How OMSE got here as it prepares for a Fiesta siesta

by Tim Whittington |

So, after year back on the World RX trail with a new Ford Fiesta – it’s first all new iteration of Ford’s favourite compact since 2009 – Olsbergs MSE has decided to step out once again and look at offering customer cars in Euro RX, ARX and RallyX Nordic. It’s not the first time that OMSE had side-stepped World RX and this seems like an opportune time to take a quick look back at what has gone before on the FIA championship scene and how OMSE came to be the powerhouse that it is today.

Andreas Eriksson, whose show this is, first arrived in FIA rallycross in 2006. A protege of Ford Sweden in rallying, he switched codes at a sweet point when a career in rallying was clearly becoming more difficult and when economic good times in Europe were giving rallycross some bouyant years. The Swede started with a Fiesta Mk6 prepared by his own Motor Sport Evolution company. MSE later became Olsbergs MSE (or OMSE) when engineering specialists Olsbergs partnered with Eriksson. The transition to rallycross was not always smooth; it took the team a little while to get on top of engine problems while the driver/boss – who’d cut his teeth in folkracing as a youngster – re-adapted to racing.

The beginning, 2006 was Eriksson’s first year on the FIA European Rallycross Championship chase and it wasn’t always plain sailing. Third place in Holland would be his best finish between mechanical problems and the odd off-track excursion.

Orange replaced silver for 2007 when Eriksson got gold for the first time. The Swede and his young team won in Austria (below) and then came through again to take the win in Norway.

For 2008, Eriksson drove full time in Europe, and was joined three times by double World Rally Champion Marcus Gronholm, who won on his rallycross debut in Holjes. The Finn also rolled his car onto a barrier in the joker lap section in Poland, but restarted the Fiesta and finished the race. Gronholm would later feature again with OMSE, both racing himself in America and with his son at the wheel.

There were four trips to the podium in 2008, but only one to the top step for Eriksson, that coming in the final round at the Estering and in the last event for the Mk 6 Fiesta, as a new generation of car was on the stocks for 2009.

The new car; the Mk 7 Fiesta was revealed on the eve of the 2009 season opener. It’s so familiar now, almost ubiquitous, that it’s difficult to realise what a landmark the new car was. For all that, the debut was not smooth (below), repeated gearbox problems left Eriksson with a job to do. 

A billet gearbox casing cured the transmission problems and, with engine worries overcome (below), Eriksson charged to the car’s maiden victory in round two in Portugal.

In 2010 Eriksson brought Tanner Foust along for a few events but neither the American nor the team boss put in a full season.

Those outings for Foust were a precusor to a full European season in 2011 when he became the first US driver to win at FIA level by taking round two in Portugal. 

He later won again in Sweden in a day of mixed fortunes for the team as Eriksson rolled out of event minutes before Foust won. Second place in the championship was Foust’s reward.

Eriksson did not drive in the second half of the 2011 season, and that can now be seen as the beginning of his move to a management role going in to 2012. Foust returned, won in Britain and Norway, and placed third in the championship.

In 2013 when IMG arrived as the championship promoter, OMSE was not a full-time competitor. Foust drove three times for the team and won in Britain and Finland. Toomas Heikkinen and Patrik Sandell lined up in Sweden but did not make the final. As well as bringing Heikkinen and Sandell back from the US, OMSE had a car for Brian Deegan alongside Foust in Finland.

For 2014 the FIA championship gained World status and OMSE was back and gunning for the new Teams’ title. In Reinis Nitiss and Andreas Bakkerud it had two of the brightest young rallycross drivers, and with Team Principal Eriksson recruiting Jussi Pinomaki as Team Manager, an equally strong management line up. Bakkerud won round two in Britain, and topped the podium again later in the year in Turkey. 

Nitiss became the youngest ever winner with victory in Norway, and ended the year third with Bakkerud fifth. Between them the young pairing brought home the inaugural FIA World Championship Teams’ title for OMSE.

The lineup was unchanged for 2015 but now, perhaps, the car was beginning to show the first signs of age as the pace of development began to increase. Bakkerud won in Italy and made the final in nine of the 13 events to end the year fourth. Nitiss finished the season in seventh place. OMSE also had an individual entry for Timur Timerzyanov, 10th at the year end.

For 2016 the OMSE team featured Niclas Gonholm, partnered by Kevin Eriksson who, apprenticeship served, moved up to the World Championship. Gronholm was 17th and the end of the year with Eriksson 11th, while Nitiss returned to the squad in the last quarter of the season to drive a third car. There was just one win for the team, but that came from Eriksson after an audacious move in the first corner at the Estering. His ‘around the outside’ pass has entered rallycross legend and put the young Swede firmly on the map.

There was no full-time effort for OMSE in 2017, but a couple of outings for Sebastian Eriksson (Sweden and Germany) and Oliver Eriksson (Sweden and South Africa).

By now OMSE’s Nynashamn workshop had produced 20 examples of the Mk 7 Fiesta and in 2016 the machines began to be released into the wild as OMSE sold off its inventory of cars and a number of European Supercar racers were quick to take the opportunity to purchase proven racecars.

The new Mk 8 Fiesta was introduced by OMSE at the first round of the 2018 World RX Championship but season turned out to be a difficult one with the cars, driven by Kevin Eriksson and Robin Larsson, not able to match the leading pace for most of the year.

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