Robin Larsson became the first ever top qualifier in the brand new Group E FC1X by winner every race in the Battle Brackets. Kris Meeke showed great pace to make it to the final before a mechanical failure put him out at the start.
Group E Rd 1
There were just 2 races in round 1 to bring the 10 car grid down to 8 drivers for the quarter finals. In the first 3 lap heat it was Ole Christian Veiby who lined up on pole. However, Oliver Bennett got the best start and went deep into Talladega, formally Chessons, to take the lead around the outside. He took a wide line into the tightening turn 2 right hander and Veiby looked up the inside. The pair came together on the apex and Veiby spun onto the infield in a cloud of dust. Bennett then had an easy run to the finish and was only closed in by a second across the rest of the race.
Ole Christian Veiby “It was my first outing on Thursday but it’s been pretty cool. Cars are fast but it’s a lot bigger and heavier than what we’re used to. I thought I had a pretty good start but maybe he used some push to pass. He was on the outside. There was a gap, when he came down he touched my front so I spun out.”
It was a much simpler race for Robin Larsson to beat Niclas Gronholm. The Finnish driver had never driven the car after a late call up to replace an injured Kevin Eriksson. He got an extra run in free practice but was still down the order and didn’t have enough pace to best Larsson.
Niclas Gronholm “So much to learn, never sat in an EV car before. It wasn’t an easy morning. We are getting the car a bit better for me. I messed up with the gears, the second lap I lost a lot of time.”
Fastest in free practice, Kris Meeke had easy win over teammate Bennett. Bennett took the lead off the start but jokered and slowed up to give his teammate the win.
Oliver Bennett “I was having steering issues. Had heavy steering, thought it’s not worth risking both of us. A lot can happen tomorrow. I really want to get into the final.”
In an all Vermont Sportcar race, Connor Martel made best start but Travis Pastrana went right around the outside. Martell joker lap 1 and Pastrana jokered on the last lap. He lost out to his teammate by less than a second. Post race, Martell was struck with a 3 second penalty for hitting a foam apex marker.
Connor Martel “It’s a really easy car to drive so when you get out there you can focus on being fast. There are no team orders, we went out there and raced it as hard as we could. It’s unfortunate we had a penalty and gave Travis the win.”
Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport
Andreas Bakkerud beat fellow DRR runner on the run to turn 1. Fraser McConnell cut back and tried to get the inside of turn 2. Bakkerud stayed on the outside which became the inside for turn 3. From second, McConnell took the detour route at the end of lap 1 and Bakkerud respond the following tour to stay ahead just. With a few corners to go McConnell tried to around the outside of paddock bend but ended on the grass and dropped back.
Andreas Bakkerud “I lost by 3 tenths. As a competitive person I hate losing, especially against my teammate. He’s quicker than me on the gravel and I’m quicker on the tarmac.”
Robin Larsson was able to hold off Oliver Eriksson after the former RallyX Nordic champion made a poor start. They stayed close together for the rest of the race with Larsson advancing to the semi-finals.
Oliver Eriksson “I love spec series. In the top class that’s what it should be. Tomorrow, I hope it will be something special.”
Meeke from pole position went 2 car length clear into Talladega. Pastrana slotted in behind and dived to the outside of Paddock bend in a bid to get the undercut. Meeke covered him off and sealed victory when Pastrana spun on lap 3 due to steering failure.
Travis Pastrana “I love the car, I’m getting my ass kicked. I’m looking forward to make a day tomorrow. After I hit the wall the first time it blew out the power steering and then I got a flat tyre.”
Larson led teammate Bakkerud. He tried to dummy the other RX Cartel driver by jokering at the first opportunity. Bakkerud used the rest of the race to try and build a gap but came out just behind on the run to the line.
Larsson pulled clear away from the line as Meeke was left crawling towards Talladega. An inverter failure at the start prevented him from setting a competitive pace. He completed 2 very slow laps by which point Larsson had already taken victory. With it the Swedish driver takes the maximum 8 points from qualifying. Meeke has 5, the 2 semi-final losers have 3 with those eliminated in Rd 2 on 1 point. 50 points are up for grabs in tomorrow’s Final which will see 8 cars race. 4 drivers will qualifying straight from the Heat races, 1 more from each semi-final and the last 2 spots will be won or lost in the LCQ.
Robin Larsson “I did a terrible quali. We kept on going and we used the push to pass in the right positions every time. Everything worked perfectly for us. Really nice to have that pole position.”
All teams and drivers have been struggling with the power steering. Grippier tyres being used at Lydden have forced teams to increase the voltage used in the system. However, on large hits the system can freeze or steer unexpectedly meaning drivers are having to try and be smoother throughout the lap, especially on the gravel. With a brand new car everyone is working hard to mitigate the issue though it could throw some driver’s days into ruin.
Supercars ran the same format as Group E with their depleted 5 car field. Yury Belevskiy and Fraser McConnell made it all the way to the final where the Swiss/Russian driver made the best start. McConnell held the inside line through the opening bends but wasn’t able to make it past where Belevskiy took the inside line for turn 3 and the lead. He remained out front for the rest of the race and with it took pole for the sole Heat tomorrow.
Fraser McConnell “I get more track time but the cars are completely different to one another. We’ve had the fastest for both classes for the day. Not too disappointed. Unfortunately Mr Belevskiy was that much better today.”
Yury Belevkskiy “The inside of turn 1 was very slippery so he must have lost some time there. We were pretty late with the season preperations. I was supposed to drive the FIA World RX RX1e. We went to RallyX with Yellow Squad and an Audi to somewhere.”
Patrick O’Donovan had led Belevskiy in his semi-final on lap 1 but after coming under pressure couldn’t hold him off in the joker strategy. McConnell beat Tristan Ovenden who in turn had beaten Dom Flitney. Supercars will have 1 Heat race with the winner grabbing pole position for their final. The remaining 4 drivers will go to the LCQ to set the rest of the grid ahead of the 6 lap final.
Caspar Janson picked up where he left of last season by winning at Lydden Hill. The reigning NEXT champion was the class of the field winning his Heat, Semi-final followed by the final. Ole Henry Steinholt was best of the rest having won his semi and Tommi Halman completed the podium.
Caspar Janson “First win of the season, really good. The first corner is really nice and the jump, that is the best.”
Last of the 8 runners was Simon Olofsson who suffered a huge roll in the Heats. He was back out for the semi-finals and even beat Halman in the LCQ.
Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport
Pasi Penttinen overcame a poor heat to win the opening day. The top 3 were covered by just 1 second with Riku Huuka and Isac Egonsson completing the podium. In the first running of the final Ronalds Baldins rolled after contact with Jimmie Osterberg. The car ended up back on its wheels and Baldins was able to exit the car which had started smoking considerably.
Pasi Penttinen “It’s a nice track and a good day for me. Heat was terrible, semi-final second and final I’m first. Tomorrow maybe more gas and no brakes.”
NEXT and Crosscar will have another full round of competition tomorrow.
Feature Image Credit: Overtake Motorsport