General

Multinational grid set to battle for honours as new season revs into life in Spain

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The 2019 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires will race into life in Barcelona this weekend (27/28 April), with no fewer than eight different nationalities represented in a high-quality field of title hopefuls – underscoring the popular championship’s wide-ranging appeal.

2019 will mark the third season of the official FIA World Rallycross Championship feeder series, in which all competitors take to the track in identical 310bhp, four wheel-drive Supercar Lites machinery.

Seven rounds await, beginning at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya before moving on to fellow Formula 1 venues Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Silverstone in the UK as well as classic rallycross tracks Hell (Norway), Höljes (Sweden) and Lohéac (France). The high-octane, wheel-to-wheel action will conclude – for the third consecutive campaign – at Cape Town’s Killarney International Circuit in South Africa in November.

The King is Back

The high-calibre entry list is headlined by defending RX2 champion Oliver Eriksson (Olsbergs MSE), who has his focus firmly set on claiming back-to-back drivers’ trophies following a superb season in 2018. The 20-year-old Swede, however, is well aware that it will be no walk in the park.

“It’s often said that winning the title is tough, but defending it is even tougher – and when you look at the standard of competition in RX2 in 2019, I think that’s very true,” Eriksson reflected. “I’m going to have my work cut out, but I’ve prepared well over the winter and whilst the target might be on my back, I certainly don’t plan on surrendering my crown without a fight!”

Ben-Philip Gundersen (JC Raceteknik) and Vasiliy Gryazin (Sports Racing Technologies) concluded the 2018 campaign separated by just a single point in fourth and fifth positions in the standings respectively. Gundersen won twice – at the start and end of the season – but will be seeking to add greater consistency to his armoury as he targets a full-on title challenge, while Gryazin has established himself as a regular threat over the past two years but is still in search of his breakthrough victory.

William Nilsson (JC Raceteknik) was fast but all-too-often out of luck last year, but the Swedish teenager is more than capable of battling for the top step of the podium. The same can be said for SET Promotion ace Sami-Matti Trogen, the youngest driver in the field at just 16 but a fearless competitor who is rapidly climbing the rallycross ladder.

Sweden’s Anders Michalak achieved the best finish of his RX2 career so far with fourth place at Silverstone last May – a result he is aiming to build upon in 2019 – while countryman Simon Olofsson popularly reached the rostrum on home soil at Höljes and is unfailingly spectacular to watch with his trademark never-say-die approach.

The last returning driver – Albert Llovera – is a former record-breaking Olympic skier who was left paralysed from the waist down following a serious accident in the 1985 European Ski Cup. Having subsequently steered his career down the motorsport path, the Andorran made steady progress in RX2 last season and is confident of taking the fight to the series’ young guns.

New Faces

Five newcomers join the grid in 2019, and all five have good reason to be bullish about their prospects for success. Damien Meunier arrives with an impressive reputation from the French Rallycross Championship’s Supercar class, and the 18-year-old – who grew up just a couple of hours down the road from Lohéac – will compete in Barcelona with support from front-running Swedish outfit Team Färén.

Jamaica’s Fraser McConnell and Finnish hotshot Jesse Kallio partner Eriksson at reigning teams’ champions OMSE. McConnell only made his debut in rallycross last year but turned heads with four final appearances out of five in America’s ARX2 series, highlighted by a podium finish in the season finale. Kallio, meanwhile, has shone in every championship he has entered, from the RX Academy to FIA Euro RX’s Super1600 category and is widely regarded as one of the discipline’s brightest young talents.

Steve Volders – the last man ever to win the now-defunct EuroRX TouringCar Championship – is counting upon his years of experience in the sport to make his mark, while the Barcelona entry list is completed by 11th-hour addition Jimmie Walfridson (JC Raceteknik). The Swede starred in a one-off outing on home soil last summer, only narrowly missing out on making the final in the largest RX2 field to-date.

The Barcelona RX2 action will begin with free practice and the opening two qualifying races on Saturday (27 April), followed by the remaining two qualifiers, semi-finals and final on Sunday (28 April). 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.

“It’s hugely exciting to be at the start of the third season of RX2,” enthused series CEO Andreas Eriksson. “The fact that we have eight different nationalities in the field this year is testament to the championship’s impressive reach, and picking a winner at this stage is virtually impossible. There is so much strength-in-depth, from hungry young guns to more experienced contenders, which makes for a fascinating mix.

“I must say, the calibre of new names on the entry list is particularly striking. All of them have achieved success in other series, and they are sure to keep the RX2 regulars firmly on their toes. It all adds up to a thrillingly unpredictable picture, and I for one cannot wait for the racing to start this weekend to see how everything unfolds...

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