The weekend in Misano was a sunny one for the Kawasaki riders, especially Jonathan Rea, who won two races on the Italian track. The four-time world champion has thus considerably reduced Alvaro Bautista’s lead in the overall standings.
On Sunday afternoon, the Kawasaki brand wrote a page of history thanks to Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam. The two Brits and the Turk were all together on the last podium of the Superbike World Championship weekend organized on the Misano circuit. A magnificent hat trick, something the Japanese manufacturer had not achieved since 1993 on the Sugo circuit, ending a very productive weekend, especially for the reigning quadruple world champion. On Saturday, Jonathan Rea had already started to shine by signing his third Superpole of the season before winning on the finish line of the first race of the weekend more than three seconds ahead of Tom Sykes, his former teammate. A difficult race, run in the rain. “It was the first time of the season that I was riding on a wet track,” says Rea. “The track was tricky because the water level varied from one lap to another. I fought it out for a long time with Alex Lowes, until his fall that made my job easier. The bike was very stable, which helped me a lot in such difficult conditions.” Fifth in the Sunday Sprint after a small crash that robbed him of the podium, Rea won again in the last race, this time ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam. “A great weekend for Kawasaki,” summed up the Brit. Leon Haslam was already on the podium at the finish of the Sprint, and he could have done the same the day before if he had not fallen after thirteen laps. Before finishing second on Sunday afternoon, Razgatlioglu also fell on Saturday when he was seventh. The Turk redeemed himself the next day by chalking up a fourth place and a well-earned second place. In Supersport, Lucas Mahias also clinched his first podium with Kawasaki by placing third after an encouraging pole position. Hikari Okubo crossed the finish line in fifth position.
Thanks to his first twin-win of the season, Jonathan Rea has considerably reduced the gap with the championship leader. The Brit is now only sixteen points from Alvaro Bautista. Still fifth, Leon Haslam is only eleven points away from Alex Lowes. Toprak Razgatlioglu has climbed to sixth place overall. In Supersport, Hikari Okubo has kept his fourth place while Lucas Mahias has dropped back back to fifth position, four points behind his Japanese teammate.
Jean-Éric Vergne delivered an outstanding performance in today’s Swiss E-Prix to claim pole position, the race win and the voestalpine European races trophy. In addition to this, the Frenchman also became the first ABB FIA Formula E driver to hit pole position from Qualifying Group One and to win three times this season.
Team-mate André Lotterer just missed out on a super pole appearance and started P8 on the grid from where he fought his way up to fourth position with some nail-biting action. Unfortunately, a miscommunication between driver and team led to a post-race penalty that saw the German finish the E-Prix in P14.
Mark Preston, DS TECHEETAH Team Principal: “Jean-Éric truly was on fire today. Vergne the king of Bern, and how well deserved. But I must also take this opportunity to give a lot of kudos to the team for this incredible performance. We find ourselves in a very familiar situation going into New York for the final two races now, leading both Drivers’ and Teams’ championships. We may have extended both with 32 and 43 respectively, but even though it may seem much, it’s not a comfortable lead in Formula E. There’s two more races to go in the double-header finale and there’s everything left to play for.”
Xavier Mestalan Pinon, DS Performance Director: “Congratulations to JEV and DS TECHEETAH team for this incredible third victory which brings us a little closer to both of the Season 5 titles. The latest improvements have paid off and have had a real advantage for this race. I would like to once again thank the whole team for the impressive efforts that have been made!”
André Lotterer, P14: “It was a shame to receive such a hard penalty in the end after having fought so hard together with my engineers to climb up the pack, it has for sure put a downer on things as the points for fourth would have been invaluable for my title hunt. Nevertheless, now we keep our heads down and prepare New York for a comeback and to end the season on a high.”
Jean-Éric Vergne, P1: “The team worked so well, and it couldn’t have been a better day today. At the end with the rain it was really stressful. I had to be careful because I’d rather finish second than in the wall for the championship, so I was of course trying to win the race, but also being extra cautious. All in all a fantastic weekend for the team, pole position, victory and extending the lead in both championships. It went perfectly well and I’m very pleased with the work that we have done.”
Although Citroën Total World Rally Team’s chances of a good overall result were compromised on day one, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia confirmed once again that they remain fierce competitors on the Power Stage, grabbing the second fastest time and four bonus points. Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm made it to the finish in seventh overall, having managed the last two legs admirably.
After making a mistake on day one (SS5) as they attempted to minimise the major disadvantage of running first on Sardinia’s technical and very loose gravel roads, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia – having rejoined under Rally 2 rules on Saturday’s leg – were solely focused on attempting to grab a few bonus points on the Sassari – Argentiera Power Stage during today’s short final leg (41.90km). Once again showing their incredible fighting spirit, the French six-time world champions claimed four points, which means they now lie second in the world championship standings, four points behind the new leader.
