As the silly season is now currently active and the teams are getting ready for 2020 RallyX Nordic, we take a look back to a drama-filled 2019 season and how Robin Larsson went from zero to hero.
RallyX Nordic presented by Cooper Tires kicked-off their season at the famous rallycross venue of Höljes in Värmland, Sweden for a first time with a doubleheader. With strong entry lists of more than 50 drivers competing in Supercar, Supercar Lites, RX Academy and CrossCar in the first event of the year we already knew that this season could be the one of most interesting to follow throughout the year.
Headlining on the Supercar grid were Robin Larsson in an Audi S1 built by EKS and run by the JC Raceteknik team. Oliver Eriksson and Ulrik Linnemann both in Honda Civic Coupé’s used in Red Bull Global Rallycross by Olsbergs MSE along with a Ford Fiesta shared by Kevin Eriksson and Sebastian Eriksson.
Drama on the opening day
The first day of the championship’s first double-header it exceeded all expectations with door to door and wheel to wheel actions throughout the day.
Robin Larsson dominated qualifying races and looked already to be one of the title contenders but with bad luck in the semi-final, a gearbox issue caused him to spin and eventually put him out for the final.
It was then left for Kevin Eriksson and Peter Hedström to battle it out for a spot in the final, they each won a semi-final and progressed to the front row of the grid.
Hedström had a poor start in the final allowing Jere Kalliokoski to slot into second place behind Kevin Eriksson. Hedström took the joker lap straight away to give him clearance which worked for him. As the top three went through the joker lap on their final circuit, Hedström’s strategy had paid off and he finished on second place with his Volkswagen Polo.
Kevin Eriksson took the first win of the season proving that Olsbergs MSE has built a strong car, Finns’ Jere Kalliokoski took the last spot on the podium with a third-place finish in his STARD built Ford Fiesta.
Excitement continues on the second day
Day two for the Supercar drivers produced another day of intense and action-packed racing,
Sebastian Eriksson lined up on pole position in the same car that won the final the day before alongside Robin Larsson that had better luck this time.
With even starts for both drivers, they held position into turn one with Oliver Eriksson slotting into third.
The top three remained line astern for much of the race until Larsson headed for the joker lap, both Erikssons followed on the last lap. As Sebastian came out from his joker lap there was contact with Robin sending the car into a spin, Sebastian regained the lead with half a lap to go and was closely followed over the line by teammate Oliver and a disgruntled Larsson.
Sebastian received a five-second time penalty after the race by the stewards for the contact with Larsson that promoted Oliver Eriksson to first place, Larsson to second and Mikko Ikonen took his maiden RallyX Nordic podium in third place.
RallyX Nordic heads to Denmark
With both of the Eriksson’s taking a win each in the opening rounds, it was the younger brother Oliver that led the championship as they headed across to the neighbouring country of Denmark in the south for the third round at Nysum.
Oliver crossed the line first at the last visit in Denmark but received a penalty for track markers that lead to Ulrik Linnemann taking his maiden RallyX Nordic win on home soil at his debut.
A result that Ulrik wanted to replicate again, with both of them now in the same team and cars that seem well suitable for Nysum it looks like they will get great results.
JC Raceteknik fielded two cars with Mats Öhman joining together with his fellow Swedish teammate Robin Larsson in the second EKS built Audi S1 and the local driver Dennis Rømer making the list in his Volkswagen Polo.
As the race began it was Robin Larsson that went fastest in the opening qualifying race that was held on Saturday afternoon.
Oliver Eriksson of Olsbergs MSE was in hot pursuit of the Audi S1’s time as the Swedish pair won their respective heats. Ulrik Linnemann who was the home favourite recovered from a bad start in his heat to set the fourth-fastest time.
Many of the drivers had troubles in the rest of the qualifying races which meant to make the cut for the final was incredibly tight.
As the final was about to start it was the series’ favourites Oliver Eriksson and Robin Larsson lining up on the front row just as they have done in Höljes two weeks previously.
Eriksson drove his Honda Civic Coupé to his second victory taking revenge from last year’s mistake, ahead of Larsson in second place and Kalliokoski that had another impressive showing to score a second podium in third place on his RallyX Nordic debut season.
RallyX Nordic goes south to Latvia
For the first time in the history of RallyX Nordic they headed out from Scandinavia to visit Latvia for round four at the World RX venue of Biķernieki just outside of the capital city of Riga.
With Oliver Eriksson keeping his momentum high and extending the championship lead by nine points over Robin Larsson, Oliver had won two out of three rounds.
Ricardo Bortkevitš and his Peugeot 207 joined the event alongside the regulars, the Estonian driver had the support of the home crowd.
As the race weekend kicked off on Saturday with Q1, it was the best possible start for Jere Kalliokoski, who won his heat and set the fastest time.
Philip Gehrman impressed with a heat win and finished second overall along with Andreas Carlsson in third. Olsbergs MSE drivers Ulrik Linnemann and Oliver Eriksson made contact with Robin Larsson at the first corner of their heat, which resulted in both Hondas spinning, hampering the Audi’s overall time – a less than ideal start to the weekend for some of the main championship protagonists.
