Barbosa’s World Rallycross ambition

by Hal Ridge |

At the Portuguese FIA European Rallycross Championship round in 2010, one of the standout runners was a local driver by the name of Mario Barbosa, driving an aging Super1600 Citroen Saxo. In a strong field, Barbosa finished fifth.

Barbosa wasn’t seen again outside the national scene until last weekend, when the Super1600 ace made his Supercar debut in the Citroen DS3 used by nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb at Loheac in 2013. Despite a power deficit of over 100bhp to the competition this time around, Barbosa showed well on his four wheel-drive debut, finishing 14th at the Intermediate Classification from a solid set of heat times. While he will focus on his national championship this season in a bid to attract sponsors, competing in an increased international programme is his dream.

“Montalegre was the first time I’ve properly driven the car. I did a test before, but only for 12 or 13 laps, nothing more. The car is very different to the Saxo; It’s like a gun! I have to learn a lot more. The power is difficult to control to start with. We decided to stay with Citroen because I had the Saxo before and I have some good links with Citroen. In the past I‘ve only done the national championship; we don’t have big sponsors, but we decided to buy a Supercar to do the national championship and we want to be able to race in the world championship. We want to compare ourselves against the best in the world,” says Barbosa who despite an impressive run was less than pleased with not making it to the semi-finals last weekend.

“I tried to do my best. In the rain it was very difficult to control the power of a Supercar so I need to learn more. But, I’m not happy about my position at the end. I know I can do more, and with the developments we want to make I can do much, much more. For the national championship, this car is enough, but to be equal on the world stage, I need more power and have better suspension. I’ve spoken to [French engine builders] Oreca and we can make improvements. They are first on our list to do.”

Barbosa faces the age old quest of finding the money to race his Supercar in further international outings, but he has the determination to find the sponsors required, although they don’t come easily anywhere, let alone in Portugal. The empty motorways on the way to Porto earlier this week were a stark reminder of the countries’ economic climate. “It’s very difficult to find sponsors in Portugal. I hope that we can attract sponsors by doing well in the national championship. The target is to race in the world championship, nothing else. I’d love to race in Barcelona this year if we can, we will be trying hard to do that. World RX is a very different level to what I am used to and it’s too high for us at the moment. We need to improve the car and I need to learn more, then it will be interesting.”

Many drivers have the backing to race on the international stage in motorsport, but are without the talent. Barbosa proved in 2010 he has the raw ability to shine, and cemented that last weekend with a sterling performance at World RX’s season opener in an underperforming car. Portuguese rallycross has been crying out for a regular to race with the best in the sport, and if he can find the backing, Barbosa can be that man.




« »