Thu 22 Jun 2023

Hell is like Heaven if you’re Sivert Svardal

‘Hell is like Heaven if you love Rallycross’ goes the slogan for World RX of Norway. Following what he described as the ‘biggest day of his life’ last weekend, Sivert Svardal clearly agrees...

It has been quite the rollercoaster ride for Sivert Svardal in the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 2023.

In the Hungarian curtain-raiser at Nyirád, he came within two hundredths-of-a-second of posting his first fastest heat time to climb to fifth in the event classification; just two hours later, his car was badly damaged after getting innocently caught up in a Turn One accident, and his weekend was effectively over.

In round two at Montalegre in Portugal, more promise – this time, the Norwegian was not to be denied as he went quickest of anybody in heat three, another career milestone. This time, surely, it was his opportunity to shine. He was poised to strike and at last claim that breakthrough result. But no. Lady Luck again chose to desert him, as propshaft failure in heat four cruelly left him a mere two points shy of progressing to the semi-final stage.

Two rounds in, and the driver who came within a whisker of a top three championship finish in 2022 was languishing a lowly 17th in the championship table.

And then came Hell.

The weekend was not without its challenges and setbacks – Svardal and his small, family-run team have become accustomed to nothing less – but the 23-year-old advanced safely to the final and, well, the rest is history. From fourth on the grid, he navigated his way carefully through the first corner mêlée caused by the contact between Anton Marklund and Patrick O’Donovan to emerge in the lead.

Fired-up by the delay, Marklund chased the home hero down and was crawling all over the back of Svardal’s Volkswagen Polo over the course of the last lap. But the Konsmo native was not about to give this one up. He had been unlucky often enough. This time, it was his day.

“No, just no,” he replied when asked if he could ever have anticipated winning in Hell. “The first two rounds were really difficult, and our mindset coming to Norway was to forget about the championship standings and just focus on achieving good individual results. The pace is good this year – better than last year – and while I don’t reckon myself to be one of the top guys, I do feel like we can now challenge them.

“The weekend in Hell was another rollercoaster and this time, the luck was on my side. I know I was lucky, but I managed to find a space in Turn One. I damaged my hand after getting hit, but that’s how it is and the adrenaline got me through.

“I was so nervous during the final. I wasn’t focussing on driving fast; I was just driving safe and my spotter was yelling at me, ‘keep the inside line!’ I don’t think the lap times were great, but at the end of the day, it’s track position that counts. We had been dreaming about a podium finish, but never a win. It was just awesome – the biggest day of my life.”

He might not regard himself as ‘one of the top guys’ in Euro RX1, but Sivert Svardal should probably reassess. On recent evidence, he is fast becoming one...

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