Johan Kristoffersson celebrates 6th World Rallycross Championship title in Hong Kong, Kevin Hansen runner-up after victory
Johan Kristoffersson is World Rallycross Champion for the sixth time. At the final race weekend of the World RX in Hong Kong, the Swede's entry into the final on Saturday was enough to win the title. He rounded off a dominant season on Sunday with a victory ahead of team-mate Ole Christian Veiby and surprise third-placed Patrick O'Donovan, who had celebrated his debut in the world championship just one day earlier. Saturday's race was won by Kevin Hansen ahead of Niclas Grönholm and Timo Scheider.
For the first time in its nine-year history, the World Rallycross Championship organised an Asian race this weekend. It was hosted by the metropolis of Hong Kong, where a tight city circuit was set up directly on the pier with a view of the skyscrapers, Ferris wheel and sea, which made for powerful images in the broadcast. Two new drivers also took part: Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and RX1 rider Patrick O'Donovan.
In the rain, drivers with rally experience such as Ole Christian Veiby in particular found it easier to find the ideal line on the track, which was new to all the drivers, in the first sessions of the race day. However, as the heat races progressed on Saturday, three other drivers battled for the top positions.
After a puncture in qualifying, Kevin Hansen came back with a win ahead of Kristoffersson in the first heat. The latter fought a strong battle with the Finn Niclas Grönholm in Heat 2, which the Finn was able to win. Alongside them, Timo Scheider, Klara Andersson and the aforementioned Veiby qualified for the final.
Hansen celebrates first win of the season in Grönholm's race to catch up
Due to the particularly tight first corner, no driver was actually able to take pole position in a race until the final. However, Hansen created some space for himself to make up ground and contested the race from the front. Behind him, Kristoffersson, Veiby, Scheider and then Grönholm, who was slow to get off the line despite a good reaction time, got into position. Once on the move, he started an impressive race to catch up with an early joker lap and strong lap times. He overtook Veiby and Scheider and was in third place at one point, although an attack on Kristoffersson seemed hopeless.
Because he was involved in his own duel with Kevin Hansen. In an attempt to put Kevin Hansen under pressure, the new and old world champion went into the joker lap on the penultimate lap of the race. Having just turned back onto the track, he came to a halt, which decided the race prematurely. Kevin Hansen celebrated his first win of the season and third WRX triumph ever. Grönholm and Scheider benefited from the KMS driver's retirement and inherited the remaining podium positions.
|1||Kevin Hansen||Hansen World RX Team||3:17.820 min|
|2||Niclas Grönholm||Construction Equipment Dealerteam||+2.290 s|
|3||Timo Scheider||All-inkl.com Münnich Motorsport||+3.276 s|
|4||Ole Christian Veiby||Kristoffersson Motorsport||+4.818 s|
|5||Klara Andersson||Construction Equipment Dealerteam||+6.526 s|
|6||Johan Kristoffersson||Kristoffersson Motorsport||+21.893 s|
Kristoffersson back in the fast lane on Sunday
Visibly buoyed by his victory the day before, things seemed to continue in the same vein on Sunday under blue skies and sunshine. But the tide turned at the start of Heat 2 and Kristoffersson returned to his world championship form: he miraculously took the lead, while his rivals were swallowed up in the chaos of the first corner and were unable to catch up.
This drama for Kevin Hansen was repeated in the semi-final, which is why Saturday's winner was eliminated in fourth place. In the final, Kristoffersson proved once again why he is the 2023 World Champion. As all the drivers struggled with the waterlogged track in the first corner, he defended his pole position on the racing line and drove to an unchallenged five-second lead over his team-mate as the race progressed.
"I'm very happy that I was able to put on a show in front of so many fans," said Kristoffersson. "It was fantastic to come here and after the disappointing final yesterday, it was great to celebrate victory today. I can't thank my team enough for all their efforts. They work every waking hour and sacrifice time with their families to give us the best car possible. It's fantastic to reward them in this way."
In third place came Patrick O'Donovan, who had kept out of the scrum with a clever line. He was followed by Andersson, Hansen and Grönholm, who again had problems at the start. Klara Andersson was overtaken by both drivers after the joker lap, but O'Donovan was able to defend his third place on the exit by millimetres against the 2019 world champion and saved it over a lap to the finish. The 19-year-old was therefore on the podium alongside the two KMS drivers in his second WRX race. With 5th place, Grönholm was unable to make up enough points on Kevin Hansen to snatch the runner-up spot from him.
|1||Johan Kristoffersson||Kristoffersson Motorsport||3:09.300 min|
|2||Ole Christian Veiby||Kristoffersson Motorsport||+3.641 s|
|3||Patrick O'Donovan||Hansen World RX Team||+4.599 s|
|4||Timmy Hansen||Hansen World RX Team||+4.939 s|
|5||Niclas Grönholm||Construction Equipment Dealerteam||+6.218 s|
|6||Klara Andersson||Construction Equipment Dealerteam||+6.980 s|