GRYAZIN TURNS UP THE WICK ON DAY TWO IN BELGIUM
Vasiliy Gryazin maintained his stellar start to the season as he continued to dominate the 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires curtain-raiser at Mettet in Belgium today (12 May), to earn himself the prime starting spot for tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated semi-finals.
Gryazin and fellow Friday pace-setter Ben-Philip Gundersen led the way in the remaining three RX2 qualifiers, with the pair sharing all four fastest times between them as they resumed their battle with a vengeance.
JC Raceteknik ace Gundersen topped the timesheets in Q2, but his Latvian rival hit back in Q3 and Q4 to complete an almost perfect score and cement the coveted ‘Top Qualifier’ status – and with it, pole position for Sunday’s first semi-final. The Norwegian earned himself pole for the second semi-final, impressing with a stellar turn-of-speed on his full-time series debut.
“It’s been a good qualifying,” acknowledged Sports Racing Technologies star Gryazin. “I pushed as hard as I could, but I was mindful that little mistakes here can cost you a lot of time so I tried to remain smooth as well. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and I’ve never driven here in the wet but I like those conditions, so let’s see what we can do...”
Home hero Guillaume De Ridder shook off the disadvantage of unfavourable starting slots in all four of his qualifying races to delight the partisan crowds with a series of gritty performances that leave him sitting third overnight. He narrowly saw off the challenge of Olsbergs MSE stablemate Oliver Eriksson, who continued to prove his credentials at RX2 level with a strong showing.
Fifth in the intermediate classification is Supercar Lites rookie Jami Kalliomäki, who has been arguably the surprise package of the Mettet weekend for SET Promotion. The young Finn is gaining in confidence every time he takes to the track, and a brace of race wins and the second-quickest time overall in Q4 suggest he will be very much one to watch this season.
Sondre Evjen fought back well from his Friday dramas, racing hard to haul his way up the leaderboard into sixth position and firmly in contention for a final berth. Team-mate William Nilsson struggled for speed until Q4, but a runaway race win there secured him seventh overall, just ahead of fellow JC Raceteknik driver Henrik Krogstad, who replicated his outstanding Q1 form in Q2 but conceded ground due to an electrical fault in Q3.
Countryman Glenn Haug slipped from fourth to ninth but remains well in the hunt for a spot in the final, while Conner Martell fired himself into the top ten with an eye-catching effort that included an incredible start in Q2, thoroughly disproving the theory that you cannot take the lead from the outside of the grid at Mettet. The American pushed Kalliomäki hard in Q4 and took advantage of some rivals’ misfortunes to seal his semi-final appearance on his RX2 bow.
Simon Syversen similarly progressed in 11th courtesy of a solid day’s work for SET Promotion, with namesake Simon Olofsson snaring the last available spot, although his day ended in unfortunate fashion when he and Nathan Heathcote came together at the start of Q4, sending the Brit into a roll and the Swede into the barriers. The Team Färén new boy had seemingly dragged himself into the ‘safe’ zone with an excellent drive in Q3, only for the spectacular collision to drop him out of the reckoning.
The RX2 action continues tomorrow at Mettet, with two semi-finals followed by the all-important final.
1. Vasiliy Gryazin LVA 195 points
2. Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR 176 points
3. Guillaume De Ridder BEL 160 points
4. Oliver Eriksson SWE 158 points
5. Jami Kalliomäki FIN 157 points
6. Sondre Evjen NOR 145 points
7. William Nilsson SWE 143 points
8. Henrik Krogstad NOR 143 points
9. Glenn Haug NOR 140 points
10. Conner Martell USA 136 points
11. Simon Syversen NOR 134 points
12. Simon Olofsson SWE 133 points
13. Anders Michalak SWE 128 points
14. Nathan Heathcote GBR 127 points
15. Koen Pauwels BEL 119 points
16. Cole Keatts USA 116 points
17. Albert Llovera AND 111 points