Frenchman Jean-Nicolas Billot, who lists a love of fast cars amongst his interests, powered impressively through the gears to move into pole position at the halfway stage of the SK Golf Challenge in Finland on the European Challenge Tour.
The 29 year old from Lyon added a second round 68 to his opening 67 at the St Laurence Golf course in Lohja for a seven under par total of 135 to grab a one shot lead over Sweden’s Joakim Rask, who carded his second consecutive 68 for 136.
Billot, a four time winner on the Alps Tour over the past four years, could have taken an even greater advantage into the weekend action but he dropped shots at his last two holes of the day – the eighth and the ninth.
But he still holds sway going into the third round where he is eyeing the first prize of €24,000. Currently outside the top 100 on the European Challenge Tour Rankings, should Billot triumph, he would move comfortably into the top 20 – the number of players who gain playing privileges for The 2009 European Tour by rights at the end of the season.
Second placed Rask knows exactly what it takes to win on the Challenge Tour having captured three titles in the past – the 1992 Vasteras Open, the 1996 KB Golf Challenge and the 1997 Siab Open. Furthermore, he is also relishing a return to Finland where he won the nation’s Amateur Championship in 1989.
Ironically, like leader Billot, the 36 year old from Stockholm could have been in a better position going into the final two rounds but he also found difficulty on the Finnish course’s front nine – his back nine of the day – dropping shots at the seventh and ninth.
The Scandinavian feel of the event continued in the nationality of the two players sharing third place, Denmark’s Steen Ottosen, who posted a 67 for 137 and Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm, who joined him on that mark after carding an equal best of day second round 65.
However, the majority of the home support over the weekend will focus on the player in fifth place, the experienced Finn Mikko Ilonen, a two time winner on The European Tour, who moved firmly into contention with rounds of 71-67 for a four under par total of 138.