TRANSATLANTIC TEST NEXT FOR RALLYCROSS' FUTURE STARS
Following a five-week mid-summer hiatus, the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires will roar back into action this weekend (4/5 August) in the Canadian city of Trois-Rivières – as the chase for the coveted drivers’ crown reaches fever pitch.
His second victory in swift succession last time out at Höljes in Sweden saw Olsbergs MSE’s Guillaume De Ridder close to within just six points of team-mate Oliver Eriksson at the summit of the standings. That has set the scene for an intriguing second half of the season – particularly as the Swede will be fired-up to reassert his supremacy having not won since May.
De Ridder will surely fancy his chances of further narrowing the deficit around a circuit where last year he took the chequered flag second. The momentum is clearly on the Belgian’s side at present, but Eriksson is nothing if not a fighter and the 19-year-old will be digging deep in his effort to turn the tables across the other side of the Atlantic.
It is far from just a two-way fight, however, with at least four other drivers all well in touch with the championship lead. JC Raceteknik’s Norwegian pairing Henrik Krogstad and Ben-Philip Gundersen are proving to be consistent threats at the sharp end of proceedings, with the former having finished on the podium three times out of four to-date and the latter one of the hardest chargers in the series. Both have the top step of the rostrum firmly in their sights.
Much the same can be said for Vasiliy Gryazin (Sports Racing Technologies) and Sondre Evjen (JC Raceteknik), who were unquestionably the biggest casualties of the Höljes weekend as separate instances of contact saw them fail to progress beyond the qualifying stage for the first time in 2018. That loss of points means both are in need of a strong result at Trois-Rivières to reignite their bid for glory in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series.
William Nilsson in the fourth full-time JC Raceteknik entry unleashed a scintillating turn-of-speed on home soil four weeks ago and actually headed the overall classification after Q3. If the young Swede can replicate that stellar form in Canada, he will be well in the mix.
Fellow teenager Jami Kalliomäki is another to have threatened a headline-grabbing result on several occasions this year and is edging ever-closer to breaking through for SET Promotion, while Conner Martell hails from just south of the US border in Vermont, making Trois-Rivières his ‘local’ event. The Team Färén ace has impressed with his raw pace and assertive racecraft in his maiden RX2 campaign and will undoubtedly enjoy plenty of home support.
“We’ve had a really positive start to the season,” affirmed Martell, “but I’m definitely ready to get back into the final after missing out at Hell due to gear linkage issues and Höljes, where I got knocked into a spin at the first corner.
“Standing on the podium at Silverstone was an awesome feeling and I really want to do that again! I’ve been up against all the Europeans in their own backyard so far, so let’s see if we can show them a thing or two now we’re on my territory...”
Kalliomäki’s SET Promotion stablemates Simon Syversen and Sami-Matti Trogen – the latter the youngest competitor in the field at just 16 years of age – have both proved their potential over the opening half of the season. Syversen is an experienced and dependable hand, and Trogen’s bursts of speed hint at a great future in the sport.
The 15-strong field in Canada is completed by Anders Michalak, Nathan Heathcote, Cole Keatts and Albert Llovera. Sweden’s Michalak reached the final with a solid showing at Silverstone, while Team Färén rookie Heathcote at last shrugged off the ill-fortune that has dogged him since the beginning of the campaign by dominating Q4 at Höljes. American teenager Keatts will – like Martell – be racing on ‘home’ turf, and record-breaking former Olympian Llovera is visibly gaining in confidence with every event. All four can be counted upon to produce a crowd-pleasing performance in Canada.
“There’s no question that RX2 is a learning curve for me,” acknowledged 17-year-old Keatts, who impressively made it into the semi-finals on his series debut at Trois-Rivières 12 months ago. “I’m going up against guys with a lot more experience than I have, but I’m getting faster with every round. Hopefully our prior knowledge of the track will allow us to take a significant step forward this weekend.”
The Trois-Rivières RX2 action will begin with free practice and the first two qualifying races on Saturday, followed by the remaining two qualifiers, semi-finals and live-televised final on Sunday.
From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:
“The tyres really do go from the rough to the smooth here, with a jump added in for even more action. The quick Tarmac sections really work the tread compound and we can easily see temperatures in excess of 100°C. However, we have also seen in previous years that rain at a key moment and understanding when to change to the Cooper rallycross wet tyre can make all the difference.”
2018 RX2 Canada Entry List
2 Ben-Philip Gundersen JC Raceteknik NOR
6 William Nilsson JC Raceteknik SWE
8 Simon Syversen SET Promotion NOR
12 Anders Michalak Anders Michalak SWE
16 Oliver Eriksson Olsbergs MSE SWE
21 Conner Martell Team Färén USA
22 Sami-Matti Trogen SET Promotion FIN
50 Nathan Heathcote Team Färén GBR
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
69 Sondre Evjen JC Raceteknik NOR
77 Henrik Krogstad JC Raceteknik NOR
96 Guillaume De Ridder Olsbergs MSE BEL
1. Oliver Eriksson (SWE) 95 points
2. Guillaume De Ridder (BEL) 89 points
3. Henrik Krogstad (NOR) 76 points
4. Ben-Philip Gundersen (NOR) 69 points
5. Vasiliy Gryazin (LVA) 65 points
6. Sondre Evjen (NOR) 64 points
7. William Nilsson (SWE) 54 points
8. Jami Kalliomäki (FIN) 49 points
9. Conner Martell (USA) 34 points
10. Simon Olofsson (SWE) 26 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