Robin Larsson followed up on his TQ yesterday to win his heat and then the final. Behind, several cars came together with penalties handed out for contact and track limits throughout the day.
Group E Heats
In the first race of the day at Lydden Hill Kris Meeke led into turn 1 but fifth place starter Ole Christian Veiby got the best launch. He squeezed between Oliver Eriksson and Fraser McConnell before diving up the inside of Andreas Bakkerud. The pair made light contact which spun OC round. Behind, Eriksson took avoiding action which pushed McConnell wide and into a spin.
Meeke was out front on the opening lap with third place Eriksson jokering to try and undercut Bakkerud. However, when the Norwegian jokered on lap 2 he was still ahead and looked to close in on the leader.
As Meeke exited the detour route around Paddock bend he was alongside Bakkerud with the pair making contact on the run to turn 1. Meeke was forced out wide and grazed along the barrier at Talladega. He ran off the track into Chessons on the outside. Going the long way round he rejoined just as the track curved tighter, now in second and a long way back from the leader.
The positions remained static until the end with Bakkerud and Meeke booking their slots into the final. Eriksson was close behind in third while McConnell and Veiby had been slowed after their spins at turn 1. Post race Bakkerud was given a 3 second penalty for hitting an apex marker which swapped Meeke with himself. It meant the top 3 were covered by just 1.2 seconds and Eriksson missed out on a qualifying spot by 0.373 seconds.
In heat 2 poleman, Robin Larsson used the best starting spot to full effect. Second place Travis Pastrana was swamped by teammate, Connor Martell on the right and Oliver Bennett on the left. Heading into the braking zone Pastrana went wide and right around the outside to regain second position. Oliver Bennett cut back on Connor Martell to take the inside to turn 2 and got into third while Niclas Gronholm had to settle for 5th.
As Bennett exited the joker on lap 3 he held a clear advantage over Martell. The Vermont SportsCar driver closed on the brakes into Talladega as Bennett ran wide. The pair came together and ran door to door through the opening bend. As the corner tightened they snagged rear wheels and Bennett was fired out wide with Martell staying on the racing line.
Larsson stayed out front, holding off Patrana and Gronholm. The Finnish driver had hit an apex marker and was handed a 3 second penalty. Fortunately he held position over Martell by just three tenths with Bennett down in last.
Track maintenance took place ahead of the Semi-finals to address a hole that was forming where the cars rejoined the tarmac after the jump. While an apex barrier had been placed there the tarmac was being ripped up where cars were braking for the Devil’s Elbow.
Eriksson took the lead into turn 1 from pole but Martell looked to go around the outside. He was alongside before being squeezed out as the corner tightened and was forced to lift off to avoid going off the track. He took an early joker lap in a bid to challenge for victory and started to close in on the RX Cartel driver. However, Eriksson held a big enough advantage to win. Veiby failed to start after turning up to the grid late.
Connor Martell “We made contact on the first turn at [the steering] shot me off and I lost a lot of time. Gaining it back but couldn’t gain the time back.”
McConnell got the best launch and cut across Gronholm to take first through the opening bends. Gronholm followed closely until he had a slide across the jump. The Fin held it together and kept second. Gronholm took the detour early and was able to come out ahead of Bennett. McConnell waited until the last lap to respond but lost out on the run to the line.
It meant that Eriksson and Gronholm qualified the 2 OMSE cars into the Lydden Hill final on row 3.
The remaining 4 cars had one final opportunity to make it to the final. Martel pulled clear at the start with McConnell looking to go around the outside. Veiby had a sniff up the inside before backing off, after spinning in a similar situation yesterday. The cars were line astern over the jump one lap 1. Veiby was the only driver to dive into the joker lap and closed in on Bennett.
Out front Martel was quickly caught then passed by McConnell when the VSC’s car went into limp mode. In the chaos Bennett half spun out of the hairpin after light contact with Veiby. The Norwegian was able to get better drive onto the straight and went around the outside at Paddock Bend.
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With 1 lap to go Bennett retaliated into Talladega and pushed Veiby slightly wide where the Xite driver was able to slot into second. Bennett flew over the jump and hit the apex barrier just before the Devil’s Elbow. Veiby on a big push spun coming down the jump. He quickly spun back around but had already lost around 5 seconds to the British driver.
McConnell won to advance to the final but post race 3 penalties were given out. Both Veiby and Bennett had 3 seconds added for track limits infringements, effectively neutralising the effect. The biggest penalty went the way of Bennett who was demoted behind Veiby for his forceful contact and left the Xite Racing team owner out of the final.
Connor Martell “I knew we would be quickest in the LCQ. Unfortunately the car went to 30% power.”
Larsson made the best start off the front row while teammate Bakkerud covered him behind having started from third. Meeke looked to hold second place but it was Pastrana who made the boldest move into turn 1. Having drawn alongside Meeke he braked latest of anyone and went all the way around the outside of Talladega. However, he ran just a bit too wide and came down back across the track. He struck the rear left of McConnell’s car before Meeke and then Veiby plowed into the almost stationary Pastrana.
Larsson lead towards the jump from his teammate while McConnell continued onward with only a broken toe arm on his car. Both OSME cars came through next with Eriksson having just avoided the carnage on the inside. Gronholm had run really wide and couldn’t see what was ahead. As he rejoined the track Pastrana had gone one way while Veiby and Meeke went the other leaving a clear gap for Gronholm to go through.
Pastrana had a front right puncture while Meeke and Veiby had caved in front forcing Meeke the Pastrana to retire on consecutive laps. Gronholm was the first to joker which let him close in on the battling pair of McConnell and Eriksson. Bakkerud covered off Gronholm on the next lap but was now right up behind Eriksson.
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Larsson took his detour on lap 3 and stayed in first while behind Bakkerud was able to pass Eriksson on track who was struggling with an overheated rear tyre. He let his teammate through at Devil’s Elbow with McConnell ahead and still yet to joker. When he did joker on the last lap he dropped to fourth and post race was hit with a three second penalty for hitting the foam marker on lap 1. Veiby managed to pass the ailing Eriksson on the final tour but wasn’t close enough to capitalise on McConnell’s penalty.
However, out front it was Robin Larsson who took the first ever Group E victory. It was an RX Cartel 1-2 with Andreas Bakkerud coming home next just 4 tenths behind. Niclas Gronholm completed the podium having never driven an electric car until yesterday.
Robin Larsson “It’s always nice to win, it’s been a while. We had a perfect weekend. The track was a little bit more difficult to drive. Tried to stay away from the track markers. Try to get those clean laps.”
Niclas Gronholm “A bit over my expectations to end up on the podium. I out-braked myself a bit and couldn’t see anything for 3 or 4 seconds. When the spray ended I saw three cars going different directions. We have commitments in World RX, if it’s possible to do some other rounds I would like to.”
Travis Pastrana “I was three wide on the outside. I tried to go in a little too hot and couldn’t make it stick. Really disappointing for myself and the team and for anyone I hit coming back down the course.
Larsson takes a 9 point lead over Bakkerud having had a perfect weekend. Gronholm is a further 7 back but will not race in Sweden due to prior commitments in World Rallycross. McConnell is best of the rest on 36, 13 back from the championship leader. The next event will take place at the end of July in Sweden at Strängnäs Motorstadion.
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Fraser McConnell came back from a poor morning to win the Supercar final. He spun in the Heat race after a differential failure but bounced back to win the LCQ to put him on the front row. Yury Belevskiy led the final but McConnell used the joker strategy to find his way past the Swiss racer. He tried to pass for victory but settled for second after shredding his rear tyre with 3 corner to go. Patrick O’Donovan completed the podium
Fraser McConnell “It’s all a team effort. The car was going through some technical difficulties.”
Simon Olofsson turned his weekend around with victory in the final. The young racer rolled yesterday at the Kent track and raced with broken suspension the rest of the day. However, he stayed out front the whole day including the restarted final. On the first run George McGennis and Caspar Jansson came together breaking the suspension on each of their cars. Both continued in a bid to beat each other. Lane Vacala caused the red flag after destroying the barriers in the joker lap. He had a broken bonnet and the windshield was completely dusted over without working windscreen wipers. Tommi Hallman and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky completed the podium.
Hallman leads Jansson in the European series with the cars completing 6 rounds across 3 different weekends.
Simon Olofsson “Yesterday was rough. We thought we had the car together, today it was. Really good day.”
It was an all Enholm affair in the Crosscar final. Sebastian Enholm led sister Frida to the checkered flag with plenty of battling in the fight for second place. Jimmie Osterberg finished in third with second to fourth separated by 8 tenths. Pasi Penttinen holds a slim advantage over both Enholms.
Sebastian Enholm “Today we get a new engine. I win and my sister is second place, it’s incredible.”
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