The 2018 RX Academy begins this weekend at Holjes in Sweden (May 6), where seven nationalities will take part in the second running of the unique concept.
Founded in late 2016, RX Academy took place over five rounds last season in Finland and has expanded to include two Swedish events this year.
Created to provide a professional platform on which drivers can begin their rallycross careers, learning about all aspects of being a professional racing driver as they aim to compete at FIA World Championship level, RX Academy has already given a number of drivers a helping hand in climbing the motorsport ladder.
2017 Champion Jesse Kallio is racing in the FIA European Rallycross Super1600 Championship this year as his free prize drive for claiming the crown, while RX Academy podium-finisher Jami Kalliomaki will compete in the RX2 International Series this season.
Having spent time at the RX Academy pre-season training camp last week in Finland, where competitors received mentoring on the physical and mental approach to competition, media and PR training and driver tuition from subject-matter experts, all drivers took part in an official pre-season test in Sweden on Tuesday.
The factory-built, SET Promotion-developed identical Renault Clio RS RXs have been retained for 2018, allowing driving talent to shine through. The front-wheel drive turbocharged cars have 220 horsepower, six-speed sequential gearboxes and use control Cooper Tires.
Attracting interest from around the world, RX Academy welcomes two drivers from the other side of the globe this year as returning competitor Troy Dowel (#87) will again travel from Australia to continue his development this season, having displayed race-by-race improvement through 2017 and become a front-runner in the RX Aus series.
Australian Troy Dowel.
He will be joined from the Southern Hemisphere by Sloan Cox (#21), a rally and rallycross driver who has selected RX Academy as his best opportunity to progress his career in Europe as he bids to move onto the World stage.
Like Dowel, Russian driver Marat Knyazev (#96) also returns to RX Academy to continue his learning, the former snowcross champion also contesting rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championship this season with a Renault Twingo.
New Zealander Sloan Cox.
Finnish 15-year old Sami-Matti Trogen (#22) will focus solely on rallycross in 2018, having spent time last year switching between the mixed-surface sport and Formula 4 single-seater circuit racing. The Finn won the final round of RX Academy On Ice in Norway back in March.
Estonian driver Marko Muru (#27), Swede Isak Reiersen (#70) and Finn Jimi Kalliomäki (#95) also used RX Academy On Ice to prepare for their summer campaigns.
Muru has experience of competing in Estonian rallycross and won the Junior1600 category in 2015, while for fellow 14-year old Reiersen, RX Academy On Ice was his first experience of racing a car, having spent his career so far competing in crosskarts. He won the 125cc Swedish Junior Championship in 2016 and finished second in the North European Zone series last year.
Up until 2018, Kalliomäki has also followed a similar path in crosskart, having begun his driving career in karting at just four years of age, and like Reiersen, spent time getting to grips with the Clio RS over the winter. Polish driver Oskar Leitgeber (#3) has joined RX Academy for the first time in 2018, having switched from karting – where he has achieved success at a junior level – to cars, last season.
The opening round this weekend takes place at the world-famous Holjes circuit in Sweden, giving RX Academy drivers the chance to sample the same circuit that the best rallycross drivers in the world will compete at in July, as part of World RX.
Drivers will continue to receive mentoring from top-name professionals on all aspects of becoming professional rallycross drivers through the season, with three rounds being held alongside RallyX Nordic and two together with the Finnish Rallycross Championship. See calendar here.
“After a very good first year, we have worked hard over the winter to build on those foundations for 2018. It’s extremely exciting that we have already had drivers come through RX Academy moving to the next stage in their career, and while our focus is on helping the current crop of talent to learn as much as they can this year, we will be keeping an eye on those that have moved on too,” said Jussi Pinomäki, Head of RX Academy.
“There is a lot of talent in our 2018 line-up. Last season we had five different winners from five races, and a three-way fight for the title in the last round. I expect no different this year, and while the prize drive is the big goal, RX Academy is as much about giving as much knowledge as we can to these talented youngsters as they look to the future. Joining RallyX Nordic for three events this season will be very good, and we can’t wait to get started.”
RX Academy Director Sami Puumalainen is eager to see the action unfold this weekend.
“There was an amazing atmosphere in the pre-season training camp at Eerikkilä between all of the coaches and drivers last week. Everybody bonded really well and I think we will have a great season,” he said.
“The lap times at the official pre-season test were extremely close, it’s far too close to call and we can’t wait to get the drivers out on track at one of the greatest rallycross tracks in the world this weekend.”
The winner of RX Academy 2018 will win a free drive in the 2019 FIA European Rallycross Championship for Super1600, or a drive in the five European-based rounds of the RX2 International Series with multiple European Rallycross Championship winning team SET Promotion.
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