There have been many drivers in the European Rallycross Championship over the years that have moved across from rallying. In the not too distant past when almost all teams were privately funded, rallycross was seen as the cheaper alternative to rallying, the events only taking up three days over a weekend instead of a whole week before hand for recognisance and ceremonial starts. The other main draw to rallycross supercars is the power, almost twice that of a World Rally Car.
One such driver who made the transition between disciplines back in 2007 was Stig-Olov Walfridson. Formerly a successful national rally driver, the Swede had a bad accident forcing him to be sidelined from driving and left to re-evaluate his future in the sport.
“I had a terrible crash in January 2006,” he explained. “We hit a moose on a rally when we were carrying a lot of speed and I really hurt my back. I couldn’t drive for over six months.”
In the time he was injured, Walfridson continued working, managing the business he shares with his brothers, Helmia. Working in one of their Renault dealerships while sidelined, Walfridson came up with a plan.
“I walked past the new Renault Clio III every morning in our showroom, and started to think it would look good as a rallycross supercar, something different from what everyone else uses, so we started to arrange building one.”
Coming from a rich motorsport heritage, Walfridson’s family is no stranger to rallycross. Indeed his brother Per-Ing was European Champion in 1980 at the wheel of a Volvo 343. “I wanted to do something for fun, to use as my release if you like. Rallycross is perfect for that, and I love how much power the cars have. They are the ultimate.”
Since his move to rallycross in 2007, Walfridson has consistently run at or near the front of the super competitive European championship, the highlight of which being victory at his home event at Holjes, Sweden in 2009.
For 2013 Walfridson decided to take a new direction. “Some guys in Sweden that I have known for years had an idea about building a five cylinder engine, so I thought about it and decided to go with that, something different.”
With the car not finished in time to test it properly prior to round one at Lydden Hill, the first two events of RallycrossRX this season have been a steep learning curve for Walfridson and his engineers, but bit-by-bit they are working through the problems they face.
“There wasn’t enough hours to finish the car before to test properly before Lydden, I just drove it quickly before we left. We have had some fuel pressure issues, and we don’t have anywhere near enough turbo boost yet compared to all the other cars, but the guys are working on that. We are trying to sort all the small things bit by bit and not rush anything. We want to make sure it’s all right.”
With more fettling done to the new Clio since Portugal, Walfridson intends to test at Holjes, Sweden prior to the next round in Hungary, where he will be joined by team-mate Mats Lysen. The young Norwegian tried the Helmia Clio for size at the last event of 2010, so impressed by the Clio that his sponsors bought the car from Walfridson ready for 2011, since when they have run as a two car team on events. “We prepare the cars separately in our own workshops, but at testing and on events we work together. We have very different driving styles so we can’t just swap data, but we give each other as much information as possible. The cars travel together in the truck so it cuts down on costs.”
After 33 years of competitive driving, Walfridson is pleased that rallycross now has the opportunity to get the recognition it deserves.
“I think IMG’s involvement will be very good. Rallycross is a really great product and somebody like IMG can show people this.”
Having always just taken one year at a time with his racing, Walfridson is unsure what the future currently holds for himself as a driver. “I will keep driving as long as I am enjoying it, but I only take one year at a time. My nephew is very good in CrossKarts at the moment and he has his eyes on my car, and so does my son. Maybe if I don’t race in the future there will still be a Walfridson in the supercar class.
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