New Kid on the Block

by Hal Ridge |

Super1600 has a habit of showcasing debutant rallycross drivers at their best. Last to amaze the paddock with a brilliant debut performance was Krzysztof Skorupski, who rocked up at Holjes, Sweden in 2010. The Polish driver promptly won all the qualifying races and final in his VW Polo.

Skorupski’s Polo was a well sorted car (ex-Eduard Leganov) run by top Czech team Blue Engineering. Having raced in ‘single make’ series in Poland before graduating to the S1600 Polo, and the Central Easton Zone championship, the FIA European Championship was the next logical move and the only real surprise was how immediately successful his move to the top of the rallycross tree was.

Fast forward to 2013, and there is another European championship S1600 driver at Lydden Hill making an impressive debut. Like Skorupski, Kevin Eriksson arrived in the RallycrossRX paddock driving a top car (Renault Clio) run by Finnish outfit Set Promotion, arguably the best team in the category. There is one significant difference between the two however, where Skorupski was 23 years old at his debut, Eriksson was only sixteen and making his very first start in rallycross.

Son of OMSE team principle Andreas, Eriksson is no stranger to the RallycrossRX paddock having spent his childhood growing up in and around the Swedish Supercar team. Not totally inexperienced, Eriksson has previously raced in the Scandinavia ‘Folkrace’ discipline, a clubman/ low level form of rallycross. Being similar to rallycross, Folkrace is clearly a good grounding to learn race-craft and car control.

With only a very small amount of testing prior to the event, Eriksson surprised many by going second fastest in the first heat at Lydden Hill, and then surprising again on Sunday afternoon, fastest of all in the second heats. On top of the Intermediate results overnight, things were looking good for the young Swede, until a roll in heat three ended his chances of success. Although Set Promotion got the car fixed they were blighted by problems in his remaining races, ruining his weekend.

“I had fun”, he said on Monday night at Lydden Hill. “It’s a shame about the crash but it was fun driving the car and great to work with a team like Set Promotion”

Round two in Montalegre and although initially not intending to enter the event, Eriksson was back. Fastest in the first two heats in changeable conditions and looking like a seasoned pro, Eriksson later won both his semi-final and final in the sort of commanding fashion you’d expect from a driver with many times his experience. Even when beaten off the start line by Ulrik Linnemann in the final, the Clio driver kept his head, took his joker lap when it mattered and never looked like being beaten.

“I had a really bad start in the final,” he said, in the laid back sort of way you only expect from young Scandinavians, “But I knew we were fast so I just kept going. At least we didn’t roll this time”

Having been around for so long, Eriksson knows most faces in the RallycrossRX paddock, but instead of wearing a Ford t-shirt cheering for his father’s team he now adorns a pair of race overalls, not really a surprising progression.

“I’m really enjoying the experience, but obviously the results are helping. If I was rubbish it wouldn’t be so much fun.  I don’t feel like a rookie in the sport because I’ve been around helping with my dad for so long. I understand how the racing works, and I’ve watched what sort of lines and manoeuvres work and stuff so that makes it easier for sure. I didn’t expect to be so fast though” says Eriksson, who drives his Clio with the sort of carefree abandon that many of the older drivers wish they could recreate and find those extra tenths in every corner.

Having only three more events in his calendar for RallycrossRx 2013 (Hungary, Norway and Sweden), it will be a hard decision to stick to if he leaves Hungary with another event win.

The most impressive thing of all about Eriksson thought is that he is still just a boy, and isn’t fazed by his new-found success. Late on Sunday evening at Montalegre as I was still working in the press centre there were two bodies wondering around the circuit in front of the main building. Eriksson had gone for a potter around the track with Kevin Hansen, youngest son of Kenneth and another youngster who has grown up in the rallycross paddock (and racing in JRX from Hungary). Despite just winning an FIA International event, and with no pressure of looking after his car or team, Eriksson was doing what he has done all his life, spending time with his mate seemingly without a care in the world.





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