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Ferratum World RX of Sweden 1
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Starts: Saturday, July 6, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM

Tue 18 Jan 2022

Deslandes eager to see where momentum carries him

There were innumerable standout performances across all four series on the FIA World Rallycross Championship package in 2021, but if there was one that truly made everybody sit up and take notice, it was Dorian Deslandes’ dazzling FIA RX2e Championship debut at Lohéac, as the young Frenchman stunned observers with a show-stopping triumph...

There were innumerable standout performances across all four series on the FIA World Rallycross Championship package in 2021, but if there was one that truly made everybody sit up and take notice, it was Dorian Deslandes’ dazzling FIA RX2e Championship debut at Lohéac, as the young Frenchman stunned observers with a show-stopping triumph first time out.

Deslandes was a complete unknown on the international stage prior to joining the all-electric World RX feeder series on home soil, but delve a little deeper, and the clues to his potential were already there. Just two years earlier, the teenage prodigy had made history as the youngest driver ever to win a round of the French Rallycross Championship on his way to third in the Division Four standings as a rookie.

He was a rookie once more in RX2e at Lohéac, having not so much as set foot inside the QEV Technologies and Olsbergs MSE-designed car prior to the weekend – but again, Deslandes did not let that disadvantage hold him back.

In a high-calibre field that included the likes of World RX event-winner Reinis Nitišs, former RX2 Series Champion Cyril Raymond and title protagonists Guillaume De Ridder and Jesse Kallio, the Normandy native swiftly showed himself to be no respecter of reputations.

Fastest in each of the first two qualifiers, Deslandes went on to top the intermediate classification, before controlling both his semi-final and the all-important final from lights to flag to cement a sensational victory and a maximum points haul.

“It took a while for it to properly sink in that I had really won,” the 19-year-old confessed, looking back now four months on. “I didn’t begin competing in rallycross until 2019, and I’d only previously attended the World Championship event as a spectator. Simply getting the chance to take part represented a fantastic opportunity for me.

“Not knowing the car and going up against drivers I’d never raced before, my main objective was to gain experience. With everything coming together at the last minute, I didn’t really have a lot of time to think about it in advance, and that probably helped me to approach the weekend without too much pressure.

“Granted, there were only ten drivers in the field, but the level was very high. My primary concern was to not do anything crazy that might interfere in the title fight – I certainly didn’t want to ruin either Guillaume or Jesse’s chances by trying to be a hero for a day. With that in mind, I didn’t take any risks, which is why I was surprised to be up at the front right from the outset.”

The result represented the first French victory on the international rallycross scene since ‘JB’ Dubourg’s Euro RX1 win in Rīga almost two years earlier – and the only one achieved by a French driver in 2021.

More significantly, it marked a breakthrough moment for Deslandes, catapulting him to the attention of both the French fans – who wholeheartedly embraced his success – and, more importantly, the World Championship team bosses, as the Cherbourg-born star targets a future at the pinnacle of the dual-surface discipline in the not-too-distant future.

“Winning was unquestionably the biggest statement I could make,” he acknowledged. “We then spent a long time debating whether to enter more rounds last year and I was obviously very tempted, but we came to the conclusion that it would be better to focus our efforts fully on 2022.

“With not contesting the full season, I didn’t have a huge amount to gain by making further appearances, and I nevertheless made sure to keep in close contact with the World RX ‘family’, travelling to both Spa and the Nürburgring to continue my discussions with the various teams. It was important to show them my motivation and commitment.

“I was able to meet and talk to Marcus Grönholm and Tommy Kristoffersson. I must admit, being invited into Tommy’s motorhome was a pretty surreal moment. He asked me about my career up to that point, how I had started out and what my aims were for the future and we exchanged phone numbers. To know that I have attracted the attention of somebody like him feels pretty crazy.

“Even if the World Championship season was still in full flow and it wasn’t the ideal moment to be talking about 2022, it at least gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to them and to allow them to put a face and a name to the little French guy who had won at Lohéac a few weeks earlier. Let’s see how far this momentum can carry us for 2022...”

Suffice to say, that ‘complete unknown’ last September is now on everybody’s radar.