The 2020 FIA European Rallycross Championship season has finally roared into life this weekend and the first day of the season has now been completed with a 16-strong field at Höljes in Sweden.
The weekend got underway in wet conditions following rain in the morning, causing the teams to plan ahead of the race and choose if they would go with wet tyres, but as the racing finally started after the FIA World Rallycross Championship field has been out on track, they saw the track developed and started on slicks.
The 2019 RallyX Nordic Supercar Lites champion Ben-Philip Gundersen lined up on the start-line alongside the double RX2 International Series champion Oliver Eriksson in the first race of the season, as the lights went green it was Gundersen who quickly stormed into lead, leaving Eriksson to chase him down after taking the joker on the first lap. It was then Eriksson’s turn to put in some quick laptimes, when the Dane Tobias Daarbak was held up by Ales Fucik in the last corner of the opening-lap, Eriksson managed to catch-up.
Daarbak was constantly under preasure by Eriksson and when Daarbak made a mistake on the entrace to the velodrome, it gaves an opportunity for Eriksson to make a inside pass, but it wasn’t enough to close in on Gundersen who claimed the first win of the season and put the benchmark time of 3:11.879 to beat.
In the second race, the 74-year-old rallycross legend Per Eklund made his third Supercar outing of the year, but as the lights went off, he stalled on the start. Team mate Dan Öberg was quick off the start and was side-by-side with Sondre Evjen into turn one, as they came over the crest Öberg spun on the landing which held up Evjen and gave the All-inkl.com Münnich Motorsport driver Mandie August the lead. Evjen closed in on her and when she took the joker it released Evjen, but despite winning his heat it wasn’t enough to beat Gundersen’s time.
2017 WRC2 champion Pontus Tidemand stormed away from the start in the third race, he had mechanical issues with the car at the RallyX Nordic event at Höljes earlier this year and faced the same situation this time as he suffered a broken driveshaft before the velodrome that handed Supercar debutant David Nordgård the lead.
Euro RX veteran Tamas Karai was debuting a brand-new Audi S1 for the championship this season and was not far behind, he started to close in on Nordgård and when he tried to make a pass on the outside line of the jump at the joker lap section, they collided in mid-air. Nordgård defended very hard from Karai all time which made them to lose time and let the 95% paralyzed snowmobile champion Mats Öhman close in on them. As they both jokered, it released Öhman to take the lead and also claim the win, but it also wasn’t enough for being the fastest of the races.
The last race of the first qualifying saw four strong drivers line up as brothers Andrea Dubourg and Jean-Baptiste Dubourg took to the grid alongside Thomas Bryntesson and Peter Hedström. As the lights went green it was Bryntesson who stormed into the lead followed closly by Hedström.
The spotters for the Dubourg brothers played good joker lap tactics by sending Andrea in first to release Jean-Baptiste to hunt down the pack, as Jean-Baptiste then jokered on the following lap, he came out in front of Andrea. Bryntesson was still leading, but at the last corner of the third lap his car suddenly misfired which also held up Hedström when he passed. Jean-Baptiste was not so far behind and when both of them jokered, leading to the Dubourg brothers coming out in-front.
Jean-Baptiste crossed the line in first place and also managed to beat the lap time of Gundersen and by that he took the first qualifying session win of the season with a time of 3:08.643.
Dry conditions for Q2
The rain stopped and the sun came out for the second qualifying race which saw the slowest drivers from Q1 lined-up on the start-line first. Nordgård’s weekend ended early for him as he was left standing on the start as the lights went off and Tidemand took a well-deserved lead after his misfortune in Q1. He held on for the win and put in consistently fast laptimes to set the fastest time of the day of 3:06.471.
In the second race Daarbak flew off the start-line with Karai following closely, August was left on the start but she slowly pulled away after a small delay. The racing saw tactics come in to play as they made use of the joker lap with clean drives. It was Karai who took the win after he slotted in-front of Daarbak after the joker lap, but it still wasn’t enough to beat Tidemand’s time.
Evjen, Eriksson and Bryntesson lined up in the third race, with all three getting away with strong start. Eriksson took an early lead which he held on to for the rest of the race, claiming the fastest time of the weekend of 3:03.895 that led him to win the session; both Eriksson and Bryntesson would have been within top 5 in the World RX Q2 with their times.
The fastest drivers of Q1 lined up on the starting grid in the final race of the day, both Dubourg brothers stormed away from the start-line but was closely followed up by Gundersen and Hedström. Andrea Dubourg took an early lead after the turn two as he tried to set good lap times, but as he went into the joker on lap three, he collided with Hedström on the exit and broke a drive shaft, spinning around on the following corner. Jean-Baptiste Dubourg took the advantage by passing to take the lead to the finish-line, which wasn’t enough to win the Q2.
Jean-Baptiste could be happy as he sits in the top qualifier spot overnight as the racing continues tomorrow morning with the remainder of the round one.