Gronholm takes home RX win in Finland


Finland’s Niclas Gronholm scored an emotional home victory at the CapitalBox World RX of Finland, round four of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy today (30 August).

GRX Taneco’s Gronholm produced his best qualifying performance of the season in the Intermediate Classification to end up second and take 15 championship points at the Kouvola circuit, located 130km north east of Finland’s capital Helsinki. He then won semi-final two in treacherous conditions to earn a front row start for the final.

The TQ (top qualifier) position in the Intermediate Classification was taken by Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson, the World RX Drivers’ points leader, fresh from winning round three of the Championship at the same circuit on Saturday.

Kristoffersson started from pole position for the final, thanks to victory in semi-final one, but it was Gronholm who led on lap one after overtaking Kristoffersson at the first corner. From there on, Gronholm held the lead in difficult wet and slippery conditions at the picturesque venue, fending off the close attentions of first Kristoffersson, and  then Mattias Ekstrom, when Kristoffersson took his joker on lap three.

Managing the race lead with maturity beyond his years, with the chasing pack just centimetres behind the GRX Taneco Hyundai i20 Supercar for the entire race, Gronholm took his joker on lap six and held on to score his third World RX career victory.

Ekstrom finished second, overtaking Kristoffersson in the last corner. For the first time in 2020 though, Kristoffersson didn’t finish on the podium, he was also overtaken by Gronholm’s GRX team mate, Russia’s Timur Timerzyanov, in a race to the finish line.

Sweden’s Timmy Hansen, racing a Peugeot 208 for Team Hansen, finished fifth after taking his joker on lap one and Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel’s Andreas Bakkerud completed the list of final finishers.

Kristoffersson continues to lead the Drivers’ Championship standings, KYB Team JC maintains its position in the lead of the Teams’ Championship standings.

“I knew that the guys behind would push me in the tight corners in the final, so I just kept to the inside lines and just accelerating on the straights was enough. I was keeping calm and trying not to do any mistakes at all. I did a few, but not so big mistakes. I felt the pressure but it was basically just to control the race when I got into the lead, and it’s really nice to get a win,” said Gronholm.

Ekstrom’s second place finish kept the Swede in title-contention. “I had good pace in the final, it was difficult to see with so much dirt on the windscreen, but somehow the wipers swept it away and I could see. I felt had good pace compared to Niclas so I had no problem at all to stick on his bumper, but he did no mistakes so big congratulations to him and the entire team – when you make no mistakes then you can win. I didn’t see much, I heard my guys on the radio, they said it would be tight in the last corner and I look forward to watching it on TV because everyone says it was a great race,” said Ekstrom.

Timerzyanov visited the podium for the first time this year. “That was good. That was a nice fight in both the semi-final and final, it was so close. I started to over drive a little bit on the last lap, and it was a really tight last corner, everyone wanted to be on the podium. Johan opened the door and I used that to pass him on the inside. I’m really happy,” said Timerzyanov.

Finland’s Juha Rytkonen, racing for the GRX SET team, almost made it three Hyundai i20s in the final, but was handed a five second track limits infringement penalty and the place he initially held for the final was taken by Bakkerud. Team Hansen’s Kevin Hansen, from Sweden, was also classified fourth in his semi-final, he lost out in a battle for position with his brother and teammate in the final lap of the semi-final. KYB Team JC’s Robin Larsson and GCK Bilstein’s Anton Marklund, both from Sweden, completed the list of finishers in semi-final one, and Germany’s Timo Scheider, racing for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport and Finland’s Jere Kalliokoski were fifth and sixth in semi-final two.

The first reserve for the semi-finals was Netherlands’ Kevin Abbring, making his debut for the Unkorrupted team in a Renault Clio. Great Britain’s Liam Doran, the Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel driver was 14th and Abbring’s Unkorrupted team mate Guerlain Chicherit, from France, was 15th. The final championship point was claimed by Hungary’s Tamas Karai. Finland’s Jani Paasonen and Atro Maatta, and Germany’s Rene Muennich completed the list of qualifiers in the Intermediate Classification.

Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of Motorsports Events at IMG, concluded: “What a brilliant performance today from a real rising star of motor sport. Congratulations to Niclas for a fantastic drive in the final, and to the whole GRX Taneco team for having two drivers on the podium. It’s been an intense week for everyone involved in the championship, with four rounds in eight days, and everybody has done a brilliant job. Now there’s a short break to the next double-header in Latvia, but first this weekend’s action will be dissected in the second edition of the new RX After Track fuelled by Monster Energy on our Facebook and YouTube channels.”

The fifth and sixth rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will take place on 19-20 September at the Neste World RX of Riga.