Joel Eriksson progressed past the group stages of the Race Of Champions at his first attempt at motorsport’s annual best-of-the-best event, enjoying a weekend of much fun in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh along the way.
As one of the youngest participants at the ROC, 19-year-old Eriksson was invited courtesy of his performances in the 2017 FIA Formula 3 European Championship, which he finished as runner-up.
Battling it out on a purpose-built track inside Riyadh’s King Fahad International Stadium, Eriksson duly went up against some of the biggest stars of international motorsport, including names such as David Coulthard, Petter Solberg, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Tom Kristensen.
The event featured a knock-out system of heats, with Eriksson immediately facing serious competition in the opening group stages; which saw him go up against three reigning top-level champions in the shape of fellow Swede Johan Kristoffersson (world rallycross), René Rast (DTM) and Lando Norris (Eriksson’s own main FIA F3 title rival).
While losing out to DTM rival-to-be Rast in the first heat, Eriksson fought back with consecutive wins over Norris and Kristoffersson in the following runs, allowing him to progress into the quarter finals alongside his countryman in an encouraging development for Sweden.
Once there, however, the journey eventually came to an end for Eriksson, who just narrowly lost out to former rally and rallycross world champion Petter Solberg (Norway).
The finale ultimately played out between Solberg and 13-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner David Coulthard, with the Scot emerging triumphant to clinch his second ROC trophy.
Alongside the individual contest, the preceding Nations Cup event saw Eriksson and Kristoffersson pair up as Team Sweden, winning four out of six heats in the group stages. That still proved not quite enough to make it through to the next phase, however, and the Nations Cup title eventually landed in the hands of Team Germany thanks to the efforts of Rast and two-time world endurance champion Timo Bernhard.
The drivers went head to head in a series of different cars, ranging from NASCAR-style machinery and pick-up trucks to KTM X-Bows and Ariel Atoms.
“I’ve had so much fun this weekend; it’s been such a pleasure to come here, and challenging as well,” says Joel Eriksson. “It’s been an incredible week. Of course, it would have been great to make the finals, but I’m still pleased with my performance. I think this is an event where experience helps a lot, like we could see from the end result, and it was not easy jumping from one car to another for just a few laps.
“I’m happy to have beaten Lando in both our heats – that was good revenge for F3 – and also to get the better of Johan in the ROC Buggy. It’s obviously important to win the Swedish duel! I can live with Petter knocking me out in the quarter finals. After all, he is a rally and rallycross world champion and he’s done this race many times, so that’s alright. I enjoyed every second of this weekend and I’m grateful to ROC for giving me the opportunity. I’d love to come back in the future.”
Joel Eriksson is set to race with BMW in the DTM this season.