Wed 12 Apr 2023

World RX regulars star in British Championship curtain-raiser

Some of the leading lights from the FIA World Rallycross Championship and its support series stole the show in the 2023 Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy season-opener at Lydden Hill last weekend, with popular victories for both Patrick O’Donovan and Klara Andersson.

Some of the leading lights from the FIA World Rallycross Championship and its support series stole the show in the 2023 Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy season-opener at Lydden Hill last weekend, with popular victories for both Patrick O’Donovan and Klara Andersson.

Defending champion O’Donovan was the weekend’s big winner – although it was not all plain sailing for the talented British teenager. Debuting the Hansen Motorsport-built Peugeot 208 WRX that he will campaign in the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s headlining Euro RX1 category this year, the rising star dominated Saturday’s Supercar qualifiers to claim TQ honours, only to then be forced out of the lead of his semi-final due to a gearbox problem.

Courtesy of an impressive effort by the Team RX Racing crew, O’Donovan made it back out on-track in time for the all-important final, but he would have to take the start from the rear of the grid. Undeterred, the 18-year-old stormed through the pack to launch his title defence with a hard-fought victory.

Having won his own semi-final, Patrick’s father – fellow Euro RX1 competitor Ollie O’Donovan – ran second early on in the final before falling to fifth after finding himself pushed wide at the joker merge. Reigning FIA RX2e Champion Viktor Vranckx delivered a superb performance to reach the rostrum in third place with his title-winning electric beast.

Two days later, very different conditions greeted drivers at the legendary ‘Home of Rallycross’, as the heavens opened with a vengeance. After setting the pace throughout the qualifying stages again, O’Donovan Jnr began the final from third but by the end of the first lap, he had assumed a lead he would not subsequently relinquish – going on to take the chequered flag almost ten seconds clear of his closest pursuer to cement emphatic back-to-back triumphs.

“I went into the weekend knowing the car would have strong pace, but was slightly unsure about the new challenges that come with an unknown package to me,” he admitted. “I had only done a handful of laps in Sweden and then a quick shakedown before the event in the UK, and the start procedure is also very different to what I had experienced before, but thanks to an amazing team of people around me, my worries were quickly put aside.

“The pace was good and we had some luck too, like making the final on Saturday even when the gearbox broke in the semi-final. The guys did an amazing job to get the car out again and we had a great run. The conditions on Monday were very challenging but we made it through and it was a brilliant start to the year with wins on both days.”

Semi-final success secured O’Donovan Snr pole position for the final in his Proton Iriz, but contact shortly after the start sent him sideways, with the series’ 2007 champion digging deep to battle his way back to third.

Vranckx – who narrowly beat 2022 RX2e rival O’Donovan Jnr to win the day’s other semi-final – also briefly led the opening lap of the final before ultimately slipping back to sixth.

In the supporting RX150 class for buggies, World RX podium-finisher Andersson took the opportunity to familiarise herself with Lydden Hill, which will return to the World Championship schedule for the first time in six years this summer (22-23 July). On her debut at the track, the 23-year-old Swede pulled off an audacious around-the-outside overtake in the final to snatch the lead and thereafter never looked back.

“It was such an enjoyable day racing with the top RX150 guys at this legendary circuit,” she enthused. “It was a new track, new car, new everything so it was certainly challenging, but I loved it! The first thing I noticed about these cars is that they are so light – when you enter a corner, you need to brake so much later and so much harder and just be more aggressive than with other rallycross cars. They are really quick and super-fun to drive. I had a blast!”

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