The newly-rebranded RX2 International Series, official support category to the FIA World Rallycross Championship, is ready to race for its fourth event of the season, at the incredibly popular World RX of Sweden in Höljes (30 June-2 July), in front of up to 40,000 spectators, showcasing the future stars of rallycross.
So far, reigning RX Lites champion, Cyril Raymond of France, proved the man to beat, with three wins out of three races, but among the 22 competitors he will be facing in Sweden (the highest number ever recorded in the WorldRX feeder series), many of them seem to have good chances of stopping the Frenchman’s domination, and all of them are equally determined to do so.
Raymond’s closest rival is Britain’s Dan Rooke: the Englishman’s consistency has allowed him to score podiums on all occasions. America’s Tanner Whitten is another podium contender: even though he is still learning all the tracks, he also appears to be a very quick learner.
Norwegian Glenn Haug has quietly shown great pace in the past events, entering Höljes in fourth place overall, just in front of local hero Simon Olofsson, winner of last year’s edition.
Belgian Guillaume de Ridder has also proved to threaten regular podium finishers, while Norway’s Sondre Evjen, despite missing out on the final at home in Hell, is determined to perform strongly this time round.
Local star William Nilsson was one of the fastest in Norway, but his over-exuberance in the final cost him a better result, and he will obviously bounce back on home soil.
Thomas Holmen was fast but once again unlucky in Hell and – although born in Norway – the teenager considers Höljes to be his ‘home’ event. It is without any shade of doubt a home event for karting siblings Andreas and Jessica Bäckman, both of whom are showing great progress throughout the past three rounds. Andreas advanced all the way through to the final for the first time a fortnight ago, leaving him with great confidence into his home race.
“The last round was a genuine breakthrough for me,” Bäckman says.. “Reaching the final in a series as tough and competitive as RX2 and up against a lot of drivers with far more experience was a big confidence boost, and now I’ve done it once, I want to do it again and again.
From what I’ve heard, Höljes is an awesome event and there will be lots of family and friends coming along to support Jessica and I – so let’s see if we can maintain this upward momentum!”
His sister hasn’t quite reached the same heights as him, but after missing out on the semi-finals by just two points in both Norway and Great Britain, the 19-year-old has a solid goal for her home round – and received praise from none other than former British Touring Car Champion Tim Harvey after taking the racer-turned-commentator for a high-speed passenger ride at Silverstone last month.
“She was mega committed and is clearly a great natural talent,” Harvey proclaimed.
“An RX2 car is not an easy piece of kit to drive fast, but Jessica has evidently got the technique dialled in straightaway.
Having stepped directly up from karting, she obviously has a big learning curve ahead of her but she has a first-class attitude and approach and is in the perfect place to develop her career. I wish her every success.”
“It’s obviously nice to hear those words from somebody of Tim’s stature and experience in the sport – and good motivation to keep pushing forwards,” enthused Jessica. “I came so close to reaching the semi-finals at both Lydden Hill and Hell, so hopefully it will be third time lucky at Höljes – I’m definitely fired-up to put on a show for the home fans!”
Latvia’s Vasiliy Gryazin, Swede Anders Michalak, Norwegian Simon Syversen – who narrowly missed out on the final in Hell – and fast female Sandra Hultgren complete the full-timers in the field. Additional entries come from regular ERX Touringcar competitor Ben-Philip Gundersen (Norway), Swedes Hampus Rådström, Linus Östlund, Marcus Höglund, Santosh Berggren, Jonathan Walfridsson and Stein Fredrik Akre and France’s Guerlain Chicherit, who makes the switch from Supercars to join countryman Raymond on the RX2 grid.
RX2 action at Höljes will start on Friday, 30 June, with free practice and the first two qualifying rounds. Q3 and Q4 will take place on Saturday, while on Sunday it will be time for the semi-finals and the final, with the latter also broadcast live on TV.