Sebastian Eriksson: “We’ve Come a Long Way” With OMSE, Honda Civic
Seventh place wasn’t the result that Sebastian Eriksson wanted at Red Bull Global Rallycross Memphis. But perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t the result he should have earned, either.
The championship runner-up and a race winner two years ago, Eriksson was a key part of Honda’s first Red Bull GRC season in 2016 as he returned to Olsbergs MSE. Though he didn’t return to the winner’s circle, he did earn four podiums, cementing his status as the veteran driver on a retooled team that also includes rookies Mitchell deJong and Oliver Eriksson this season.
When all was said and done, it was Sebastian who took the team’s first heat victory of the season in Memphis, earned a front-row spot on the final grid, and spent time fighting for the victory—all thanks to an intensive development program that has seen the OMSE Civic close the gap to Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross and its dominant Beetles.
“We’ve come a long way!” Eriksson said after the Memphis final. “We’ve done a lot of testing, the car is easier to drive, and we’ve improved in a lot of areas. I would say everything on the car is better than it was last year. Obviously, the other guys have done their work too, but I definitely feel like we’re closer than we’ve been. We were fighting for the victory until we had bad luck.”
That bad luck came after the initial start to the final, which was called off after contact left Patrik Sandell unable to move on the track. Multiple drivers took contact on the first attempt, with all three OMSE drivers among those to take damage; however, after the restart, it became clear that Eriksson would have the hardest fight to cross the finish line.
“The restart was quite similar to the first (start),” Eriksson added. “I came out third, after the two VWs. I tried to push my best, but unfortunately, because of some hits before the restart, we had some problems with the car. I lost the power steering on the second lap, and then it was game over for me. It’s way too heavy to steer one of these cars without power steering, so I just had to limp through the final, which wasn’t what we wanted.”
Still, with the Civic now in its second year, and a trio of talented drivers behind the wheel, the team’s elder statesman—despite only being 24 years old—is confident in the team’s long-term chances. 2016 was the first time that Olsbergs MSE went winless in a Supercar season, but if Eriksson and company have their way, it should also be the last.
“We felt really good coming into last year in the first test, but I learned that it’s not as easy as you think with a brand new car,” he concluded. “It takes a lot of work, and the tracks are all different—you have to change the setup for all of the tracks.
“(This year), we did a lot of testing in the offseason and we feel much more prepared. Our team is young and hungry to win!”
Photo credit: Louis Yio