Mon 13 May 2024

Never-say-die Dane returns: Linnemann is back from the brink!

When Ulrik Linnemann’s car was pitched into a spectacular barrel-roll on lap two of heat three at Germany’s Estering last August, the extent of the damage threatened to bring down the curtain on the Dane’s career. Just under nine months on, he is preparing to return to the track for the opening rounds of the 2024 FIA European Rallycross Championship campaign.

The timing of the accident was particularly cruel, leaving a bitter taste at the end of a superb season – Linnemann’s finest in some years – during which he had tallied a pair of podium finishes in Euro RX1 and frequently rivalled the very best in the field. He was solidly in the mix again at Buxtehude, occupying fifth position in the intermediate ranking prior to his premature exit.

The 35-year-old cast a sad figure indeed that evening in Germany, but typical of his glass half-full attitude towards life, he did not let it defeat him for long. Inspired by his stellar form in 2023 – a decade-and-a-half on from his debut on the European stage – Linnemann and his close-knit family team set about rebuilding the Volkswagen Polo in anticipation of a renewed assault this year.

He will duly join the grid for the 2024 Euro RX1 curtain-raiser at Essay in France next month (8-9 June) and round two at Höljes in Sweden – rallycross’ legendary ‘Magic Weekend’ – on 6-7 July. Should those events go well, he has not ruled out additional outings later in the season.

“It was a tough winter,” he acknowledged. “It was such a sudden and sad way for last season to end, but we have to look forward. I really felt good in the Volkswagen last year – we had great pace and some fantastic performances and results, and to be able to take the fight to the top guys was a big confidence boost – so we quite quickly resolved that we wanted to continue racing this season.

“It made the most financial sense to buy the car from Hedströms Motorsport and rebuild it ourselves. That was a big decision and commitment to make, and we used up almost all of this year’s budget in the process! We’re a little bit late finishing the rebuild, which means we haven’t had time to test the Polo yet, but we are here and that’s the most important thing.

“There has been a lot of hard work involved, especially for my closest friends who have helped out in the workshop. Most of the chassis I took care of myself, and we have tried to use the money wisely and focus on developing the engine, gearbox and suspension to ensure the car is in the best shape possible. Hopefully it will be as competitive as it was last year if not a little more so.”

Linnemann will be one of the few drivers in the field at Essay to have raced at the Circuit des Ducs before – on his way to the runner-up laurels in the Super1600 title battle in 2011 – but a black flag for Turn One contact meant it was the only event all season in which he did not score points.

“Hopefully it will go better this year!” the Skivum native quipped. “It’s clearly going to be tough in such a large and high-calibre field, but the target is always to get into the final. From there, anything is possible...”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM