Mattias Ekstrom driving his Audi Sport S1 was the winner of the season-opener of the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship at the World RX of Catalunya-Barcelona at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
During the run into turn 1, Ekstrom and pole sitter Petter Solberg made contact. The contact pushed Solberg into the inside and into tyre wall bringing him to a complete stop. Ekstrom went on to win the race, with Solberg's teammate Johan Kristoffersson claiming second place.
What Happened in the final race?
Starting alongside the top qualifier and semi-final one winner Petter Solberg on the front row for the finals, Ekstrom gained a small margin on his fellow World RX champion in the run to Turn 1, Solberg being squeezed into the tyre wall on the inside of the circuit and resulting in a spin.
As his teammate fell out of contention, reigning world rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson moved into second behind Ekstrom on lap one, caught in between Ekstrom and his team-mate Andreas Bakkerud.
Sebastian Loeb was the first driver to take the compulsory joker lap at the very first opportunity. Ekstrom posted the fastest lap of the weekend on the first lap, the top two extending a margin over Bakkerud in the opening phase of the race.
Pressured by Kristoffersson’s Volkswagen Motorsport-built Polo, Ekstrom took the joker on lap five and moved into second ahead of Loeb, who at the same time passed Bakkerud for a podium place.
Having taken the lead, Kristoffersson pushed hard on the last lap in an attempt to try and beat Ekstrom for victory, but when he exited his joker lap, Ekstrom retook the lead on the final lap and defended the racing line to keep Kristoffersson behind him.
Bakkerud finished fourth, while Niclas Gronholm on the debut of the GRX team’s Hyundai i20 and was fifth. Solberg completed the race in sixth.
What led to disqualification :
The race stewards went on to review the incident post the race. "Having reviewed the video evidence and heard from both competitors and drivers, the Stewards consider that car No.5 'Ekstrom' moved left and made contact with car No.11 'Solberg' on his left. Car No.5 continued to move left, which forced car No.11 off track, causing him to collide with track markers at the entry of turn one, and get stuck. Further, the Stewards considered this to be a dangerous maneuver and liable to hinder car No.11."
The stewards' decision stripped Ekstrom of the win, disqualified him from the final, and handed the first place over to Solberg's teammate Kristoffersson. Ekstrom will receive no points for the final race, but he will retain his points from the semi-final races and it puts him currently in fourth place overall in the standings.
Video of the final race: