doran (New Entry)
At long last! Liam Doran made it out of the qualifiers. Twice – and with a heat win on Saturday to boot. It’s been a rotten year for the Brit so far with mechanical woe after mechanical woe. They did continue in Riga, but they didn’t define his weekend.
It was a track that Doran admits he doesn’t necessarily like, even if he does tend to run well there. A ninth and a 12th overall might not seem like title-winning form, but for someone who was at the airport before the last event had even finished, it marks a huge step forward.
Season back on track, surely the finals now beckon?
8. Timur Timerzyanov (-3)
Fresh from a podium at his team’s home race in Finland, a lot was expected of Timur Timerzyanov in Latvia, but it didn’t quite come together for the Russian.
A Q1 heat win on Saturday showed promise, but mechanical trouble in Q3 dropped him down the order and eventually left him with an unfavorable grid slot for the semifinals – where he was drawn with championship leader Kristoffersson and a rapid Robin Larsson.
It was a similar story on day two, with a Q2 heat win being bookended by a mistake in Q1 and contact in Q2. He went one better in the semis to finish the event ninth overall, boosted to eighth after Scheider’s disqualification. It was his second best result of the season, but he remains some way off team-mate Niclas Grönholm.
7. Kevin Hansen (=)
For someone who was in title contention, and won every extra-curricular activity he took part in last year, it’s been a pretty anonymous season for Kevin Hansen.
The Riga weekend started well, with a fine performance in Q1 on Saturday, but from there on he faded into the background, cracking off solid laps and heats. He did make the final on both days, a first for 2020 and its double-header format.
In the first, he rocketed through the field from the back of the grid to hold second early on, but contact with Grönholm cost him time. He was then overhauled by brother Timmy who took the joker late on to snatch the final podium spot.
The second of those appearances came at the expense of the disqualified Scheider, having narrowly missed out on advancing by the conventional route.
6. Andreas Bakkerud (-1)
Before Latvia, Andreas Bakkerud had made the final in half of the rounds so far. In Latvia, he had the pace to improve on that, but it simply proved to not be his weekend.
On Saturday he failed to win a qualifying heat for just the second time this season – despite coming painfully close in Q1, while on Sunday he won one, finished second in one, and flew through the air in one.
That hard contact didn’t keep him out of the semis though, where he was in prime position to make a final for the third time this year, but instead of lining up for the main event, he was being taken to hospital. Thankfully, all was okay.
5. Robin Larsson (+3)
Larsson has shown flashes of brilliance all season, but for whatever reason it hasn’t quite come together so far this season for the reigning European Supercar champion.
In Riga, it did. A qualifying round win on Sunday, two final appearances – a first for 2020 – and a well-earned podium in the second of those finals represents an excellent return for the Swede who’s spent much of the season in the shadow of his title-contending team-mate Mattias Ekström, even though he absolutely deserves a spotlight of his own.
4. Timmy Hansen (=)
More silverware for the reigning World RX Champion came on Saturday as he swooped by brother Kevin late on for third, while a brace of heat wins were high points on Sunday.
Team Hansen has clearly made a step forward at each round this year, but pace for an overall event win is still lacking. Grönholm, who sits both third on this list and in the championship, remains in striking distance though – and that’s despite Hansen’s lack of a main event win.
3. Niclas Grönholm (-1)
Grönholm arrived in Latvia riding the crest of a wave after winning at home, but a brace of fifth place finishes probably wasn’t what he was expecting – even if they were GRX’s strongest results of the weekend.
Saturday started with much promise with two heat wins, one against the immovable force that is Kristoffersson, but being stuck in traffic after an early joker robbed him of a top result in the final.
Sunday was a much harder fight, with the one heat win and super-close advancement from the semifinals. In the final he once again faced off with Kristoffersson, who prevailed, while Grönholm fell back as he jokered late on. The pace seems to be there, but the luck? Not so much.
2. Mattias Ekström (+1)
Calculated and measured. Two words that perfectly sum up Ekström’s weekend.
With little dry running in Finland, many teams had additional sets of dry tires to play with. Ekström used them to his advantage across both days, saving them for when it mattered. Sadly contact with team-mate Larsson robbed us of a winner-takes-all battle against Kristoffersson…
…until Sunday. Sunday was very much Ekström’s. He topped qualifying, dethroning the double champion for the first time this year, then closed him off at the start of the final. Ekström likely would’ve had to dice in a straight fight with Kristoffersson on the final lap, but as it transpired, Kristoffersson lost time in traffic, making the end result that little bit clearer.
1. Johan Kristoffersson (=)
In Riga we learned that Kristoffersson is in fact human. A dominant display on Saturday led to win number 23 in the category, but on Sunday he was defeated in qualifying, and the final – keeping up his unusual run of winning Saturday’s final but not Sunday’s during World RX’s run of double-header weekends.
That’s not to say Sunday was bad though. Far from it. He did beat Ekström on the road in Q3 and took a lights-to-flag win in his semifinal, and had had the pace to win in the final too, were it not for traffic allowing Ekström to eke out just enough to escape.
Despite the tame Sunday, Kristoffersson remains the undisputed king of World RX, and is still the driver to beat in 2020. You can’t win them all, can you?