Seven days; May 2

by Tim Whittington |

Europe has been the centre of attention, the FIA championship moving to Portugal for the second of its nine events. Missing from the championship in 2012, Montalegre in the north of Portugal was the scene for the event that was organised by the long-established CAVR from nearby Vila Real. On-track action was good all weekend but after a freezing cold start to the championship in Britain, teams and drivers again had to cope with the vagaries of the weather; sunburn a serious risk in the setup days, the track the then struck by blizzards and snow storms during Saturday. At the end of the event it was Englishman Liam Doran who climbed to the top step of the podium, a tactically strong drive in the final based on an early pass through the joker lap. For Doran and his LDMS team, which had to overcome clutch problems that kept it out of the first heat in Portugal, this was an immense result after a troubled run at Lydden and then a promising but ultimately fruitless run in the Brazilian X Games event. And with new team mate Andreas Bakkerud only just missing the final, Doran’s squad appears to have found its feet just as its main man has come clean on his involvement with MINI.

Doran’s pursuit of MINI finally became public knowledge at Lydden in March when, during the opening round of the British Rallycross Championship, the Englishman completed a number of test runs in a Prodrive test car. Until March, however, this had been a bit of an unrequited love affair, Doran actively wooing MINI since 2011, giving it the come-on. Now the Monster Energy athlete has got the apple of his eye to home base and has announced that he will race a Prodrive built car in X Games events, giving the car its first outing in Barcelona in May. “After testing the MINI at Lydden I know that it will be competitive with some minor changes to give some more power, it’s a great car to drive and believe that with the help of Prodrive and Monster Energy I can bring home some gold,” said Doran. The new rallycross MINI is based on a WRC-spec machine with information for the conversion coming from Doran’s Lydden test outing. “Rallycross is a dynamic and exciting sport and we know we are going to have to work very hard to make the MINI competitive against more established competitors,” said Richard Taylor, Business Development Manager at Prodrive. At present Doran plans to continue to drive his Citroen DS3 in RallycrossRX events, the MINI slated for use in the X Games and later GRC rounds.

For much of the Portuguese event it looked as though Petter Solberg would win. The Norwegian was certainly the fastest man in the place, although his aptly named PS110% team certainly gave more than 100% in its effort to keep the car together after a series of problems threatened progress, and did prevent Solberg from starting in the fourth heat. Portugal brought the debut of Pailler Competition’s new Peugeot 208, the car driven by veteran Jean-Luc Pailler in its first outing and destined to be run in the French championship (which had a media launch on April 25) by his son Fabien. While Pailler honed his new car, Albatec Racing took the pragmatic decision to delay the launch of its second new 208. The team’s first example was handed to its new driver Michael De Keersmaecker while team boss Andy Scott borrowed Gaetan Serazin’s French championship winning 207 to drive in the event rather than rush the completion of the second 208. Albatec will run both its 208s together for the first time in the Hungarian RallycrossRX event at the end of May. There was no rest after the Portuguese event, Marklund Motorsport remaining in Portugal where it conducted a test with Carlos Sainz driving its VW Polo ahead of the Barcelona X Games event. Hansen Motorsport, meanwhile, dashed back to France and carried out a test at Loheac before returning to Sweden. Young Swedish drivers topped out the Super1600 and TouringCar classes in Portugal. Kevin Eriksson returned from his promising debut at Lydden and strolled through the Portuguese event in relaxed style to take his first victory. Joined on the podium by Eric Faren and Ulrik Linnemann, ErikssonĀ  delivered an accomplished performance. Joining the championship in Portugal, Rasul Minnikhanov showed good pace in his Renault Twingo and Rudolf Schafer gave his new DS3 a solid debut. TouringCar fell to Robin Larsson who was unbeaten in his run through the event and made the most of the journey to go ahead in the championship order.

Away from the European championship, domestic racing began in Norway where Gardermoen hosted the opening round of the season. In the absence of Supercars, ‘class three’ Supernationals were top of the bill and veteran of the category Stian Haugan began the year with a victory in his Citroen Xsara-based machine. Ole Froshaug (Volvo S40) and Rune Engesvoll (Lexus) completed the podium. Lars Oivind Enerberg, still in his Fiesta VI despite plans for a new car this year, cleaned up in TouringCar, the rest of the six-car A final full of Mazdas, of which Jan Gabrielsen’s RX8 was best. Anders Hansen returned to action and form to win Super1600 ahead of Thommy Tesdal. Lisa Marie Sandmo (Civic) was best of the Juniors ahead of Joakim Ronnevik (Golf) and Tommy Solberg.





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