Swede wins the hard way in second round of Euro RX
OMSE ace digs deep in Riga after myriad issues
21-year-old takes 11-point advantage into title showdown
Oliver Eriksson had to battle back from a range of dramas in the second round of the 2020 FIA European Rallycross Championship in Latvia last weekend (19/20 September), but a determined performance saw the Swede claim his second victory from as many starts in the series and close in on the coveted crown.
Eriksson headed to Riga’s Biķernieku trase off the back of a sensational triumph on his Euro RX debut on home soil at Höljes three weeks earlier – but his second weekend in the championship would prove to be considerably less straightforward than his first.
Contact at the start of Q1 – for which his assailant subsequently received a five-second penalty – sent Eriksson’s Ford Fiesta into a spin and left him having to grapple with broken suspension, limiting him to seventh place in the 14-strong field. The same result in Q2 – this time as a consequence of traffic – restricted the recently-crowned RallyX Nordic Champion and two-time RX2 Series title-winner to fifth position overnight, with his main rival topping the table.
Embracing the opportunity offered to him by a new day on Sunday, Eriksson came out-of-the-blocks in fine form, setting the pace in Q3 despite his front-right wheel collapsing with three corners to go following a heavy landing over the jump. He maintained that momentum with another fastest time in Q4 to climb to second in the overall classification, although yet again, the race was not without its issues as a turbo blew on the last lap and left him down-on-power.
Following a loss of rear wheel-drive in his semi-final, the Olsbergs MSE ace grittily emerged on top from an epic, no-holds-barred duel with Ben-Philip Gundersen, as the pair traded places and paintwork on multiple occasions with absolutely no quarter given.
With the same problem persisting in the final, Eriksson resisted initial pressure from Sondre Evjen until a mistake by the Norwegian offered him some respite. Thereafter, he carefully managed the gap and held on to maintain his 100 per cent winning record in Euro RX, marking an impressive recovery from his Saturday woes and extending his championship lead from seven points to 11 ahead of the season finale at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on 21/22 November.
“That was such a hard-fought weekend at a track where I have historically struggled,” the 21-year-old reflected. “We had a lot of bad luck on Saturday, and then I had big problems with the car in the semi-final and final too. We’ve had nothing go wrong with the Fiesta all year, and it all seemed to happen in Riga! Thankfully, we had the speed to fight back each time we ran into trouble and everything worked out in the end.
“I felt really frustrated on Saturday night, but OMSE is the best team in the business and we always keep the faith – and I knew I had a quick car underneath me. I owe a big thanks to the whole crew for pulling through on such a tough weekend.
“In the semi-final, I had no drive from the rear towards the end of the race, and I was so sure the suspension had broken again. I started playing it super-safe over the jump, but I ended up easing off too much which gave Ben-Philip the opportunity to overtake me and I had to fight my way back past him. It was an enjoyable battle, albeit right on-the-limit.
“The boys looked the car over afterwards and couldn’t find anything wrong, so I began to wonder if I was going mad, but it transpired that the rear drive disconnect unit had been slipping. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do anything about it before the final so I just had to hope and pray it would hold out.
“I did my best to nurse the car given the circumstances, and Sondre’s mistake gave me a bit of breathing space. After that, I was able to control the pace, and my spotter Kevin was really on it. He kept me informed of the gap, and I backed off where I could – I didn’t push the car any harder than I needed to.
“It was a great result, especially after Saturday and all credit to the team for turning the situation around so successfully – they did an amazing job as always.
“Now, we need to finish the job off in Belgium. Eleven points might look relatively comfortable, but anything can happen in rallycross. I’m happier being the hunted rather than the hunter, and I’m looking forward to the fight. Spa is a great place to finish the season – and I’m going there to win!”