Tuesday | 14 Sep 2021

Giant-killing Kárai confident of maintaining the pace

In an ultra-competitive FIA European Rallycross Championship field, one driver who has punched consistently above his weight over the opening two rounds of the season is Tamás Kárai – and the Lohéac podium-finisher is confident there is plenty more still to come.

In an ultra-competitive FIA European Rallycross Championship field, one driver who has punched consistently above his weight over the opening two rounds of the season is Tamás Kárai – and the Lohéac podium-finisher is confident there is plenty more still to come.

Comprising the likes of Andreas Bakkerud, Jānis Baumanis, Anton Marklund, Thomas Bryntesson, René Münnich and the Dubourg and Pailler brothers, the 2021 Euro RX1 crop is inarguably one of the strongest in living memory – and Kárai has been a leading protagonist from the outset.

Having finished fourth in the Höljes curtain-raiser, the Hungarian came out-of-the-blocks flying in France to lap second-quickest in free practice amongst the 25 high-calibre contenders. Sixth place in Q1 then earned him pole position for his Q2 race, and Kárai made full use of it to climb to fourth overall behind the wheel of his Audi S1.

Unfortunately, a coming-together with Baumanis at the joker merge sent the three-time European Autocross Champion into a spin, but a scintillating performance in Q4 saw him post the second-best time to safely book his semi-final spot.

After advancing to the final again, Kárai then pushed Andréa Dubourg right the way to the chequered flag to replicate his 2019 result at the track and secure the third rostrum finish of his Euro RX career. It also elevated him to sixth in the championship standings as he turns his attentions now to Riga this weekend (18-19 September), and to a circuit at which he has twice previously reached the final.

“Of course, I was very happy,” the 47-year-old reflected of his French podium. “I really like Lohéac as a track. I knew it wouldn’t be easy with all the local specialists in the field, but I trusted in my team who work extremely hard – my Audi S1 was built and prepared in Hungary by a group of excellent Hungarian mechanics.

We tested at Lohéac following the race weekend last year, which gave us some good experience of set-ups. It’s a circuit that is very tough on tyres, and I think our tactics in that area were key – that and our Q4 run. Having fallen from fourth overall to ninth after Q3, I knew I needed a really good time in the last qualifier and thankfully, I got one.

“I’ve been competing against these guys for a few years now, but the constant technical developments can change everything. Baumanis and Bakkerud obviously raced in World RX and we all know what they can do, and the French guys have also improved a lot this season. Saying that and looking forward, we have performed well in Riga in recent years, so my plan once again is to extract the most out of both the Audi and myself. We’re ready to fight!”