They say good things come to those who wait, and Krisztián Szabó was certainly made to wait for his first FIA World Rallycross Championship podium finish – but at Benelux World RX of Spa-Francorchamps last weekend (9-10 October), the Hungarian ‘finally’ reached the rostrum at the highest level courtesy of a superb defensive drive.
A two-time FIA European Rallycross Champion in the Super1600 (now Euro RX3) category, Szabó made his World Championship debut in 2019, and in his second full season in the series this year, he has been a consistent front-runner in his GRX-SET World RX Team Hyundai i20.
Indeed, the 29-year-old is one of only three drivers in the field to have progressed through to the final in every round to-date in 2021 – alongside the Hansen brothers – but prior to Belgium, the podium had remained elusive.
At Spa, he was not to be denied. Fourth-quickest in two of the four qualifiers and the top Hyundai throughout Saturday in the Ardennes, Szabó secured sixth spot in the intermediate standings, with second position behind three-time world champion Johan Kristoffersson in his semi-final seeing him advance safely to the final once again.
Following a strong launch, he settled immediately into third place, and after covering Timmy Hansen’s joker tactic, the former freestyle skier then skilfully staved off the 2019 title-winner for the remainder of the race to cement a career-best finish.
Sitting fifth in the Drivers’ standings, Szabó will now aim to replicate that performance at Cooper Tires World RX of Montalegre this weekend (16-17 October), having previously won at the Portuguese track in Super1600 in 2015, which he backed up with the runner-up spoils two years later en route to clinching his second title in the category.
“I was a bit speechless after the final at Spa,” he acknowledged. “I’d been chasing the podium for a long time, and it meant the world to me to finally achieve it – that felt really good.
“I maybe wasn’t the fastest driver out there, but I was in the right place at the right time and you have to always be there in rallycross. I had good starts in the semi-final and final and I was very happy with the end result.
“It was difficult in the final. I realised when Timmy [Hansen] took the joker that I had to put together a good lap to be able to joker myself and come back out still in front, and I managed to do it. The joker merge was tight but we kept the position, and I was in full-on defensive mode after that. Fortunately, I was able to keep putting my car in all the right places and it was really great to be on the podium.”
“It’s brilliant that Krisztián finally managed to finish on the podium,” echoed GRX-SET Team Principal, Jussi Pinomäki. “He has worked hard this season and come close on a few occasions. He fought hard to make it into the top three and it was a proud moment for the team that he was able to take his first podium. We go straight to Portugal now, and we will do everything we can to end the year on a high in the final three rounds.”