Once again the Hansen squad had to work hard through qualifying as other teams and drivers set the pace, this time Finn Niclas Gronholm and then reigning title winner Johan Kristoffersson topping the order through Saturday and Sunday morning.
But as Timmy Hansen made set-up changes to his Peugeot 208 ahead of Q4, and used new tyres to lift him up the order, he climbed onto the front row for the semi-finals.
Up front, Kristoffersson was delivering the comeback performance he needed after issues in the opening two rounds had hampered his title challenge, and just like in the Swedish round at Holjes a fortnight earlier, all was looking good in the semi-final until the second half of the race, when the Swede’s EKS JC machine lost pace.
Kristoffersson took the joker early, followed into the compulsory extra-route by Timmy Hansen, but a broken driveshaft meant he not only lost the lead on the next tour, but second place too. Into the final corners, he just covered the inside line to defend the position from Kevin Abbring’s Renault Megane and qualify for the final.
While Kevin Hansen capitalised on a poor start for Niclas Gronholm in the second semi-final to claim the win and make it a third-straight Hansen front-row lock out for the final, the EKS JC squad discovered damage to Kristoffersson’s gearbox from the driveshaft failure.
Kevin Hansen, Hansen World RX Team Peugeot 208
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Kristoffersson’s team delivered a remarkable turnaround to fix the car and get it to the pre-grid but just missed the race start cut-off, meaning first reserve Abbring took Kristoffersson’s position in the final.
Just as they had in the opening two rounds of the campaign, the Hansen brothers ran side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 in the final to defend track position, then ran line astern throughout the race to claim a third straight 1-2 result, with Timmy Hansen taking victory by 0.6s from brother Kevin.
Third went the way of Gronholm, the Finn scoring his first podium of the season by staying out on track until taking a final lap joker, and managing to gap Abbring, who had run close enough to Gronholm to contend for a second-straight podium, but was slowed by clutch issues and had to settle for fourth place.
Gronholm’s team-mate Krisztian Szabo yet again made the final for a third straight round and finished fifth, ahead of Timo Scheider in sixth.
Timmy Hansen leads the drivers’ standings by 10 points from his brother Kevin, with Szabo in third 27 points off the leader.
France WRX – results