Sweden’s Timmy Hansen was crowned world champion in a pulsating final round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship – the SABAT World RX of South Africa
In a season which has been the closest in the world championship’s history, as anticipated, the drivers’ title battle came down to a gripping finale in the 196th race of the 2019 campaign.
Entering the final, Timmy Hansen held a two-point lead over Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud with brother Kevin Hansen a further 11 points back.
A contentious turn-six incident had a major impact on the race result – and ultimately the title destination.
Bakkerud, in the lead after making the best start of the six finalists, tangled with Timmy Hansen who spun and dropped from second to fourth. Meanwhile, Kevin also spun the sister Peugeot 208 in the dirt and dropped to fifth place.
Bakkerud looked to be heading for victory and the title but Niclas Gronholm in the GRX Taneco Hyundai i20 had other ideas. The Finn, who had been TQ ahead of the final, took the lead from Bakkerud in the turn 6 incident to take the victory with Bakkerud second at the finish.
Timmy Hansen fought back to finish fourth behind Gronholm’s team-mate Timur Timerzyanov. Kevin was fifth.
Germany’s Timo Scheider in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza was sixth in his second appearance in a final since the opening round of the championship in Abu Dhabi.
The stewards launched a lengthy investigation in to the incident post-race and decided on no further action for the protagonists involved.
The race result meant that Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud were tied on points at 211 with Timmy taking the title by virtue of the fact that he recorded four race wins in 2019 to Bakkerud’s one. Kevin claimed third overall from Gronholm.
Timmy was overcome with emotion having climbed from his car after the obligatory donuts at Killarney International Raceway’s turn one.
For Timmy, 27, the oldest son of Kenneth Hansen, 14-time FIA European Rallycross champion, this was the perfect finish to a gruelling season and a highly-combative weekend.
“I’m in shock. I’ve put in the performance of my lifetime this weekend,” he said. “What a season it has been. It feels amazing. It is everything I wished for.
“I’m super happy that it has come down to the last race of the year with everything on the line. I’m extremely proud of how I kept cool, how I kept focussing. Race by race I delivered strong performances which is exactly what I was hoping to do coming here.
“With pressure like this, there isn’t room for the smallest mistake and its one of the best performances of my entire career. It feels unreal to be called world champion.
“In the final, I was told on the radio after the incident with Andreas (Bakkerud) that I had to make up one place to be champion. I was chasing Timo (Scheider) hard and noticed he had a problem and was able to get by for fourth place.
“It’s not the dream way to win the title but it’s not about one race, it’s a year-long battle. This season has been the best of my career.
“Also winning the teams’ title is a great result for a small team which works really hard. I’m so proud of everyone. The car has to be perfect every single time and that’s down to our entire team.”
After finishing third overall in the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship, Hansen progressed to World RX and scored his maiden success in the Italian round on his way to fourth in the championship.
A successful 2015 World RX season yielded three more wins (Norway, France, Turkey) and the runner-up spot in the series behind Petter Solberg.
In 2016, Hansen won at World RX of Canada and achieved four more podiums in 2017. Hansen entered into a fifth consecutive season with Peugeot in 2018 where he picked up two podiums and finished sixth in the championship.
In 2019, he has been the class of the field with four wins from the 10 rounds – the only multiple event winner among the field in a season which has yielded six different victors.
Bakkerud was in no mood to celebrate securing second place in the title battle after the turn six incident. “I just want to say a huge thanks to the Monster Energy RX Cartel for all their efforts this year,” he said.
“I’m also proud of myself for finding the best in myself. I felt I won the battle this weekend by having the best reaction by far at the start of the final, having everything in my pocket. I’m not going to comment any further on the incident.”
Team STARD’s Janis Baumanis finished the weekend seventh overall having reached semi-final one. His team-mate Jere Kalliokoski was 14th after a weekend which began with his Ford Fiesta catching fire in Saturday’s free practice.
GC Kompetition rounded out the season with an overall finish of eighth for team boss Guerlain Chicherit.
GCK Academy’s De Ridder made his second semi-final appearance in his Renault Clio but contact with Chicherit’s Renault Megane meant that both missed a chance to advance to the final. De Ridder received a 10-second penalty for his part in the clash and ultimately finished 10th behind EKS Sport’s Krisztian Szabo.
Sweden’s Anton Marklund was 11th in the sister GCK Renault Megane while Frenchman Cyril Raymond transgressed the track limit markers three times and was disqualified from Qualifying 2 and ended the weekend 15th overall.
Oliver Bennett in the Xite Racing Mini Cooper reached his second semi-final, the first being at his home track of Silverstone, and ended a solid weekend in 12th place just ahead of the Russian Matvey Furazhkin in the ESmotorsport – Labas GAS Skoda Fabia.
Bakkerud’s Monster Energy RX Cartel team-mate Liam Doran, who was expected to play a supporting role for the Norwegian, had a torrid weekend.
The Briton did not start in Q1 prompting an engine change on the Audi S1, broke a driveshaft in his Q2 race and withdrew from Q3.
His problems did not end there as, despite a win in Q4 he incurred a five-second penalty. He eventually finished the weekend at the foot of the standings.
See full World RX of South Africa race weekend details here.