ERIKSSON EXCELS AS GUNDERSEN HOLDS HIS NERVE IN FRANCE
Saturday 31st of August 2019
2019 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires championship leader Oliver Eriksson holds the overnight advantage following the opening day of action at Lohéac today (31 August), although it was Ben-Philip Gundersen who arguably stole the show with a breathtaking first corner move to post the fastest time in Q3.
Friday’s two free practice sessions had already hinted at a close and competitive weekend, and the first three qualifying rounds followed that script to the letter. Eriksson was the man to beat in both Q1 and Q2, and whilst the Swede was ‘only’ third in Q3 after finding himself outfoxed at Turn One, he nonetheless holds a solid margin at the top of the intermediate classification.
Eriksson’s closest pursuer is Gundersen, who found his early efforts stymied by outside grid positions and traffic, but after swallowing some brave pills, the JC Raceteknik ace boldly left his braking as late as he dared at the start of Q3 and swept all the way around his adversaries to snatch the lead from fifth position. Thereafter, the Norwegian was never challenged as he ended Eriksson’s hegemony in style.
“What a great way to finish the day!” he enthused. “I started on the outside in every race and struggled a bit with that in Q1 and Q2 which cost me time, so in Q3 I decided I just had to go for it and that obviously paid off. The car felt great – bring on tomorrow!”
SET Promotion’s Sami-Matti Trogen occupies third position courtesy of a trio of excellent performances at the scene of his maiden RX2 rostrum this time last year. The Finnish teenager sits one point ahead of series debutant Nikolay Gryazin, the WRC 2 championship leader proving to be fast and spectacular in equal measure and turning heads with the second-quickest time in Q2.
Jesse Kallio sits fifth with one qualifier remaining, impressing with his assertive starts and late-braking heroics but losing ground in Q3. With a title battle on the line, the Finn will be fired-up to fight back on Sunday.
Olsbergs MSE team-mate Fraser McConnell is just behind in sixth, the Jamaican producing top four times in Q1 and Q3 but falling foul of suspension breakage after contact in Q2, while Vasiliy Gryazin in the second Sports Racing Technologies car was solid and consistent on his way to seventh.
Steve Volders is eighth at the end of arguably his finest day in RX2 to-date, with a brace of top six times to his credit, but Team Färén pairing William Nilsson and Damien Meunier both had to battle back from Q2 issues – the Swede a Turn One collision and the home hero a puncture while looking set for a strong result. Ninth and tenth in the overnight rankings, they will be eager to continue climbing back up the order in Q4.
Countrymen and STS stablemates Simon Olofsson and Anders Michalak are next up, the latter delayed after being tipped into a half-spin by Yann Le Jossec in Q3. Former X Games gold medallist Petter Nårsa and America’s Lane Vacala both improved throughout the day on their maiden appearance in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series, while Albert Llovera placed inside the top ten in Q2 as he spiritedly took the fight to his rivals.
Local specialist Le Jossec, meanwhile, endured a baptism of fire on his RX2 bow. Unable to start Q1 due to electrical issues, the Frenchman – who runs a driving school at Lohéac – rebounded with ninth position in Q2 but then endured another early bath in Q3 when his attempted overtake on Michalak failed to come off.
The action continues tomorrow (Sunday), with Q4 to be broadcast live on the RX2 Series Facebook page from 09:20 and the semi-finals and final both featuring as part of the official World RX television broadcast.
1. Oliver Eriksson SWE Olsbergs MSE 142 points
2. Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR JC Raceteknik 128 points
3. Sami-Matti Trogen FIN SET Promotion 121 points
4. Nikolay Gryazin LVA Sports Racing Technologies 120 points
5. Jesse Kallio FIN Olsbergs MSE 117 points
6. Fraser McConnell JAM Olsbergs MSE 114 points
7. Vasiliy Gryazin LVA Sports Racing Technologies 111 points
8. Steve Volders BEL Nationale Renstal Trommelke 110 points
9. William Nilsson SWE Team Färén 103 points
10. Damien Meunier FRA Damien Meunier 102 points
11. Simon Olofsson SWE Simon Olofsson 99 points
12. Anders Michalak SWE Anders Michalak 97 points
13. Petter Nårsa SWE JC Raceteknik 96 points
14. Albert Llovera AND Albert Llovera 94 points
15. Lane Vacala USA Lane Vacala 92 points
16. Yann Le Jossec FRA Team Färén 62 points