Saturday, April 20, 2024

PREVIEW: 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship – Montalegre, Portugal

The 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship returns to another rallycross track on 3/4 June. Montalegre, Portugal, plays host to the second round of this exciting championship, with a large portion of the field keen to grab the top spot of the podium.

A staple of the European rallycross scene, and a regular fixture in the FIA World Rallycross Championship as well, Montalegre is known for its beautiful views and hosting spectacular racing. The long start finish straight splits charges into the first hairpin, the former Joker section. The Joker section now follows on from this opening turn. Who can forget the spectacular contact at the Joker merge between current championship leader Janis Baumanis and reigning champion Anton Marklund in 2022? With an excitingly close-fought battle at Nyirád, Hungary, last time out, we could well see similarly spectacular battles this time.

The opening round was an event that defied odds. Baumanis battled to victory despite battling an illness for most of the weekend; Marklund, having described his Ford Fiesta RX as one of the worst he’d ever driver, managed to finish second; and rising star Patrick O’Donovan took his Peugeot 208 RX to third on the podium on only his second Euro RX1 outing.

L-R: Marklund, Baumanis and O’Donovan, the podium at Nyirád. Who will top the podium at Montalegre? Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Marklund was also involved in a heavy crash with Sivert Svardal in heat three, which many thought would end his weekend – including Marklund. Speaking after the final, Marklund said “To be honest, I still can’t really believe what we did. We decided that we could not continue with the damage after heat three – it shouldn’t have been possible to repair the car in that timeframe – but then there was a moment, where we sat and discussed and everyone stood up to at least try. The guys worked flat-out. I think the team was surprised too that we got out again, but they did it, and this P2 is like a victory for all of us. It was exhausting and a tough couple of days, but we did what we needed to do.

Despite his disappointing end to the weekend, Svardal also believes he can fight for victory. Reflecting on the possibilities for the second round, Svardal said “We were really happy with the performance of the new car at Nyirád – it’s still not the quickest on the grid, but it’s definitely a step forward and the best feeling I’ve ever had in a rallycross Supercar. I obviously have more experience now too, which gives me the confidence to push harder. If things go well, I honestly believe we can compete with the top guys this year and cause them some trouble. It’s a really strong field in Euro RX1 and the leading four drivers in the championship will all be in Portugal, but my goal is to get through to the final – and from there, anything is possible.”

Marklund and O’Donovan congratulate each other after the final at Nyirád. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Meanwhile, British rallycross superstar O’Donovan impressed everyone with his second Euro RX1 outing. His Hansen Motorsport-built Peugeot at his hands seems to be a force to be reckoned with this year. O’Donovan is relishing the prospect of racing at Montalegre, saying “Even though I obviously want to win every time I go out, it was still a very good first weekend for us and now I’m really looking forward to Montalegre, which is obviously a completely different kind of circuit to Nyirád. It looks like the quickest way through the corners there is either sideways or backwards, so bring it on!

Elsewhere on the grid, Máté Benyó, the Hungarian who dazzled in his home race, will be hoping to prove that his talent can spread across the continent. 11-time Euro RX event winner Ulrik Linnemann will be hoping to battle for victory, having taken the helm of Marklund’s 2017 title-winning Volkswagen Polo. Enzo Ide will be trying to capitalise on his impressive pace from the opening round as Montalegre was the scene of his first Euro RX1 victory in 2022. René Münnich, having just announced Timo Scheider as his World RX driver for this year, achieved a heat win in Hungary and will aim to show off his pace once more and battle for overall victory.

With such talent and ambition on display throughout the 17-strong field, expect spectacular racing from the moment the lights go out at Montalegre. The action takes place on 3/4 June, and you can find the full Euro RX1 entry list below.

1 Anton MARKLUND SWE SET Promotion FIN Ford Fiesta
4 Steve HILL GBR Team RX Racing GBR Proton Iriz
6 Jānis BAUMANIS LVA RX Team Latvia LVA Peugeot 208
7 Patrick O’DONOVAN GBR Team RX Racing GBR Peugeot 208
22 Máté BENYÓ HUN Korda Racing KFT HUN Peugeot 208
23 Andréa DUBOURG FRA DA Racing FRA Peugeot 208
24 Sivert SVARDAL NOR Sivert Svardal NOR Volkswagen Polo
33 Ulrik LINNEMANN DNK Linnemann Promotion DNK Volkswagen Polo
38 Mandie AUGUST DEU ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport DEU SEAT Ibiza
39 Zoltán KONCSEG HUN Kárai Motorsport Sportegyesület HUN Audi A1
50 Attila MÓZER HUN Nyirád Motorsport KFT HUN Ford Fiesta
55 Paulius PLESKOVAS LTU TSK Baltijos Sportas LTU Škoda Fabia
73 Tamás KÁRAI HUN Kárai Motorsport Sportegyesület HUN Audi S1
77 René MÜNNICH DEU ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport DEU SEAT Ibiza
88 Anthony PELFRENE FRA DA Racing FRA Peugeot 208
91 Enzo IDE BEL Volland Racing POL Audi S1
110 José OLIVEIRA PRT José Oliveira PRT Peugeot 208
Full Euro RX1 entry list for Montalegre, 3/4 June