2017 Mid-Season Review: Oliver Eriksson
STATS (through 6 of 12 rounds): 6th in Supercar points (312), best finish 5th, 3 heat wins
POSITIVES: The 2015 GRC Lites champion joined teammate Mitchell deJong and Cabot Bigham as Supercar rookies for 2016, but it was Eriksson who would draw first blood with a heat victory in the first round in New England. He’d return to the top spot the very next day, and add a third heat win in Ottawa, to lead both the rookie class and his Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE squad in heat victories.
“It was a great learning experience,” Eriksson said of his debut in Memphis, where he finished fifth. “We built up speed and confidence through the weekend—we were a bit off in the beginning, but after the semifinal we had really good pace, so I felt confident going into the final. It was a bit messy in the first few corners, but we came out of it in an okay spot.”
NEGATIVES: With only two top-five finishes, Eriksson’s sixth place stature in Supercar points is in some ways more a result of persistence than performance. The next four drivers in the championship have all missed a final along the way, leaving up to 50 points on the table; while the Swede has had his share of DNFs, he’s come out of every final with at least 24 points.
Right now, he has a comfortable 34-point gap on seventh place driver Chris Atkinson, but the gap to the top spot has begun to widen. Only 40 points out of first after Louisville, Eriksson fell 85 back of the lead in New England and currently sits 106 out of the top spot. It’s a long season, and things like Atkinson’s ascent and Scott Speed’s DNF-related drop prove that anything can shuffle the deck at any time, but it’s hard to bet on when or where others might run into trouble.
OUTLOOK: Eriksson was in no rush to jump to Supercar last year, choosing instead to defend his Lites title and coming within five points of doing it. He’s continued that gradual development throughout this season, making steps toward the front in every event. He may not be ready to contend for final wins or the overall title just yet, but a podium before year’s end isn’t out of the question.
Photo credit: Louis Yio