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Silverstone awaits rallycross' future stars at sensational Speedmachine

Author: Russell Atkins Published: 22nd May 2018 11:49

Silverstone awaits rallycross' future stars at sensational SpeedmachineSilverstone awaits rallycross' future stars at sensational Speedmachine

Following a pulsating curtain-raiser at Mettet in Belgium just over a week ago, the RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires is headed for one of the most legendary venues in the sport this weekend – Silverstone, and the eagerly-anticipated Speedmachine festival (26/27 May 2018).
The opening round of RX2’s sophomore season delivered thrills, spills and a brand new face on the top step of the podium in Norway’s Ben-Philip Gundersen, who will duly arrive at Silverstone at the summit of the title standings and firmly focussed on maintaining his early advantage.
On the leading pace throughout the Mettet weekend, the JC Raceteknik ace was a worthy winner and will doubtless be quick once again at the celebrated ‘Home of British Motor Racing’.
Gundersen’s closest rival in the points table is Latvian Vasiliy Gryazin. The Sports Racing Technologies star didn’t actually finish the final in Belgium – finding himself tagged into a spin and out of contention at the first corner – but he topped the Intermediate Classification with a commanding performance and will be fired-up to turn his scintillating raw speed into a rostrum result.
Fellow Norwegians Sondre Evjen and Henrik Krogstad joined Gundersen on the podium at Mettet in an historic top four lock-out for JC Raceteknik – with Swedish stablemate William Nilsson crossing the finish line fourth – and the Scandinavian trio are targeting more success at Silverstone, a track that all of them will be discovering for the first time.
Two drivers who have some prior knowledge of the layout – from the official FIA World Rallycross Championship Media Day at the end of March – are Olsbergs MSE team-mates Guillaume De Ridder and Oliver Eriksson, who are fighting back after misfortune kept them out of the final in the season-opener.
Home hero De Ridder was the innocent victim of Turn One contact in the first semi-final, while Eriksson was dominating the second semi when a misfire intervened and dropped him down the order. Both have the pace to win and ground to make up, so will be well worth watching. Team-mate Cole Keatts is similarly chasing a result after struggling in Belgium, as the American teenager builds his rallycross experience in the official World RX feeder series.
Jami Kalliomäki was the surprise package of the Mettet weekend as he made it into the final for SET Promotion on his RX2 debut – and only his fifth start in Supercar Lites machinery. The Finnish teenager went on to take the lead before being disqualified for the Turn One fracas that accounted for Gryazin, so he has a point to prove at Silverstone, where he and team-mate Simon Syversen will be joined by series newcomer Sami-Matti Trogen, who at just 17 will be the youngest driver in the field and arrives with an impressive reputation.
Homegrown interest will be centred around Nathan Heathcote, who was denied a semi-final spot on his RX2 bow in Belgium by a spectacular roll in his last qualifying race. Like De Ridder and Eriksson, the reigning British Champion is one of the series’ few drivers to have had a prior taste of Silverstone’s all-new rallycross track, and he is determined to put on a show for the British fans.
“It’s always a pleasure to drive in front of your home crowd, but Speedmachine is going to make World RX of Great Britain even bigger and better,” the 21-year-old enthused. “Rallycross events are never anything less than an exciting experience so to add music, exhibitions, demonstrations and test-drives into the mix will create such a buzz.
“Obviously, my focus will be firmly on the track, and after showing our speed but not coming away with the result in Belgium, my sights are set solidly on making the final at Silverstone. Hopefully, I can give everybody something to really cheer about.”
Heathcote’s Team Färén stablemate Conner Martell turned heads last time out with his swashbuckling driving style, and the American has plenty more up his sleeve to thrill spectators at Speedmachine.
Others to keep an eye out for will be Glenn Haug – a consistent threat throughout the Mettet weekend – ultra-fast Swede Simon Olofsson – fellow Scandinavian Anders Michalak and Albert Llovera, whose inspiring story continues as the former Olympian forges a new career in rallycross following a skiing accident more than 30 years ago that left him paralysed from the waist down.
The Silverstone RX2 action will begin with free practice on Friday afternoon, followed by the first two qualifying races on Saturday and the remaining two qualifiers, semi-finals and televised final on Sunday.
From a Cooper Tires Point-of-View
Paul Coates, General Manager – Motorsport, Cooper Tire Europe:
“The 2018 RX2 International Series presented by Cooper Tires comes to Silverstone, and with the high calibre of drivers we have already seen this year, the crowds will witness some spectacular racing. The RX2 car with 310bhp and 300Nm of torque is combined with a version of the Cooper rallycross tyre that utilises a specific tread compound selected after extensive testing with the Olsbergs MSE Supercar Lites cars.”


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