Thomas Bryntesson has begun the defence of his RallyX Nordic crown in fine form with a battling victory in the opening round of the 2018 season at Holjes. Lukas Walfridson and Mats Ohman completed the podium after a bruising final that saw just three cars reach the chequered flag.
On a hot and sunny day at the iconic Swedish venue, JC Raceteknik driver Bryntesson demonstrated impressive form all weekend but was forced to spend part of his race day making up ground in the Intermediate Classification after contact at the start of his race in Q2 forced him off course.
Nevertheless, Bryntesson fought back with a convincing win in the semi-final before fending off a determined Peter Hedstrom at the start of the final to reel off a lights-to-flag win in his Ford Fiesta. He takes an early lead in the standings by four points.
“We had really good speed all day,” the Norwegian driver commented. “I hit the bank at the start of Q2 but we fought back and in the final we went flat out, so it all came together. I think it will be a tough fight this year, there are many good drivers and teams, so I expect it to be even closer in the next few races.”
In an eventful last race of the day, Lukas Walfridson resisted an intense challenge from Oliver Solberg to claim a hard-fought second place finish in his Helmia Renault Clio. The Swede’s team faced a race against time to get his car out for the final after developing a technical issue during his semi-final win, but he was in fine form when it mattered.
OSRX’s Solberg looked to be on course for a podium only for the 17-year old to spin out on the final lap in his efforts to unseat Walfridson from second. Instead, Mats Ohman was the big beneficiary as he recovered from a poor start to pick his way up the order as the third and final finisher.
Indeed, together with Solberg, neither Hedstrom nor Philip Gehrman took chequered flag in the final. The result was particularly disappointing for Hedstrom, whose consistency had earlier earned him Top Qualifier (TQ) in the Intermediate Classification before claiming a convincing win over Solberg and Oliver Eriksson in one of the three semi-final races.
However, after racing hard with Bryntesson on lap one of the final, the VW Polo developed a problem that forced him to retire. Gehrman in the Eklund VW Beetle also pulled up whilst running fourth.
With 17 Supercars competing in the opening round, a pioneering 3 semi-final format was debuted in Holjes and proved a major success in keeping the competition open and exciting for the entire field.
It meant that, with the top two from three semi-finals going through to the final, Eriksson was a big name to miss out at this stage. The Olsbergs MSE driver found himself up against Hedstrom and Solberg in a high-quality final after failing to finish his Q3 race due to technical issues. However, an off in his Ford Fiesta would ultimately drop him out of contention.
In a Supercar Lites final, Guillaume De Ridder claimed a convincing win in his first race for Olsbergs MSE after getting the hole-shot off the line and protecting the lead thereafter. The Belgian, who is tipped as a title favourite in the RX2 International Series, finished ahead of impressive youngster Linus Ostlund, with Glenn Haug completing the podium.
In RX Academy, Jimi Kalliomaki resisted a spirited challenge from Sami-Matti Trogen to claim honours in the one-make series, while Nils Andersson was dominant in the SRX class.
Round 2 of the RallyX Nordic will take place at Arvika in Sweden on 2-3 June.