Thu 20 Jul 2023

Vranckx ready to get ‘sendy’ in search of silverware at Lydden Hill

For Viktor Vranckx, the 2023 RX2e campaign has not got off to quite the start he would have hoped – but the Belgian has his sights firmly set on the top step of the podium this weekend...

For Viktor Vranckx, the 2023 FIA RX2e Championship campaign has not got off to quite the start he would have hoped – but the Belgian has his sights firmly set on ascending the top step of the podium at Lydden Hill this weekend (22-23 July).

Following his dominant title triumph as a rookie last year in the single-spec, all-electric FIA World Rallycross Championship support series, Vranckx entered the current season as the favourite to clinch the crown again, but he arrives in Britain sitting third in the classification, nine points shy of Isak Sjökvist at the summit of the standings.

The Hell curtain-raiser in Norway was a nightmarish affair for the teenager – a far cry from vintage Vranckx. A lack of outright pace and a brace of costly errors saw him fail to reach the final for the first time in RX2e, but he was much more competitive in round two at Höljes.

On Swedish soil, the VMV Racing ace topped the timesheets in each of the opening two heats, with the second-quickest effort in heat three installing him comfortably at the head of the overnight order. The heavens opened on Sunday morning, but if anything, that only served to magnify Vranckx’s dominance, and he was more than four seconds faster than any of his rivals in heat four to earn top qualifier honours and the accompanying three championship points.

He looked set to win the first semi-final by an even greater margin as he fairly streaked clear of his pursuers at the front of the field, but a 360-degree spin and a coming-together with the barrier in the joker meant he had to get defensive in the closing stages to hold onto his lead, which he successfully did.

From pole position in the all-important final, the 17-year-old led early on before jokering at mid-distance to cover off Isak Sjökvist. Rejoining behind Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky cost him some time and – ultimately – first place to Nils Andersson, but a mistake by the Swede entering the Velodrome section on the last lap allowed Vranckx to draw alongside.

When Ole Henry Steinsholt then made it three-wide, contact was inevitable and it was the Norwegian who emerged ahead, chased to the chequered flag by the defending champion for his first podium finish of the campaign in second place.

“The competition is much tougher this year,” Vranckx reflected. “Allowing private teams to enter RX2e I think has really increased the level in the series, and Isak [Sjökvist] and Nils [Andersson] have also clearly stepped up their game.

“Norway was a big disappointment for us. We really struggled for consistency in Hell; on some laps, we were quick, but then we couldn’t replicate that pace on the next lap. We tried to stay positive as it was only the first round of the season, and the moment I got back home, I was straight on the sim to prepare for Höljes – I must have trained for hours!

“I was happy to finish second in Sweden, although a bit frustrated not to win considering the speed we showed over the weekend in all conditions. It was really wet in the semi-final and final – like driving in a river in some places. I made too many mistakes for my liking and so far, the season clearly hasn’t been completely perfect, but we are getting back on the right track and I think the championship will go down to the wire in Germany.”

If Germany’s Estering circuit will stage the season finale, then immediate attentions are all on the upcoming round at Lydden Hill. A regular visitor to the ‘Home of Rallycross’ as a child, Vranckx raced there in the British Championship earlier this year, producing a show-stopping performance to reach the rostrum on the opening day in his RX2e car in the headlining Supercar category. He is targeting a similar result if not better this weekend.

“Lydden is a special track,” the Lier native acknowledged. “It’s old-school with two completely different sectors to the lap, and I know a few of the tips and tricks there now, whereas it might take the others a little time to figure them out so hopefully that may give us a bit of a headstart.

“It’s really ‘sendy’ and you can carry a lot of speed through some of the corners, which is a lot of fun. I’m confident we can be as quick at Lydden as we were at Höljes and I want to come away from the weekend with a big haul of points – and ultimately, the best way to do that is to win...”

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