Reigning two-time RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires Champion Oliver Eriksson sped to a sensational victory on his FIA European Rallycross Championship debut last weekend (22/23 August), as the Swede came, saw and conquered on home soil at Höljes.
Eriksson’s participation in the 2020 Euro RX curtain-raiser was his prize for clinching back-to-back crowns in RX2 in 2018 and 2019. Taking to the track in an Olsbergs MSE-engineered, Red Bull-backed Ford Fiesta (MK8), he was immediately on the pace, although an unlucky draw that left him caught in traffic and a drying circuit that favoured the later races restricted him to fifth place in Q1.
Unleashing his trademark spectacular style, an epic switchback overtake through the Velodrome section nonetheless showcased Eriksson’s superb racecraft – honed by two ultra-competitive campaigns in the official World RX feeder series – and his blistering raw speed was already clear to see. And from that point on, he was unbeatable.
Unrivalled runs in both Q2 and Q3 vaulted the 21-year-old to the top of the standings, before another fastest time in Q4 secured him TQ honours. Even more impressively, in every qualifier, his pace would have troubled the top five in the World Championship battle – indeed, his Q3 time was quicker than any of the World RX stars managed in comparable conditions.
In the semi-final, an early break as his pursuers squabbled in his wake gave Eriksson the breathing space he needed to control proceedings, and he duly pocketed pole position for the all-important final.
There, a substantial hit from behind into Turn One briefly lifted the Fiesta into the air, but the former GRC Lites Champion and two-time RallyX Nordic runner-up boldly stood his ground and held his nerve, rapidly regaining his composure to go on to cement a magnificent win first time out in the series.
Not only that, but his overall race time would have seen him finish on the World Championship podium, and the result meant Eriksson left Höljes with a maximum score and a seven-point lead in the Euro RX title standings. Reasons to be satisfied, all-in-all.
“What a weekend!” he enthused. “This event has haunted me for the past few years – I’ve always seemed to get taken out by technical issues – so it feels so good to finally get the win!
“The fight with Johan [Kristoffersson] in RallyX Nordic at Arvika a couple of weeks ago really boosted my self-confidence, and we arrived at Höljes with a well-prepped car, which clearly paid off. The Fiesta never missed a beat, and whilst it still needs a bit more development to extract a little more speed, we’re definitely on the right path.
“We were unfortunate with the draw in Q1 – it was still slightly wet in my race, whereas by the last race of the session there was dust being kicked up. We took a gamble on slick tyres, because although it was wet on the start-line, the rest of the track was much drier. That meant I didn’t get the best of launches, but our pace through the race was really strong and to come away in fifth was pretty good in the circumstances.
“After that, the rest of the qualifiers felt a lot like my time in RX2 – it’s all about working your way to the inside, and then when you have that inside line, you never let it go! I focussed on putting in consistent lap times, and everything just hit the marks.
“I quickly settled into my rhythm in the semi-final, after which it was a pretty smooth ride, and then the start to the final was…interesting! It was a drag race to Turn One, and at first I thought I’d out-braked myself, but then I saw the replay and realised I’d taken a big hit from behind!
“Thankfully, I was able to stay in front and after that, my spotter kept telling me, ‘keep it clean, you have the pace – just keep doing what you’re doing and bring it safely home’ and that obviously worked out. I went to Höljes with the goal of doing RX2 proud – and hopefully I managed to do that…”
The identity of Eriksson’s successor as RX2 Champion will be decided at Nysum in Denmark next weekend (5/6 September) in a high-stakes double-header showdown, the winner of which will receive a fully-funded, single-round drive in the new-for-2021 FIA eRX2 Championship. All of the action from Nysum will be shown live and in superb definition via a state-of-the-art broadcast package and global livestream, details of which will be revealed soon.
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