Much like title-rival Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud had been a victim of the manufacturer team for which he was driving, Audi, pulling out of World Rallycross at the end of 2018. But at the 11th hour, he made it onto the grid this year driving the same EKS-built car as the previous term, operated by the Swedish outfit and running under the Monster Energy RX Cartel banner.
Bakkerud had a shocking season opener, not only failing to make the semi-finals after a crash with fellow title-favourite Hansen, but he also had his limited budget substantially dented by the damage sustained in the accident.
It can be considered remarkable that Bakkerud took the title fight down to the very last laps of the season in South Africa, and he very nearly claimed the biggest prize.
But, having taken the race lead at Turn 1 of the final in Cape Town, the Norwegian ran wide before the apex of the long loose-surface right-hander of the Killarney circuit, and Hansen made a move for the track position on the inside. The pair touched, Bakkerud’s car bounced off the wall on the outside, which spun Hansen’s Peugeot around and dropped Bakkerud to second behind Niclas Gronholm.
Ultimately, as Hansen recovered to finished fourth, Bakkerud’s second place was just one position short of taking the crown. The pair tied on points and Hansen won on wins countback.
Bakkerud’s consistency through 2019 against strong opposition from the Hansen and GRX teams was impressive, especially when he knew another Abu Dhabi-like repair bill could have been the end of his title aspirations. He also took victory in Canada on a circuit that was thought not to suit the Audi S1 and he also acted as team principal for the RX Cartel squad.
Words were exchanged between Bakkerud and the Hansen brothers in parc ferme following the 2019 season finale in South Africa.
That made for a frosty podium ceremony and a tension-filled Killarney paddock as the teams waited for the FIA stewards to make a decision on the first-lap incident that would decide the outcome of the championship.
After almost three hours, ‘No further action’ was published on the official notice board and the result stood.
Bakkerud’s disappointment in not securing a maiden world title is justified after he came within touching distance of the rallycross’s biggest prize and emotions ran high in Cape Town.
But, the Norwegian is a rallycross driver through-and-through. He has competed in high-level rallycross championships for almost a decade, and is regarded as one of the best at extracting the most from what he has underneath him, and getting his elbows out when required.
Had roles been reversed on the opening lap of the final at Killarney, and Hansen had run wide enough to give a chasing Bakkered an opportunity to make an overtaking attempt, the Norwegian would have seized it. And had any contact followed, that was deemed a racing incident, meant he won the title, he would unquestionably have taken it with both hands.
What is also unquestionable is that if Bakkerud can secure the funding to return to WRX in 2020, he will be more determined than ever to challenge for his first world crown.