Volkswagen achieved big success when the Swedish part of the European rallycross championship took place in front of a record crowd, 29.200 spectators, in Höljes in the Swedish region Värmland. DTM star Mattias Ekström, who competes for Marklund motorsport, got a second place behind Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud and Volkswagen Dealer Team KMS’ Johan Kristoffersson reached semifinal.
Volkswagen didn’t just name the Swedish race – Volkswagen Rallycross of Sweden – Das Auto also put their stamp on the event with their two teams and four cars; two VW Scirocco and just as many Polo. After stunning runs in Sunday’s qualifying rounds, Mattias Ekström and Johan Kristoffersson, who both did this championship for the first time, made it to the semifinals.
Kristoffersson was the first man out on the track, but didn’t manage to get one of the top three positions that would have given him a spot in the finals. He ended up as fourth.
“Initially, the race went as planned. I took the alternative track already on the first lap and kept up with Timmy Hansen, who’s pace I had no problem holding on to. In an attempt to pass Hansen, I got an opening behind me. Unfortunately I didn’t see that I had Petter Solberg up close. He passed me by on the inside and took the last spot in the finals. Sadly I lost on my on mistake”, said a self-critical Kristoffersson afterwards.
Mattias Ekström made it all the way. He won his semifinal and shared first start row in the finals with Andreas Bakkerud.
“The car ran like a dream on the track, but unfortunately I didn’t have the good starts I would have needed to win today”, said Ekström, who, after a not so good start, enchanted the spectators with fantastic driving and finished on second place.
Afterwards, he was lyrical about the experience that the European Rallycross Championship race meant for him.
I can honestly not remember last time I had this fun on a race track. The crowd, the enthusiasm, the spirit of the team… Motorsport doesn’t get better than this”, declares the two time DTM champion.
The joy of Volkswagen’s success in the Swedish race was obviously great for both teams’ managers.
“It’s always fun with success on home soil. Mattias showed already in the X-Games last weekend that he has high capacity and that’s why I definitely believed in him as a candidate for the finals here in Höljes. After winning both the third and fourth qualifying round, I was also convinced that he could be in the fight for the victory. If the start had been different I think he had won”, said Jan Marklund, team manager of Marklund Motorsport.
His colleague in Volkswagen Dealer Team KMS, Tommy Kristoffersson, also felt great satisfaction for his team’s effort.
“We’re a new team that already in our first championship start can keep up with the competition of those who have driven all the races so far this season. We got a lot of important answers here in Höljes and the most important thing for us is to create a platform for 2014”, said Tommy Kristoffersson, team manager of Volkswagen Dealer Team KMS.
Johan Kristoffersson agrees:
“There’s so much expertise in the team and there is more to give. The input in Höljes definitely make me want to do this again and I’m already hungry for revenge.”
The same goes for team mate Pontus Tidemand, who despite a difficult weekend managed to show that he can keep up with the best. In the second qualifying round he had fourth fastest time.
“I was unlucky and got pushed off track in the first heat on Saturday. Because of that hit, I got problems with my Scirocco. In the second qualifying round, where I was fourth, I didn’t have much problems, but in Sunday’s first heat, the car had no power at all”, said Tidemand, who couldn’t race in the fourth and final qualifying heat.
“Even if the result didn’t turn out so well, we have shown that we have the pace to keep up and I really hope that I get more chances”, said Tidemand, who after the guest race in rallycross now is back in rallying and aiming for victory in Junior WRC, which he is in the lead of after two events.
For the fourth Volkswagen driver in Höljes, Anton Marklund, the Eurpean Rallycross Championship adventure continues in France in late August and early September. Something he looks forward to. The Swedish race didn’t turn out at all as he hoped. Marklund was in a tough fight in the two first qualifying rounds and was after that more or less without a chance to advance to the semifinals.
“Of course it’s sad when this happens on home soil, especially when we haven’t had any problems earlier this season and moved on to the semifinals every time. But this is rallycross – sometimes things go your way, other times not”, said Marklund, who despite a bad cold, got an eight place in the fourth and last qualifying round.
Volkwagen’s overall effort in Höljes spread fast and Sten Forsberg, director of Volkswagen Sweden, was very pleased afterwards.
“I’m so proud and happy for Volkswagen’s success this weekend. It’s our first season in this sport and the teams already impress. The rallycross also strengthens our commitment in 4Motion”, said Forsberg.
European Rallycross Championship, Höljes, 6-7 July
1) Andreas Bakkerud, Norge, Citroën DS3
2) Mattias Ekström, Sverige, Volkswagen Polo
3) Timmy Hansen, Sverige, Citroën DS3
4) Henning Solberg, Norge, Saab 9-3
5) Daniel Holten, Norge, Volvo C30
6) Petter Solberg, Norge, Citroën DS3
10) Johan Kristoffersson, Sverige, Volkswagen Scirocco
21) Anton Marklund, Sverige, Volkswagen Polo
26) Pontus Tidemand, Sverige, Volkswagen Scirocco