Third for Trogen in South Africa amid busy dual-drive weekend

Finnish driver Sami-Matti Trogen, the 2018 RX Academy Champion, completed his prize drive season in the RX2 International Series at Cape Town in South Africa with his and SET Promotion’s second successive podium.

It was a busy weekend for the 17-year old, who embarked on not only the season finale of the official FIA World Rallycross Championship support category, but also the sixth round of the iRacing Rallycross World Championship, as points’ leader.

Trogen’s weekend in RX2 got off to a strong start and he placed fourth at the end of the opening day, before climbing from the ‘real-world’ Supercar Lites machine into the simulator to continue his iRX title-challenge with the SET Esports squad.

Thanks to hard to hard work by the Gronholm RX and SET team’s in the Killarney race circuit paddock, a temporary simulator had been built in Africa, and while Trogen was pushed off by another competitor in the iRX final, a good points haul meant he extended his lead in the series.

Returning to RX2 on Sunday, Trogen had a challenging Q3 and Q4, including having the steering broken in first corner contact, and dropped to sixth overall in the Intermediate Classification.

However, a strong drive in the semi-finals ensured a third row start for the final, where he made a good launch, climbed places at the start with fast pace and guided by spotter Joni Wiman on the radio, saved his joker until the final lap and returned to the main circuit third to claim his second podium in a row. He finished the year fifth in the points in the competitive series.

Sami-Matti Trogen (FIN) #22, RX2:

“Qualifying was quite difficult overall, but I got a good start in the final. I was a little lucky when [Ben-Philip] Gundersson made a mistake, but the last laps were very good and I got third on the last lap out of the joker. Joni was pushing me a lot on the radio and I knew that I had better pace than [Vasiliy] Gryazin, so I was thinking that we would be side-by-side or something out of the joker, but there was maybe more of a gap than I thought in the end. I’m really happy to finish on the podium.

It was quite difficult to do RX2 and iRacing this weekend because I didn’t have so much time to practice in the simulator, but it what was we needed to do. Luckily the iRacing championship contenders didn’t get into the final like I did, so that was good and I extended the championship lead. We have another race already next weekend. I like the track in Sonoma and of course I want to win, but I won’t take too big risks because we have the championship lead and the racing is a bit different in the virtual world.”

Ian Davies, SET Promotion RX2 Crew Chief and spotter:

“Sami-Matti did an amazing job to come from the back row of the grid in the final, on this particular circuit with some great tactics. The last couple of laps in the final were very good. It was just one of those fantastic team days, where the driver and everybody worked together brilliantly. We made some changes between the semi-final and final to the car which I think worked. As a team, and for Sami-Matti as a driver, we never gave up. We have to remember that he’s 17-years old. He had a good event in iRacing on Saturday night to continue leading the World Championship, then we had to refocus on the job today to get to the podium. We’re a small team at SET Promotion, but we have a fantastic driver and I really, really hope that he makes a decision to return to rallycross next year and use the experience that he’s gained.”

Jussi Pinomäki, SET Promotion Team Principal:

“It was a good weekend overall for Sami-Matti, I’m really pleased with his drive in the finals, he was fast when it really mattered to make it onto the podium. The whole team worked hard to enable him to both RX2 and iRX and the level in both series should not be underestimated, so he did a very good job and has learned a lot he can use to build on in the future.”

Find full event information, results and points on the FIA World Rallycross Championship website.

Picture: Jan Kåre Rafoss