Fri 05 May 2023

What we learned at Nyirád

Last weekend’s FIA European Rallycross Championship curtain-raiser at Nyirád in Hungary (29-30 April) was a thrill-fest from start to finish – and it also offered a few indications about what we can expect over the remainder of the 2023 campaign...

#JB6 is back in business

Following a winless season in 2022 – albeit one that yielded the championship runner-up spoils – former Euro RX Super1600 (now Euro RX3) champion Jānis Baumanis got his 2023 challenge underway in the best possible fashion in Hungary, with a brilliant Euro RX1 victory behind the wheel of his RX Team Latvia Peugeot 208 WRX.

Granted, early pace-setter Anton Marklund was hindered by a first corner crash in heat three, but Baumanis was always there-or-thereabouts and had the measure of the defending title-holder in the final to cement a hugely popular triumph – his first in almost 20 months.

Rallycross mechanics are super-human

Given the extent of the damage, nobody expected Marklund’s car to return to action following the heat three accident – in which his half-spun Ford Fiesta RX was collected by an unsighted Sivert Svardal. Even his SET Promotion team believed it was curtains for the weekend, but then, as the Swede revealed, they ‘sat and discussed and everyone stood up to at least try’.

Just three hours later, the patched-up Ford was back on-track for the semi-finals, and Marklund went on to reward his miracle-working crew with a trophy for a second-place finish in the final. It was no less than his mechanics and engineers deserved. Not all heroes wear capes.

Old cars can still compete

Conventional wisdom says that a new car will be faster than an old car, and certainly, in recent seasons in Euro RX, that has largely been the case. At Nyirád, SET Promotion pitched up with a car dating back to 2013, giving away years to many of its younger rivals. It had no business featuring up at the sharp end, but from the outset – even as the Finnish outfit got to grips with its characteristics and quirks – it was right on the money.

Marklund may well have won the event had it not been for his heat three drama, and if the final result spoke volumes for both his skill and SET Promotion’s tireless tenacity, it also bore witness to the enduring pace and potential of the paddock’s ‘Old Lady’.

Hungarian rallycross is in safe hands

Of the 32 entries across the Euro RX1 and Euro RX3 categories, ten were local talents – and many of them put on a superb show for the capacity crowd lining the circuit banking and grandstands. Balázs Körmöczi showed no nerves in such esteemed company, proving to be fast and feisty throughout in his distinctively-liveried Volkswagen Polo as he confidently took the fight to Euro RX3’s all-conquering Audis, earning himself a deserved podium finish for his efforts.

In Euro RX1, Máté Benyó similarly starred, placing a superb third in the intermediate standings – ahead of big-hitters Patrick O’Donovan and Andreas Bakkerud – and hauling his ageing Peugeot into the final, in which he went on to finish fifth. Both drivers were selected for the coveted ‘Cooper Tires Racer of the Weekend’ awards in their respective classes, and with good reason.

With a strong turn-of-speed also shown by Tamás Kárai, László Kiss, Ferenc Ficza and Zsolt Szíjj ‘Jolly’, the future of Hungarian rallycross looks to be bright indeed.

An ultra-competitive campaign is in prospect

In both Euro RX1 and Euro RX3, fierce battles raged weekend-long, and picking a likely winner was no easy task in either category. Any of the six finalists in Euro RX1 – all from different countries – could conceivably have come out on top, and that is before adding in the likes of rising star Svardal, home hero Kárai and experienced campaigner René Münnich, who similarly proved their pace and demonstrated that they, too, will be forces to be reckoned with this season.

In Euro RX3, Volland Racing duo Damian Litwinowicz and Espen Isaksætre had to dig deep to see off the threat posed by Körmöczi, while Škoda drivers Jens Hvaal and Jan Černý were also right in the mix and Frenchman David Bouet made a strong impression on his international debut. If last year’s title races were somewhat one-sided, this year, they appear to be wide open...

Euro RX of Hungary 2023: Event Highlights
Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM