Johan Kristoffersson battled back from early mechanical issues to claim victory in Round 5 of the RallyX Nordic presented by Cooper Tires championship at OuluZone in Finland today (June 5).
The three-time FIA World Rallycross Champion came out on top in the Supercar category after Niclas Grönholm picked up a puncture that dashed his hopes of a third consecutive win in the series.
Elsewhere, Tommi Hallman continued his march towards the Supercar Lites title with his third success of the season – and his fifth podium in five starts during his debut campaign in the category – while Jimmie Österberg was the class of the CrossCar/Crosskart field.
Simon Tiger was made to work hard for his fifth straight Open 2WD triumph and local driver Elias Kalliokoski also picked up silverware in CrossCar Junior during a scintillating day of action on RallyX Nordic’s first visit to the high-speed circuit.
Johan Kristoffersson stretched his lead at the top of the Supercar points standings with a trademark display of precision driving in Finland, picking up his second win of the campaign after misfortune for his closest rival Niclas Grönholm.
The Swede demonstrated his experience by limiting his free practice runs in order to save tyres on the abrasive OuluZone surface, but that foresight looked to have been in vain after mechanical issues left him bottom of the time sheets in Q1.
However, Kristoffersson fired himself back into contention by posting the fastest times in Q2 and Q3 – putting him second in the intermediate standings behind the in-form Grönholm after the latter’s Q1 victory established the Finn as the man to beat.
Grönholm, making his third appearance of the season behind the wheel of his World RX-spec Hyundai i20 following back-to-back wins at Höljes last time out, then held off the attentions of RallyX Nordic returnee Jere Kalliokoski to finish first in his semi-final while Kristoffersson also claimed bragging rights in the second semi-final to set up a mouth-watering clash.
When the lights went out, Kristoffersson pulled alongside Grönholm on the run to turn one and flung his Volkswagen Polo around the outside in an audacious attempt to seize the lead. However, the Grönholm RX star found better traction on the exit of the corner and maintained his early advantage.
That respite proved to be short-lived as Grönholm picked up a puncture when running through a rut on the second lap, robbing viewers of what looked set to be a classic RallyX Nordic battle. That left Kristoffersson alone out front ahead of the hard-charging Juha Rytkönen, who pulled off a sensational pass on Sondre Evjen for third then inherited second place when Kalliokoski also suffered a puncture. Anders Michalak was an impressive fourth while Kalliokoski limped home fifth and Grönholm parked up at the side of the track.
Today’s result leaves Kristoffersson 25 points clear of Evjen with just two rounds of the season remaining, and the 32-year-old will be hoping for more of the same when Round 6 gets underway tomorrow.
Evjen’s third place sees him jump Fraser McConnell in the overall points standing, with the Olsbergs MSE driver having failed to make the final due to time penalties for track limits during a thrilling battle with Rytkönen earlier in the afternoon.
Johan Kristoffersson said: “I wasn’t far off making that move stick on Niclas in the final! Halfway through it, I thought I had him but he had great pace on the exit of turn one. I was maybe a couple of kilometres too fast on the way in, but I knew I had to try it – that was my best chance to beat him today. I had a plan and I executed it, but Niclas did a great job.
“After that I didn’t give up, because you never know. I tried to apply pressure and not let Niclas drive too safely – especially over the bump in turn two. Unfortunately for him, he picked up a puncture while I managed to avoid it. From then on, it was about controlling the gap back to Rytkönen without taking any risks.
“Huge thanks to the team. We had some technical issues this morning but to be able to fight back with 29 points today was very well done. I tried every trick in the book on this circuit and we keep improving all the time, finding small improvements everywhere, and it definitely paid off. The car is better than ever.
“We’re back on track soon, and that is perfect for me – I don’t like to wait! I’m not good at hanging around without driving fast.”
Tommi Hallman continued his sensational debut season in Supercar Lites with his third victory of the year, this time getting the better of championship rival Nils Andersson on home turf.
