As he reflected upon a ‘surreal’ weekend in Catalunya that culminated in his maiden international rallycross victory, Isak Sjökvist predicted that in ten years’ time, just like countryman Johan Kristoffersson is doing now, he and his fellow FIA RX2e Championship front-runners ‘will be making history together’.
Having notched up five podium finishes from eight prior outings in the FIA World Rallycross Championship support series arriving at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – and having looked a shoo-in for the highest step in Latvia earlier this year only to find himself outmuscled by Patrick O’Donovan at the start of the final – Sjökvist seemed destined to be ever the bridesmaid in RX2e, a story that looked set to continue in Spain.
Again, the Swede was the driver to beat in the heats – dominating heat two and placing second in each of the others – to top the intermediate ranking. Despite having to give best to champion-elect Viktor Vranckx in the pair’s progression race, Sjökvist remained firmly in the mix, but a Turn One squeeze in his semi-final dropped him down the order. Heading into the last corner on the last lap, the 21-year-old was still only fourth – not enough to advance to the final.
This time, however, Lady Luck was not about to desert him. A clash between O’Donovan and Pepe Arqué as the chequered flag fell left the latter buried in the tyre barriers – and also accounted for the closely following Raül Ferré. After penalties had been applied, Sjökvist leapt from fourth to first in the classification – earning him pole position for the all-important final.
From there, he was supreme, confidently leading away and staving off some late-race pressure from Vranckx to secure an emotional breakthrough triumph – and with it, the runner-up spot in the championship standings.
“What am amazing result!” enthused the Uppsala native. “I can’t describe it – there were so many feelings rushing through my veins at the end of the final. We worked so hard for that win throughout the whole season, and at last it paid off – we did it!
“To come back from being P4 going into the last corner in the semi-final to not only make it through to the final but to then win just felt surreal. With the other guys behind me driving as fast as they do, you really need to pull out all the stops and the pressure was intense – all weekend, in fact, with four of us fighting for second place in the championship. Every driver is so competitive in RX2e that you really can’t take anything for granted.
“It feels unbelievable to end the season on such a high note, and I want to thank my family and all the partners I had there with me at the weekend, as well as everyone back home cheering for me in Sweden like my girlfriend and grandparents. It’s definitely a confidence boost to win the last round, but we obviously need to keep working hard for next year.
“Congratulations to my national team-mate, Johan Kristoffersson – to win a fifth world championship commands pure respect. I think all of us can agree on that. I’m also very happy for Viktor winning the RX2e title – he has been flying all season – and to have Nils [Andersson] alongside me as well, because he hasn’t had the margins on his side a lot of the time this year. I’m lucky to race against these guys, and in ten years, we will be making history together, too...”