Liam Doran turned his event around to win the second round FIA European Rallycross Championship at Montalegre, Portugal. Here we take a broad look at the rest of the RallycrossRX field to see where they ended up and why.
Mats Lysen finished second in Supercar, a great drive at his first event of the season in his old car. Totally consistent through the heats on a circuit that suits his spectacular sideways approach to driving, he will be continue to use his ‘older’ car until his brand new version of the Clio is totally ready. Petter Solberg spent his weekend either fighting at the very front of the field with very fast times, or in the paddock with his team desperately trying to fix the car that is fast but still fragile. Third place was easily deserved, the Norwegian lost his chance at winning the event by jumping the start in the final. His rivals should well be concerned about the pace of the former WRC star once he gets more into the rallycross groove. Fourth in the final was Alexander Hvaal, who had several misfire related problems during the qualification heats. He kept his head and drove very well when it mattered in the first supercar semi-final to earn himself a back row grid spot for the final, where he only just lost out on a podium position to Solberg. The ever-present dark horse of European rallycross Davy Jeanney was again always near the front. Two second and two fifth place times in the heats, the French driver finished third in semi-final two to earn his place in the headline event. Timur Timerzyanov is well justified at being frustrated by punctures this season, as for the second event in a row he was denied the chance of fighting for victory by a deflated tyre in the final, having been fast all weekend.
Andreas Bakkerud had a much better event than at Lydden Hill, the highlights of which being two second fastest times in heats three and four. The young Monster Energy driver was in with a shout of making the final, but for a mechanical issue that slowed his Citroen DS3 on the penultimate last of semi-final one. Stig-Olov Walfridson’s awesome sounding five-cylinder Clio was fifth at the Intermediate Classification but just missed out on the final after a closely fought semi-final one. Anton Marklund was frustrated not to progress from the semi-finals, but it’s easy to forget that he is very new to the Supercar class, and indeed rallycross itself, in only his second full year. Knut Ove Borseth appears to be loving his return to rallycross, grabbing his Skoda Fabia by the scruff of the neck and throwing it at every corner. He was last qualifier for semi-final one, but engine failure after he crossed the final line of heat four ended his event. His place in the semi was taken by first non-qualifier, team mate Peter Hedstrom who made a great move to pass Walfridson on the last lap of the race. Hedstrom had failed to finish heat two with suspension damage, but hadn’t looked to be in his usual committed groove all weekend. Timmy Hansen described his weekend in Portugal as ‘one to forget’, finishing fourth in semi-final two. The young Swede had problems in the changing conditions on Saturday, before a sensor issue slowed his Citroen DS3 in the fourth heat on Sunday. French legend Jean-Luc Pailler debuted a new Peugeot 208 this weekend that his son Fabian will use in the French championship. The team were happy to not have any major problems with the new car, but deep down were probably disappointed not to make the semi-finals. Making another debut in a 208, Michael De Keersmaecker treated the event as an extended test. Once the Belgian driver has fully got to grips with his Albatec built car he will quickly rise up the order. Albatec team-mate Andy Scott hired a Peugeot 207 for Portugal, handing over the team’s first 208 to De Keersmaecker. The second car could have been ready for the event, but wouldn’t have had enough testing for the team to be satisfied to use it in competition. Scott drove the 207 (Gaetan Serazin’s French title winning machine) for the first time in practice, and admits that getting used to a second new car is as many events is a steep learning curve, the Scottish driver wound up fifteenth, just ahead of the Belgian driver Jos Jansen who continues to improve his pace race by race. Several self inflicted trips to gravel traps did nothing to aid his cause. Fellow Belgian Ronny Scheveneels had his second frustrating event in a row, unable to really get on top of his Peugeot 207, he was disqualified from the fourth heat after contact. Local driver Joaquim Santos was right in the mix with Jansen and Scheveneels all weekend, with fellow Portuguese runner Pedro Matos struggling with gearbox and boost issues throughout.
Young Swede Kevin Erkisson won at only his second ever attempt at a rallycross event although the victory may have come at Lydden Hill had he not rolled in the third heat. Fastest in the first two heats, Erkisson won both semi-final two and the final. Although the racing was close at the front, it was of surprise to few that he won. Obviously pleased, Erkisson has a [Formula One driver] Kimi Raikonnen type persona, and the makings of being a star. His only real comment after the final was “at least I didn’t roll this time”. Eric Faren finished second, fulfilling his promise of being much faster this season. Faren had a strange problem at the start of heat two however, whilst warming his tyres the Citroen C2 sheared its wheel studs on the front right corner, leaving only three wheels on his wagon and going nowhere but back to the paddock. Ulrik Linnemann was fast and committed all weekend, although never fastest in the heats. The Dane chose not to make a desperate lunge past Faren in the last lap, perhaps realising that championships are never won in one event. Reinis Nitiss is quickly getting up to speed in Super1600, having previously only ever raced self-run cars, the Latvian is excelling at Set Promotion. Fastest in heats three and four, this lad doesn’t appear to be pressured into mistakes easily, and with more experience this year will be a major challenger. Fifth placed Ildar Rakhmatullin drives like a man under pressure. Last season the Russian was faster and smoother than he is at the moment, perhaps feeling the pressure of those younger drivers at the front, who drive without a care in the world. Sergei Zagumennov was top Skoda runner, with sixth place in the final. The Russian drove well all weekend, there is now nothing to choose between him and fellow Russian Skoda driver Vadim Makarov. The second Fabia driver only just lost out on a place in the final, beaten in the first semi-final by Eric Faren by only three tenths of a second. Another Russian, and the first in a Twingo, Rasul Minnikhanov began his season in the European championship, second fastest in the second heat was a good performance. With more race experience in the Set Promotion built car he could run right at the front more often. French driver Rudolf Schafer brought his brand new Citroen DS3 to Portugal for its debut. Using the event as public test session, Schafer got faster every time he got in the car and will be back in Hungary. Timur Shigaboutdinov was the Set Promotion driver out of position at Montalegre. Failing to finish the second heat, beached in a gravel trap did him no favours, the Russian driver never seemed as on top of his Renault Twingo as he normally is. Local drivers Jose Polonio and Pedro Ribeiro were never going to challenge at the front, their machinery not that of the others, but both were obviously pushing hard all weekend and were given great encouragement by the enthusiastic crowd.
Robin Larsson won all four heats and the final, [no semi-finals because there were fewer than eight qualifiers] it was that straight forward for the Swedish Skoda driver. The only occasion that looked like he would have to fight for the win was in the final, Derek Tohill making a brilliant start from the back of the grid to chase hard for the first two laps. Tohill would retire with a fuel pressure issue whilst taking his joker lap, the same problem that haunted the Irish driver all weekend, failing to finish all together in heat one. Koen Pauwels gets faster every event, and wasn’t far from the ultimate pace in Portugal, second place good reward for a consistent performance. Roman Castoral jumped the first start of the final, two joker laps the punishment that ruled him out of contention. It was good luck alone in the final that got him onto the podium, those who would have otherwise filled the spot having problems. David Nordgaard struggled with his Ford Focus in the final, in a weekend that didn’t see the Norwegian driver at his best. Fellow Norwegian Torleif Lona was much faster in Portugal than at Lydden, and would probably have finished on the podium but for mechanical failure in the final.
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