Driver

KEVIN ERIKSSON KEEPS IT IN THE FAMILY AT HÖLJES

It was the same name but a different winner in the second round of RallyX on Ice at Höljes in Sweden last weekend (10 February), as Kevin Eriksson replicated brother Oliver’s achievement from the Östersund curtain-raiser a week earlier by racing to victory on home soil.

In truth, throughout the qualifying stages, it was the younger of the two Erikssons that looked odds-on favourite to make it back-to-back triumphs in the popular winter series, as Oliver went unbeaten in all three of his heats to top the intermediate rankings.

Older brother Kevin, however, was not far behind, with two wins and a second place to his credit. A storming drive in his semi-final then proved sufficient to earn the MJP Racing Team Austria FIA World Rallycross Championship star pole position for the all-important final, after Oliver found himself pipped in his own semi-final by Norway’s Sondre Evjen – and from there, Kevin led the final from lights-to-flag.

“It was a good weekend for me – almost perfect,” acknowledged the winner. “I only conceded two points through the heats, and I had to beat two younger guys to get here. I really had to give it everything in the final and thankfully it was enough.

“My Olsbergs MSE team-mate Cyril Raymond had a tough weekend, but he stuck around to act as my spotter in the final. He helped to keep me calm, and when he told me I had enough of a gap to Sondre behind, I knew I just had to maintain that – although it certainly wasn’t over until the chequered flag fell. I was actually a little bit nervous. This is the first time I’ve won a race on ice – I’ve finished second five times – so it’s a good feeling.”

Evjen was a consistent threat throughout – as he had been en route to the runner-up spoils at Östersund – with two heat race wins and a committed effort to defeat the younger Eriksson in the semi-final, securing him a front row starting spot for the final. The JC Raceteknik ace toyed with the idea of launching a bid for the lead into the first corner only to think better of it, after which he valiantly gave chase right the way to the finish line.

“I’m really happy with this result,” the 20-year-old affirmed. “We came out on top of a tough fight with Oliver in the semi-final, and I tried to put up a similar fight against Kevin in the final but I couldn’t quite catch him. I thought I might have a chance to get him but he was just out-of-reach. The next track we go to will be new for everybody, but hopefully we will be able to play a little home advantage...”

After taking a clean sweep through the qualifiers, Oliver Eriksson surely fancied his chances going into the semi-finals, only to find himself outgunned by Evjen at the lights and subsequently wrong-footed by his fellow Scandinavian at the entry to the joker lap. He then had to battle back from a difficult start to the final to snatch a commendable third position to add to his burgeoning silverware collection.

“We had really good pace in the heats, but Sondre got a little edge on me in the semi-final and then in the final, it felt like he and Kevin both had the edge on me,” mused Eriksson. “I tried to keep up but could never really close the gap enough to attempt anything. As the studs in the tyres wore away the snow, more and more of the track’s asphalt appeared as the day progressed. I think they adapted to that more quickly than I did, but I will learn from the experience for next time.”

Pelle Wilén wound up a competitive fourth in his first RallyX on Ice final, taking the chequered flag just over a second shy of the podium. Competing on home turf, the Swede tallied a second and two third places in the heats – in one of them practically pushing the older Eriksson across the line – before profiting from a mistake by Jimmie Walfridsson in the semi-final to advance through to the last six.

Wilén turned the tables in the final on compatriot Alexander Westlund, who had narrowly pipped him to the top spot at the semi-final stage following a win and runner-up finish in the qualifiers.

Impressive Supercar Lites rookie Jami Kalliomäki ended up sixth overall, the young Finn turning heads with his semi-final performance as he mugged America’s Conner Martell for second on the exit of the joker and very nearly snatched first from Kevin Eriksson for good measure – all despite feeling somewhat under the weather.

Martell shone for the second weekend in a row and only narrowly missed out on making the final at Höljes, while countryman Austin Cindric piloted his Team Penske-liveried car to his first heat win – although the teenager was out-of-luck elsewhere.

Of the other key contenders, Jonathan Walfridsson triumphed twice in the qualifiers but failed to make the final, Ben-Philip Gundersen came unstuck when he neglected to take the joker lap in the semi-final and 2017 British Rallycross Supercar Champion Nathan Heathcote showed a promising turn-of-speed on his ice racing debut.

Reigning RX2 International Series Champion Cyril Raymond found his challenge scuppered by slow starts and a collision with a snow bank as he chased Evjen for the lead in Q3, while Latvia’s Vasiliy Gryazin looked in good shape with two second-place finishes in the heats, only to crash out at the first corner of his semi-final.

In the supporting RX Academy on Ice, Simon Syversen appeared set to make it two wins in as many weekends as he bolted out of the traps at the start of the final – having languished at the very bottom of the order following the heats – but the RX2 regular was unable to maintain his startling early pace and a mistimed joker allowed both Jesse Kallio and Joni Wiman past to seal a Finnish one-two. After losing the lead to Syversen at lights-out, Kallio played an early joker to perfection to reclaim the advantage, with Wiman similarly leapfrogging the Norwegian into second.

In Speedcar Xtreme – for 312kg, 150bhp crosskarts – it was all about the big names, as FIA World RX Supercar stars Kevin Hansen, Niclas Grönholm and Timmy Hansen monopolised the podium. The Hansen brothers got the jump at the start, with Grönholm – who made a lightning getaway from the back of the grid – punishing a second lap error by Timmy to steal the runner-up spot.

“Höljes is a very special place in the rallycross world – it’s not for nothing that the big summer event here is known as the ‘Magic Weekend’ – and I think we brought a little magic ourselves this weekend,” reflected Olsbergs MSE CEO Andreas Eriksson, the man behind the exciting winter sport concept.

“The racing was spectacular across all three classes, and it was wonderful to see so many fans up on the banking enjoying the entertainment. Now we are already looking forward to the Norwegian leg of RallyX on Ice at Ål and Gol later this month – and the arrival of our IndyCar stars.”

Media accreditation for RallyX on Ice events is now open. Interested journalists and photographers should contact RallyX on Ice Media Officer Russell Atkins (russell.atkins@mpacreative.com / +44 (0) 7725 223288).

All four rounds of RallyX on Ice will be livestreamed by the world's biggest digital motorsport platform, motorsport.com via its Motorsport TV online channel.

Results:

Supercar Lites Final

1. Kevin ERIKSSON SWE 6 laps
2. Sondre EVJEN NOR +0.980s
3. Oliver ERIKSSON SWE +3.495s
4. Pelle WILÉN SWE +4.739s
5. Alexander WESTLUND SWE +7.240s
6. Jami KALLIOMÄKI FIN +11.504s

RX Academy on Ice Final

1. Jesse KALLIO FIN 6 laps
2. Joni WIMAN FIN +0.790s
3. Simon SYVERSEN NOR +4.157s
4. Isak REIERSEN SWE +5.142s
5. Marko MURU EST +5.593s
6. Oliver BENNETT GBR +14.055s

Speedcar Xtreme Final

1. Kevin HANSEN SWE 6 laps
2. Niclas GRÖNHOLM FIN +4.275s
3. Timmy HANSEN SWE +5.926s
4. Finn Erik LØBERG NOR +12.176s
5. Linus ÖSTLUND SWE +12.932s
6. Aleksander WIIK NOR +14.969s

2018 RallyX on Ice Calendar

February 3           Östersund, Sweden
February 10         Höljes, Sweden
February 25         Ål, Norway
March 3               Gol, Norway

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