Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Sebastian Eriksson survives engine cooling issues to claim maiden World RX win.

Wildcard entry Sebastian Eriksson survived engine cooling issues to hold off Kevin Hansen and claim his maiden World RX victory at the iconic Holjes track in Sweden.

The Swede who combines engineering and mechanic duties for the Olsbergs MSE outfit made his fourth appearance at World RX level in Sweden.

Eriksson, who lives an hour away from Holjes in the forests of Varmland competed at Nordic RX in preparation for his World RX outing and claimed an astonishing victory. 

"This is my fourth (World RX round)," he said. "It's just so special! This is the rallycross race that every rallycross driver wants to win, so to win it in the third attempt and I haven't competed in a race in the World Rallycross Championship for a long long time - so to come back and be able to win it. Is amazing! 

Despite a comfortable lead, Eriksson's Fiesta supercar suffered from overheating issues. The Swede slowed towards the end of the final, and was hunted down by Kevin Hansen on the final lap but held his nerve to take the chequered flag. 

"The start of the final was fine," he explained. "The spotter said 'you are pulling away'. You have a good gap, but then after three or four laps, we starting losing power again and they started to get closer and from then it was a bit more pressure from the spotter."

"We had to take the joker [lap] earlier this time to come out in front and the last laps was more or less keep tight and don't open a gap for Kevin [Hansen] because he was right behind.'' 

"I am quite surprised because I did not think that we will be this competitive, its looking good for the future," he concluded. 

World RX commentator Andrew Coley revealed during the live qualifying broadcasts that Andreas Eriksson's Olsbergs MSE team had a list of 21 things to fix on the Ford Fiesta Supercar. The car entered into the Swedish round is an evolution of the 2018-spec supercar, but only 19 changes were made.

Andrew Coley revealed to Slipstream SA that the remaining areas that Olsberg MSE plan to address is: "more engine work and dampers" before the car is ready for World RX competition. 

A happy Olsbergs MSE team boss Andreas Eriksson says that his team came close to canceling their entry in Sweden after running into issues during testing.

"We have struggled with a lot of problems, we almost canceled the race on Monday based on the test, because we saw after three laps that we have a big problem," Eriksson said.
"We are very fast for three laps, and then we have problems with the oil temperature."

"The car is not ready yet, but as you see the first three laps, we are flying away from them (competitors). We are fast in the straight line compared to everyone, but unfortunately, Kevin's [Eriksson] car didn't make it all the way. It broke in Q4 and Sebastian's car made it all the way. I am very happy!"

"I am putting my own money into this race because I don't have any sponsors this weekend. But I wanted to show that the car is fast," he concludes. "The guys decided after the test on Monday if its fast enough, we will go (racing). If it's not fast enough, we will stay at home."

After a last-corner lunge, Kevin Hansen settled for the second-place finish. In doing so, he took the lead of the drivers’ championship from his brother Timmy who suffered from a puncture and finished in sixth place [last]. 

It was not an easy weekend for Team Hansen MJP, Kevin was ranked ninth and older brother Timmy in sixteenth overall on day one. The brother launched a fight back on Sunday to progress through to the finals. 

“The whole weekend has been completely crazy. Having changeable weather in the qualifying made everything so difficult,” Kevin said. 

“In the final, I had a really bad start. I was fourth into turn two, and then two of the guy's jokered leaving the door open for me to follow Sebastian. I pushed really hard, but he [Sebastian] was very quick at the beginning and I didn't want to do any stupid mistakes - take any track markers or cut anywhere to get a puncture," he explained. 

"Then Timmy came out ahead (from joker lap) and we were second and third and I thought okay, now we can chase him down. Then he stupidly cut the corner in turn nine, got a puncture immediately and I had to do the move to not lose time." 

"Sebastian was quite far ahead, but then I was really surprised because he was slow in the end. On the final lap, I realized I was on his bumper and looking where should I overtake now because I thought he had a puncture," he said.

“In the last corner, I thought ‘OK, if he had a puncture he will be wide’. So, I stuck my nose up the inside in the middle but he didn't have the puncture so I had to back down."

"Anyway, P2 at home feels amazing in the end with a lot of points for the championship.”

Renis Nitiss' Hyundai i20 Supercar rolling
In third place was Reinis Nitiss who staged a remarkable comeback after rolling his Hyundai i20 in Q1 on Saturday.

The Latvian took a race win and set the fastest time in Q2. A third place in the semi-final secured his passage to the final.

Nitiss struggled to contain his emotions after Q1.

"I don't think you could imagine how I felt or how we felt," he said. "After that roll... You know what happened in Abu Dhabi. Straight away, first qualifying and first corner - first roll in my life happened on the most amazing track."

"When I jumped out of the car, I thought 'maybe I need to stop with this sport', but all the guys - the mechanics and everyone in the team did an amazing job and people around me helped me get to get the self-confidence back for Q2. I know we were lucky, but we won Q2 and I needed to focus on that and we got back in the game."

"The feeling that Q2 gave to us, it's amazing - and I think this describes the whole weekend." 

“We were really far down but we bounced back," he says. "And that’s why we are here and that is why we are racing; for the emotions we get. To imagine after Q1 to be on the podium this weekend. I don't believe it!"

When asked about competing in future rounds of the 2019 World RX championship, Nitiss said: "I don't know. Probably without these incidents in Abu Dhabi and with the roll, we could have done some more races, but there is still one race. In Latvia, my home race and I will do everything to be there."

"I can not promise anything, but after the race and after these emotions - after these fights. With everything that has happened during this magic weekend...  maybe Magic happens." 

His GRX team-mate Niclas Gronholm progressed to the finals and finished in fourth place, but was handed a five-second time penalty for track marker infringements. 

Dutchman Kevin Abbring, in only his second World RX, inherited the fourth place from Gronholm. 

Monster Energy RX Cartel's Andreas Bakkerud conceded ground in the championship to the Hansen brothers when supercar suffered a broken driveshaft while leading the semi-finals. 

“It could have been a great final, the car felt good and we had the pace,” Bakkerud said. “It would nice to finally give all of our partners and supporters a win, but it wasn’t to be.” 

Having claimed his maiden World RX win, Sebastian Eriksson has become the fifth different winner in sixth rounds of the 2019 World RX season.

Kevin Hansen claimed victory in round one in Abu Dhabi and there have been wins for Timerzyanov in Belgium and Gronholm in Norway. Timmy Hansen is the only dual winner – in Spain and Great Britain.


TEXT - Junaid Samodien

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