The FIA World Rallycross Championship delivered a great season finale in South Africa near Cape Town, at the Killarney International Raceway.
While Johan Kristoffersson had already been crowed World Champion, there was still a battle between Mattias Ekström, Andreas Bakkerud, Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb for second place.
The PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team didn’t have the best of preparations, with their cars being delayed on their way to the track, so the team only had them on Friday, which wasn’t ideal.
If it was the optimizing of the car setup that was lacking or stressed mechanics is hard to tell, but neither Solberg nor Kristoffersson had a super Q1, while Sebastien Loeb was the fastest of all.
They did strike back in Q2, where Kristoffersson was the fastest driver, ahead of teammate Solberg.
Timur Timerzyanov got a puncture in the Q2 run, which sent him to the final spot.
Loeb was the best placed driver after Day 1, ahead of Solberg, Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Mattias Ekström and Johan Kristoffersson.
Oliver Bennett had to borrow a turbo from the GRX Taneco team, since the one in his own Mini Cooper was broken.
The Sunday was a brand new day, but there was still sunshine and hot temperatures.
Robin Larsson and Janis Baumanis had a tough duel through several laps in Q3, where Larsson was all sideways, but managed to get it back, and almost won anyway – until teammate Kevin Eriksson was a slight bit faster over the four laps.
Loeb was flying in Q3 – until Kristoffersson had his run, and smashed the time by over one second!
Robin Larsson was turned around in Q4 by teammate Kevin Eriksson, which didn’t really help on their joint advancement towards the semifinals. Both cars finished third and fourth in the heat.
Anton Marklund jumpstarted in his heat, which gave him an extra Joker Lap as a penalty.
There was a lot of troubles between the drivers in the final Q4 heat, where Solberg went all sideways towards Turn 1, and was almost taking Kristoffersson out. Mattias Ekström was on his way around the outside of Solberg and Kristoffersson, but Solberg pushed Eki wide onto a huge detour, sending him to the rear of the field. Even though the Peugeot’s with Loeb and Timmy Hansen were fast, Kristoffersson ended up winning the race anyway, along with doing the fastest race of the weekend.
Johan Kristoffersson, Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Kevin Hansen, Janis Baumanis and Timur Timerzyanov made it into Semi 1, while Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekström, Anton Marklund, Timo Scheider and Guerlain Chicherit went into Semi 2.
Niclas Grönholm, Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson were the famous names that didn’t reach the last semifinals of the season.
Kristoffersson got the best start, but Timmy Hansen tried to go around the outside in Turn 1. Timmy Hansen and Bakkerud made contact with each other, which sent Bakkerud into the armco, but he was able to continue in P4. Baumanis chose to Joker on the very first lap. Kristoffersson was first, ahead of Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen, Bakkerud and Timerzyanov.
Bakkerud retired from the race on Lap 4, losing all chances of fighting for second in the World Championship with teammate Ekström.
Timmy Hansen jokered on his penultimate lap, but still rejoined in second, even though both Kristoffersson and Kevin Hansen still had to do theirs.
Kristoffersson won Semi 1 in dominating style ahead of Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen. The weekend was over for Janis Baumanis, Timer Timerzyanov and Andreas Bakkerud. Three Swedes into the Final, in the first go.
Loeb took the start of Semi 2, but Solberg pushed himself past the Frenchman and took the lead. Ekström came into third, ahead of Scheider and Marklund, while Chicherit chose to Joker on the first lap. Marklund took his Joker Lap on Lap 2. Scheider was in the third lap, while Loeb waited one more lap.
Solberg and Ekström waited until the very final lap to Joker, and rejoined in first and third, with Loeb slotting in between the pair. Anton Marklund finished P4, ahead of Timo Scheider, while Guerlain Chicherit retired with technical issues.
Four Swedes, a Norwegian, and a Frenchman were in the very last Final of the year.
Kristoffersson and Solberg came side by side to Turn 1, but Kristoffersson made it out first. Ekström was up to third, after a good couple of turns. He started attacking Solberg, who took a shortcut over the grass, but cut right in front of Ekström again, like he had actually taken the racing line.
Solberg parked the car in the wall on the second lap, and had to climb out of it. Timmy Hansen hit the stranded car in the huge dust cloud, and had to retire a few metres later.
Ekström jokered very early, and made it out ahead of Sebastien Loeb, in the fight for second.
But nobody could touch Johan Kristoffersson, who won the 11th out of 12 races this season. Mattias Ekström finished P2, ahead of Sebastien Loeb and Kevin Hansen – while Petter Solberg and Timmy Hansen retired from the race.
Johan Kristoffersson finished as FIA World Rallycross Champion, ahead of Mattias Ekström and Andreas Bakkerud. Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg and Timmy Hansen were in the next positions.
PSRX Volkswagen Sweden won the Teams Championship ahead of EKS Audi Sport and Team Peugeot Total. GRX Taneco, GC Kompetition and Olsbergs MSE were the last teams in the standings.
That was the end to the 2018 season. A season that has been totally dominated by Volkswagen. Only Loeb grabbed a single win in Portugal, at the second race of the year, but otherwise it was all VW.
This was the final season in the World RX for now, where so many works teams were represented in the sport. Both EKS Audi Sport and Team Peugeot Total have announced, that they are pulling out as a works outfit, while Olsbergs MSE won’t be on the grid either. The remaining teams haven’t confirmed their 2019 programmes. Even though the FIA has tried to limit the costs of the series, it still gets more and more expensive, combined with added travel costs imposed on the teams by IMG, the World RX organizers, having more and more rounds outside Europe, like the 2019 opening round in Abu Dhabi. That is a country, that the privateers have absolutely no interest to compete in, so we have to wait and see over the winter.
The 2019 season has been scheduled to start on 5-6 April in Abu Dhabi, at the Formula 1 Circuit, Yas Marina.