Mon 07 Aug 2023

Marklund puts one hand on crown with first win of season

Defending Euro RX1 Champion Anton Marklund took a giant step towards retaining his title with his first victory of the season at Mettet, as his three chief rivals saw their hopes all-but evaporate...

Defending FIA European Rallycross Champion Anton Marklund took a giant step towards successfully retaining his title with his first victory of the season at Mettet in Belgium yesterday, as his three chief rivals saw their championship hopes all-but evaporate.

Marklund arrived at the Circuit Jules Tacheny holding a five-point margin over his closest pursuer at the top of the table, but left having quadrupled that advantage following a peerless performance. The Swede set the pace in two of the four heats to pip Euro RX1 debutant Yury Belevskiy to the summit of the intermediate standings.

In the semi-final, Marklund found himself turned around by a fast-starting Patrick O’Donovan and sent across grass on the exit of Turn One, but he battled back and led the all-important final from lights-to-flag, despite an alternator issue that meant he was never able to shake off the attentions of a hard-charging Ulrik Linnemann behind.

“I’ve got to admit, it’s a relief to take our first win of the year,” the SET Promotion star reflected. “We’ve been fighting so hard all season, but even though we’ve been fast everywhere, before this weekend, things just hadn’t gone our way.

“We struggled here to begin with and didn’t always have the pace, but we worked hard on the car’s set-up and eventually, the times started to come. On the first lap of the final, the alternator broke following contact, which was a bit of adrenaline I certainly didn’t need, so I turned everything off from the wipers to the windscreen demister and then just focussed on bringing it home. It was a nice feeling to cross the finish line first.”

Linnemann made a demon start in the second semi-final to grab a lead that he would not subsequently relinquish, and then kept Marklund honest throughout the final for his second podium finish of the 2023 campaign.

Tamás Kárai – who only made the start of the semi-final after René Münnich withdrew – rounded out the rostrum in third, with team-mate Zoltán Koncseg progressing to the final for the first time in his Euro RX1 career and narrowly pipping Hans-Jøran Østreng to fourth. Hell winner Sivert Svardal was forced out following a first lap clash with Kárai.

Marklund’s success was starkly contrasted by the fortunes of fellow title protagonists Enzo Ide, Jānis Baumanis and O’Donovan. Home hero Ide recovered to fifth in the intermediate classification after a heat one error left him languishing at the tail-end of the order, but his hard work to fight back was then undone when he jumped the start in the semi-final.

Baumanis’ bid came unstuck when he was issued with a ten-second penalty for a start-line incident in the second semi-final, while O’Donovan won the other semi-final on the road but was then penalised five seconds for the contact with Marklund, ruling him out of the final.

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