FIA World Rallycross Championship points leader Mattias Ekström shrugged off a puncture during his qualifying heat to beat Petter Solberg

Audi S1 driver Mattias Ekström continued his winning streak in the FIA World Rallycross Championship by pipping the Citroën DS3 of reigning world champion Petter Solberg to victory at Lydden Hill, Kent, today.

Swede Ekström, coming to the British round off the back of victories in Germany and Belgium, had to give best to Solberg (winner here last year) and Ford Focus RS driver Andreas Bakkerud during qualifying.

Ekström’s Audi suffered a puncture in his final heat and he could only set the 18th fastest time. With cumulative race times deciding grid positions for the semi-finals, it meant he was the fourth-fastest qualifier and would line up on the outside of the grid for semi-final 2.

Ekström came good, however, opting to take his mandatory, slower joker lap right after the start, and sneaking into the lead after pole man Bakkerud took his joker on the final lap.

Solberg, who had got through to the semi-finals as fastest qualifier, cruised to victory in his semi-final and looked favourite to repeat his victory at Lydden in 2015. Having come to the Kent track with improvements to his Citroën's engine and suspension, the Norwegian won three of his four heats before finishing second in the other.

Come the final, the former WRC ace stormed into an immediate lead, but Ekström again employed his tactic of heading on to the longer joker lap right at the start. When Solberg took his joker lap, he came out behind Ekström and the Swede moved to the front once erstwhile leader Timmy Hansen took his joker in his Peugeot 208.

After the race Solberg said: “The tyres were quite near the limit and, in the end, I ran out of grip. The joker lap went really well, it was very, very quick, but when it came to the fight with him, I just couldn’t get the power down. Coming out of the right-hander, the car was moving too much. It was so frustrating, I could almost reach out and touch his car, but it just wasn’t possible to get past him”.

After four of twelve rounds, Ekström is now leading the drivers’ classification with a five-point advantage over Solberg.

There wasn't much joy for the British contingent in the headline supercar category. Liam Doran was blooding a new 2.0-litre engine in his JRM Racing Mini and his bid to qualify for the semi-finals came to nought when a technical issue struck in the fourth heat. Guy Wilks - who starred at Lydden in 2015 in JRM's Mini - retired his Olsbergs MSA Ford Fiesta at the same moment in the same race. Julian Godfrey rolled his Ford Fiesta during Saturday's action.

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