Triple champion Chrissy Palmer won the opening round of the 2018 RX150 Rallycross Championship at Silverstone last weekend, the first ever rallycross event held at the venue (March 17).
However, Palmer was made to work hard to secure victory by FIA World Rallycross Championship star Kevin Eriksson, the Swede pressuring Palmer for the lead right until the final meters of the six-lap final.
In challenging slippery morning conditions on the new track, on a bitterly cold day, Palmer had set the fastest time in Q1, only for returning former champion Leo Forster, making his first start in the series in a number of years, to set the best time in both Q2 and Q3.
Palmer secured pole position for the all-important final by virtue of consistency in the qualifying stages, but it was Swedish driver Eriksson who made the best start from row two to challenge for the lead, as Forster ran wide. Palmer led on the opening lap from Eriksson and Forster, while 2017 RX150 title-contender John Ward fended off the attentions of the two most recent MSA British Rallycross Champions, Nathan Heathcote (2017) and Dan Rooke (2016).
As the trio jostled for position, Rooke had a half spin towards the end of lap three, while up front Eriksson set a succession of fastest laps in pursuit of Palmer’s lead. Having touched a wall and damaged an upright, Forster also later spun, each driver behind moving up a position as a result, Ward claiming the final podium spot behind winner Palmer and Eriksson. Heathcote wound up fourth, with Stephen Jones fifth and Rooke sixth. Forster made it to the end in seventh.
“The competition was really amazing, it was really nice to have a hard battle with Kevin in the final. He got to grips with the buggy extremely quickly,” said Palmer. “We’ve solved the engine problems we had last year and now we’ve got a problem with the gearbox, but we’ll go away and work on it, and hopefully at Lydden Hill we’ll be 100% again. It was a great day anyway, it might have been a little stressful but I’ve really enjoyed it and managed to win, so I couldn’t have asked for much more to be honest.”
For World RX race-winner Eriksson, it was his first ever appearance in any kind rallycross buggy. “I would want to win but I’m happy, it was my first time ever in a buggy and it was really fun,” he said. “I struggled with the start in the beginning so that was tough, but the speed was good. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it – that’s what it’s all about. But, of course I want to win, I’m a racer. With these cars you have to really rev the engine, you need to push and the more you push the limits the faster you go. It’s a very fun car to drive.”
RX150 Rallycross Championship promotor Ollie O’Donovan was delighted at the competitive performance of entire field in the season-opener. “I think Leo would have given Chrissy a good challenge if he hadn’t bent a hub and then spun, but I’m also very happy that Kevin gave Chrissy a good run for his money,” said O’Donovan. “He made Chrissy work very hard for it. I’m very happy with the performance of the buggies, they went well and the boys all drove them exceptionally well. Nathan built himself up through the day and it’s a real pity that the earth lead problem effected Dan’s performance early in the day, but overall I think it was very good. Roll on round two.”
The second round of the RX150 Rallycross Championship will take place at Lydden Hill in Kent on April 2.
2018 RX150 Rallycross Championship Round One, Silverstone, Result:
1 Chrissy Palmer
2 Kevin Eriksson
3 John Ward
4 Nathan Heathcote
5 Stephen Jones
6 Dan Rooke
7 Leo Forster
2018 RX150 Rallycross Championship Standings:
1 Chrissy Palmer 30
2 Kevin Eriksson 27
3 John Ward 25
4 Nathan Heathcote 23
5 Stephen Jones 21
6 Dan Rooke 19
7 Leo Forster 18