The Finn has adapted to the one-make class superbly and is yet to finish outside of the podium places in all five rounds so far, giving him a commanding 22-point lead as we head towards the climax of the 2021 campaign.
It was Isak Sjökvist who was quickest out of the blocks in Q1, posting the fastest time ahead of Andersson and Hallman’s new team-mate Jonne Ollikainen. Hallman was only sixth-fastest in the opening session, but claimed second in Q2 behind Casper Jansson and was then top of the pile in Q3 as he dialled his car in.
The SET Promotion ace duly led home Andersson and Martin Jonsson in the first semi-final but Linus Östlund, who was joint-second in the championship standings before this weekend, failed to start the second semi-final and left the way open for Ollikainen, Niklas Aneklev and Sjökvist to progress – although the ever-quick Simon Olofsson missed out.
Hallman flew off the line in the final Supercar Lites race of the day and benefited from Ollikainen slotting into second, acting as a buffer to the chasing pack. Andersson reacted immediately and took his joker on the first lap, with the Kristoffersson Motorsport prodigy putting the hammer down and leapfrogging Ollikainen, but the gap to the leader was ultimately too great to bridge. Ollikainen sealed an eye-catching third while Sjökvist, Aneklev and Martin Jonsson completed the top six.
Tommi Hallman said: “This feels amazing. Winning in Finland, at my home race… I’m speechless! I’m looking forward to tomorrow, and the championship is looking really good for us right now. I was quite stressed before this weekend, because it wouldn’t be good to make a mistake when the championship is this close, but things are now looking more comfortable. It’s a new race tomorrow so let’s keep the momentum up.”
Jimmie Österberg timed his challenge to perfection in CrossCar/Crosskart, with the Power RX star emerging victorious on an unpredictable day of racing in the ultra-competitive support category.
Österberg, who has been a perennial championship challenger over the past few seasons, enjoyed a consistent day at OuluZone and topped Q3 before claiming victory in his semi-final and streaking clear in the main event to bag a bumper haul of points.
It was a case of ‘what might have been’ for Ronalds Baldins, who was fastest in Q1 and won his semi-final before retiring from second place in the final with mechanical problems. Title contender Patrik Hallberg had his own hard-luck story, missing out on the final despite being quickest in Q2 and posting second-fastest times in the other two qualifying rounds.
Points leader Isak Reiersen utilised an early joker in the final to create some clear air and finish second, although the EKS JC driver’s advantage over Österberg is now just two points, while Pasi Penttinen claimed third for Team Speedweekend.
Meanwhile, Simon Tiger emerged victorious in the Open 2WD category – making it five wins from five events this season despite a barnstorming challenge from Tuomas Venäläinen.
Venäläinen, making his first RallyX Nordic appearance of the season in a fire-spitting Ford Escort, was quick all day and set the fastest time in Q2. The Finnish wildcard looked most likely to upset Tiger but a jump start in the final triggered a penalty joker and dropped him too far back to challenge for victory. Standings leader Tiger was subsequently left out in front to secure a comfortable win ahead of Open 2WD regulars Marcus Norman and Mathias Jansson.
Finally, Elias Kalliokoski took the spoils in CrossCar Junior after a blistering start in the final to beat Mikael Uitto into turn one. The Finnish youngster then showed a rapid turn of pace to hold off championship leader Lukas Andersson, who himself completed a remarkable comeback and bagged second after a disastrous start to the day – having finished bottom of the times in Q1. Uitto, who was top qualifier after notching quickest times in Q1 and Q3, completed the rostrum.
There is little time for the RallyX Nordic stars to catch their breath with Round 6 at OuluZone getting underway at 10am EEST (CEST+1) on Sunday, June 6. Watch all the action live and for free on the RallyX TV YouTube Channel.
1. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (SWE) Kristoffersson Motorsport 5 laps
2. Juha RYTKÖNEN (FIN) Betomik Racing Team +4.338s
3. Sondre EVJEN (SWE) EKS JC +4.733s
4. Anders MICHALAK (SWE) Hedströms Motorsport +14.019s
5. Jere KALLIOKOSKI (FIN) Kalliokoski Motorsport +6.194s
6. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) GRX +3 laps
1. Tommi HALLMAN (FIN) SET Promotion 5 laps
2. Nils ANDERSSON (SWE) Kristoffersson Motorsport +1.079s
3. Jonne OLLIKAINEN (FIN) SET Promotion +1.892s
4. Isak SJÖKVIST (SWE) Olsbergs MSE +4.357s
5. Niklas ANEKLEV (SWE) Olsbergs MSE +4.955s
6. Martin JONSSON (SWE) Alfta Racing Team +7.212s
1. Jimmie ÖSTERBERG (SWE) Jimmie Österberg +2.240s
2. Isak REIERSEN (SWE) EKS JC 5 laps
3. Pasi PENTTINEN (FIN) Pasi Penttinen +5.351s
4. Reinis NITISS (LVA) RN Kaspersky Racing Team +5.878s
5. Isac EGONSSON (SWE) Carcontrol +22.357s
6. Ronalds BALDINS (LVA) Ronalds Baldins +3 laps
1. Simon TIGER (SWE) TeamTigerRX 5 laps
2. Marcus NORMAN (SWE) Marcus Norman +4.957s
3. Mathias JANSSON (SWE) Mathias Jansson +3.924s
4. Antti VÄRE (FIN) Anti Väre +6.904s
5. Rami KAUTTIO (FIN) RK RX +9.614s
6. Tuomas VENÄLÄINEN (FIN) Tuomas Venäläinen RX +10.173s
1. Elias KALLIOKOSKI (FIN) Kalliokoski Racing 5 laps
2. Lukas ANDERSSON (SWE) Lukas Andersson +0.704s
3. Mikael UITTO (FIN) Mikael Uitto +1.104s
4. Alex GUSTAFSSON (SWE) EKS JC +1.995
5. Erik NILSSON (SWE) Carcontrol +4.212s
6. Lauri HALONEN (FIN) Lauri Halonen +6.631s
1. Johan KRISTOFFERSSON (SWE) 129 points
2. Sondre EVJEN (NOR) 104 points
3. Fraser MCCONNELL (JAM) 98 points
4. Niclas GRÖNHOLM (FIN) 80 points
5. Enzo IDE (BEL) 71 points
6. Andreas CARLSSON (SWE) 59 points
1. Tommi HALLMAN (FIN) 131 points
2. Nils ANDERSSON (SWE) 109 points
3. Linus ÖSTLUND (SWE) 96 points
4. Simon OLOFSSON (SWE) 91 points
5. Martin JONSSON (SWE) 86 points
6. Martin ENLUND (SWE) 81 points
1. Isak REIERSEN (SWE) 117 points
2. Jimmie ÖSTERBERG (SWE) 115 points
3. Patrik HALLBERG (SWE) 111 points
4. Reinis NITISS (LVA) 71 points
5. Ronalds BALDINS (LVA) 68 points
6. Isac EGONSSON (SWE) 59 points
1. Simon TIGER (SWE) 131 points
2. Mathias JANSSON (SWE) 102 points
3. Morten B BERTELSEN (DNK) 69 points
4. Lars ENGLUND (SWE) 66 points
5. Mikael PERSSON (SWE) 55 points
6. Marcus NORMAN (SWE) 52 points
1. Lukas ANDERSSON (SWE) 127 points
2. Alex GUSTAFSSON (SWE) 112 points
3. Joonatan YLILAMMI (FIN) 99 points
4. Erik NILSSON (SWE) 99 points
5. Rasmus PERSSON (SWE) 95 points
6. Lauri HALONEN (FIN) 90 points