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Red Bull GRC: Oliver Eriksson building off GRC Lites title defense


JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - The plan was never for Oliver Eriksson, the talented 17-year-old Swede in the No. 16 Olsbergs MSE X Forces GRC Lites entry, to win the GRC Lites championship in his first attempt at it.

But since he did, and since he’s still only 17, he’s become an even more well-rounded driver in his second season in the second division of Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Eriksson, who was on par with fellow teenaged talented teammate Austin Cindric last year, has now somewhat stepped up into a team leader role at OMSE’s GRC Lites program with rookie teammates Miki Weckstrom and Cole Keatts developing every week.

As Eriksson explained, the development has come naturally into his second season.

“The key this year was to be more consistent and make less mistakes. And keep my car in one piece,” the youngest son of OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson told NBC Sports.

“I had some problems in Phoenix. But I’ve now learned to be directly fast in first practice. Now I’m faster to start. So that forces me to keep going and be more consistent.

“They try to learn a lot from me but I have a bit to learn from them, too. It’s a big responsibility, but I don’t feel any pressure.”

Eriksson said this second season in GRC Lites will serve as better preparation for any potential Supercars bow.

There aren’t any true rookies in Supercars this year, as there were last year when Sebastian Eriksson - not related - stepped up to OMSE’s Supercars program. Last year it was a Ford program but now it’s the new Honda Civic Coupe effort.

“It was the plan actually. Last year was more of a tryout year. I did some trial races in 2014 and I was always ready for a full season. But it was a learning season,” Oliver Eriksson explained.

“We ended up with the season win, which was over our expectations. Supercars would still be a big step. They thought I could still learn, so I am.”

As noted, the GRC Lites field has changed a bit this year.

Conner Martell, Alex Keyes, Tanner Whitten, Alejandro Fernandez and Collete Davis are among the returnees while rookies like Cabot Bigham, Travis PeCoy, Christian Brooks and the aforementioned Weckstrom and Keatts have made initial impressions in the early stages of this year.

Eriksson said it’s been an evolution for the class, since Cindric and Miles Maroney aren’t also back.

“It’s hard to tell. Last year was really competitive,” he said. “This year, some guys are still here, but the newcomers have come on quick. It’s harder to win this year. It’s a very tight field.”

That being said, Eriksson heads into this weekend’s GRC Lites doubleheader 16 points clear of Martell and Bigham.

He’s won twice in the first five races, and has three podiums.

Follow @TonyDiZinno