Whilst it falls short of Citroën Total World Rally Team’s hopes for this round, the result means that when the championship resumes after the summer break, they will tackle roads in Finland (1-4 August) that have already been cleaned by a competitor. The forthcoming break will undoubtedly be used by the Red Army to redouble its efforts in preparation for the second half of the season.
On gravel, the first leg tends to be decisive because it determines the running order for the rest of the rally, and Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm unfortunately experienced this first hand. They were running in sixth overall and were gradually getting their bearings when they dropped almost 40s when one of their tyres came loose (SS4). They put in a lot of hard work in the C3 WRC to move back up the leaderboard (stage win on SS5, second on SS9, just 0.1s off the pace), but were unable to finish the opening leg any higher than eighth, after also suffering a sensor issue (SS6). In spite of a less than ideal position in the running order on Saturday, they managed to produce a consistent, error-free performance on day two, as they continued to get to grips with the C3 WRC on gravel and regained seventh position when one of the other crews suffered a puncture. They ended the final leg in the same place. This race, which they managed intelligently once they were no longer able to fully express themselves, will undoubtedly help them to begin the next event, their home round in Finland, in the best possible shape.
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Sometimes in motorsport, you have a weekend where things just don’t go your way and this weekend was clearly one of those. We’ll put it behind us and focus on the future. In running first on the road, the best we could have realistically hoped for would have been to finish around fifth, so my mistakes cost us a few points. But it is still incredibly close in the championship, even though I’m not the kind of person to take any pleasure from the misfortune of others, especially when it’s Ott. I’m now going to have a holiday and recharge my batteries. We’ll be back in Finland and try to do a lot better.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“Obviously, it wasn’t quite the result that we were hoping for. The problems we had on the first leg went a long way to determining the rest of our weekend. We weren’t able to perform at our true level given our position in the running order. It was pretty much impossible to make up ground on these roads, where the grip increases so much with each passing car. We also weren’t helped by making the wrong call on tyres on Saturday morning. But at least we made it to the finish. We’ll now get back to work so that we’re in better form for our home round in Finland.”
TWO QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your analysis of this weekend’s race in Sardinia?
Obviously, this isn’t the result we were hoping for, although we knew that running first on the road here, where the roads clean so much, Sébastien and Julien were bound to have their work cut out. We certainly can’t blame them for their mistakes, because such errors are so highly uncharacteristic. And they did a great job on the Power Stage, showing their incredible fighting spirit once again. Esapekka and Janne had a slightly disappointing first half of day one and unfortunately, this had a knock-on effect on the rest of their weekend, forcing them to carve out the racing line for the rest of the field. In Sardinia, it’s a disadvantage that is almost impossible to overcome. However, they managed to cope intelligently with the frustration involved, getting more miles under their belt in the C3 WRC and making it to the finish. They will now look get their season back on track in Finland, where we know they definitely have the potential to do very well.
With the championship so tight, it looks like the summer break may be more work than play…
Yes, Sébastien and Julien’s never say die attitude, combined with the dramatic end to the rally, means that the championship remains wide open. It doesn’t change the way in which we approach our WRC campaign at all, however. We are going to continue to deploy all our forces in the battle! We’re testing next week and one thing’s for sure, we will be redoubling our efforts to try and provide our drivers with the best weapons possible for the second half of the season.
THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEKEND
Described by many observers as being more suited to a cross-country rally given the roughness of the road, the Sassari – Argentiera Power Stage (6.89km) once again saw Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia produce another majestic performance, despite being the first WRC crew to contest the stage.
Sébastien Ogier had predicted that the Power Stage would be very tough, given the extent to which the rough, gravel roads clean and provide more grip to those further down the running order. On these sorts of sandy roads, where ruts can form quickly, the ability to take risks could make all the difference. Sébastien and Julien produced an extremely committed performance, clearly shown in the utter concentration displayed on their faces in the on-board camera footage. Their driving, usually so clean and tidy, was extraordinarily aggressive, but their approach paid dividends at the finish! Only Andreas Mikkelsen, who started five places further down the running order, managed to go faster by just over two seconds. These hard-fought four points may yet prove decisive at the end of the season…
Abu Dhabi, 06 April 2019 – Team Hansen MJP experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in Abu Dhabi during an emotional opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Kevin Hansen scored his first ever WRX victory in spectacular style, with victory in qualifying and his semi-final in addition to his final win, while Timmy Hansen’s weekend was cruelly curtailed early on by an enormous shunt which destroyed his car’s rollcage.
