BACKMAN BREAKING THROUGH ON RALLYCROSS' BIG STAGE
Jessica Bäckman – make a note of that name. The Swedish teenager is on the fast track to motorsport glory, and is going from strength-to-strength during her maiden campaign of car racing competition this year in the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires.
Bäckman has been consistently grabbing her share of the spotlight in recent seasons, going undefeated en route to the Swedish Karting Championship Junior 125cc class title in 2012 and finishing as the highest-placed female in the KF2 World Championship in both 2014 and 2015, while similarly shining in the International Winter Cup and International Open.
Buoyed by that eye-catching success, Jessica took the decision to graduate to cars this year at the age of 19, teaming up with Scandinavian powerhouse Olsbergs MSE in RX2 – the fiercely-disputed feeder series to the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy.
Whilst she endured a challenging start to the campaign, she showed impressive signs of progress in Great Britain and Norway, missing out on the semi-finals by just two points on each occasion.
In the immediate aftermath of Lydden Hill, Bäckman participated in the launch event for next year’s SpeedMachine Festival at Silverstone, during which she took occasional World RX commentator Tim Harvey for a high-speed passenger ride around the celebrated Home of British Motorsport’s new rallycross circuit. The former British Touring Car Champion subsequently described her as ‘mega committed, with a first-class attitude and approach’ – and ‘a great natural talent’. High praise indeed.
Undeterred by a nightmare weekend on home soil at Höljes, Jessica bounced back in fine style in Canada. After charging into the semi-finals for the first time, she only narrowly failed to make it through to the final, in the process defeating compatriot William Nilsson, who had been a podium-finisher in the previous round.
To add intrigue to her story, she is competing head-to-head with brother Andreas – both a team-mate and rival – and she has also been showcasing her versatility by dovetailing her RX2 commitments with a successful karting campaign in 2017 that recently resulted in her third Swedish Championship crown. Her prize was a test run in a Swedish V8 Thundercar – something else to add to her flourishing career CV.
“A lot of drivers go from karting to circuit racing, but that was never of interest to me,” Bäckman reveals. “Our uncle competed in rallycross for many years and we followed him round from a young age, so I guess this was always going to happen. It must be in the blood!
“Andreas and I never raced against each other much in karting – we always tried to avoid direct competition – so this year has been something new in that respect. We have a very good relationship so of course we work together to try to help each other to progress, but at the end of the day, I want to beat him and he wants to beat me.
“Every track has been new to me this year, so I’ve been learning as I go, but I think Trois-Rivières showed that we are moving in the right direction. That weekend marked a big step forward. After coming so close before, it was a major confidence boost to reach the semi-finals at last and not only that, but to really put up a fight against a number of drivers with far more experience than me.
“Given that this is my first season out of karts, RX2 was never going to be a single-year project, and my long-term goal is to step up to the world championship. I believe I have the ability to do so, and if I can maintain the same rate of progress between now and the end of the campaign, hopefully we will be in a position to really push on in 2018.”
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