Oliver Eriksson leads the way – but the chasing pack is closing in
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Silverstone awaits the third instalment of the 2019 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires campaign this weekend (25/26 May), with all indications suggesting SpeedMachine fans are in for a feast of high-octane entertainment.
Building upon the success of its inaugural event in 2018, SpeedMachine – a fusion of some of the fastest and most spectacular cars on the planet with award-winning street food and live music from the likes of Sean Paul and Jax Jones – is back for a second consecutive year, and RX2 is set to star as a major part of the show.
The official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series has already raced at two iconic Formula 1 venues this season, with both Barcelona and Spa-Francorchamps delivering lap after lap of breathtaking sideways slides, doorhandle-to-doorhandle action and awe-inspiring overtakes. Expectations are high that Silverstone will serve up more of the same – with a whole host of potential winners amongst the high-calibre entry.
Defending title-holder Oliver Eriksson arrives in the UK as the championship leader, and the 20-year-old has form at the ‘Home of British Motorsport’, having won there last year – indeed, he took maximum points by topping the intermediate standings and dominating his semi-final. Twelve months on, he is firmly focussed on a repeat performance.
The Swede’s closest rivals in the chase for the coveted crown are his own Olsbergs MSE team-mates Jesse Kallio and Fraser McConnell. ‘Flying Finn’ Kallio looked to have the better of Eriksson in Belgium just under a fortnight ago, setting the pace throughout the qualifying stages and only missing out on his maiden RX2 victory in his second appearance in the series due to a slightly more hesitant start in the final.
McConnell, meanwhile, left his own calling card in the Spanish curtain-raiser, with a crowd-pleasing round-the-outside move to secure a superb second place on his RX2 debut. Rarely short on bravery, the 20-year-old Jamaican is sure to continue wowing fans this weekend.
SET Promotion’s Sami-Matti Trogen – the youngest driver on the grid at just 17 – sits fourth in the points table, and after falling narrowly short of the podium in each of the opening two rounds, the Finnish teenager will be particularly fired-up to ascend the rostrum at Silverstone.
Much the same can be said for Vasiliy Gryazin (Sports Racing Technologies), who has been one of RX2’s most consistent contenders since joining the fray two years ago. The rapid Latvian has reached the final nine times out of 16, but the podium only twice – a statistic he will be looking to redress this weekend.
Ben-Philip Gundersen was the OMSE trio’s fiercest competitor in both Spain and Belgium, but disqualification from one of the qualifying races in Barcelona – resulting in the Norwegian not making the semi-final cut – dealt an early blow to his title chances. The 24-year-old bounced back last time out with third place in the final – and he will be eager to continue that form as he seeks to re-ignite his championship challenge.
Swedes shuffling the pack
Gundersen’s JC Raceteknik team-mate William Nilsson was another to shine at Spa, the Swedish teenager producing a feisty performance to progress through to the final despite still nursing the after-effects of an accident in Spain that had left him battered and bruised. That will give him encouragement for Silverstone, as the 19-year-old aims to return to the rostrum for the first time in almost two years.
Simon Olofsson’s speed was not rewarded in Belgium, but there is no question that the Swede is capable of fighting for a top finish in Britain – and with his trademark all-out style, he can always be counted upon to give 100 per cent.
Countryman Anders Michalak, meanwhile, has taken another noticeable step forward in his third campaign in RX2 and achieved his finest result in the series to-date at Silverstone last year with fourth place in the final. The Swede is targeting a similarly strong showing 12 months on.
“I really enjoyed racing at Silverstone last season,” he acknowledged. “I ‘clicked’ with the track straightaway, and it’s obviously quite humbling to compete somewhere with so much motorsport history behind it. Throw in all the extra entertainment, and it’s a real festival atmosphere.
“I feel I’ve made great progress recently, and it’s fantastic to be able to measure myself against all these quick young drivers making their way up the rallycross ladder. Hopefully we can take the fight to them again this weekend...”
The entry list is completed by reigning EuroRX TouringCar champion Steve Volders – who delighted his home supporters by reaching the semi-final stage at Spa – and record-breaking former Olympian Albert Llovera. The Andorran – paralysed from the waist down by a serious skiing accident in 1985 – is visibly benefitting from his partnership with OMSE in his second full season in Supercar Lites machinery and moving forward with every race weekend.
The Silverstone RX2 action will begin with free practice and the opening three qualifying races on Saturday (25 May), followed by the remaining qualifier, two semi-finals and the final on Sunday (26 May). Fans will be able to watch all of the qualifying races live via the FIA World RX and RX2 Series Facebook pages, with the semi-finals and all-important final featuring as part of the live World RX television broadcast.
2019 RX2 Silverstone Entry List
2 Ben-Philip Gundersen NOR JC Raceteknik
6 William Nilsson SWE JC Raceteknik
12 Anders Michalak SWE Anders Michalak
16 Oliver Eriksson SWE Olsbergs MSE
22 Sami-Matti Trogen FIN SET Promotion
35 Fraser McConnell JAM Olsbergs MSE
47 Jesse Kallio FIN Olsbergs MSE
52 Simon Olofsson SWE Simon Olofsson
55 Vasiliy Gryazin LVA Sports Racing Technologies
66 Albert Llovera AND Albert Llovera
77 Steve Volders BEL Nationale Renstal Trommelke
1. Oliver Eriksson (SWE) 59 points
2. Jesse Kallio (FIN) 50 points
3. Fraser McConnell (JAM) 46 points
4. Sami-Matti Trogen (FIN) 36 points
5. Vasiliy Gryazin (LVA) 34 points
6. Ben-Philip Gundersen (NOR) 27 points
7. Simon Olofsson (SWE) 25 points
8. Damien Meunier (FRA) 25 points
9. William Nilsson (SWE) 23 points
10. Anders Michalak (SWE) 22 points