Saturday, 2 July
Viktor Vranckx shines on his debut at the opening day of the FIA RX2e Championship Season 2, securing a clean sweep of Saturday’s session wins ahead of the local Nils Andersson, who got into an intense fight at Heat 1 and his times were affected. Fellow Swedish Isak Sjökvist sits 3rd at the Progression Race Ranking with the Heat 3 to go, that will take place on Sunday morning. The fervent and crowded Rallycross Cathedral enjoyed an action-packed day of competition today.
The Belgian driver was quickest out of the blocks in the inaugural round of the first-ever FIA electric rallycross championship, setting the pace in practice before going on to post fastest times. At the end of the session, he obtained 95 points, getting himself to the first position of the Ranking.
For Nils, however, luck was not on his side at Heat 1, getting stuck in an intense fight at the first lap behind a defensive Pablo Suárez – and losing valuable seconds in the Progression Race Ranking. However, he managed to get a clean Heat 2, obtaining the best session time. He ends Saturday’s Session in 2nd place with 89 points at the Progression Race Ranking.
It was most of the same for another favourite, local racer Isak Sjökvist. After a vindicative H1, in which he got a second place just 1 second behind Viktor, he then found himself in the middle of a sandwich at the first corner between Nils and the Spaniard Laia Sanz at H2. The development of the race, in which he was practically forced to take the Joker Lap on lap 1, compromised his times, leaving him in 5th position at the end of it. Together with his H1 times, the Swede obtained an important 3rd position in the Progression Race Ranking.
And there was plenty more action and promising displays throughout the field with the Andorran ace Raül Ferré, the Canary Pablo Suárez and Patrick O’Donovan all catching the eye.
Patrick O’Donovan slotted into 4th position at the Ranking together with Raül, ahead of Pablo Suárez. But the youngster Patrick put his pace at the front of the H1 in a healthy lead. At H2 he had an exciting fight for the win with Viktor. Impressive contact between them put on hold every fan’s heart after the late joker lap that the Belgian managed to take – not avoiding the Brit’s Offensive. O’Donovan was indeed taking some risks to get to the top. He offered a frantic show by fighting side-by-side by his fellow brit, Catie Munnings, until the “Capri Sun” man managed to pass the Red Bull athlete.
Raül Ferré, making his debut for the first time, and with any rallycross record, enjoyed his pace as the day progressed. It was the Andorran who got the upper hand at H2, taking advantage of Viktor’s manoeuvre over Patrick and pulling off an excellent move on the way into the first corners at the beginning of the run. His joker lap puts him in 3rd position behind Patrick, but the lap times have allowed him to ensure the pair are tied on points overnight..
The Spaniard Pablo Suárez has had a start to the season marked by friction and contact with other drivers. He had a chance to fight for the first two positions but did not benefit from the frenetic contact throughout the runs. It’s worth mentioning his bumpy starts – in H2, he and 3 other cars were all at the same time in the first turn, and he was relieved in the following corners due to his rivals, who were able to put their car in a better position at the entrance of the second corner, leaving him with ground to make up tomorrow.
Something like the R4 – SPA at the inaugural season happened to Laia Sanz: she didn’t have a very good start at H1, complicating her run to the front positions. At H2 she was able to get the first position in the first few corners, but Nils’ firm composure pushed her off the track and she was relegated to 4th position. She is gaining the side-by-side experience that will help her prepare for her future Extreme E commitments.
Her Extreme E rival, British driver Catie Munnings, in her first time on the RX2e grid, gave the fans some great moments of action, clashing with Patrick O’Donovan, whose pressure finally got the better of her. The times she set throughout the sessions have been improving considerably, which indicates that we may be in for a surprise tomorrow.
Swedish Filip Thorén, running on home soil, has had a quieter start at the Opening Round, finishing the races very cleanly. He has not been able to take much advantage of the Joker laps, but the flag bearer has had a steady pace despite the changing weather conditions.
The veteran Mark Flaherty sits on the last position, whose pace and all his rallying experience have been put to good use in order to keep his car out of the barriers.
Vicktor Vranckx said: “I came here to just have fun, hoping to get a 5th position or so. Being at P1 at the end of the day is an amazing feeling! My starts have allowed me to be ahead from the beginning. Then I focused on having fun and doing good lap times. The rain and the changing weather conditions made Saturday a fun and spectacular day! Patrick’s manoeuvre on me in H2 was proper rallycross. I had a puncture in the rear, and I knew I had to push. My strategy for tomorrow is the following: win.”
Nils Andersson said: Today was enjoyable. Driving the RX2e is so fun and easy. It’s so challenging to find the extra bit of time – See my results against Viktor, only tenths of seconds of difference in 6 laps. I have some work to do with my starts for tomorrow and this is what I will be focusing on. I had some flashbacks from my 20/21 season, that helped me through today’s horrible mix weather conditions. It’s a long season and I look forward to have a good fight against the other guys!
Isak Sjökvist: The day has been very challenging. It was a decent day for sure. At Heat 2 I had a rough start, with Nils inside the first corner and Laia outside. Quick decisions every time but loads of fun for sure! I have an advantage with my last years’ experience at RX2e. But as you can see, does not matter sometimes: The charm of the RX2e cars relies on the closer racing that exudes and is up to all drivers to minimize mistakes.