Fri 01 Sep 2023

O’Donovan: I need to clean up my act sometimes

Euro RX1 front-runner Patrick O’Donovan has vowed to come back as a ‘more mature’ driver next year in his pursuit of glory, after reflecting that he needs to ‘clean up his act sometimes on-track’.

FIA European Rallycross Championship front-runner Patrick O’Donovan has vowed to come back as a ‘more mature’ driver next year in his pursuit of glory, after reflecting that he needs to ‘clean up his act sometimes on-track’.

For O’Donovan, the 2023 Euro RX1 season finale at Germany’s Estering last month was something of a microcosm of his maiden full campaign in the fiercely-disputed series – bursts of blistering raw speed interspersed by costly clashes, either of his own making or caused by somebody else.

The fifth-quickest run in heat one behind the wheel of his ex-Hansen Motorsport Peugeot 208 marked a solid start, but following a lightning launch from the outside of the grid in heat two, a coming-together with champion-elect Anton Marklund earned the rising British star an official warning.

An overly ambitious passing attempt on Máté Benyó in heat three the next morning left the Hungarian beached in the gravel and restricted O’Donovan to the 16th-fastest time – but he fought back by placing third in heat four courtesy of a race win, to safely book his spot in the semi-finals.

There, the Team RX Racing ace benefitted from the first corner crunch that eliminated Marklund to pip René Münnich to the runner-up spot – a result that he then replicated in the all-important final, as he chased Jānis Baumanis all the way to the chequered flag.

“We were pretty pleased with second place,” he said. “Like most circuits this year, the Estering was brand new for me. It’s hard sometimes going to a track knowing most of your rivals have prior experience and prior data of it, but to be able to be on the pace relatively quickly, I was happy with that.

“It’s a special circuit, I have to say. I’ve grown up since I was two or three-years-old watching rallycross, and everyone is familiar with the Kevin Eriksson round-the-outside move at the Estering – although I don’t know if I was brave enough to try that with Peter Hedström on my inside! It’s an amazing track – the gravel section up the hill is absolutely wild, just unreal. Knowing that if you touch the wall, you’re writing off the car is a buzz you don’t often get.”

O’Donovan’s season has very much been one of peaks and troughs. The highs – most notably his breakthrough European Championship win during Sweden’s ‘Magic Weekend’ at Höljes – have been magnificent, but the lows, characterised by too much contact, arguably denied him a shot at the drivers’ crown. As it was, he wound up third in the overall classification behind Marklund and Baumanis – a result he is determined to improve upon if he returns in 2024.

“It’s been a difficult year, you could say, with a few decisions not going our way and I do take responsibility for a lot of it,” mused the reigning British Champion, who at only 19 still, gave away more than a decade’s worth of experience to his principal competitors.

“I think it’s easy when you’re young and a bit hot-headed to just steam into things without thinking about the bigger picture, and I do need to clean up my act sometimes and not get so caught up in everyone else’s business on-track. Next year, I’m going to try my best to bring back a much more mature and consistent Patrick...”

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