Krogstad's long road back leads to RX2 redemption

Krogstad's long road back leads to RX2 redemption

07.09.2020: • #YellowSquad star earns FIA eRX2 Championship prize drive in Denmark • Norwegian delivers commanding performance in single-make series • Comeback king De Ridder pushes Krogstad all the way in tooth-and-nail duel

•    #YellowSquad star earns FIA eRX2 Championship prize drive in Denmark

•    Norwegian delivers commanding performance in single-make series

•    Comeback king De Ridder pushes Krogstad all the way in tooth-and-nail duel

•    Kallio battles back from difficult opening day to seal top three spot in standings

At the end of 2018, Henrik Krogstad was one of the hottest properties on the rallycross scene, but a lack of budget threatened to halt his burgeoning career permanently in its tracks. At Nysum today (6 September), the Norwegian reignited a dream that he once feared was dead, as he raced to the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires crown.

As a rookie in the fiercely-contested single-make series, Krogstad was a revelation two years ago, tallying a hat-trick of podium finishes en route to third position in the final championship standings and coming within two corners of winning in France.

His results marked Krogstad out as one of the clear title favourites for the following year, but come the end of the campaign, the money had run out and when the 2019 season began, he found himself sat disconsolately on the sidelines.

After a lot of hard work – and considerable soul-searching – the Norwegian announced his return to the grid in 2020 with the Hansen brothers’ #YellowSquad outfit, and it is scant surprise that he has been a front-runner from the outset.

In Denmark this weekend, Krogstad was on commanding form. Second at the end of the opening day, the 22-year-old turned up the wick today, pacing two of the three qualifiers in the high-calibre, 14-strong field to seal TQ honours. From there, he proceeded to win his semi-final and lead the final from lights-to-flag – despite a stricken car parked awkwardly at the entrance to the joker giving him a late scare.

Krogstad dealt with the inconvenience in typically unflappable style, and his reward for a superb showing was not only the 2020 RX2 title, but also the prestigious, fully-funded single-round FIA eRX2 Championship prize drive that accompanied it.

“This means everything to me,” he confessed. “It’s what we’ve been working for, not only this year but last year as well. The end of 2018 was really tough for me, and for a long time it really looked like I would never race again. Just to be on the grid this year was an achievement in itself.

“The level of competition at Nysum was so high, but we were quick all weekend and to take the RX2 title is just incredible – I’m a bit lost for words. In the final, there was a car right in my way on the entry to the joker and I really thought that was going to cost me the win – I didn’t know which side I should go. Fortunately, I didn’t lose any time, and there were so many emotions that poured out when I crossed the finish line.

“This is such a great result for the team – it’s the first year of the #YellowSquad Supercar Lites programme, and they really deserve this success for all the hard work that has gone into it. Now, I can’t wait to drive the eRX2 car. I’m super excited for the sport’s new era, and to be one of the first guys to compete in a fully electric rallycross race is hugely motivating – but first, we have some celebrating to do...”

The driver that pushed Krogstad hardest – indeed, set the pace on the opening day – also had a ‘comeback’ story to tell. Guillaume De Ridder similarly finished third overall in his maiden RX2 campaign in 2017, before going one better in 2018 as he harried team-mate Oliver Eriksson all the way in the championship fight.

Last year saw the Belgian move up to Supercar level on the World Championship stage, but a lack of funding left him without a drive in 2020. Seizing the opportunity to return to the cockpit – for the first time in nine months – De Ridder looked like he had never been away as he mastered Saturday’s mixed conditions at Nysum to establish a five-point lead in the RX2 standings.

Ultimately, the Olsbergs MSE star couldn’t quite withstand Krogstad’s irresistible charge, but a determined effort saw him stay in contention until the very last lap. Traffic would scupper his hopes of taking the title, but De Ridder was nonetheless satisfied with the balance of his weekend, which earned him a test in the eRX2 car.

“Coming here, I honestly didn’t expect to be so quick straightaway,” reflected the 27-year-old, who fell just a single point short in the final reckoning. “I hoped we would be in the mix, but to lead the way on Saturday was definitely a surprise. I knew it would be trickier today in the dry, because the gaps are narrower and being on the outside of the grid for Q1 didn’t do us any favours. When you lose time early on in such a competitive field, it’s difficult to get it back again, however quick you are.

“I threw everything at it in the final, but starting from pole is such an advantage and Henrik didn’t put a foot wrong – so congratulations to him. When I saw the car beached in the joker entry, I thought maybe that was my chance, but I just lost too much ground behind [Jimmie] Walfridson and that was that.

