Kevin Hansen beat the world’s best in Barcelona as the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship got underway in spectacular style in Spain in a breathtaking battle for World RX honours.
Hansen was already a winner in the series arriving at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but his previous success – in Abu Dhabi in 2019 – came as a result of a penalty for the on-track winner. This time, the Swede triumphed entirely on merit after a strong performance for the family-run Hansen World RX Team.
For the majority of the weekend, Hansen closely shadowed elder brother Timmy as the two Peugeot 208s topped the intermediate classification at World RX of Catalunya. Behind them, however, a threat was lurking in the shape of three-time world champion Johan Kristofferson.
Entering the season as the defending title-holder, the KYB EKS JC driver was left on the back foot as a Q1 disqualification – after his data-logger was found not to have been connected – left him down in an uncharacteristic 15th position.
Proving just why he is the most crowned competitor in World Championship history, however, the Swede went on to win all three subsequent qualifiers to haul himself up to sixth place after Q4 – and back in the hunt.
For the final, it was an all-Hansen front row for the final following Timmy’s victory in the first semi-final.
Showing just how much the result meant to him, Kevin fought back tears after exiting his car in parc fermé, while Timmy Hansen withstood the pressure of Kristoffersson all the way to the chequered flag to seal a one-two for the Swedish outfit and get Hansen World RX Team’s season off to the perfect start.
Krisztian Szabo’s fourth-place finish brought some consolation to GRX-SET, after team-mate Niclas Gronholm found himself being knocked off-track at the beginning of the second semi-final.
Rene Meunnich reached the final for the first time in his World RX career and ultimately wound up fifth for ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport, but there was less fortune for team-mate Timo Scheider, who was fast and feisty during the qualifying stages and sat third in the intermediate standings only to be squeezed into the barriers on the opening lap of his semi-final. At the start of his first full season in World RX, meanwhile, Kevin Abbring showed flashes of real form in UNKORRUPTED’s Renault Megane on his way to sixth.
Guillaume De Ridder was the dominant force in the all-new electric FIA RX2e Championship, as the Belgian – three times a top three championship finisher in the series’ RX2 predecessor – won every race he started in Barcelona.
After completing a clean sweep through the qualifiers, De Ridder fended off Jesse Kallio in the first semi-final and then simply drove away from his pursuers in the final, aided by an opening lap tangle that delayed Kallio and took out fellow front-runner Fraser McConnell. Ole Henry Steinsholt was second, with Patrick O’Donovan third from the back of the grid, just ahead of local hero Pablo Suarez.
Yury Belevskiy took victory in the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s RX3 category. He was pushed hard by newcomer Kobe Pauwels in another Volland Racing Audi A1, as the Belgian excelled on his international debut in top-flight rallycross.
Pauwels found himself out-of-luck in the final, however, after a first corner tag sent him sideways and dropped him to the tail of the field. Timur Shigabutdinov picked up second place with Zsolt Szíjj ‘Jolly’ rounding out the rostrum in third.
The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship campaign next moves to the Höljes circuit for World RX of Sweden on 20-22 August, which will feature all four series – World RX, RX2e, Euro RX3 and the seasonal debut of Euro RX1.