Devil is in the detail as RX2 races into Norway for round three
Biggest entry of season to-date, with 18 Hell-raisers preparing for battle
Red-hot action assured in official FIA World Rallycross feeder series
The fight for the coveted crown in the 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires is hotting up following a pulsating showdown at Silverstone last time out, and the action is set to intensify this weekend as the rallycross stars of the future go Hell for leather in Norway (9/10 June).
A popular fixture on the RX2 schedule, Hell always provides the very warmest of welcomes to competitors, who relish the challenge posed by one of the most undulating, demanding and photogenic circuits on the calendar.
Olsbergs MSE’s Oliver Eriksson heads the pack arriving in Norway following his superb victory at Speedmachine, where he won every race he started. The young Swede – who already has the GRC Lites and RallyX on Ice titles on his burgeoning career CV – has been quick at both rounds so far this season. An engine misfire curtailed his charge in Belgium, but his Silverstone success proved he will be very much a leading contender this year.
Second in the standings is Latvia’s Vasiliy Gryazin, who was dominating proceedings at Mettet until contact from behind pitched him into retirement at the start of the final, while a jump-start at Speedmachine scuppered his hopes of gaining revenge on British soil. The Sports Racing Technologies star will be hoping for third time lucky in Hell, as he bids to overturn his slender two-point deficit to the top of the table.
Home hero Sondre Evjen is the best-placed Norwegian in the classification, following an impressively consistent start to the campaign with back-to-back podium finishes – three in a row if you count South Africa at the end of last year. The 20-year-old JC Raceteknik ace is just four points shy of Eriksson, and he has his sights firmly set on breaking his RX2 duck.
“I’ve had a brilliant start to the season and it is such a big boost to be coming to my home event so close to the championship lead,” he enthused. “I enjoyed my moments on the podium at Mettet and Silverstone, but I would like nothing more than to be standing on the top step in Hell in front of the huge Norwegian crowds!”
Right behind Evjen in the pecking order are countrymen and JC Raceteknik team-mates Ben-Philip Gundersen and Henrik Krogstad. Gundersen won the Belgian curtain-raiser in only his second start in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series, but a torrid opening day at Silverstone – through no real fault of his own – meant there would be no repeat at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’.
Krogstad was similarly a podium-finisher at Mettet and is clearly a star of the future, as is sixth-placed Jami Kalliomäki. Spearheading the SET Promotion charge, the Finnish teenager briefly led the Belgian final and missed out on a spot in the last six in Britain by less than half-a-second following a spirited performance, so he will be eager to turn his palpable potential into a strong finish in Norway.
Guillaume De Ridder has arguably been the unluckiest driver on the grid in 2018. Ultra-quick on home turf at Mettet and the fastest man in the field at Silverstone, the Olsbergs MSE ace found himself tipped out of the semi-final in Belgium at the first corner and denied by ignition failure while dominating at the same stage in Britain. The 25-year-old clearly has the speed to win; he just needs a change of fortunes.
Team Färén pace-setter Conner Martell has made a habit of out-manoeuvring his rivals around the outside so far this season, and buoyed by his maiden rostrum finish at Speedmachine, the American is hoping to convert his ‘alternative’ approach into more silverware in Hell.
JC Raceteknik’s William Nilsson has been plagued by bad luck so far in 2018, but has proved in the past that he is capable of regularly fighting for podiums and the 18-year-old Swede made it into the final in Hell last year. Countryman Anders Michalak is aiming to build upon his finest weekend to-date at Silverstone, as Norwegians Glenn Haug and Simon Syversen look to turn home advantage to their favour.
The youngest driver in the field at just turned 16, Sami-Matti Trogen made an impressive RX2 debut last time out as he very nearly advanced through to the final with a mature and composed display. The Finn will certainly be one to watch, as will Simon Olofsson, who is invariably quick but has thus far routinely found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time – although a rostrum result in RallyX Nordic last weekend provided a welcome confidence boost.
American teenager Cole Keatts and former Olympian Albert Llovera are continuing to make progress as they learn the ropes in RX2, while reigning MSA British Rallycross Champion Nathan Heathcote was out-of-luck on home soil but rolled – quite literally – with the punches. The 18-strong entry list is completed, finally, by Marcus Höglund, who swells the JC Raceteknik line-up and can be counted upon to produce a solid performance after reaching the semi-finals in Norway last year.
The Hell RX2 action will begin with free practice on Friday evening, followed by the first two qualifying races on Saturday and the remaining two qualifiers, semi-finals and live-televised final on Sunday.
From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:
“This track is by no means easy. It’s more-or-less a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, with extreme forces being placed on the tyres throughout the course with the varying corners and elevation changes. This is a great circuit for the RX2 drivers to hone their rallycross skills.”
2018 RX2 Norway Entry List
2 Ben-Philip Gundersen JC Raceteknik NOR
6 William Nilsson JC Raceteknik SWE
8 Simon Syversen SET Promotion NOR
9 Glenn Haug Glenn Haug NOR
12 Anders Michalak Anders Michalak SWE
16 Oliver Eriksson Olsbergs MSE SWE
21 Conner Martell Team Färén USA
22 Sami-Matti Trogen SET Promotion FIN
50 Nathan Heathcote Team Färén GBR
52 Simon Olofsson Simon Olofsson SWE
53 Cole Keatts Olsbergs MSE USA
55 Vasiliy Gryazin Sports Racing Technologies LVA
65 Jami Kalliomäki SET Promotion FIN
66 Albert Llovera Albert Llovera AND
69 Sondre Evjen JC Raceteknik NOR
77 Henrik Krogstad JC Raceteknik NOR
96 Guillaume De Ridder Olsbergs MSE BEL
99 Marcus Höglund JC Raceteknik SWE
1. Oliver Eriksson (SWE) 46 points
2. Vasiliy Gryazin (LVA) 44 points
3. Sondre Evjen (NOR) 42 points
4. Ben-Philip Gundersen (NOR) 37 points
5. Henrik Krogstad (NOR) 34 points
6. Jami Kalliomäki (FIN) 32 points
7. Guillaume De Ridder (BEL) 31 points
8. Conner Martell (USA) 28 points
9. William Nilsson (SWE) 24 points
10. Anders Michalak (SWE) 21 points
The 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires will take in seven rounds across three continents in support of the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, visiting Belgium, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Canada, France and South Africa.
2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires Calendar
May 12/13 Mettet, Belgium
May 26/27 Silverstone, Great Britain
June 09/10 Hell, Norway
June 30/July 01 Höljes, Sweden
August 04/05 Trois-Rivières, Canada
September 01/02 Lohéac, France
November 24/25 Cape Town, South Africa