South Africa World Rallycross: Gronholm leads from Timmy Hansen

Hal Ridge
Gronholm leads finale as title fight unfolds
Gronholm leads finale as title fight unfolds

Niclas Gronholm leads the World Rallycross Championship finale in South Africa at the end of day one, with points leader Timmy Hansen highest-placed of the title protagonists.

No longer in the fight to become the 2019 champion, Gronholm was third fastest in Q1 at Killarney as he won the first race of the weekend, then despite the randomly reversed race order for Q2, where the fastest drivers from Q1 raced first, Gronholm again won on track and set a time that wouldn't be bettered.

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Timmy Hansen had been fastest in Q1 and took an early joker in the Q2 encounter after he dropped to third in the opening corners, allowing brother Kevin a safe path around the outside at Turn 2 in the sister Peugeot.

The elder Hansen brother then finished third when the three ahead took their jokers on the final tour. But with the track having been watered before the session, Hansen brothers Kevin and Timmy could only manage sixth and ninth, with Andreas Bakkerud in 12th.

Gronholm leads finale as title fight unfolds
Gronholm leads finale as title fight unfolds

Bakkerud, second in the standings and just a single point behind Hansen, was second fastest to the points leader in Q1 after winning his race but is sixth overnight following the Q2 run, while Hansen held onto second.

The third driver in the title fight, Kevin Hansen, lies fifth between double DTM champion Timo Scheider and Bakkerud.

Triple European champion Timur Timerzyanov was second fastest behind GRX Hyundai team-mate Gronholm in the slippery conditions of Q2 and lies third overall.

Missing from the front of the order is British driver Liam Doran. Engine problems in free practice meant the unit had to be changed by the EKS-operated RX Cartel team and Doran missed the start of his Q1 race by just 10 minutes.

Further problems in Q2 left him off the back of the pack in the last race of the qualifier and he is 15th overnight, only ahead of Cyril Raymond. The Frenchman was disqualified from Q2 for accumulating track marker infringements.

Raymond's GCK Academy team-mate Guillaume de Ridder delivered his best performance of the season to win the last race of the day in the team's Renault Clio, and set the third best time in Q2 to be eighth overnight.

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