HOME HERO LEADS FIELD INTO HÖLJES
The stakes have been raised as the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires races towards the midway stage of its 2018 campaign in Sweden this weekend (29 June – 1 July), with the biggest grid in the championship’s history set to make Höljes a key outing for all of the title protagonists.
Put simply, with so many cars in the field, the difference between first and last will be much greater than at any of the opening three events of the season – so whereas competitors were able to recover from a qualifying race retirement at Mettet, Silverstone or Hell, there are no such guarantees this weekend. With such fine margins in RX2, every single misfortune or misadventure will be magnified – every mistake doubly punished.
There can be no taking for granted that the ‘usual suspects’ will make it into the semi-finals and all-important final, but the leading contenders will need to if they wish to keep their bid for glory going – or else face an uphill battle over the remaining three rounds.
It is home hero Oliver Eriksson currently topping the table – as he has done since his Speedmachine success four weeks ago – and whilst the Swede did not win last time out in Norway, his commendable consistency saw him concede just a single point to his closest rival in the overall classification. He is fully focussed on keeping that momentum going as the fiercely-contested series speeds into his backyard.
“Höljes is the big one,” acknowledged the 19-year-old Olsbergs MSE star. “It’s the ‘Magic Weekend’ in every sense, with a fantastic track and so many passionate spectators. For me, this is the greatest event of the year, and it means a lot to be coming here as championship leader.
“The aim has to be to build upon the success we have achieved so far, and I’d love nothing more than to repay my friends, family and sponsors for all their support by reaching the top step of the podium.”
Indeed, Höljes has earned itself a reputation as something of a motorsport mecca, routinely attracting an enthusiastic and sizeable fanbase and posing a formidable challenge to competitors. Not only that, but whoever wins this weekend will also take with them bragging rights into the mid-season break – sending them into the summer hiatus with a justifiable spring in their step.
Nine points back from Eriksson in the standings – and at the head of a tight pack of pursers – is Sondre Evjen, who has been a threat everywhere the series has visited thus far in 2018, finishing second at Mettet, third at Silverstone and just shy of the podium in Hell for JC Raceteknik.
Third-placed Vasiliy Gryazin (Sports Racing Technologies) has yet to reap the kind of reward his prodigious pace this year suggests he deserves, as the luckless Latvian continues to chase the podium, while Eriksson’s OMSE stablemate Guillaume De Ridder vaulted up to fourth in the rankings by belatedly breaking his duck in Norway with an impressively determined performance. The Belgian reached the RX2 rostrum for the first time at Höljes this time 12 months ago and is sure to feature at the sharp end again.
Henrik Krogstad has been the standout ‘Lites’ rookie of the season to-date, unleashing a scintillating turn-of-speed for JC Raceteknik that has propelled him to the podium two times out of three. The young Norwegian is palpably hungry for his first win in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series – a feeling that countryman and JC Raceteknik team-mate Ben-Philip Gundersen experienced in the Mettet curtain-raiser, although the 23-year-old has yet to scale such heady heights again.
Competing on home soil – and, like De Ridder, returning to the scene of his maiden RX2 rostrum – William Nilsson will be looking to banish the bad luck and engine issues that have dogged him over the early rounds, and given a clean run, the Swedish teenager is firmly capable of doing battle for glory.
The same can be said for SET Promotion trio Jami Kalliomäki, Simon Syversen and Sami-Matti Trogen. The experienced Syversen has developed into a dependable team leader and is helping his two teenage team-mates to hone their skillsets. Finnish duo Kalliomäki and Trogen have both displayed flashes of real form this year, and it is surely a matter of when rather than if they achieve a breakthrough result.
Team Färén pairing Conner Martell and Nathan Heathcote are two more quick young chargers, the American in particular turning heads with his uncompromising driving style and assertive starts – key factors in his second-place finish at Silverstone last month. Whilst Heathcote has yet to match Martell’s achievements, his potential as the reigning British Champion is clear to see and he certainly cannot be discounted.
The third Swede on the full-time entry list is Simon Olofsson, who is overdue a change of fortunes after proving to be fast but habitually unlucky in recent weeks, while Glenn Haug could count himself unfortunate to miss out on the semi-finals in front of his home supporters in Hell and will be seeking revenge just over the border at Höljes.
