Bakkerud takes opening round of Nitro Rallycross finale

Nitro Rallycross photo

Bakkerud takes opening round of Nitro Rallycross finale

International Racing

Bakkerud takes opening round of Nitro Rallycross finale

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Andreas Bakkerud got his Nitro Rallycross championship charge back on track with a win in the first part of the season-ending tripleheader at Glen Helen Raceway in California.

A winner in Sweden earlier in the campaign, Bakkerud has been off the podium for the previous two championship rounds in Phoenix and Quebec, allowing his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing JC RX Cartel teammate Robin Larsson to build a 58-point buffer at the top of the table. But Larsson’s charge to what seemed like a certain title at the start of the event took a major hit when he retired from the final.

Bakkerud launched into an early lead in the final, sweeping round the outside of fellow front-row starter Travis Pastrana. The two soon began to gap the field and a lap three Joker looked to have given the undercut to Pastrana, but when Bakkerud took the longer route a lap later, he was able to edge Pastrana on the merge.

A puncture for Pastrana who dug in on a jump landing moments earlier was the final nail in the coffin for his victory hopes, and allowed Bakkerud to take run the final two laps completely untroubled.

Fraser McConnell finished second after just edging series debutant Timo Scheider on the joker merge on the final lap.

In an explosive start, Scheider — filling in for the injured Kris Meeke — went three-wide with Larsson and Oliver Eriksson on the first jump. Contact over that jump was what cost Larsson, but Schieder was able to prevail and shuffled to the lead until he took the joker on the final lap which dropped him to third.

Oliver Eriksson’s part in that first jump melee dropped him out of contention early on too, he eventually finished fourth, ahead of brother Kevin Eriksson and the wounded Pastrana. Conner Martell was the final finisher, classified seventh ahead of Larsson.

Ahead of the final, as part of the all-new triple header format for this weekend, the one-on-one Battle Bracket races were skipped in favor of launching straight into multi-car heats.

Pastrana and McConnell shared the heat wins, while Scheider and Larsson were victorious in their semifinals. Kevin Eriksson led Conner Martell home in the Last Chance Qualifier, eliminating Oliver Bennett who failed the start.

Benito Guerra, a late addition to the field, did not compete, with the field being made up of the cars entered into the Calgary round that was subsequently scrubbed from the championship. He spent the day testing between race sessions, and will make his full series debut tomorrow instead.

Bakkerud’s round win moves him to within 31 points of Larsson, with McConnell a further nine points back and two full championship rounds still to go this weekend.

However, while it appears to be a poor start to the weekend’s proceedings for Larsson, at the end of the season, drivers can drop their two lowest scores of the season — although they can’t drop their Sunday score. Larson’s previous worst result was a fifth place at the first round in Phoenix, so he remains in a strong position to take the title on Sunday.

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