As the championship contenders faulted during the qualifying races, it all came together for Robin Larsson in the final. Larsson had impressive pace throughout the weekend, with the Swedish driver determined to finally take his first win of the 2019 championship, storming ahead to win the final, ahead of a duelling Jere Kalliokoski and Oliver Eriksson who completed the podium.
North to Norway and Finnskogbanen
After the visit in Riga, RallyX Nordic headed back up north to Norway for round five at Finnskogbanen with the championship title blown wide open by the win for Robin Larsson, seeing him close to within five points of the lead. Oliver Eriksson still led the way courtesy of his two early-season triumphs.
Amongst the regular drivers local favourites Fredrik Magnussen in his Škoda Fabia, Stene Johansen in his Olsbergs MSE built Ford Fiesta and Svein Roger Andersen in his Volvo C30 joined the series, all eager to channel home advantage and put on a spectacular show for the Norwegian fans.
With the one-day event, it was the Latvian winner Robin Larsson that produced another eye-catching show, setting the fastest time in two of the four qualifying races, winning his semi-final and claiming the overall runner-up spot, the only issue he experienced was a problem with the throttle in Q3 that forced him to retire.
Oliver Eriksson emerged as the eventual winner after tight battles throughout the weekend. Eriksson dominated the timesheets along with Robin Larsson and Jere Kalliokoski, as they have done for much of the season.
Eriksson looked to have everything under control and extended his lead at the top of the standings by claiming his third victory of the season.
Eriksson in control with two rounds remaining
With only two rounds remaining of the 2019 RallyX Nordic season the series visited the land of motorsport for round six at the former Euro RX and World RX venue at Kouvola in Finland.
As the Rallycross Festival name of the event tells it is a huge one with overbooked entry list for Supercars with the local series Rallicross SM joining the schedule for the weekend. 30 cars joined the Supercar grid including local heroes. The championship contenders had to look out as battles for final spots were tighter than ever with only two cars making it through to the final from each of the three semi-finals.
As the Supercars headed out for their opening qualifying race of the weekend on the afternoon, once again it went in Oliver Eriksson’s way when he took the fastest time and put himself on top overnight, Robin Larsson was nine-tenths slower to Eriksson, teammate Ulrik Linnemann ended the day in third followed by Rallicross SM leader Juha Rytkönen in his Ford Fiesta.
Robin Larsson continued to prove his worth as he took a dominant semi-final win putting himself on the front row with his main rival Oliver Eriksson.
As the lights went green on the final, Oliver stalled his car, handing Larsson an early which he held on to it to take his second win of the year.
Local favourite Jere Kalliokoski took another podium finishing in second place ahead of championship leader Oliver Eriksson.
An impressive showing from the Rallicross SM contenders was highlighted by Toni Kuhanen, Juha Rytkönen and Joni-Pekka Rajala, Rajala looking set to place higher before retiring due to a technical issue – finishing fourth, fifth and sixth respectively ahead of a number of Nordic regulars.
Championship goes down to the wire in Sweden
Robin Larsson’s second victory of the year saw him narrow the gap to the top of the championship table to just four points from Oliver Eriksson with only the season finale at Tierp Arena in Sweden left.
It was all to play for this time, JC Raceteknik rolled up the sleeves and were ready to fight, Robin Larsson got backup by the 2016 FIA World RX champion and EKS team boss Mattias Ekström in a third Audi S1 to help Larsson secure the title from Eriksson.
With only 12 points separating Larsson, Oliver Eriksson and Jere Kalliokoski, even the slightest stroke of misfortune would turn the championship on its head.
Olsbergs MSE responded quickly to JC Raceteknik’s announcement by drafting in Oliver’s brother Kevin to help out for the fight. Sebastian Eriksson who is normally driving for Olsbergs MSE came back to the series finale in a Per Eklund Motorsport built Volkswagen Beetle.
The title showdown got underway as Robin Larsson showed a strong hand on the opening day. After coming unstuck in practice at the fast, final chicane, spinning and nudging the wall, Larsson went fastest in Q1 and Q2 marking a great start to his championship challenge.
Mattias Ekström and practice pace-setter Kevin Eriksson showed early pace with the wildcard drivers nipping at Larsson’s heels throughout.
Meanwhile, the other championship contenders were further down the field, with points leader Oliver Eriksson finishing in fourth and a seventh and Jere Kalliokoski collecting a pair of sixth place finishes.
The drama for the title started in the final, Robin Larsson stunned spectators with the ultimate comeback as teammate Mattias Ekström gave away his final spot to Robin due to a “technical issue” with the car.
Larsson would claim the Supercar title after rival Oliver Eriksson crashed out of the final in a spectacular and dramatic crash with the tyre barrier at turn one on the final lap after his suspension failed by the contact with Kevin Eriksson. Kevin Eriksson eventually took the race victory ahead of Larsson and Sebastian Eriksson.