Both Timmy and Kevin had started the World RX of Abu Dhabi in brilliant fashion, finishing 1-2 in Q1. Timmy took the top spot once again in Q2 but his weekend ended shortly afterwards, being on the receiving end of a heavy shunt with Andreas Bakkerud. Crossing the start/finish line to begin the final lap, Timmy had just rejoined the track from taking his joker lap and was hit side-on by Bakkerud, who was disqualified for his part in the collision. A heroic effort from Timmy meant he nursed the car to seventh place in Q3 but rollcage damage to his Peugeot 208 WRX was too extensive to compete in Q4 or the semi-finals.
The whole team was understandably shaken by Timmy’s huge accident but regrouped around Kevin, who showed incredible resilience to press on and win both Q3 and Q4. With Timmy looking on from the spotters’ position in the Abu Dhabi grandstands, Kevin then scored a semi-final victory put him on pole for the final.
Kevin led most of the final, until being spun out at the hairpin by Niclas Grönholm in the latter half of the fourth lap. Grönholm was then given a three second penalty post-race for pushing and overtaking, restoring the lead which Kevin had held for much of the final to seal his first ever WRX win, and provide Team Hansen MJP a happy ending for a rollercoaster first weekend as a privateer team.
WORLD RX OF ABU DHABI RESULTS
DNF – Timmy Hansen
Qualifying 1 – 1st
Qualifying 2 – 1st
Qualifying 3 – 7th
1st – Kevin Hansen
Qualifying 1 – 2nd
Qualifying 2 – 6th
Qualifying 3 – 1st
Qualifying 4 – 1st
Semi-Final – 1st
Final – 1st
Having come into the opening round with so many question marks as to the relative pace, Team Hansen now knows that it can run in the front, having won all the sessions it participated in: a promising start to the season!
The brand-new Abu Dhabi track proved to be an excellent rallycross venue, with plenty of exhilarating drama captivating the fans.
The competitive order around Team Hansen has shifted somewhat: GRX Taneco was Hansen’s closest rival in Abu Dhabi, scoring one point more for the teams’ championship in part due to Timmy’s absence from Q4 and the subsequent finals.
The big number
The number of points Kevin Hansen scored at Abu Dhabi by winning the Final, his Semi Final and also being Top Qualifier, the maximum possible from a single FIA World RX round.
“I’d describe today as an extremely abrupt end to what had been a perfect weekend. I was fastest in Q1, fastest in Q2 and for what it’s worth I think I would have been fastest in Q3. But then everyone saw what happened: Bakkerud thought it was the last lap, so he went flat out after the joker and basically drove into my driver’s door. It was a massive impact and the roll cage was pushed in towards my left leg, but I am OK, just a bit of bruising. It makes you realise how tough these cars are. Then, once I was out, Kevin saved my day. I was supporting him from the spotters’ tower: cheering him on and helping as much as I could. I’m incredibly proud of him, so a day of very mixed emotions. Mostly, I’m just really happy for him.”
“I think this was the craziest weekend of my career…so many emotions! Straight away we could see that we had good pace and that we were in the fight; then we had Timmy’s crash, which was a big low, then I had to focus on the semi-final and final, where we finished second. I was leading with a good margin over Niclas until the corner where he passed me: I felt a hit at the rear and I nearly spun. Straight away I thought it should be a penalty, but when it is with the stewards you never know how it will work out…and then after about an hour, I found out I had won; my first win! Of course you never want to win in the stewards’ room but in the end it wasn’t about that: it was all about the pace that we had right from the start of the weekend, which is a great sign for the future. Now we come away with 30 points, which is the best way to start the season.”
THE BOSS – KENNETH HANSEN
To come here and achieve what we did, as a private team again with so many question marks before the start of the season, is an amazing achievement and I’m so proud of everyone in the team. Now we know that we’re on the pace, which we could see from the very first session. But then I think nobody could have predicted what happened next, with the big crash for Timmy and then such a dramatic final for Kevin. In the end, he completely deserves this victory and I’m so happy for him. The damage to Timmy’s car was very bad, but now that we’ve had a chance to look at it, it’s definitely fixable, so we should see him out in the same car for Barcelona. Abu Dhabi certainly provided us with a start to the season that we’ll always remember!
NEXT ROUND: WORLD RX OF CATALUNYA
Round Two of the FIA World Rallycross Championship will be held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which had previously been the season opener for the past two years. It’s a circuit that Kevin Hansen knows particularly well, securing the FIA European Rallycross Championship title here in 2016 with a round victory. Elder brother Timmy is definitely no slouch around here either, with two podium finishes in WRX to his name. Can he make it three this year? We’ll find out in three weeks time, as the WRX world tour rolls on to Barcelona in just three weeks time, kicking off on April 27.