KEVIN HANSEN TAKES MAIDEN VICTORY IN ABU DHABI
Kevin Hansen recorded a maiden World RX victory in Abu Dhabi – in a dramatic opening round of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy – under the bright lights of Yas Marina Circuit.
In a weekend largely dominated by the Team Hansen MJP Peugeot 208s – for a variety of reasons – Kevin took the honours after original race victor Niclas Gronholm was handed a three-second penalty for a coming together with Hansen in his GRX Taneco Hyundai i20.
Over two days of action in daytime temperatures which touched 40 degrees C, the purpose-built 1.2-km Yas Marina Rallycross Circuit, provided plenty of close combat.
Earlier in the day Kevin Hansen had topped the order after an eventful qualifying round. His elder brother Timmy, who had dominated day one in the sister Team Hansen MJP car had a big impact with the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 of Andreas Bakkerud in Q3 at the entry to turn one.
Bakkerud was disqualified after being deemed at fault following a stewards’ enquiry meaning both he and Timmy Hansen, whose car suffered extensive damage to the left-hand side, did not progress to the semi-finals.
For the younger Hansen, the victory was bitter-sweet given the incident involving Timmy. “It feels completely crazy,” Kevin said. “I took the start in the final and led about five laps and then after turn 10, Niclas gave me a tap and I nearly spun and lost the lead. A win in the stewards’ room is not the perfect way. It has been a great job by all the guys in the team to get the cars here and prepared. But this one is for Timmy as he should have been on the podium.”
Gronholm was disappointed not to have taken the spoils. “It was not an intentional hit but sometimes the stewards look at things differently to us so I have to accept it, move on and fight back in Barcelona,” he said.
Liam Doran in the Monster Energy RX Cartel Audi S1 claimed his first podium by taking third. The Briton said: “This result is from pure determination and nothing else. I started off poor to be completely honest, struggling with the setup of the car a bit. I just got my head down. I got into the semis by the skin of my teeth but you never give up until you get to the end.”
Janis Baumanis in the Team STARD Ford Fiesta also caught the attention of the stewards and was demoted from fourth to fifth just behind the World RX debutant Krisztian Szabo in the EKS Sport Audi.
“Protams, pārņem superīgas sajūtas, ka sezonas pirmajā posmā sasniegts fināls. Žēl, ka muļķīga komunikāciju iekārtas traucējuma kļūda finālā, kuras dēļ radās nesaprašanās par Joker un vispār nobrauktajiem apļiem pasliktināja kopējo rezultātu. Bet vispār rezumē par pirmo posmu ir ļoti pozitīvs. Ir ļoti laba saprašanās ar savu jauno galveno un arī ar datu analīzes inženieriem, mehāniķi vecie un komanda ir labi sastrādājusies. Kad sakārtojām problēmu ar startiem, rezultāti strauji uzlabojās. Pozitīvā ziņa ir tā, ka pie ātriem startiem varam sasniegt labus apļa laikus un pacīnīties par augstām pozīcijām. Esmu diezgan apmierināts ar sasniegto rezultātu pirmajā posmā. Nākotne nebūs viegla. Nākamajiem posmiem vajadzētu būt vēl saspringtākiem. Prieks, ka šādā trasē neatpaliekam tik ļoti, kā tas bija pagājušajos gados. Tagad tik galvu augšā un gan pašam, gan mašīnai jāsagatavojas nākamajam posmam Barselonā,” pēc sacensībām stāsta Jānis Baumanis.
Former DTM champion Timo Scheider, in the ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport Seat Ibiza, despite running strongly over the two days, finished sixth after a difficult final for the German.
The World RX final rounded out a three-day urban festival of world-class motorsport and off-track entertainment that included A-list musical artists and plenty of fan activity.
ESmotorsport – Labas GAS‘s Rokas Baciuska, the reigning FIA European Super1600 champion, reached the semi-finals on his World RX debut. The GC Kompetition squad had an eventful two days with Guerlain Chicherit and Anton Marklund just missing out on a place in the final. Oliver Bennett made a dramatic exit in Q3 when he rolled his Xite Mini Cooper.
Meanwhile fellow, 2018 FIA European Supercar champion made an eventful return to World RX racing. Hitting a curb during Q1, setting the fastest lap-time of the day during Q2, then being involved in a racing incident with Anton Marklund during Q3, and being struck by a technical issue during Q4. Despite all that, Nitišs made it in to the Semi-Final, where, once again, the spectacular history was made as he hit the 2019-spec curb, being launched airborne in his Hyundai i20 Supercar landing on Anton Marklund’s car and retiring from the race thereafter. “Feels good to show that I am capable to fight for the top positions in WorldRX, but the end result was not the one any of us expected. I will be back for more,” reflects Nitišs.
Commenting on World RX’s debut in the Middle East, Torben Olsen, the Managing Director of the FIA World Rallycross Championship for IMG, the series promoter, said: “Our first visit to the UAE has been a resounding success. The people of Abu Dhabi have embraced World RX and we have been delighted to bring world-class rallycross to a region which already has a strong motorsport following. The Yas Marina Circuit was a spectacular venue to stage our first-ever World RX round under lights. The on-track action also illustrated that we can expect extremely close racing for the remainder of the 2019 season.”
The championship now moves to Barcelona, Spain for the World RX of Catalunya on April 27-28.
For full results, available HERE.