SOUTH AFRICA AWAITS AS RX2 STARS BID TO SIGN OFF IN STYLE
The inaugural RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires will reach a captivating conclusion in Cape Town next weekend (11/12 November), with no fewer than 16 rallycross stars of the future ready to do battle for the honour of clinching the final victory of 2017 at Gumtree World RX of South Africa.
The destiny of the coveted crown may already have been resolved in favour of France’s Cyril Raymond – who popularly lifted the laurels on home turf at Lohéac last time out – but there remains plenty still to play for in the eagerly-anticipated finale to what has been a phenomenally exciting and competitive maiden campaign for the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series.
Raymond, of course, will be fired-up to sign off in style with a champion’s drive at Killarney International Raceway, and the Olsbergs MSE ace enjoyed a sneak preview of the circuit when the event was officially launched earlier this year. His rivals, however, are just as determined to stop him in his tracks, with Dan Rooke and Guillaume De Ridder in particular eyeing one final push as they duel over the runner-up spoils in the end-of-season standings.
Former MSA British Rallycross Champion Rooke is the only driver other than Raymond to have won so far in 2017 – triumphing at Höljes in Sweden back in the summer – while despite being a newcomer to the discipline, De Ridder has made impressive progress in recent months and came within half-a-second of reaching the top step of the rostrum himself in France. The points situation is currently weighted in the Briton’s favour, but the Belgian is not one to give in without a fight.
Swedes William Nilsson and Simon Olofsson and America’s Tanner Whitten are embroiled in a tight tussle over fourth in the final rankings, with just four points separating the trio and 30 remaining on the board. Nilsson and Whitten have both already tasted podium champagne this year, but for all his scintillating raw speed and combative spirit, Olofsson has yet to achieve the same. Could that be set to change in the ‘Mother City’?
“It’s certainly been a rollercoaster season for us!” quipped the 22-year-old. “We were dominating the first event in Belgium until we picked up a puncture late in the final, and since then, it’s been a case of ‘could have been’ pretty much everywhere.
“Every time the podium looks to be within reach, something seems to happen to take it away from us so hopefully we have now got all of our bad luck out of the way and we can get the job done in South Africa. It looks like being an awesome weekend in Cape Town, and I’ll be giving it my absolute all to cap it with my first RX2 top three finish.”
The five-way scrap for seventh will see Norwegians Glenn Haug, Sondre Evjen and Thomas Holmen, Latvia’s Vasiliy Gryazin and Swede Andreas Bäckman go wheel-to-wheel and doorhandle-to-doorhandle as they aim to impress the South African audience and haul themselves as high up the overall pecking order as possible.
Simon Syversen (Norway) has come on increasingly strong as the season has progressed and like Olofsson, is knocking on the door of a big result, while Swedes Anders Michalak and Jessica Bäckman have a final flourish in their sights before the long winter break. Cape Town will also herald a welcome return to the RX2 fray for Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit – last seen at Trois-Rivières – and Sweden’s Stein Fredrik Akre, who shone at Höljes by making it into the top six in only his second outing in the series.
The Killarney RX2 action will begin with practice on Saturday morning, followed by the opening two qualifying races the same day and the remaining qualifiers, semi-finals and televised final on Sunday.
From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:
“We have come to the final event of the year, in South Africa, and at 6,000 miles from our manufacturing facility in Melksham, England, the tyres have had a long journey over the last month to reach what is likely to be a spectacular season finale. A new circuit is always a challenge, but we are confident that the tougher compound used in RX2 will acquit itself well. Our tyre engineers will be on-hand to gather as much data as possible for future rounds. This will allow better application of open competition tyres at this venue for national events as rallycross gathers popularity in South Africa.”
1. Cyril Raymond (FRA) 168 points
2. Dan Rooke (GBR) 137 points
3. Guillaume De Ridder (BEL) 115 points
4. William Nilsson (SWE) 89 points
5. Tanner Whitten (USA) 85 points
6. Simon Olofsson (SWE) 85 points
7. Vasiliy Gryazin (LVA) 74 points
8. Glenn Haug (NOR) 74 points
9. Sondre Evjen (NOR) 69 points
10. Andreas Bäckman (SWE) 59 points