At the end of the 2012 season Liam Doran made a bold move. Having driven for Hansen Motorsport for the first two years of his career, then a year with a hybrid team where French firm M-Technologies worked with British engineers chosen by Doran, the young Englishman decided to take on a new challenge in preparation for the new era of rallycross, one that would see him run his own team including a car not only for himself but also for a team-mate. This was a move to the next level.
“Obviously we took on a massive challenge at the end of last year because we felt that we were in a position where we needed to be in a better performing team,” says Doran. “I had already placed myself in a semi-self run team in 2012 year but it was a half hearted effort and we felt that we needed to up the level, because looking at Olsbergs MSE and Hansen Motorsport they were kind of just running away with it to be honest compared to the other teams. We just took the plunge and decided we needed to start our own team, we thought it can’t be that hard can it?”
Having decided to run his own show, the team was located close to Doran’s family home in Devon, and recruited a young driver to join Doran in his Monster Energy squad, Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud, who was looking to make the graduation from Super1600 to Supercar.
“We found another driver and Monster were wanting a team anyway so they were really happy that I wanted to do it. I wanted to do make sure I had the best performing car and best resources and back-up that I could possibly get because obviously the competition level is so high now. A team mate always helps as well because I know from when I was working with Kenneth, for finding speed on the track there’s nothing better to help you than another driver trying to tell you where he thinks he’s faster and likewise you telling him. So, Bakkerud is the perfect choice because he’s an amazing driver obviously, he’s proven that this year in his first year he’s won two events. He is going to be a forced to be reckoned with loving forwards.”
Now at the end of his first year as team boss, Doran looks back on four victories, more than any other team in the RallycrossRX Supercar paddock, with Bakkerud fighting for a chance to make the championship podium right until the final event. The Englishman is the first to admit the season’s results exceeded his own expectations for his fledgling team, with more event wins in their back pocket that any other team in the paddock; a total of four compared to two from Olsbergs, and three from Hansen Motorsport.
“It’s gone better than I expected which I know might sound weird but in realistic terms I never expected it to go this well. Yeah we weren’t at the front of the Championship, but the most important thing is that we’ve proved ourselves really well as a team straight away in the first year and all the other teams are going to be scratching their heads because we have really good speed and we are both really quick, so I’m really, really happy.”
Bakkerud too hasn’t stopped smiling since his home event in Norway, where he wasn’t able to win due to a puncture but did manage to prove his raw pace, and line up on pole for the final, alongside team mate Doran. Three weeks later Bakkerud had won his first event at Holjes, and seven weeks after that won the biggest rallycross event ever staged in Loheac, in front of 72,000 people. Bakkerud formed a friendship with Doran in 2012, so when Doran’s plans for a new team came to fruition it was the logical step for both parties.
“When Liam told me he wanted me in his second car and nobody else, that’s how I wanted it,” says Bakkerud. “Somebody who believes in me and wants to give it everything. Liam gave me a big, big chance and he has given me two victories. I enjoy working with the team and Liam very much, he is still the one that develops the cars. He has great ideas and we are quite different drivers. He has this ability to feel every little detail and he is improving the cars for every race. I’m just the little guy who drives it.”
Bakkerud also views Doran’s victory in Portugal at the start of the year when the cars were not at their best as one of the best he has seen, proving the development rate through the season from the freshly formed team;
“At the beginning of the year I was not sure if it was the right choice but when I look back I feel stupid that I was thinking that because Liam has given me everything. I have big, big respect for him and the win he did in Portugal where the car wasn’t working. Nothing was working and he made it to the final and won it. It’s the craziest victory I have ever seen. I could never have done that same and I don’t think anybody in the paddock could have done it either.”
It was a difficult start to the year. Doran’s own Citroen DS3 was finished in the paddock at the first event in England while Bakkerud had technical problems. Doran’s win in Portugal, as Bakkerud pointed out was out of the blue, and it wasn’t until round four in Finland that the team really started to find the pace from their cars. But things did improve, and LD Motorsports have become one of the major players in the RallycrossRX paddock. For Doran, who set up the team believing that he could find an edge over the others, it is proof that a move to the team environment was the right choice.
“I set this team up to make sure I and my team mate had the best chance to win and we’ve proven that this year,” says Doran. “We’ve probably given ourselves the best chance in the paddock. I just felt in rallycross as the sport is growing so quickly there just wasn’t enough resources in the paddock to fulfil what was needed by everyone so there was definitely space for another team and I’m sure there will be new teams next year. At the moment because rallycross is growing so rapidly there’s more than enough growing space for new teams and for teams to get bigger and bigger too.”
With the new FIA World Rallycross Championship announced, LD Motorsports have committed to a two-car team in the next stage of the sports development. Doran has always been in favour of world-wide events having contested and won X-Games events in America since 2011, so it is of no surprise that he is in full support for the move to world championship status.
“The World Championship will be really, really cool. It will be big. We have already agreed to take a two car team to the World Championship because I think it’s important for the sport to have teams and it will be great. Andreas and I have worked well together and we have been a force to be reckoned with in performance so it would be stupid not to. Monster Energy have been happy with what we’ve done. At the moment there’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue with Andreas, we haven’t signed a contract with him but he’s happy of course because he’s won events”
And while the team is committed to being present in the future of RallycrossRX, Doran’s role as team owner brings one more major challenge this winter; one that most teams owners encounter when they have been far longer in the game. Only 26 years old, Doran faces some tough decisions in the coming weeks and months, but to be in that position in the first place is only to his credit. With the profile of rallycross rising almost by the day, car manufactures become increasingly interested in the value of the sport, Doran now finds himself in a quandary over which cars the team will be running for the World Championship.
“It just depends, if we have manufacturer support and who the manufacturer will be. At the moment we are looking at a couple of manufacturers to come on board as official manufacturers for my team. If that happens we will have to change cars but at the moment we don’t really know. If we don’t get a manufacturer we will stay with what we’ve got. We own the cars so it would be stupid not to. At the moment it’s a tough decision. The commercial side certainly makes sense to switch to an official manufacturer, but because the cars we have work really well at the moment I’m not sure that I want to take on the risk of taking on new car build and not knowing if it’s going to work or not. That’s the toughest thing about this year, now being the team boss I’ve got to make decisions. At least if someone else was making them, right or wrong, it’s made for you but now I’m the one making the mistake if I make the wrong decision. It’s tough, but that’s all part of it I suppose!”
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