Thursday, April 18, 2024

SEASON PREVIEW: 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship

In news that’s sure to set pulses races in rallycross fans all across the continent, it’s race week for the first time in the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship. Here is your overview of what to expect this year.

Race Weekend Format

The most important rule change to be aware of is the return of a more familiar race weekend format. 2022 saw the introduction of a three-heat system, followed by a progression race, semi-final, and then final. The move proved largely unpopular, chiefly because it was designed to add excitement to an already scintillating series, and ultimately caused nothing but confusion. 2023 sees the return of a much more familiar weekend, but with a few changes to the points.

Each event will have four five lap heats, with the cars lined up 5 abreast on the start line. The top driver overall will be awarded 3 championship points, second receives 2, and third receives 1. The top twelve drivers move on to the semi-finals, with the top three drivers from each race moving on to the final. 20 points are up for grabs for the winner, followed by 16 for second, 13 for third, then down to 1 point for the driver who finishes 15th in the overall ranking from the heat races.

Calendar

The 2023 calendar is a veritable who’s who of classic rallycross tracks. The six rounds largely follow the parent series of the 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship around Europe. Nyirád Racing Center, Hungary, is the exception, being a standalone event for the EuroRX competitors.

The season then hits a trio of legendary tracks, starting at Montalegre, Portugal on 3/4 June, followed by Hell, Norway two weeks later, and then the Magic Weekend at Höljes, Sweden on 1/2 July. After a short break, the series hits two returning favourites in the form of Mettet, Belgium on 5/6 August, before culminating at the legendary Estering, Germany, 19/20 August.

Competitors

With such a roster of excellent tracks, it’s hardly surprising that a fine calibre of driver has been enticed to make up the grid. The entry list for round 1 is crammed with returning favourites, all of whom will be desperate to take the fight to reigning champion Anton Marklund. The Swede was in imperious form in 2022, taking his third title with a round in hand, and has stayed with SET Promotion, a team with 10 EuroRX titles to their name. He may be starting on the back foot this season though, as the team has sold his dominant Hyundai i20 and were not expecting to enter this season. So far they have kept their cards close to their chest, with Marklund saying: “There is no pressure on me with this new project, but I hope that our collective experience can turn the challenge into a great season. Last year was very memorable, being able to compete at the very highest level each weekend. Everybody in this team is very competitive and we all give 100 per cent in every detail, but most importantly, we don’t forget to enjoy what we are doing…I’m very much looking forward to an enjoyable year where we can hopefully bring good speed with us too.”

Marklund on his way to 2022 success with Baumanis right behind. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

One of his main rivals will surely be an exciting teenage British sensation. Patrick O’Donovan, the youngest ever British Rallycross champion and already double-winner in this year’s campaign, is making his full-time EuroRX debut in 2023. The Team RX Racing driver could easily have made the final in Hungary last year if it weren’t for an unfortunate semi-final puncture. He now has the tools to fight for victory: a former Hansen Motorsport WorldRX Peugeot 208, which competed in the last internal combustion era season of the world championship. “This is an absolute beast of a car, and it feels really good to be in a position where we can head into Euro RX with competitive equipment,” O’Donovan said. “We really worked hard on assessing what to do this year, and I think this is a great step forward in my career.”

Patrick O’Donovan with his 2023 machinery. Credit: Team RX Racing

Last year’s runner up Jānis Baumanis returns in his Peugeot 208, hoping for a season featuring less unfortunate luck. He showed a lot of pace in 2022 and was the unfortunate victim of events such as a loss of turbo power scuppering his chances for a semi-final win in his native Latvia. While still receiving support from #YellowSquad, the team name will be RX Team Latvia. Set up in Riga with an all-Latvian team, Baumanis is keen to get going: “There’s a great atmosphere and everybody is working flat-out to build the car as well as possible. I’m very happy with the people I have around me – they bring with them a lot of experience from both rallycross and rallying. We still have some support from #YellowSquad and Eric Färén, too, so it should be a fun season.”

Sivert Svardal is hoping to build on his excellent progress from 2022 and has a top-three championship finish in his sights. Racing as an independent in a 2017 Volkswagen Polo, the young Norwegian is optimistic but aware of the challenge. For those who like an underdog, Svardal is surely the one to follow, having achieved his best result in Belgium with only his father, mechanic, and spotter for company. With his upgraded Polo, Svardal wants to be fighting from the off: “Of course it’s going to be tough, but we wouldn’t be committing to the full season if we didn’t think a top three championship finish was achievable. We’ll need the stars to align and to be ‘on it’ from the first heat right the way through to the last final, but if we have a good and consistent run, we truly believe we can be in the fight.”

Other returning favourites include Ulrik Linnemann for three rounds, including Hungary. The 11-time event winner at the Super 1600 level impressed in 2022 and believes he has now extracted even more power from his beloved Ford Fiesta, nicknamed ‘Wendy’. Enzo Ide brings yet more WorldRX experience to the party with his Audi S1. The Belgian driver showed consistent pace in 2022 and will surely be hoping to bring the fight all year to the rest of the grid. After a year away, Hans-Jøran Østreng is making his return after a year away in a Hyundai i20. He is looking to entertain the fans and has kept his motto of “sideways is best.”

Andreas Bakkerud will make a one-off appearance at the Red Cauldron. Credit: STOM FOTO / stomfoto.hu

Finally, there is a very familiar face making a one-off appearance at the first round in Hungary. Andreas Bakkerud, 2021 EuroRX champion, will be driving a Tamás Kárai Audi S1 after signing a last-minute deal while testing with them earlier in April. Although officially at the event to help Kárai develop his car, Bakkerud certainly will not be holding back: “There are a lot of top drivers and cars on the grid so it’s unquestionably going to be a tough weekend, but I’m excited to get out there and to race one of these awesome cars again for the first time since Hell last summer. I feel I don’t have anything to prove personally, so the weekend isn’t so much about the end result, but at the same time, I only know one way to drive – flat-out – and I’ll obviously be giving it everything I have.”

Next Up…

The 2023 FIA European Rallycross championship gets underway at Nyirád on 29/30 April. You can find the full entry list below. It should be a cracking event to kick off a stellar year of rallycross action.

NO. DRIVER NAT. COMPETITOR NAT. CAR
1 Anton MARKLUND SWE SET Promotion FIN TBC
2 Oliver O’DONOVAN IRL 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
11 Aleš FUČÍK CZE KRTZ Motorsport ACCR Czech Team CZE Volkswagen Polo
13 Andreas BAKKERUD NOR Andreas Bakkerud NOR Audi S1
22 Máté BENYÓ HUN Korda Racing KFT HUN Ford Focus
24 Sivert SVARDAL NOR Sivert Svardal NOR Volkswagen Polo
27 László KISS HUN Speedbox Racing Team KFT HUN Peugeot 208
33 Ulrik LINNEMANN DNK Linnemann Promotion DNK Ford Fiesta
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
51 Márk 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
85 Hans-Jøran ØSTRENG NOR Hans-Jøran Østreng NOR Hyundai i20
91 Enzo IDE BEL Enzo Ide BEL Audi S1
The full Euro RX1 entry list for the Euro RX of Hungary 2023
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