Fri 07 Jul 2023

Reiersen red hot in Värmland to lead Junior ERC

Isak Reiersen produced a stunning display of flat-out gravel driving to lead the FIA Junior ERC Championship contenders through the opening day of BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia.

The 19-year-old, who is making his second start in the young driver category, holds an impressive advantage of 20.9sec after eight high-speed Swedish stages aboard his Hankook-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally4.

Reiersen’s fellow Swede Patrik Hallberg, who is competing in the Hankook-supported category for the first time, is second overnight in another Fiesta and the only driver apart from Reiersen to have set a fastest stage time.

Mille Johansson moved into third place when the unfortunate Max McRae retired with broken steering on SS7 to make it an all-Swedish Fiesta-driving top three.

“I’m surprised,” said Reiersen. “Me and Patrik have been fighting in the Swedish championship the whole year and it’s good to get confirmation that our speed is really good against the guys from the ERC.”

Reiersen was rapid from the outset, outpacing championship leader Ola Nore by 5.2sec on SS1 before going 6.7sec than the next quickest driver – Hallberg – on SS2. He beat Hallberg again, this time by 4.5sec on SS3 before making it a clean sweep of stage wins on SS4 to reach the midday service leading by a hugely impressive 18.9sec.

Despite hailing from the Värmland region where the rally is based, Reiersen insisted he hadn’t been able to count on local stage knowledge.

“The roads here are much faster than the normal Swedish roads – the second stage was so wide, more like Finland than Sweden, so it’s actually a new experience for me,” he said. “I hit some rocks [this morning] and the steering got a little bit bent but no drama and no moments.”

Hallberg was fastest on SS7 before matching Reiersen’s time on SS8 to complete a strong day. “We started a bit cautious because this is our first time on the Hankook tyres but we’ve been building the speed up, although it’s a long rally so we’ve been taking it stage by stage.”

Mille Johansson, the youngest Junior ERC driver having turned 18 in April, reported losing time in “some braking points” to hold third with Norbert Maior, who relied on a crowdfunding appeal to take part in Sweden, charging up to fourth during the afternoon.

The Romanian is a slender 0.6sec behind Johansson with Roberto Daprà just 0.4sec back in fifth, such is the closely-matched nature of the Junior ERC competition.

After winning the opening two Junior ERC rounds in Poland and Latvia, Ola Nore is sixth after eight stages. “It’s not been good,” the Norwegian said. “Our test road was only two kilometres and only two corners counted. There is a lot to improve because when I’m turning in the car slides and I need to pull the handbrake to turn it more.”

Victor Hansen, a double podium finisher in 2023, had high hopes of a strong home result but is seventh overnight after reporting that “I don’t have the feeling”.

Simon Andersson, who has switched from Peugeot to Renault power for his home Junior ERC round, said he was too hesitant on some fast sections while he continues to adapt to his family-owned Clio. He’s eighth overnight.

Behind ninth-placed Mattia Zanin, gravel novice Alfred Kramer said he has been “learning a lot and the feeling is getting better and better all the time”.

Mark-Egert Tiits was delayed by stopping to change a damaged front-left tyre on SS2, which the Estonian picked up five kilometres from the start of the test. Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Aoife Raftery’s strong finishing record in Junior ERC is over after she rolled into retirement 7.1km from the start of SS2.

McErlean OFF on SS5: ERC Bauhaus Royal Rally of Scandinavia 2023

Timo Schulz rolled on SS1, reached the end of the stage with damage to his Opel Corsa but went no further. After turning mechanic to make amends for his off, the German is set to restart on day two.

Mexican Patrice Spitalier, in his first Junior ERC season, retired with damage caused by contact with an anti-cut on SS1 while illness forced Miko Jalava to withdraw after the opening stage. He won’t restart on day two.

As well as leading Junior ERC, Reiersen holds the initiative in the ERC4 category in which Norman Kreuter is on course to continue his unbroken points-scoring run.

William Creighton and ERC3 rival Dmitry Feofanov both failed to make it through Friday’s route. Creighton stopped after SS3 with a double puncture, while Feofanov rolled into retirement on the same stage.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM