Sweden World RX: Wildcard Eriksson holds off Hansen to win
Wildcard driver Sebastian Eriksson stunned the World Rallycross Championship’s established order by claiming an emphatic home victory at Holjes.
A fastest time in the fourth and final qualifying session of the weekend elevated the Olsbergs MSE driver to second overall. He then won the first semi-final by passing Niclas Gronholm in the final corners to secure pole position for the final.
In the main event, Eriksson took the lead at the opening corner as a fast-starting Gronholm from the second row headed straight into the turn two joker, but was forced wide on entry by Timmy Hansen, who slid up the inside of the Hyundai.
Running fourth on the opening lap, despite showing pace in the semi-final, Gronholm’s challenge in the final was short lived. He punctured his left-rear tyre on landing from the circuit’s first jump on lap two and dropped back down the order.
Punctures would prove decisive in the final reckoning. Kevin Hansen took his joker on the third tour from second on the grid and returned to the main circuit just behind his elder brother, the pair having banged doors for three corners after the joker merge in the semi-finals.
But, the positions swapped again at the end of the same lap when Timmy Hansen’s Peugeot 208 suffered a front right puncture, making him run deep into the final turn, allowing Kevin to dive up the inside, in pursuit of Eriksson.
On its first World RX outing of the season, the Olsbergs MSE team struggled with oil temperatures all weekend with its Ford Fiestas, meaning pace dropped off in the latter half of the longer semi-final and final races.
While the Hansen brothers battled, Eriksson set the fastest lap of the day on the third tour, then jokered on lap four to cover off Kevin Hansen behind. He maintained track position, then had to defend for his life for the final two laps.
Hansen made a bid to overtake in the final corner and pushed Eriksson’s Fiesta sideways, but backed out of the throttle and followed the winner over the line in second to take the point’s lead.
Sebastian Erikkson, Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta
Photo by: FIA World Rallycross
Eriksson win comes in only his fourth World RX wildcard appearance. He was denied victory on his debut at the same circuit in 2014, driving for the same Andreas Eriksson-owned.
At that time, the Swede broke his Fiesta’s suspension on a kerb and dropped to sixth, handing the win to Mattias Ekstrom.
Despite rolling his GRX Hyundai in the first corner of his first qualifying race, reigning European champion Reinis Nitiss was quickest in Q2, then made it to the final where he ran fifth on the opening lap, ahead of Kevin Abbring, but made up ground when both Timmy Hansen and Gronholm suffered their punctures, to end up on the podium.
Gronholm finished fourth on the road, but was given a five-second penalty for a track limits infringement, handing the place to Abbring, while Timmy Hansen was fifth.
Despite qualifying top in the intermediate classification and leading the first semi-final, RX Cartel driver and title-contender Andreas Bakkerud dropped back on the second lap with a broken driveshaft and didn’t make the final.
Sweden World RX: Bakkerud leads after rain-affected Saturday
Canada World RX: Gronholm takes early lead after Q2