NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION AT SUPERCAR LITES SAMPLER DAY
Tuesday 3rd of September 2019
Less than 24 hours after the chequered flag had fallen on a pulsating final at Lohéac – widely regarded as the best race in RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires history – championship leader Oliver Eriksson and home hero Damien Meunier were back at the legendary French circuit yesterday (2 September) to put the next generation through their paces.
The dust had barely had time to settle upon a weekend of superb edge-of-the-seat entertainment when Eriksson, Meunier and GCK Academy FIA World Rallycross Championship star Cyril Raymond – who clinched the RX2 crown in 2017 – returned to the track, only with an altogether different mission.
This time, the focus was not on them, but rather on the 24 attendees at the annual Supercar Lites sampler day. Traditionally held in Scandinavia, yesterday marked the first time the official test had taken place in Western Europe – and future World Championship hopefuls responded with enthusiasm.
The places were filled by a mix of drivers from France, the UK, Germany, Finland and even as far afield as Israel, and with varying levels of motorsport experience. At one end of the spectrum, Maximilien Eveno and Jimmy Terpereau arrived fresh off the back of top six finishes in the Super1600 class at Lohéac, the former less than a second shy of the podium; at the other end, inaugural DiRT World Champion Joona Pankkonen had never so much as set foot inside a racing car before.
The 310bhp, four wheel-drive Supercar Lites car provides a level playing field not only in RX2, but also in RallyX Nordic, RallyX on Ice and ARX 2 in the United States – offering drivers an unrivalled opportunity to demonstrate their ability in equal machinery in front of leading team bosses.
Two such high-profile outfits were present at the test, with both Eriksson and Raymond – the Frenchman three times a champion in Supercar Lites machinery and the Swede gunning for a third title of his own this year – running in Olsbergs MSE cars and Meunier with Team Färén.
The latter, indeed, understood exactly how the 24 hopefuls in front of him felt – he had been one of them himself at the Supercar Lites test at Strängnäs Motorstadion in Sweden two years ago, when his prowess behind the wheel and mature approach outside of the cockpit left Raymond waxing lyrical. Fast forward to 2019, and Meunier has now contested three RX2 events on the World Championship stage – reaching the final on his debut in Barcelona.
Yesterday’s test, similarly, witnessed a number of eye-catching efforts, with drivers lapping up the chance to show what they could do away from the pressure cooker environment of a race weekend. RX2 CEO Andreas Eriksson was extremely encouraged by what he saw.
“The reason we chose to hold the Supercar Lites sampler day at Lohéac this year is very simple,” he explained. “There is a wealth of rallycross talent in France and neighbouring countries, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to show what they could do – they certainly made the most of it.
“We had drivers from Super1600, from Autocross, from hillclimbing, from time trials, from karting – and some with no racing experience at all. They all participated fully in the day, listened to what their driver coaches were telling them and improved from one lap to the next. There were definitely a few potential superstars in our midst, and ultimately, that is what this test is all about – discovering and nurturing the next generation. On the basis of what we saw yesterday, the future looks bright.”
Selected participant quotes
Joona Pankkonen, 2018 Codemasters DiRT World Champion: “I went into the Supercar Lites test day with absolutely zero experience of driving a racing car, and I had a blast! It was even more fun than I had expected it to be, and the car is just spectacular. As a discipline, rallycross really excites and inspires me, and when I got behind the wheel for the first time, I just wanted to put my foot to the floor so I had to rein that in a little! I had an excellent teacher in Oliver [Eriksson], and with every lap I learned more and more and got quicker and quicker. Driving the car itself is not the difficult part; it’s driving it fast and finding the extra lap time that’s the challenge, but the gaming definitely helped me to prepare for this opportunity – there are actually a lot of similarities between DiRT and the real thing.”
Maximilien Eveno, Super1600 driver: “What a fantastic experience! The Supercar Lites is a great car – easy to get to grips with, very responsive to driver input and a lot of fun behind the wheel. Coming from Super1600, I’m obviously used to a different type of car and this was the first time in my career with four wheel-drive, but the feeling was very natural right from the start. Even when you have several years’ experience in the sport, you never stop learning and that was certainly the case at the test. It was also good to have such a close and representative comparison with my current car, having driven the same track in Super1600 only the previous day. It’s definitely given me food for thought...”
Markus Ostfeld, Production Class leader in German Rallycross Championship: “Wow! This is just a totally different world. It was my first time in a car like this. I’m accustomed to 130bhp and two wheel-drive, whereas the Supercar Lites has a lot more power and a lot more grip – but I immediately felt comfortable and in control. Overall, it was great experience and I had a fantastic coach – Oliver [Eriksson] clearly knows this car pretty well! We had a nine-hour drive from Düsseldorf to get to Lohéac, but it was more than worth it!”
Florian Guilliny, French Autocross Championship driver: “That was fun! It’s very different to the buggies I race in Autocross – you can’t slide the car around as much and you need to be much smoother behind the wheel. It’s all about finesse and keeping everything neat and tidy. Although it demands a different driving style to Autocross, my prior experience definitely helped and Supercar Lites could certainly be an attractive proposition for the future. I just need to find a way to do some more laps now...”
For more information about Supercar Lites, visit: www.supercarlites.com