Duel for the RX2 crown in Cape Town

Duel for the RX2 crown in Cape Town

20.11.2018: • Battle for title glory goes down to the wire in the ‘Mother City’ • Either Eriksson or De Ridder will be crowned in South Africa • Local hero Haigh-Smith and Euro RX champ Nitišs

•    Battle for title glory goes down to the wire in the ‘Mother City’

•    Either Eriksson or De Ridder will be crowned in South Africa

•    Local hero Haigh-Smith and Euro RX champ Nitišs join the fray

•    All the action to be live-streamed via RX2 Facebook page






The destiny of the 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires crown will be decided in South Africa this weekend (24/25 November), as Olsbergs MSE stablemates Oliver Eriksson and Guillaume De Ridder duel it out for title glory in the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series.
 


The stakes are high, with the champion set to be rewarded with a single-round World RX Supercar prize drive next year – and the eventual second and third-placed finishers each earning themselves a World RX Supercar test.
 


Eriksson and De Ridder will arrive in Cape Town separated by just 14 points at the summit of the standings, with 30 remaining in play. While in an ostensibly commanding position, Eriksson – who has led the way since Silverstone at the end of May – is well aware that just one minor slip-up could shift the ball into his team-mate’s court.
 


“Yes, I have an advantage as things stand, but anything can happen in rallycross,” cautioned the 19-year-old Swede, who has won three of the six rounds to-date and competed at Killarney International Circuit this time last year in the headlining Supercar class. “It’s going to be a fight from the first lap to the last and it’s not over yet by a long stretch. I’m going to tackle the weekend the same as usual – targeting the win – and hopefully I will do enough.
 


“I’ve been in this situation twice before – leading the championship with my team-mate just behind me – so I am used to this kind of pressure.  Guillaume and I work well together and always share information, so in the end it will come down to which one of us pulls their best trick out of the bag...”
 


If Eriksson is OMSE’s gravel specialist, then De Ridder is the team’s asphalt expert, with the two drivers coming from very different backgrounds – making their duel even more intriguing and unpredictable. The Belgian – who works as a powertrain engineer for Renault’s Formula 1 outfit – has triumphed twice thus far in 2018, and being under no threat from behind in the title table, he knows he can approach the forthcoming showdown with little to lose.
 


“It’s easier to chase than to be chased, but it’s obviously also easier to be 14 points ahead than 14 points behind,” the 25-year-old reflected. “At the end of the day, my destiny is not in my hands – even if I win every race in Cape Town, I would need Oliver to have some bad luck or problems and finish lower down the order, and I don’t want that because I want to race him fair and square on the track.
 


“Last year, it was a special event; the fans in South Africa are so enthusiastic, which creates a great atmosphere and I’m excited to go back. I’m not going to worry about the points – I’m just aiming for victory to end the season on a high, and then we will see what happens...”
 


There is similarly a scrap for third position in the final classification, with JC Raceteknik quartet Henrik Krogstad, Ben-Philip Gundersen, Sondre Evjen and William Nilsson all in the mix alongside Sports Racing Technologies star Vasiliy Gryazin.
 


The architect of a hugely impressive rookie campaign in the fiercely-disputed series, Krogstad sits 13 points clear of his four pursuers – but having not been to Killarney before, he will need to quickly get to grips with the challenging circuit if he is to hold onto the spot. The young Norwegian will also be looking to make amends for a last lap error that denied him his breakthrough victory in the most recent round at Lohéac.
 


Gundersen is similarly a first-timer in Cape Town, but Evjen finished second last year – his maiden RX2 rostrum – while Nilsson is fired-up to sign off a trouble-plagued season on a high and has shown excellent pace in recent events.
 


Gryazin is bidding to climb the podium for the first time this year – despite four final appearances from six starts. The Latvian will be joined in the SRT stable by recently-crowned FIA European Rallycross Supercar Champion Reinis Nitišs – the youngest World Championship event-winner in FIA history – who is looking forward to testing his mettle against the current cream of the RX2 crop.
 


Fast Finns Jami Kalliomäki and Sami-Matti Trogen have both turned heads over the course of their maiden campaign in RX2 – the latter speeding to second place in France in September.




The SET Promotion squad that runs them will be the subject of additional interest this weekend, as hometown hero Ashley Haigh-Smith takes the place of regular driver Simon Syversen on his return to the scene of his rallycross debut 12 months earlier.
 


“I can’t wait to get back out on-track for the RX2 season finale,” enthused the 26-year-old, the youngest-ever South African S1600 Rally Champion and a Capetonian born-and-bred. “Last year’s event was epic, and it was a real honour to be a part of it.
 



“There are some extremely talented drivers in the field so it will certainly be a tough challenge, but I love a challenge. I’m passionate about proving that South Africans can truly excel on the international stage, so hopefully I can go out there and really give the home fans something to cheer about!”
 



The 16-strong entry list is completed by Team Färén duo Conner Martell and Nathan Heathcote – both of whom have unleashed an eye-catching turn-of-speed on occasion this season, with the Briton particularly unfortunate to miss out on making the final in France – OMSE teenager Cole Keatts and Swedish hotshots Simon Olofsson and Anders Michalak.
 


The Killarney RX2 action will begin with free practice and the opening two qualifying races on Saturday (24 November), followed by the remaining two qualifiers, semi-finals and final on Sunday (25 November). Fans will be able to follow all of the qualifying races and both semi-finals live via the RX2 Series Facebook page, with the final featuring as part of the live World RX television broadcast.
 




From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
 
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:




“We have reached the conclusion of the 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires. Having seen terrific performances from the drivers throughout the year, there has been some great racing and the finale here in South Africa is likely to be no exception.



 It’s not just the drivers who have excelled, though – behind-the-scenes, all the teams have worked long and hard at every event. Just like the drivers, many of the teams are also at the start of a successful motorsport career, which we can proudly say they began on Cooper tyres in RX2.”
 

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



Russell Atkins - photos RX

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20.11.2018 / MaP

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