As the main development driver for Nitro Rallycross’ FC1-X, Kevin Eriksson was something of a championship favorite going into the 2022-23 season, but the Olsbergs MSE driver only got his campaign underway at round three, sitting out the first two events through injury.
The nature of what caused the injury was kept largely quiet outside the paddock, with Eriksson even being entered for round one at Lydden Hill, but what really happened?
It all started during a pre-event shakedown away from Lydden Hill (thanks to the infamous restrictions imposed by local authorities on the British track) when Eriksson and the rest of the Olsbergs team was dialing in the latest updates for the entire grid of cars.
“I was testing everyone’s car before the UK round. Some cars were new, and I was doing a shakedown but we were mainly tuning in the push-to-pass function,” Eriksson explains to DirtFish. “I had done nine out of the 10 – there was only my car left – the ninth car was Travis [Pastrana]’s car and I was actually ready with it and we were just going to load it into the trailer.
“My father jumped into Travis’ car and I walked into the trailer and we were going to load it just to be efficient and ready, but somehow as he jumped in, he got stuck between the steering wheel and the pedal on full throttle and these cars are very fast so it just… he rammed me, it hit me and [it] went straight through the trailer, into the back of the tow car, where the car obviously stopped because he hit the back of that one and then I flew over that one and landed a couple of meters ahead of the tow car.
“I’ve been very lucky in a very unlucky situation – lucky in the way that the cover on the trailer was just a glass fiber one so it just exploded when the car rammed it,” he continues. “For sure if it would have been steel or aluminum, which is more common at least in Sweden, you don’t know exactly what would have happened.
“Of course I was in a lot of pain, but now looking back on it, I’ve been very lucky in the situation.”
Explaining the recovery process, Eriksson adds: “The recovery has been long, now it’s only the foot that is not back in perfect shape, I’m doing my rehab every week and so-on.
“To start with I didn’t really think about the foot so much because I was more in pain in the whole body, more bruised I would say because the foot was the only thing that was broken, luckily.
“We were a little bit afraid in the beginning about the lower back because I had some pain there but it was just a hard bruise. So the first two weeks really, it was more the cuts and the bruises that were the most painful.”
In spite of the injuries, Eriksson was back in the Lydden Hill paddock a couple of days later, albeit well clear of the driving seat. He attempted an on-track return a little over a month later when Nitro Rallycross headed to his home country of Sweden, but a pre-event test showed he wasn’t quite there yet as he contended with the ongoing recovery process.
“Every week that went I started to feel better and it was more the foot that was the long-term problem. Obviously at Strängnäs I was just halfway through my time and needed to have the cast on.
“I did go test my car on the Thursday on an airfield but pretty quickly I came to the conclusion that for the race it wouldn’t really feel like I was there doing my best because I couldn’t really do what I normally did. The foot was still slow and I had no movement in my ankle whatsoever. The pain you can always survive but the functionality was a different thing.
“So I decided on the Thursday to not do the Strängnäs race, but I was also doing some testing… obviously Strängnäs was the first time that we really came to the 700kW with the push-to-pass, I wanted to try that! That was really amazing! So I did some testing as well.”
While being sidelined through injury is never a good thing, over the summer Eriksson and his girlfriend welcomed their first child together, and after spending the best part of a year in Spain developing the FC1-X with QEV Technologies, the additional time at home was at least welcome.
“I mean, yes, but at the same time, it should have been me taking care of my girlfriend,” he points out. “But I couldn’t really do it, but she was strong and she helped me.
“We were still flat-out building cars, so everything was going on and after the first few weeks I did feel a little bit better so I could at least be home, on the couch doing computer work and stuff. I was back working that kind of way pretty early, but yes, I did have more time maybe this year. Maybe not quality time, but I did have more time at home that’s for sure. Because pretty much until my accident I’d spent more time down in Spain than at home so I hadn’t been much at home, but I had been more at home.”
He finally returned to the track at Nitro Rallycross’ first American round of the year in Minnesota, and while his weekend ended early after a roll in a heat race on the Sunday, he made it all the way to the battle bracket final the day before, being beaten only by defending champion and eventual event winner Travis Pastrana. The injury? Of little hindrance, at least in the car.
“I would say when I’m behind the wheel I don’t think so much about the foot,” he says. “I would say I have movement just enough that I can go full throttle, which is enough.
“I’m still losing 10 centimeter movement compared to my left foot, but when I started my rehab it was a 24 centimeter difference. My doctor says I will lose some, they don’t know how much.
“For sure, I’m sore and stuff in the evenings, that’s why I’m still using a cane when I can, just to minimize the pain and the swelling in the evenings, but I can’t say that I am hampered by anything now.”
But as noted at the start of this tale, Eriksson was many people’s championship favorite for this season, but Eriksson has always seen things somewhat differently.
“Yeah right now I don’t think anything of the championship, to be honest,” he insists. “And I didn’t really do it so much beforehand either because there was so much work to get going, so I hadn’t really started thinking about anything of my own race. I try to separate quite a lot and obviously the company stuff in my world comes first.
“But favorite or not, the other teams tested a lot beforehand so it’s hard to say if I saw myself as [the] favorite. I don’t doubt my skill at all, but at the same time, before Nitro last year I hadn’t driven in the highest level in a complete championship for two years.
“This year, I knew I was going to be fast and I knew I was going to be up there – we saw the pace at Minneapolis was really good. [There was] some stuff that I could have done better but it’s always, when you miss that much you always, at least I do, need a race or something to get going.
“The crash [in Minnesota] was very boring in one was but I can’t do so much about the puncture in the wrong time, so it was a shame to not really get the result, I think the podium I for sure felt was possible and Travis was very fast but I felt I was the one that could really give him a run for the money in the final there.
“It was a shame, but yeah, the championship, I hadn’t thought that much about it.”
Recovered to a point he can compete, back on the grid, and with the car “a finished product” according to Eriksson, he can fully focus on the racing going forward.
“Now I don’t need to think about that, I’ll be some team manager as well for the team, so I’m doing that and I can focus on my own racing so now I want to start thinking more about results,” he says. “Obviously with everything that’s happened this year, it’s been a very strange year.”