Kobe Pauwels acknowledged that ‘childhood dreams come true’ after clinching the FIA European Rallycross Championship Euro RX3 crown with a round to spare at Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal last weekend (17-18 September) – as he dedicated his title to his father, former FIA World Rallycross Championship competitor, Koen.
Pauwels has spent most of his 17 years in rallycross paddocks, initially following his father around before making his own debut in Euro RX3 last year, off the back of a successful formative career in karting and CrossCar competition.
After finishing runner-up to Yury Belevskiy in his rookie campaign, the Belgian has been the class of the field in 2022, winning in Hungary and Norway – and missing out on victory by less than four tenths-of-a-second in Sweden – prior to travelling to Montalegre, where 11 months earlier he had conceded the laurels to his Russian rival.
This time around, Pauwels was very much in the driving seat, and he duly dominated heat one following a lightning launch. Heat two was a scrappier affair, as light contact with Jan Černý restricted the Volland Racing ace to the third-quickest time, but he was back in charge again in heat three the next morning as he crushed the opposition to the tune of almost three-and-a-half seconds.
From that point on, the result was never truthfully in doubt. After taking a comfortable win in his progression race, Pauwels kept Černý at bay in the first of the weekend’s semi-finals and proceeded to deliver a commanding performance in the all-important final, sealing the deal in style with a comprehensive lights-to-flag triumph. It was a champion’s drive if ever there was one.
“It’s difficult to find the words,” reflected the Diest-born teenager. “This is something I’ve only previously ever dreamed of – I guess childhood dreams do come true. I will never forget this moment – it’s unbelievable.
“I said ahead of the weekend that I wasn’t thinking about the championship too much, but I lied – I was thinking about the championship. I was thinking about it after every race, how it was looking, and especially after the semi-final, I got a really good feeling. I won the start over Jan Černý, who had been making rocket getaways all weekend, so that was a good confidence boost going into the final.
“It’s such a competitive field in Euro RX3, so to secure the championship with a round still to go feels very special. We always said that when we went into rallycross, we would go with a good team and prepare properly to ensure we could fight for victories right from the outset – and that’s what we did. After gaining a lot of experience last year, the goal this season was always the championship. You never know what’s going to happen, of course, but in the end, we made it work.
“If there’s one guy that really deserves this title, it’s my father. This is a huge family effort and he has played a massive role, teaching me all his tips and tricks when I got into rallycross myself. Since our racing journey together began back in 2014, he has only missed one of my races, and now all the hard work we have put in has paid off. He’s the best. Without him, I wouldn’t be here. He works 24/7 just to make sure I can go racing. Thanks daddy!”