Three days on from his sensational success on home soil, Jānis Baumanis has reflected upon an ‘emotional’ victory at Ferratum World RX of Riga (18-19 September) that has vaulted him into FIA European Rallycross Championship title contention.
On the pace from the outset around the challenging Biķernieki trase, second position to Esmotorsport stablemate Andreas Bakkerud in Q1 marked a good start to Baumanis’ weekend, and following a sixth-fastest time in Q2, the Latvian ended Saturday ranked fifth in the overnight classification.
The next day, he well and truly turned up the wick. Behind the wheel of his Škoda Fabia, Baumanis topped the Euro RX1 timesheets in Q3, with a close second place in Q4 securing him Top Qualifier honours in the 19-strong field.
From that stage on, the 29-year-old was never headed, dominating both his semi-final and the all-important final to seal a hugely popular triumph that delighted the partisan crowd. Not only that, but the result has elevated him from ninth to fourth in the championship chase, just 14 points adrift of the summit of the standings with one round of the season remaining – Benelux World RX of Spa-Francorchamps on 9-10 October.
“It felt so good to win at home,” Baumanis acknowledged. “Biķernieki is a very technical track that asks a lot from the driver and calls for plenty of precision. It’s one of the toughest circuits in the championship, especially for me coming from an autocross background rather than karting, so to win there in front of my home crowd meant a lot.
“The fans’ support was amazing, but at the same time there was also serious pressure to perform because they kept telling me they expected to see me on the top step of the podium!
“We worked hard on our launches ahead of the weekend, which definitely paid off. Saturday went quite well, and we had a lot of discussions with the Esmotorsport engineers that night about how to improve further for Sunday.
“I’ve got to admit, I drove all six laps in the final with a smile on my face – I enjoyed every single moment. Huge thanks to the team, my sponsors, my family, RA Events and of course the fans – it felt great to get the job done for them all. To hear the Latvian national anthem playing on the podium afterwards was very emotional – I definitely had tears in my eyes. It had been a long time since I’d stood on the top step at home...”