SEASON REVIEW: 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship – Kristoffersson Becomes The King Once Again
For several months earlier in the year, it looked like there would be very little motorsport in 2020, however the FIA World Rallycross Championship managed to muster eight rounds in a short action-packed season which saw a familiar name return to the top of the standings.
Everyone knew Johan Kristoffersson would be the man to beat when he confirmed his participation in the World RX this year. Immediately, the Swede was on the pace and claimed maximum points in the season opener at Höljes, and would continue to show his class throughout the rest of the season.
He didn’t have it all his own way though and 2020 was arguably his toughest title campaign yet.
A Rallycross Great
Perhaps its too early to call Kristoffersson one of the greatest rallycross drivers of all time, but a third World RX title and the way he has won each of his championships has been phenomenal.
He is just relentless. Rarely does he make a mistake and he drives like a demon whenever he competes. You can argue that some of it is down to the car but his driving technique in both the dry and wet, as well as on different tracks and in different conditions is top notch.
Kristoffersson is just a machine and his consistency and ability to recover from a bad result in qualifying is why he is now a three-time champion.
To get to the top is tough and to stay there is even harder, but Kristoffersson has mastered it and as long as he stays in the World RX he will always be the man to beat.
Ekström Pushes Kristoffersson All The Way
Kristoffersson’s pace looked ominous early on but the Sunday final at Höljes showed that Mattias Ekström and Kyb Team JC were ready to take the fight to the VW Polo driver.
In one of the greatest World RX finals, Ekström and Kristoffersson went toe to toe over six laps, leaving nothing on the table. It was a classic race and Ekström came out on top after setting some blistering lap times.
To beat Kristoffersson over the season, Ekström knew he had to be perfect. Unfortunately, reliability struck the Audi S1 in the semi-final stages in Finland. Robin Larsson suffered too and this was the low point for Kyb Team JC.
Nevertheless, Ekström did not give in and he showed his rallycross wizardry in Latvia. The Riga circuit is very abrasive so Ekström wisely did not even complete a warm-up lap to save every little bit of life in the tyres.
It paid off as he won Q1 which set him up for the rest of the day to throw four new boots on for the final to execute a brilliant strategy.
Ultimately, Ekström had too much to do and it was always going to be a long-shot to catch Kristoffersson. Start problems and a lack of pace in Spain all but put an end to Ekström’s valiant title challenge and don’t forget he was not even meant to be racing in World RX this year.
Both Hansens Unable to Match The Leading Duo
It was not the season Team Hansen wanted as they failed to defend their drivers’ and teams’ titles from 2019. They simply did not have the pace and it was only at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when both Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen became a genuine threat to Kristoffersson.
Kevin had the upper hand on brother Timmy for much of the season, adapting better to the weaknesses of the Peugeot 208. He has definitely improved but just did not have the car to show it.
However, it was Timmy who was able to grab a race win in what would turn out to be the penultimate round of the year. In similar style to Ekström at Höljes, Timmy had to drive every corner flat out after his joker lap to emerge ahead once Kristoffersson exited the alternative route.
A disappointing year for the Hansen brothers’ although they will be encouraged by their development and strong performance in Spain which salvaged their season.
Grönholm With The Performance Of The Year?
Niclas Grönholm‘s victory on home soil in Finland was one of many highlights in the World RX in 2020. He got the start versus Kristoffersson in the Sunday final at Kouvola but his drive to soak up the pressure of Kristoffersson and Ekström lap after lap after lap as the two champions bumped him down the hill was stellar.
Grönholm did not have the fastest car and on a track which caught many drivers out that weekend, crucially the Finn was able to keep his Hyundai i20 right on the racing line. The 24-year-old had big expectations for this year and he will feel he has underperformed.
That said, he has beaten teammate Timur Timerzyanov comprehensively and was very unlucky with traffic at crucial moments of a weekend.
Frustration for Bakkerud
Andreas Bakkerud had a difficult 2020 and any hopes of being a championship contender quickly changed when the Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel squad failed to get on top of the Renault Megane.
It was a year of learning and understanding for the team. Bakkerud was involved in a couple of big crashes this year in Latvia and Spain too but he began to gel with the car just before the early end to the season.
Without doubt Bakkerud still has the pace to fight for wins and he will be take confidence that things were going in the right direction.
Doran Endures a Season From Hell
Liam Doran has had some of the worst luck that a racing driver can experience this season. The reliability of the Megane let him down on so many occasions and it was heartbreaking to see at times.
The ‘British Bomb’ did well to keep his head and keep trying after such bad luck. These incidents meant Doran was unable to gather any momentum which is exacerbated when you have a new car and a shortened season.
A year to forget on the race track for Doran.
Marklund and Scheider Go Under The Radar
Anton Marklund and Timo Scheider are probably not two names you would think of when remembering World RX in 2020, but both drivers drove really well when considering the capabilities of their machines.
Scheider often maximised results to consistently pick up qualifying points to make the final. He was the ‘stopper in the bottle’ for many drivers as the Seat Ibiza driver nailed the start before holding off his rivals for the rest of the race.
A podium to kickstart his year and a handful of qualifying race wins exceeded many people’s expectations for Munnich Motorsport.
Marklund had a great start to his campaign too and had genuine early season pace. His results do not replicate his form and when given the right tools, Marklund can be a regular contender for the podium.
GRX Set Provide Wildcard Surprises
Juha Rytkönen stunned the rallycross world with a debut podium at home in Kouvola. To adapt so quickly to the GRX Set Promotion Hyundai i20 and to withstand the pressure was very impressive and it’s a shame we did not see more of Rytkönen who was set to race at Spa-Francorchamps before the round was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic.
Krisztian Szabo had good performances too when he was at the wheel of the Hyundai i20. The Hungarian was the happier of the GRX drivers for much of 2020 and he even outpaced Grönholm and Timerzyanov at times.
Thank You World RX and IMG
It may not have gone down to the wire like last year but given what has happened in the world over the last 12 months, to get a season underway and eight rounds completed took a monumental effort by all involved.
Promotor IMG steps down this week, but they have done wonders for rallycross since the world championship was formed in 2014. A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes and although there has been a lot of disappointment for various drivers in the field this year, to get a chance to race and put on a show was brilliant to see.
Hopefully we get some normality in 2021, but the World RX action we did get this year certainly delivered with two rallycross masters battling it out at the top.
2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship Drivers Standings
|1||Johan Kristoffersson||Volkswagen Dealerteam Bauhaus||219|
|2||Mattias Ekström||Kyb Team JC||192|
|3||Timmy Hansen||Team Hansen||163|
|4||Niclas Grönholm||GRX Taneco||147|
|5||Kevin Hansen||Team Hansen||135|
|6||Robin Larsson||Kyb Team JC||122|
|7||Andreas Bakkerud||Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel||121|
|8||Timo Scheider||Munnich Motorsport||92|
|9||Anton Marklund||GCK Bilstein||90|
|10||Timur Timerzyanov||GRX Taneco||81|
|11||Krisztian Szabo||GRX Set Promotion||41|
|12||Juha Rytkönen||GRX Set Promotion||37|
|13||Liam Doran||Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel||29|
|14||Rene Munnich||Munnich Motorsport||18|
|15||Tamas Karai||Karai Motorsport||15|