“It wasn’t quite enough in the end, but I have to be happy with the weekend overall. I was able to remind everybody that I’m still here and still fast, so it was mission accomplished in that respect, and it will be exciting to try out the eRX2 car. I’m a big believer that the future of the sport will be electric, so now I just need to find the money to race one, too...”

Jesse Kallio completed the podium-finishers after a weekend that started slowly but picked up pace. Struggling on Saturday with the wrist injury he was carrying from Arvika four weeks earlier, the Finn pulled a result out of the bag in the final as he reached the rostrum and today, he came out-of-the-blocks firing on all cylinders.

The fastest time in Q2 – and by some margin – secured Kallio second in the intermediate standings, and a win in his semi-final earned him a front row starting spot for the final. An ambitious move around the outside of the first corner cost him time, but the Olsbergs MSE ace recovered to claim third position and – like De Ridder – an eRX2 prize test.

“I can’t help but feel a little bit disappointed,” Kallio mused. “In truth, the damage was done yesterday. It was my first time at Nysum, and it wasn’t easy trying to learn a new track with a fractured wrist – particularly with the weather changing so frequently. I probably drove a bit too cautiously, but we seemed to turn a corner in the final, which was a good confidence boost.

“Today was much better, and we had good speed all day. I had nothing to lose in the final so I just sent it round the outside at the start, and although it didn’t pay off, I had to try as my only chance to win the championship was to win the race. We managed to fight back to the podium again, though, and it’ll be cool to drive the eRX2 car – I’m looking forward to that.”

Simon Olofsson had the hardest-luck story to tell. The Swede was on feisty form through Saturday’s qualifiers on the way to TQ honours. From there, the STS RX ace produced another faultless drive to win his semi-final, and he was leading the final until a clash with Krogstad put him out of contention. His Sunday challenge ended in semi-final disqualification following contact with Kallio.

JC Raceteknik’s Jimmie Walfridson produced a strong turn-of-speed throughout the weekend, while Linus Östlund’s world turned upside-down – quite literally – in Q2 today. Fourth overnight, the Swede struggled in Q1 before a clash with OMSE stablemate Martin Enlund sent him into a spectacular barrel-roll upon exiting the joker.

His mechanics – and members of other teams – worked miracles to repair the car and get Östlund out again for Q3, and their driver rewarded them with the fifth-fastest time to salvage a semi-final spot. Sixth overall in the points, his was perhaps the most dramatic tale of a drama-fuelled weekend that delivered action and entertainment from the first lights-out to the final chequered flag.

Saturday Final

1. Guillaume DE RIDDER (BEL) Olsbergs MSE  5 laps
2. Henrik KROGSTAD (NOR) YellowSquad +0.293s
3. Jesse KALLIO (FIN) Olsbergs MSE +2.165s
4. Linus ÖSTLUND (SWE) Olsbergs MSE +2.789s
5. Jimmie WALFRIDSON (SWE) JC Raceteknik +4.445s
6. Simon OLOFSSON (SWE) STS RX +2 laps

Sunday Final

1. Henrik KROGSTAD (NOR) #YellowSquad 5 laps
2. Guillaume DE RIDDER (BEL) Olsbergs MSE +1.359s
3. Jesse KALLIO (FIN) Olsbergs MSE +4.554s
4. Jimmie WALFRIDSON (SWE) JC Raceteknik +5.957s
5. Niklas ANEKLEV (SWE) Olsbergs MSE +8.265s
6. Gustav JOHANSSON (SWE) VGracing +3 laps

Championship Standings

1. Henrik KROGSTAD (NOR) 54 points
2. Guillaume DE RIDDER (BEL) 53 points
3. Jesse KALLIO (FIN) 43 points
4. Jimmie WALFRIDSON (SWE) 36 points
5. Simon OLOFSSON (SWE) 36 points
6. Linus ÖSTLUND (SWE) 29 points
7. Niklas ANEKLEV (SWE) 25 points
8. Gustav JOHANSSON (SWE) 24 points
9. Martin ENLUND (SWE) 22 points
10. Mats OSKARSSON (SWE) 21 points
11. Martin JONSSON (SWE) 16 points
12. Dan SKOČDOPOLE (CZE) 12 points
13. Hans-Ola FRØSHAUG (NOR) 11 points
14. Grégory FOSSE (FRA) 10 points


Russell Atkins - photos RX2


07.09.2020 / MaP

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