Robin Larsson made Nitro Rallycross history by being the first top qualifier of the new all-electric Group E era at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom.
The Monster Energy RX Cartel driver, who was fastest in morning practice as well, made it to the final of the Battle Bracket after disposing of Niclas Grönholm, Oliver Eriksson, and team-mate Andreas Bakkerud in three hotly contested head-to-heads.
In the first of those, Larsson made the better getaway and resisted a first-lap charge from Olsbergs MSE’s Grönholm to win. In the battle with Bakkerud, it was the Norwegian who held the advantage for of the race, but Larsson’s early joker proved to be beneficial, with Bakkerud dropping back by the smallest of margins after taking the longer route on the final lap.
In the final Larsson faced off against Xite Energy Racing’s Kris Meeke, but it proved to be a muted affair with the five-time World Rally winner suffering an inverter failure at the start of the race.
Prior to that, Meeke had beaten Travis Pastrana – who spun at Talladega after clipping the wall at the penultimate corner a lap previously and damaging his power steering – and team-mate Oliver Bennett.
Bennett had his own history-making moment earlier on in the day, winning the very first Group E race, his opening battle with Ole Christian Veiby.
Meanwhile Pastrana, who comes into the weekend as reigning Nitro Rallycross champion, was one of six drivers to get a bye through the first round along with Meeke, Bakkerud, Fraser McConnell, Oliver Eriksson, and Pastrana’s Vermont SportsCar stablemate Conner Martell.
The two VSC drivers lined up together for a second-round race, with Martell prevailing on track only for a penalty for hitting a track marker on the exit of Talladega to later reverse the result. McConnell fell in his opening tie to Bakkerud.
In Supercars, Yury Belevskiy topped the bracket after defeating McConnell – the only driver pulling double duty this weekend – in the final. The duo finished ahead of Patrick O’Donovan, Tristan Ovenden, and Dominic Flitney in the category’s qualifying standings.
Reigning NRX NEXT champion Casper Jansson kicked off his European campaign in perfect fashion by dominating the first final of the weekend, again in NRX Next. The Olsbergs MSE driver led home team-mate Ole Henry Steinsholt in the six-lap contest, with SET Promotion’s Tommi Hallman completing the podium.
Lane Vacala was fourth, ahead of George Megennis who started the final on the third row of the grid after a harsh penalty for hitting a track marker in a heat race. He otherwise would have started on the front row.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Kyle Schwartz completed the finishers in the NEXT final, with Simon Olofsson pulling off halfway through the race with his car’s rear clamshell hanging loose.
The first CrossCar final of the weekend was won by Pasi Penttinen from Riku Huuhka and Isac Egonsson. Frida Enholm was fourth with Sebastian Enholm fifth and Thomas Eek Murstad classified sixth despite his race ending in the wall on the first lap of a restart.
The abbreviated final was a result of a crash between Ronalds Baldiņš and Jimmie Österberg that brought out a red flag and forced the race to be resumed after the conclusion of the Group E schedule.