Oliver Eriksson gave the home fans plenty to cheer about as RallyX on Ice fired into life in style at Östersunds Motorstadion in Sweden today (3 February), with a brilliant performance to scythe through the snow to a hugely popular triumph.
The most hotly-anticipated event of the traditional motorsport ‘off-season’, RallyX on Ice will be disputed over four weekends from early February to early March against the backdrop of Scandinavia’s spectacular winter wonderland.
In the headlining Supercar Lites class, no fewer than 21 drivers descended upon Östersund for the curtain-raiser, and Eriksson was one of the front-runners from the outset. Competing for Swedish powerhouse Olsbergs MSE, the 19-year-old finished second in two of his three qualifying races, before nailing the start from third on the grid in his semi-final to storm into a lead he would never relinquish.
That did not, however, earn the former GRC Lites Champion pole position for the all-important final, as both Ben Philip Gundersen and Vasiliy Gryazin had outscored him through the qualifying stages, leaving him third on the grid once more. No matter. Eriksson replicated his meteoric semi-final getaway when the lights went out to leapfrog into the lead – and from there, he pulled away with relative ease.
“What a day!” he reflected. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but in the end we managed to pull it off and it feels great. After spending time racing over in America, to come back here and win in front of such an enthusiastic crowd is awesome – I’ve never won on home soil before.
“We had a lot of bad luck last year and it felt like it was going that way today as well with a few issues in the third qualifier. We really struggled and I didn’t know exactly what the problem was, but my team managed to resolve it and then from the semi-final onwards, everything just clicked. RallyX on Ice is definitely the most fun you can have in conditions like this – ever!”
Evjen’s day was likewise not without its dramas. The Norwegian was on stunning form in his second qualifying race as he sped to victory, but in the other two contests, his charge ended in a snow bank. That left him back on the second row of the grid for the semi-final, but a good start and early ‘joker’ saw him progress through to the final, where he employed a similar tactic to snare the runner-up spoils.
“After failing to finish two of my qualifying races, just to be in the final at all was an achievement and I was really happy to make it through,” the 20-year-old admitted. “To finish on the podium is an even bigger bonus!
“We were really up against it after the qualifiers, but I never gave up and never stopped pushing and I knew that from where I was starting in the semi-final, I could go immediately for the joker if I got a good start – and that strategy worked out perfectly. It was a great comeback. Now I’m already looking forward to the next round at Höljes – I’ve never been there in the snow before, so that will be interesting…”
Raymond joined Eriksson and Evjen on the podium, winning his first qualifying race – his maiden competitive outing on ice – before coming off second-best in a disagreement with a snow bank in Q3. Second place in the semi-final earned the Frenchman promotion to the final, from where he kept his nose clean and overhauled Gryazin to reach the bottom step of the rostrum.
“It’s been a very cool day,” acknowledged the reigning RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires Champion, “and I’m really happy to finish third for my first time racing on ice.
“RallyX on Ice is an excellent school. I learned a lot on the track and from my Scandinavian team-mates, and winning my first qualifying race was far more than I had expected. It took me a while to settle into my rhythm in the final, but I pushed really hard to come back and whilst there is a lot to build on – my starts were not perfect and I am still lacking consistency – it’s been a very positive debut.”
After impressing with a scintillating turn-of-speed all day, Latvia’s Gryazin eventually finished fourth, while qualifying stars Gundersen and Kevin Eriksson both came unstuck, the former crashing out at the first corner of the final and the latter ploughing into a snow bank while running second in the semi-final. An honourable mention should also go to America’s Conner Martell, who turned heads with his eye-catching pace, only to find himself eliminated in the same incident that accounted for Gundersen.
In the supporting RX Academy on Ice, Simon Syversen emerged on top of a tense three-way tussle with Finnish duo Joni Wiman and Jesse Kallio. The RX2 regular flew somewhat under the radar during the qualifying races, but he truly turned up the wick when it really counted and held on under sustained pressure from his two pursuers in the final to clinch victory. Qualifying pace-setter Oliver Solberg never recovered from a tardy start and took the chequered flag fourth.
In Speedcar Xtreme – for 312kg, 150bhp crosskarts – age triumphed over youth as Finn Erik Løberg showed two of the leading lights from the FIA World Rallycross Championship the way home. The Norwegian was unbeatable in the final, with Kevin Hansen and Niclas Grönholm taking advantage of last lap driveshaft woes for Aleksander Wiik to claim the remaining two podium spots. Timmy Hansen’s challenge ended on top of a snow bank at the semi-final stage.
“What a fantastic debut for RallyX on Ice,” summarised Olsbergs MSE CEO Andreas Eriksson, the man behind the exciting winter sport concept. “We have seen some incredible racing, some amazing fightbacks and three very worthy winners. The fans went home having enjoyed hours of almost non-stop entertainment, and those not able to make it could follow all the semi-final and final action live on motorsport.com. The next round at Höljes can’t come soon enough!”
Media accreditation for RallyX on Ice events is now open. Interested journalists and photographers should contact RallyX on Ice Media Officer Russell Atkins (firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0) 7725 223288).
All four rounds of RallyX on Ice will be livestreamed by the world’s biggest digital motorsport platform, motorsport.com via its Motorsport TV online channel.
Supercar Lites Final
1. Oliver ERIKSSON SWE 6 laps
2. Sondre EVJEN NOR +7.002s
3. Cyril RAYMOND FRA +7.849s
4. Vasiliy GRYAZIN LVA +12.420s
5. Ben Philip GUNDERSEN NOR +6 laps
6. Conner MARTELL USA +6 laps
RX Academy on Ice Final
1. Simon SYVERSEN NOR 6 laps
2. Joni WIMAN FIN +0.554s
3. Jesse KALLIO FIN +1.828s
4. Oliver SOLBERG NOR +10.717s
5. Marat KNYAZEV RUS +1 lap
6. Oliver BENNETT GBR +1 lap
Speedcar Xtreme Final
1. Finn Erik LØBERG NOR 6 laps
2. Kevin HANSEN SWE +16.412s
3. Niclas GRÖNHOLM FIN +21.904s
4. Aleksander WIIK NOR +24.092s
5. Jonathan ESKILSSON SWE +3 laps
6. Jimmie ÖSTERBERG SWE +6 laps