Sebastian Eriksson has said it feels “amazing” to secure Honda‘s first win in Red Bull Global Rallycross last weekend.
Speaking exclusively to The Checkered Flag, Eriksson said it was a weight off the Olsbergs-led team’s shoulders to secure their first victory since the Japanese marque came on board at the beginning of last season.
“For sure it feels amazing to finally get that first win and we really deserved this one,” he said. “Now we can concentrate on keeping that momentum up and doing our best to try to win more races.”
Eriksson took the lead early on in Sunday’s race after the Volkswagen Andretti duo of Scott Speed and Tanner Foust collided as they entered the dirt section.
Volkswagen have won 13 out of the last 20 races and looked set to add to that tally when Speed and Foust made a strong getaway in the 10 lap final. The pair spent the first part of the opening lap racing side-by-side until a mistake from Foust put paid to the team’s chances of another dominant win.
“Tanner was coming way to fast into the dirt and I saw that he wasn’t able to make the turn,” Eriksson recalls. “He slipped out and took Scott with him and I just tried to pass on the inside.”
After another brief battle with Foust, Eriksson’s main rival for much of the race was Steve Arpin in the JCB-backed Loenbro Motorsports Ford Fiesta. Arpin stayed close to Eriksson’s Honda Civic for the duration of the race, despite pressure from Speed in third.
On the final lap Arpin made contact with Eriksson, leading to an intense drag race to the line. Despite the daring attempt to pass the Swede, Eriksson prevailed.
“I knew that he was going to hit me, it was his only chance to try to win,” the 24-year-old said of the contact with Arpin. “So I was prepared for it but the hit was harder than expected so I drifted wide and that’s why it ended with a drag race to the finish line.”
Honda’s first win in only the second round of the season marks an improvement for the team on last year. Despite taking seven podiums, they failed to claim a single race win – a first for Olsbergs in their entire GRC history.
Over the winter the team went over the car with a fine tooth comb, identifying the areas for improvement, and despite Eriksson believing there is still more work to be done, he is positive of the Civic’s performance.
“We collected all the information and data from the races last year to learn what we did right and what we did wrong,” he said. “A lot of small things are updated on the car which makes a big difference in the full picture.”
“We still have some areas to improve but we will do our very best in every race and hopefully we have a good position for the championship in the end of the year.”
Compared to last year, Eriksson is the only driver to remain with the team. 2014 champion Joni Wiman left over the winter while Kevin Eriksson, who made a one-off appearance in Atlantic City last year, will focus on the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Instead the two-time race winner is racing alongside Lites champions Oliver Eriksson (no relation) and Mitchell DeJong, both of whom have proven to be more than a match for the more experienced driver in the team.
“It means a lot. We are three fast drivers and we always work together to make the cars and also the driving better,” said Eriksson. “Both Mitchell and Oliver are young but they have a lot of rallycross experience. It helps me much to have them on the team and also it’s an advantage for us to have three cars to compare data between.”
“It can also help on the racetrack to hopefully have more ‘friendly’ cars around you,” he joked.
Eriksson’s win in Louisville propels him up to fourth in the points standings, behind both Volkswagen drivers and Arpin, but ahead of his Honda Red Bull OMSE team mates. Honda is also level on points with Volkswagen in the tight manufacturers’ championship after the victory.