DE RIDDER HOLDS FIRM AS TITLE RIVALS FALL
Friday pace-setter Guillaume De Ridder continued to show his rivals the way as the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires protagonists wowed the appreciative crowds at Höljes today (30 June), but a number of the Belgian’s key championship rivals were not so fortunate.
Whilst De Ridder did not top the timesheets in either Q3 or Q4 in the blazing Swedish summer sun, he was nonetheless consistently quick and intelligent enough to extend his advantage at the top of the Intermediate Classification, in so doing securing the prime spot in the standings ahead of tomorrow’s all-important semi-finals and final.
Having made a stellar series debut yesterday, RX2 newcomer Christian Brooks impressed even more on day two as the American teenager maintained his eye-catching momentum with an excellent run to seal second position overall.
Former championship leader Ben-Philip Gundersen placed third with another pacey performance, with the man currently at the top of the title table – Oliver Eriksson – vaulting from ninth up to fourth, fighting his way past countryman William Nilsson along the way.
Nilsson wound up fifth but was disappointed at falling down the order, having stormed to the top of the standings with a scintillating performance in Q3. The JC Raceteknik ace was looking strong again in Q4 until an unsighted exit from the joker lap resulted in contact with team-mate Marcus Höglund that cost him seven seconds.
“I came out of the joker but didn’t know Marcus was right alongside me,” he explained. “That was a real shame, because we had really good speed again – like in Q3. Still, we’re into the semi-finals in a great position and I feel like we’ve taken a big step forward this weekend. I’m confident in the car and in myself and I’m looking forward to fighting for a great result tomorrow.”
Fellow Swedes Jimmie Walfridson and Höglund maintained their challenge in sixth and seventh respectively at the end of the second day, with JC Raceteknik stablemate Henrik Krogstad right behind in eighth, losing time in traffic in Q3. Simon Olofsson continued a positive weekend in ninth, with tenth-placed Nathan Heathcote producing one of the undisputed stories of the day in tenth.
The reigning MSA British Rallycross Champion was on-course for an excellent time in Q3, until losing his car over the jump and ending up beached in the gravel trap. That left him 18 points away from making the semi-final cut and needing an extraordinary performance to save his weekend in Q4. When the lights went out, he left the line like a scalded cat and thereafter never looked back, posting the fastest time of anybody and hauling himself into contention by a single point.
“Wow! That was close!” Heathcote acknowledged. “I was so annoyed with myself after Q3 because we had such good speed. Looking at the points situation, I genuinely thought we were done – I never expected to get through to the semis. I’m so pleased, because I’m absolutely loving the whole Höljes experience – the atmosphere is amazing and it’s an awesome track. And now we get to drive it some more tomorrow!”
Level on points with the Team Färén rookie are SET Promotion’s Jami Kalliomäki – continuing to fight back from a troubled opening day – and Petter Leirhol, the last of the qualifiers in 12th.
Amongst the high-profile names to miss out were local specialist Linus Östlund (13th), Sami-Matti Trogen (15th), Conner Martell (17th, despite a valiant effort to recover from Q3 contact) and Simon Syversen (24th after finding himself tipped into a spectacular roll).
The biggest casualties, though, were undoubtedly Sondre Evjen and Vasiliy Gryazin, respectively second and third in the championship at present. The Norwegian has endured a torrid weekend, while the Latvian’s bid was undone by first corner contact in Q4.
Tomorrow, the action concludes with the semi-final and final.
1. Guillaume De Ridder BEL 167 points
2. Christian Brooks USA 159 points
3. Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR 157 points
4. Oliver Eriksson SWE 150 points
5. William Nilsson SWE 149 points
6. Jimmie Walfridson SWE 142 points
7. Marcus Höglund SWE 137 points
8. Henrik Krogstad NOR 133 points
9. Simon Olofsson SWE 133 points
10. Nathan Heathcote GBR 128 points
11. Jami Kalliomäki FIN 128 points
12. Petter Leirhol NOR 128 points
13. Linus Östlund SWE 128 points
14. Vasiliy Gryazin LVA 126 points
15. Sami-Matti Trogen FIN 115 points
16. Stein-Frederic Akre SWE 115 points
17. Conner Martell USA 113 points
18. Glenn Haug NOR 109 points
19. Santosh Berggren SWE 104 points
20. Mats Oskarsson SWE 101 points
21. Anders Michalak SWE 97 points
22. Sondre Evjen NOR 96 points
23. Hampus Rådström SWE 86 points
24. Simon Syversen NOR 85 points
25. Martin Jonsson SWE 83 points
26. Johnny Andersson SWE 82 points
27. Cole Keatts USA 81 points
28. Jonathan Walfridsson SWE 76 points
29. Albert Llovera AND 73 points