Tuesday | 24 Jan 2023

Vranckx keen to maintain momentum of ‘zero to hero’ campaign

Viktor Vranckx has his sights set on reaching the pinnacle of the sport after catapulting himself into the spotlight in the FIA RX2 Championship last season, with the talented teenager eager to maintain the momentum of a title triumph that turned him, in his own words, from ‘zero to hero’.

Viktor Vranckx has his sights set on reaching the pinnacle of the sport after catapulting himself into the spotlight in the FIA RX2e Championship last season, with the talented teenager eager to maintain the momentum of a title triumph that turned him, in his own words, from ‘zero to hero’.

Despite having achieved success in CrossCar competition in his native Belgium and Italy prior to stepping up to the international rallycross scene, Vranckx was still something of an unknown quantity this time 12 months ago. He wasted no time at all in making his mark.

As a private entrant in the high-calibre RX2e field, the Lier native belied his comparative lack of experience, circuit knowledge and age – as the youngest driver on the grid at only 16 – to show his rivals a clean pair of heels in the curtain-raising contest at Höljes, racing to victory on his series debut to make the rallycross world sit up and take note.

Just over a month later, he repeated the feat in Hell – even more convincingly this time – to open up an eight-point advantage at the summit of the drivers’ standings. It was, he acknowledged, a dream start.

“Höljes is like the Holy Grail of rallycross, especially during the ‘Magic Weekend’, so I think that will forever remain my most memorable win,” he reflected. “It felt like I had wings! I stayed strong and focussed all weekend, but after the final I burst into tears on my father’s shoulders out of sheer relief. We had proved as a team that we could do this, and I will never forget that feeling.

“Our ambition and confidence naturally increased as a result of that, and when we also won in Hell, we were more driven than ever to go for the title!”

It was not all plain sailing, however – and the third round of the campaign in Rīga saw Vranckx come unstuck for the first time, as the runaway championship leader found himself adapting to racing with a target on his back. He dug deep to salvage a third-place finish, before coming within a whisker of a famous home triumph at Spa-Francorchamps and clinching the crown courtesy of the runner-up spoils in Catalunya, preserving his unbroken podium run in the process.

“Rīga was the toughest event of the season, both physically and mentally,” Vranckx acknowledged. “Whereas before I had been quite unknown, it seemed like now the eyes of my competitors were all on me and that I had become the driver to chase. I had to deal with a lot of attacks and damage and I seriously struggled to keep my stress levels under control. We only just made it to the final, but our perseverance paid off in the end with third place.

“The level of competition in RX2e was really high all year. I was the youngest amongst many more experienced drivers;  in fact, most of them had already competed for a season, so they had more knowledge of the car and circuits. It was really amazing fighting against each other, but while the camaraderie off the track was great, on-track, there can be no friends...

“At Spa, I underestimated how much pressure there would be on my shoulders to perform well – so many people came especially to see me race in my home country, but the enthusiasm of the crowd gave me extra motivation – and then in Barcelona, I had to keep my cool, play it safe and make sure not to take any unnecessary risks.

“Finally taking the title there was an indescribable feeling – truly the best day of my life and a dream come true. The original goal for the season had simply been to learn as much as possible as a rallycross rookie, while aiming to get on the podium at some stage along the way and gaining enough experience to maybe compete for the title in 2023. None of us saw this coming – the feeling of going from zero to hero in my debut year was just overwhelming.”

As he turns his attentions to the future, Vranckx is quick to pay tribute to his father, Bert, for ‘building a strong team around me’, while hailing the ‘preparation, commitment and drive’ of his family-run VMV Racing outfit and all those who played a vital role in his outstanding success.

“I got the chance to work with the best,” he goes on. “We have a tremendously strong team that I trust 100 per cent, and having Guillaume De Ridder, the first RX2e champion, by my side throughout the season was a huge asset for me.

“He is not only a great coach and spotter but also an excellent mentor, and he has so much knowledge and experience which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot from him in a really short period of time. He understands perfectly how to manage and motivate me, and I consider him my rallycross father.

“The past year has been the best of my life. I travelled to so many beautiful places and met so many fascinating people, always surrounded and supported by my family. To be able to experience all this with the people who are important to me and who share the same passion is amazing, and I am proud of my team and myself for what we accomplished together. We worked hard and we really achieved the unexpected.

“Behind the scenes, we are not sitting still and now, I hope to continue this momentum and reach the highest level one day. I have followed my rallycross idols since I was little, and for as long as I can remember, I have dreamt of racing in the World Championship.

“Winning the title in RX2e has turned some heads in my direction and some contacts have already been made. There are some possibilities on the table, but nothing concrete yet. Whatever happens, I will definitely be behind the wheel, because I love rallycross too much!”