The FIA European Rallycross Championship attracts drivers from across the continent, but for many years has been flooded by Scandinavian drivers and teams. With the RallycrossRX paddock being as diverse as it is, a small portion of it is reserved for the sole French driver in the series, who hopes that the next round at Loheac in his home country will bring the success both he and his closely knit team crave.
Davy Jeanney has raced full time in the European Championship since the start of 2011, and despite numerous podium finishes has never claimed victory. He hopes at round seven of RallycrossRX, that is about to change.
“I think Loheac will not be rallycross as we’ve seen before, because they have put everything into it. The organisation has put a lot of work into the track, and in my opinion there will be massive crowds, at least 40,000 people there, that’s for sure. It’s going to attract lots of people, and then you have the arrival of Sebastien Loeb, one of the best drivers in the world. Of course my goal is victory, because it is France, and because I’ve never won a race in the European Championship. We’ve always reached the podium but we’ve not won, so it’s true that Loheac will be our opportunity to win. It won’t be easy, but we will try. The fact that Loeb is coming gives the sport credibility, a bit like Petter Solberg. It’s the professional drivers who are coming to feature in the RX championship, which shows there’s a certain level to be attained to succeed in this sport.”
While hoping for victory, Jeanney is also clearly a thinking driver who doesn’t take huge unnecessary risks. With the championship fight still very much in full swing, the Frenchman will enter the last three rounds of RallycrossRX hoping to retain his third place in the standings.
“My goal for the rest of the season is to be on the championship podium. The season has not gone too badly, we’ve had some good results but we’ve also had some misadventures. In Hungary for instance we broke an engine, so took penalty points so that wasn’t ideal. Otherwise for a good part of the championship it has gone well.”
Jeanney’s JSA team run one of the slickest operations in the paddock, and despite being small in size recognise the weight of the raising commercial aspect of rallycross.
“The championship has evolved a great deal in one year. It’s a championship that attracts well known drivers and that serves to promote the sport. I think that it’s a great opportunity to drive in this year’s championship because it allows you to get bigger sponsors and we are made more credible by taking part in RallycrossRX. Before, to say you were taking part in the European Championship was less attractive.”
Not just enjoying 2013, Jeanney is pushing hard to be part of the future of rallycross. “For next year particularly I would really like to find the budget for a new car and of course to continue in the RX championship, perhaps a world championship. So that means we need a new car, a new structure and a bigger budget. We’d really like to be working on that from now, to do what is necessary to get there. Last year we tried to sell the C4 to build something new, like a 208, but the C4 didn’t sell so we started again where we left off. The advantage is that we know the car; we didn’t have enormous amounts of development to do. But, the downside is that in terms of performance we are a little below the DS3.”
The 2010 French Rallycross champion has been the sole French driver in the championship for over a season, and while many onlookers may be deceived by their professional set-up and attitude, Jeanney’s operation is actually quite small. “It’s a question of budget, we work in our own team and have two people that work for JSA all year round. JSA is Jeanney Auto Sport, so effectively it’s the association we started to manage the competition cars. We look after my race car and have customers in the French Rallycross Championship. We would love to have a great big team surrounding me but I think despite our small budget we don’t do too badly. The members of the team are only people that we know; It’s my uncle, my dad and after that the two JSA mechanics. Then we have our truck driver who is retired, he is in his sixties. So they are mainly volunteers really, no professionals.”
And while the team around Jeanney all know him intimately, it also helps with the work ethic in a hard year contesting a full international championship. “It’s important for motivation to all be close, because where there is a lot of work to do we all want to reward each other with good results. For example, I would be really happy for them if we win a race. It’s true there aren’t many of us, but we each have our own role to play, and we try to do the best with what we have.”
Jeanney’s team generally keep themselves to themselves, although instead of being frowned upon for that, their competitors have a lot of respect the French operation ,in part due to Jeanney’s obvious clean driving on track. Other drivers comment that he is a joy to race against because they know he isn’t about to take them off the track without reason.
“There are some drivers who make too much contact with other drivers. And me, well it’s true that I don’t generally make physical contact with other cars, I try not to touch and try not to have accidents where I hit other drivers. There are perhaps others that don’t worry too much about that,” says Jeanney, who not only drives fairly but also with a clean precision when on track. “That’s a little bit of the driving style we have in France. When we see the Swede’s and Norwegian’s they slide a lot more. But we have a habit of although we still slide, to drive quite cleanly and not really go off the racing line. In the European championship that might distinguish me a little from the other drivers, for what it’s worth.”
Not one to want to hog the limelight as the only French competitor in RX, Jeanney wishes that more of his countrymen would join him on the RallycrossRX trail. “We’d love to have more Frenchman in the European Championship. The level of cars and driving skill of the French driver out there is very good. After everything I think it’s a question of budget. But the skill and the cars are there. Comparing the number of Swede’s and Norwegian’s against French drivers, there a massive difference, yet in France is where we have most people with a racing license in rallycross.”
You can’t help but like Jeanney’s team and their attitude. They clearly get great pleasure from competing at the highest level in rallycross, and have come so close so many times to winning events. If they do achieve their dream and win at Loheac in a couple of weeks, I don’t think anyone in the paddock will begrudge them their success.
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