Finally! We’re racing again! The lengthy coronavirus-enforced layoff hasn’t exactly left us twiddling our thumbs here in the DirtFish office, as our regular readers will attest to, but we’ve been itching for the return of real world motorsport.
And here it is. There will be plenty to look out for over the coming weekend, and we’ve picked out our favorite key taking points ahead of what promises to be a spectacular competition.
Fraser McConnell’s Supercar debut – Dominik Wilde
Fraser McConnell has emerged as one of the brightest rising rallycross talents over the last two years, with a championship-winning run in ARX2 and consistent top five finishes in RX2.
Now the Jamaican is moving up to the main game with Olsbergs MSE, driving the same Ford Fiesta ST Mk 8 that won in World Rallycross last year at the very same track. It’s quite the step up, with double the horsepower being the biggest difference.
Given his Lites pedigree, we know McConnell is a force in rallycross, but now he’ll face his biggest test to date lining up against world champions, European champions and Nordic champions. If McConnell can run at the sharp end this weekend, he’ll run at the sharp end on any weekend, without a doubt.
Oliver Solberg’s rallycross return – Dominik Wilde
Oliver Solberg has made no secret of his desire to win a world championship title in rallying, and while he was serving his apprenticeship in the Latvian Rally Championship he also ran a full RallyX Nordic campaign in 2018, and won it.
Since then the teenager has continued his development in rallying, competing in both the US and Europe, leaving rallycross behind.
Now he’s back. He might be two years removed from rallycross, but Solberg is now a more experienced driver and a more complete driver. If he was good as a 16-year-old with little running in four-wheel-drive machinery, just imagine what he’ll be able to do now.
Competing alongside double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson and double European RX champion Robin Larsson will provide the perfect yardstick too. We might not get to see Solberg in rallycross again until he’s wrapped up his rallying career in a few decades time, so this weekend will definitely be special.
How will Neuville fare against RX regulars? – Alasdair Lindsay
WRC megastar Thierry Neuville is competing in the CrossCar category, teaming up with reigning World RX Champion Timmy Hansen. He doesn’t usually race wheel-to-wheel against other cars but make no mistake, he’ll be competitive from the off at Magic Weekend.
Neuville raced one of his brother Yannick’s LifeLive TN5 buggies as a guest in the RACB X CrossCar Belgium season opener at Mettet – a former World RX venue – in early March. Can you guess what happened? Yes, of course you can. Neuville won.
Expect him to be right at the sharp end contending for victory this week, even if he has his work cut out to beat highly skilled locals like Jimmie Österberg, Isak Reiersen, Julle Ljungdahl and Timmy Enlund.
This is also more than a fun day out for Neuville. He’s out there to prove the family business’s hard graft has created a buggy capable of usurping the highly popular Speedcar Xtrem, which makes up exactly 50% of the CrossCar field this weekend. The result matters. Expect him to drive accordingly.
Returning Legends – Stephen Brunsdon
Double World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm is the headline act in the ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend Legends class as he takes on a quartet of famous faces from the past.
Many will remember his monstrous X Games shunt eight years ago which properly knocked the Finn’s confidence and, for all intents and purposes, effectively ended his full-time driving career. That’s not to say that the affable father of current World RX star Niclas isn’t serious about winning though. A VIP appearance in the CrossCar Challenge at Höljes 12 months ago, after having tested Grönholm Jr’s Hyundai i20 Supercar “for a bit of fun” proved the competitive juices were still flowing.
Equally up for the fight is former RX driver and Olsbergs MSE boss Andréas Eriksson, who at least has some recent racing experience, having slotted into one of his Supercar Lites during the RX Quarantine Shootout he co-arranged with the Finnskoga Motorklubb in May.
Also taking part is Henning Solberg (Petter’s brother) and Stig-Olof Walfridsson, but eyes will be on Per Eklund who, at the age of 74, will be keen to prove that age doesn’t mean anything when the lights go out.
Eriksson vs Larsson: RallyX Nordic rematch – Stephen Brunsdon
As title deciders go, last year’s RallyX Nordic was so dramatic it was almost cruel for Oliver Eriksson, who believed he had secured his first crown after chief rival Robin Larsson failed to make through the second semi-final.
After all, mathematically he had done it. There was no way Larsson could make it to the final… unless team-mate for the weekend Mattias Ekström sacrificed himself and gave Larsson the final spot on the grid.
Of course, this is what happened and the title went the way of Larsson by a single point. Ecstasy for Larsson, gut-wrenching disappointment for Eriksson.
This weekend will be the first time the pair will have competed against each other since the drama at Tierp Arena, with Eriksson (driving an unfamiliar Ford Fiesta instead of his Honda Civic) looking for revenge and nothing less.