Tuesday | 02 May 2023

Home heroes shine in Hungary to clinch Cooper Tires prizes

For the first time since the award’s introduction at the beginning of last season, home heroes have bagged both Cooper Tires ‘Racer of the Weekend’ accolades from the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship curtain-raiser at Nyirád in Hungary (29-30 April). The drivers in question will be rewarded with a free set of Cooper Tires for their eye-catching performances. Find out who they are below...

Euro RX1: Máté Benyó

Máté Benyó made his Euro RX bow off the back of victory in the opening round of the Hungarian Rallycross Championship at Máriapócs. Notwithstanding the heightened pressure of the occasion, he immediately showed his class, posting the seventh-fastest time in heat one at Nyirád in the high-quality, 19-strong field.

Despite a small mistake, he followed that up with the sixth-best time in heat two and stunned with the second-quickest run in heat three, beaten only by eventual winner Jānis Baumanis. Despite his Peugeot 208 being significantly older than many of his rivals’ cars, the Hungarian impressively kept pace with both Baumanis and 2021 Euro RX1 champion Andreas Bakkerud in heat four, with his combined results proving good enough to seal a superb third in the intermediate standings.

That earned Benyó a front row grid slot for the first semi-final, in which he held position until the penultimate lap, with Bakkerud finding himself forced to dig deep indeed to overhaul the Korda Racing ace.

Still, third place secured the 21-year-old – a front-runner on the domestic rallycross scene since 2018 – safe passage through to the final, which he converted into a fifth-place finish, giving little away to big-hitters Baumanis, Anton Marklund, Patrick O’Donovan and Enzo Ide ahead of him. As maiden appearances go, it was outstanding.

Euro RX3: Balázs Körmöczi

Like Benyó, Balázs Körmöczi made his international rallycross debut at Nyirád, but also like Benyó, he displayed no nerves or reticence in such esteemed company – quite the opposite, in fact.

Fast and feisty from the outset, Körmöczi got the better of Espen Isaksætre in the pair’s opening heat race and then engaged in an entertaining duel with Jan Černý in heat two, posting fastest lap along the way.

The 20-year-old Budapest native read the inevitable first corner shuffle to perfection in heat three to grab a lead that he would not subsequently relinquish, standing his ground to survive a last lap assault from Nils Volland that tipped his brightly-liveried Volkswagen Polo briefly sideways and going on to take the chequered flag first.

He was cruising to a second consecutive win – and the quickest time of the session – in heat four when he ran wide and brushed the tyre wall, but he fought back in the semi-final as he exploited an early joker strategy and a blistering turn-of-speed to gain the undercut on both Isaksætre and Černý and book himself a front row starting spot for the all-important final.

Despite – perhaps predictably – having to give best to the all-conquering Audis, Körmöczi continued to fling his Polo around in spectacular fashion, deservedly picking up a podium finish for his efforts. With plans to contest the full Euro RX3 season, it could be the first of many...