BRILLIANT DE RIDDER DOMINATES OPENING DAY IN CAPE TOWN
There is a new name at the top of the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires pecking order after the opening day of Gumtree World RX of South Africa this weekend (11/12 November), as Guillame De Ridder dominated proceedings with a peerless performance at Killarney International Raceway.
The Belgian – who came within a whisker of registering his maiden RX2 victory last time out at Lohéac – was unbeatable all day, as he won both of his Qualifying Races in fine style. Recently-crowned champion Cyril Raymond sits second overnight after paying the price for a jump-start in Q1, with Andreas Bäckman an impressive third.
“Just a perfect day!” beamed De Ridder. “It’s the best start to a weekend I’ve ever had in RX2. I’ve said all along this year that my main goal is to make consistent progress throughout the season, and it’s clear that we’ve taken another step forward here since Lohéac.
“The first practice session was quite tricky for us; our set-up wasn’t working for the track conditions and we had a lot of oversteer, but the JC Raceteknik boys worked hard and made a lot of changes for session two and the car felt much better.
“That gave me much more confidence for the races, and to be quickest in both of them is fantastic. Now we need to go and do the same again tomorrow!”
Jessica Bäckman overcame practice woes to lead away in the first race of the weekend in South Africa, but Glenn Haug’s superior speed enabled him to vault his way to the top of the order by the time the chequered flag fell. Bäckman followed her fellow Scandinavian home in second, with William Nilsson ruing a jump-start that restricted him to a frustrated third.
A fast-starting Anders Michalak tried to take the lead around the outside of Turn One, but contact with Andreas Bäckman saw the younger Swede retain the advantage and allowed Sondre Evjen to slot into second. Thereafter, the order would remain the same throughout, with Bäckman’s winning time good enough for an impressive third overall.
The returning Guerlain Chicherit converted pole position into the lead, as a fast-starting Thomas Holmen found himself vulnerable in the middle of the track and pushed wide through Turn One. Practice pace-setter Cyril Raymond held second ahead of season-long rival Dan Rooke and Simon Syversen, but an error for Chicherit and a double joker for Raymond for a jump-start cleared the way for Rooke to triumph. Raymond salvaged second ahead of Syversen, Holmen and the battle-scarred Chicherit.
Birthday boy Vasiliy Gryazin made a good start to lead from pole, with Guillaume De Ridder bravely adopting a wide line into Turn One to vault up to second and very nearly snatch the top spot. The Belgian was taking no prisoners and skilfully undercut Gryazin at the beginning of lap two before inching away to a superb victory and his first overall fastest time in RX2. Gryazin maintained second, with the ever-spectacular Simon Olofsson narrowly pipping Tanner Whitten to third and Stein Fredrik Akre completing the order.
Nilsson led away from Chicherit and thereafter soaked up some early pressure to win – with it setting the third-fastest time overall to haul himself up the order after his earlier error. Holmen trailed home a luckless third after encountering brake issues.
In a textbook performance, Syversen led throughout to post the fourth-quickest time, while behind the Norwegian, Akre took advantage of an early joker lap to pip Jessica Bäckman to the runner-up spot.
Raymond led Olofsson, Whitten and Michalak into the first corner, but behind, a slow-starting Haug found himself caught out and pitched into a spin. Raymond edged away as the top three swiftly pulled clear – the Frenchman’s escape facilitated by a coming-together between Whitten and Olofsson going over the jump that resulted in the American lightly kissing the barrier, fortunately without repercussion. Michalak proceeded to leapfrog Olofsson in the joker, only for the younger Swede to immediately fight back. With Raymond and Whitten motoring on untroubled to the chequered flag, Michalak courageously defied a puncture to hold the recovering Haug off all the way to the end.
From second on the grid, Rooke made the best start but pole-sitter De Ridder held his ground into Turn One, as Andreas Bäckman opportunistically took advantage to sneak through into second, demoting the Briton to third ahead of Gryazin and Evjen. De Ridder pulled away as his pursuers squabbled in his wake, with Rooke and Gryazin both falling prey to punctures that relegated them to the rear of the order. A final sting in the tail saw Bäckman similarly afflicted late on, sending him off-piste through the last corner and very nearly allowing Evjen to beat him to the line in a dramatic photo-finish for second.
1. Guillaume De Ridder 100 points
2. Cyril Raymond 83 points
3. Andreas Bäckman 79 points
4. Dan Rooke 76 points
5. Sondre Evjen 75 points
6. Tanner Whitten 74 points
7. Simon Syversen 73 points
8. William Nilsson 71 points
9. Simon Olofsson 69 points
10. Vasiliy Gryazin 68 points
11. Guerlain Chicherit 67 points
12. Stein Fredrik Akre 66 points
13. Jessica Bäckman 65 points
14. Anders Michalak 65 points
15. Thomas Holmen 64 points
16. Glenn Haug 63 points
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