Sunday | 30 Oct 2022

Heidfeld ‘massively enjoying’ rallycross debut – and learning fast

Nick Heidfeld arrived at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend (29-30 October) with no prior rallycross experience and having not raced anything at all in more than four years. The German faced the steepest of learning curves on his debut in the FIA RX2e Championship – yet by only the second heat, he was posting lap times on a par with the series front-runners. And clearly having an absolute blast.

Nick Heidfeld arrived at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend (29-30 October) with no prior rallycross experience and having not raced anything at all in more than four years. The German faced the steepest of learning curves on his debut in the FIA RX2e Championship – yet by only the second heat, he was posting lap times on a par with the series front-runners. And clearly having an absolute blast.

It should perhaps have come as little surprise that Heidfeld so quickly got down to the pace in RX2e. This is, after all, a driver with 13 Formula 1 podium finishes to his credit, eight more in Formula E, class victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours and – for 20 years – the outright record up the famous Goodwood hillclimb. But with its dual-surface nature and ever-changing track conditions, rallycross is something else entirely – something completely out of his comfort zone.

Admitting to finding it more difficult than he had initially expected, the 45-year-old was over two seconds adrift of the benchmark in free practice on Saturday morning, but by dint of adopting a ‘look-and-learn’ approach, he progressively improved his lap times. By heat two, he had reduced the deficit to just nine tenths-of-a-second, on a par with Patrick O’Donovan – winner of the most recent two rounds – and barely a quarter-of-a-second shy of champion-elect Viktor Vranckx.

Heading into the second day today, Heidfeld is aiming to step up the tempo as he pursues his rallycross apprenticeship.

“I’m enjoying it massively,” he enthused. “Coming from a completely different type of racing, the car is certainly challenging to drive and the level of competition is high. When I was sat on the grid waiting for the start of both races, I felt my heart pumping faster than I had done for many years – and it’s been great to get that feeling back.

“I had a couple of issues on the first practice run which cost me two or three laps, and when you don’t get much track time anyway, that really hurts you. I was two seconds off the pace, so going into the races, I decided to hold back a bit at the start and just follow because I didn’t want to get in the way of the others or be responsible for ruining it for anybody else. I had nothing to gain by getting involved, and potentially a lot to lose.

“I knew it would be much more beneficial for me to have a clean race, see what the others were doing and try to settle into a rhythm. Even though I finished last both times, I’m relatively happy because I can see the progress I’m making. Hopefully today I can start taking the fight to the guys in front a bit...”

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