Fellow Scandinavian Anders Michalak is hoping to play home advantage this weekend, and the permanent entrants are completed by ever-improving American teenager Cole Keatts (OMSE) and record-breaking former Olympian Albert Llovera, who is continuing to demonstrate that disability is no barrier to going wheel-to-wheel with his adversaries on equal terms.
Amongst the 13 ‘wild cards’ will be Linus Östlund – son of circuit boss Morgan Östlund and a young man fast carving a good reputation for himself in the discipline – and another quick son of a famous father, Hampus Rådström, whose dad Thomas Rådström was a works driver for Toyota in the FIA World Rally Championship in the 1990s and tallied four career podium finishes before switching to rallycross.
Super1600 front-runner Janno Ligur from Estonia also comes hotly-tipped, while Marcus Höglund competed for JC Raceteknik in Norway two weeks ago so already has a gauge of the opposition. The car that will be driven by Sweden’s Johnny Andersson, finally, will be particularly noteworthy. The 50th Supercar Lites car to be sold will be built at the track on Thursday, tested at 18:00 local time and raced over the weekend.
The Höljes RX2 action will begin with free practice and the first two qualifying races on Friday, followed by the remaining two qualifiers on Saturday and the semi-finals and live-televised final on Sunday.
From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:
“With a sixth-gear straight, quick changes from gravel to asphalt and the jumps, this is one of the most exciting and demanding tracks of the season. It’s not just the specific RX2 Cooper rallycross tyre that has to withstand the forces from sudden acceleration, landing a jump, hard-braking and extreme cornering, but the drivers, too.”
2018 RX2 Sweden Entry List
2 Ben-Philip Gundersen JC Raceteknik NOR
6 William Nilsson JC Raceteknik SWE
8 Simon Syversen SET Promotion NOR
9 Glenn Haug Glenn Haug NOR
10 Martin Jonsson Martin Jonsson SWE
11 Mats Oskarsson Mats Oskarsson SWE
12 Anders Michalak Anders Michalak SWE
16 Oliver Eriksson Olsbergs MSE SWE
17 Hampus Rådström Hampus Rådström SWE
18 Linus Östlund Olsbergs MSE SWE
21 Conner Martell Team Färén USA
22 Sami-Matti Trogen SET Promotion FIN
27 Petter Leirhol Petter Leirhol NOR
44 Christian Brooks Christian Brooks USA
50 Nathan Heathcote Team Färén GBR
52 Simon Olofsson Simon Olofsson SWE
53 Cole Keatts Olsbergs MSE USA
55 Vasiliy Gryazin Sports Racing Technologies LVA
65 Jami Kalliomäki SET Promotion FIN
66 Albert Llovera Albert Llovera ESP
68 Santosh Berggren Santosh Berggren SWE
69 Sondre Evjen JC Raceteknik NOR
77 Henrik Krogstad JC Raceteknik NOR
86 Johnny Andersson Johnny Andersson SWE
90 Jimmie Walfridson JC Raceteknik SWE
91 Jonathan Walfridsson JC Raceteknik SWE
96 Guillaume De Ridder Olsbergs MSE BEL
98 Stein Frederic Akre Stein Frederic Akre NOR
99 Marcus Höglund JC Raceteknik SWE
100 Janno Ligur Janno Ligur EST
1. Oliver Eriksson (SWE) 73 points
2. Sondre Evjen (NOR) 64 points
3. Vasiliy Gryazin (LVA) 62 points
4. Guillaume De Ridder (BEL) 59 points
5. Henrik Krogstad (NOR) 57 points
6. Ben-Philip Gundersen (NOR) 48 points
7. Jami Kalliomäki (FIN) 42 points
8. William Nilsson (SWE) 40 points
9. Conner Martell (USA) 34 points
10. Glenn Haug (NOR) 25 points
The 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires will take in seven rounds across three continents in support of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, visiting Belgium, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Canada, France and South Africa.
2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires Calendar
May 12/13 Mettet, Belgium
May 26/27 Silverstone, Great Britain
June 09/10 Hell, Norway
June 30/July 01 Höljes, Sweden
August 04/05 Trois-Rivières, Canada
September 01/02 Lohéac, France
November 24/25 Cape Town, South Africa