ADVANTAGE ERIKSSON AS KALLIO'S TITLE HOPES ARE DEALT A BLOW
Saturday 9th of November 2019
Oliver Eriksson has one hand on the crown in the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires after the opening day of action in Cape Town today (9 November), as team-mate and title rival Jesse Kallio found himself repeatedly hamstrung by electrical issues.
As he has been for so much of the 2019 campaign, defending champion Eriksson was ultra-consistent at Killarney International Raceway, going fastest in both rounds of qualifying and posting race times to within a tenth-of-a-second of each other.
If the Swede enjoyed a flawless day, then Kallio’s was quite the opposite. An electrical problem that first surfaced in free practice restricted the Finn – the author of five podium finishes during what has been a stellar rookie season in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series – to just a single racing lap.
That means Kallio has a major mountain to climb tomorrow if he is to even make it through to the semi-finals in South Africa, let alone prolong the title fight. Whilst palpably happy with his own day, it was clear that Eriksson’s thoughts were very much with his friend and Olsbergs MSE stablemate.
“It’s definitely been a bittersweet day,” the 20-year-old Swede reflected. “It doesn’t feel good seeing Jesse not make it to the grid. This is a material sport as much as a human one, and sometimes things go wrong – as happened to me in the final here last year. We’re a close-knit team at OMSE, and I want the best for my team-mates as well as for myself.
“Jesse has had a super-impressive first season in RX2, and hopefully it won’t end like this for him and he can come back tomorrow and show what he is capable of. He faces a tough challenge to make the semi-finals, but he is fast enough and mentally strong enough to bounce back, and I’m sure he will do just that.”
Fraser McConnell (OMSE) and Ben-Philip Gundersen ended the day tied for second in the intermediate classification, both showing strong pace as they have done throughout 2019 – although the Norwegian was left to rue an early joker tactic in Q2 that left him stuck in traffic.
SET Promotion’s Sami-Matti Trogen was fourth in both qualifiers and occupies the same position overall, with Simon Olofosson (STS RX) a strong fifth and fellow Swede Linus Östlund (OMSE) just behind in sixth on his Killarney debut and in only his second RX2 appearance of the year. Both men thrilled the fans with some impressive demonstrations of four-wheel drift as the grip level changed over the course of the day.
Vasiliy Gryazin sits seventh overnight for Sports Racing Technologies, with Steve Volders (Nationale Renstal Trommelke) going well in eighth and Niklas Aneklev (OMSE) impressing on his series bow in ninth. Countryman Anders Michalak was slowed by fuel pump problems in Q1, but nevertheless rounds out the overnight top ten, ahead of Petter Nårsa (JC Raceteknik), Lane Vacala and the luckless Kallio.
The action continues tomorrow (Sunday), with Q3 and Q4 to be broadcast live on the RX2 Series Facebook page starting at 10:00 local time, and the semi-finals and final both featuring as part of the official FIA World RX television broadcast.
1. Oliver Eriksson SWE Olsbergs MSE 100 points
2. Fraser McConnell JAM Olsbergs MSE 87 points
3. Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR JC Raceteknik 87 points
4. Sami-Matti Trogen FIN SET Promotion 80 points
5. Simon Olofsson SWE Simon Olofsson 77 points
6. Linus Östlund SWE Olsbergs MSE 76 points
7. Vasiliy Gryazin LVA Sports Racing Technologies 74 points
8. Steve Volders BEL Nationale Renstal Trommelke 71 points
9. Niklas Aneklev SWE Olsbergs MSE 70 points
10. Anders Michalak SWE Anders Michalak 68 points
11. Petter Nårsa SWE JC Raceteknik 68 points
12. Lane Vacala USA Lane Vacala 64 points
13. Jesse Kallio FIN Olsbergs MSE 30 points