DE RIDDER TOPS TIMES ON DRAMATIC OPENING DAY AT HÖLJES
Hot on the heels of his breakthrough RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires victory in Hell earlier this month, Guillaume De Ridder maintained his burgeoning momentum as he ended a bruising opening day of action at Höljes at the top of the timesheets today (29 June).
De Ridder was sixth-quickest in Q1 at the scene of his maiden RX2 rostrum this time last year, before vaulting to the summit of the standings with a classy and composed performance in Q2. Worryingly for his rivals, the Belgian then suggested there was more speed still to come.
“These Scandinavian circuits seem to suit me!” he quipped. “Hopefully that will continue until the end of the weekend. It’s been a very positive day overall. We’re still lacking a bit of speed – a tenth-of-a-second or two here and there – so we’ll work hard on the set-up overnight and we’ll try to extract a bit more pace from the driver, too!
“Consistency is key this weekend. With so many cars in the field, every mistake is twice as costly as usual and the most important thing is to see the chequered flag because it will be very difficult to bounce back from even one bad qualifying race.”
Ben-Philip Gundersen set the pace in Q1 and ended up second overall, four points back from De Ridder, with Christian Brooks right behind in third. The American teenager is making his RX2 debut this weekend, but he immediately stole the spotlight by going quickest in free practice and followed that up with the second-best time in Q1. He heads into Saturday sitting an impressive third outright.
“For my first rallycross race weekend in Europe, it’s going pretty well,” Brooks smiled. “I really wasn’t expecting to be fastest in first practice – I’d been hoping for maybe the top ten – so I was like, ‘this is pretty cool!’ To then win my first race was insane, especially at such an awesome track as this.
“The competition I’ve been used to back home in the States over the past few seasons doesn’t compare to this – RX2 is a much higher level and you have to race a lot smarter. My car felt great all day which is huge credit to the team, and I’m feeling super excited for tomorrow.”
Home hero William Nilsson kept the partisan fans happy with an excellent effort to place fourth overall for JC Raceteknik, with Sports Racing Technologies star Vasiliy Gryazin an ever-present threat in fifth and Sweden’s Marcus Höglund a strong sixth.
Simon Olofsson finally enjoyed a trouble-free day and showed what he is capable of with a fast and feisty performance to sit seventh, ahead of Jimmie Walfridson and championship leader Oliver Eriksson, with the Olsbergs MSE ace losing time in Q2 after being hit from behind.
Henrik Krogstad made it five JC Raceteknik cars inside the top ten, with reigning MSA British Rallycross Champion Nathan Heathcote going well in 11th and Petter Leirhol currently the last of the semi-final protagonists.
Linus Östlund – son of circuit boss Morgan Östlund – is just outside the cut in 13th, with SET Promotion’s Jami Kalliomäki 14th, the Finnish teenager losing time when a tyre came off the rim while comfortably leading his race in Q1 but producing a stellar fightback in Q2 to haul himself onto the fringes of the top 12.
The Finnish teenager was one of a number of high-profile casualties on a dramatic day of racing, with Team Färén’s Conner Martell (17th) suffering the same tyre-related fate in Q1 before battling back in Q2 and title contender Sondre Evjen (22nd) rolling multiple times in Q2 following first corner contact.
On a tough day for the Jussi Pinomäki-led outfit, Kalliomäki’s SET Promotion team-mates Sami-Matti Trogen and Simon Syversen similarly endured a nightmarish start, the former encountering propshaft failure and the latter picking up two rear punctures. They will begin day two respectively 23rd and 25th in the classification and like Martell and Evjen, have a mountain to climb if they are to reach the semi-final stage in Sweden.
1. Guillaume De Ridder BEL 88 points
2. Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR 84 points
3. Christian Brooks USA 83 points
4. William Nilsson SWE 81 points
5. Vasiliy Gryazin LVA 76 points
6. Marcus Höglund SWE 76 points
7. Simon Olofsson SWE 71 points
8. Jimmie Walfridson SWE 69 points
9. Oliver Eriksson SWE 68 points
10. Henrik Krogstad NOR 66 points
11. Nathan Heathcote GBR 64 points
12. Petter Leirhol NOR 62 points
13. Linus Östlund SWE 62 points
14. Jami Kalliomäki FIN 58 points
15. Santosh Berggren SWE 56 points
16. Stein-Frederic Akre SWE 54 points
17. Conner Martell USA 52 points
18. Mats Oskarsson SWE 52 points
19. Jonathan Walfridsson SWE 51 points
20. Cole Keatts USA 47 points
21. Glenn Haug NOR 47 points
22. Sondre Evjen NOR 47 points
23. Sami-Matti Trogen FIN 46 points
24. Anders Michalak SWE 46 points
25. Simon Syversen NOR 42 points
26. Hampus Rådström SWE 40 points
27. Martin Jonsson SWE 38 points
28. Albert Llovera AND 38 points
29. Johnny Andersson SWE 36 points