Thursday | 01 Dec 2022

Euro RX3 Season Review: Pauwels’ (almost) perfect run

The standout rookie of the 2021 FIA European Rallycross Championship Euro RX3 campaign, Kobe Pauwels was the clear favourite heading into his second season in 2022. He lived up to that billing and then some.

The standout rookie of the 2021 FIA European Rallycross Championship Euro RX3 campaign, Kobe Pauwels was the clear favourite heading into his second season in 2022. He lived up to that billing and then some.

Jan Černý looked to have the upper hand for much of the Nyirád curtain-raiser in Hungary, as the Czech ace – whose little Škoda Citigo was rarely a match for Euro RX3’s phalanx of all-conquering Audi A1s – confidently led the way, but Pauwels was not to be denied.

Fired-up after coming off worse in a clash between the pair in the heats, the Volland Racing ace turned the tables on the last lap of the weekend’s very last race to get his title challenge off to the perfect start.

At Höljes in round two, Pauwels was vanquished – this time by another Škoda driver, as impressive Norwegian teenager Marius Solberg Hansen produced an inspired performance to seal his breakthrough European triumph, fulfilling the promise that had seen him awarded the prestigious Petter Solberg Scholarship the previous year.

That, though, was the last time any of Pauwels’ adversaries would ascend the top step of the rostrum in 2022, as the 18-year-old proved to be a class apart in Norway, clinched the coveted crown with a round to spare in Portugal and then fought back from a sluggish start to proceedings in Germany to win the season finale, surviving another coming-together with Černý along the way.

Fellow series sophomore Damian Litwinowicz took a while to get up-to-speed but advanced to the final on every occasion, with three consecutive podium finishes during the second half of the season propelling the Pole to the runner-up spot in the championship standings.

Černý – Pauwels’ most consistent rival over the course of the campaign – was arguably unlucky to wind up only third after performing minor miracles inside the cockpit of his Citigo. The 32-year-old twice topped the intermediate ranking – at Nyirád and the Nürburgring – and showcased his rallying skills to perfection to shine on Montalegre’s loose gravel, but was ultimately unable to live with the pace-setting Audis.

A brace of early rostrum appearances proved sufficient to secure João Ribeiro fourth in the classification at the end of his first full season of European competition, with compatriot Nuno Miguel da Costa Araújo just behind in fifth and delighting the partisan fans in Portugal with a champagne celebration on home soil.

Others to excel included Nils Volland – runner-up to Pauwels in Hell – and Jens Hvaal, who stole the show on a dazzling debut at the Nürburgring as he replicated that result.

The final championship table can be found here.