The 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship returns to another rallycross track on 3/4 June. Montalegre, Portugal, plays host to the second round of this exciting championship, with a large portion of the field keen to grab the top spot of the podium.
A staple of the European rallycross scene, and a regular fixture in the FIA World Rallycross Championship as well, Montalegre is known for its beautiful views and hosting spectacular racing. The long start finish straight splits charges into the first hairpin, the former Joker section. The Joker section now follows on from this opening turn. Who can forget the spectacular contact at the Joker merge between current championship leader Janis Baumanis and reigning champion Anton Marklund in 2022? With an excitingly close-fought battle at Nyirád, Hungary, last time out, we could well see similarly spectacular battles this time.
The opening round was an event that defied odds. Baumanis battled to victory despite battling an illness for most of the weekend; Marklund, having described his Ford Fiesta RX as one of the worst he’d ever driver, managed to finish second; and rising star Patrick O’Donovan took his Peugeot 208 RX to third on the podium on only his second Euro RX1 outing.
L-R: Marklund, Baumanis and O’Donovan, the podium at Nyirád. Who will top the podium at Montalegre? Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool
Marklund was also involved in a heavy crash with Sivert Svardal in heat three, which many thought would end his weekend – including Marklund. Speaking after the final, Marklund said “To be honest, I still can’t really believe what we did. We decided that we could not continue with the damage after heat three – it shouldn’t have been possible to repair the car in that timeframe – but then there was a moment, where we sat and discussed and everyone stood up to at least try. The guys worked flat-out. I think the team was surprised too that we got out again, but they did it, and this P2 is like a victory for all of us. It was exhausting and a tough couple of days, but we did what we needed to do.“
Despite his disappointing end to the weekend, Svardal also believes he can fight for victory. Reflecting on the possibilities for the second round, Svardal said “We were really happy with the performance of the new car at Nyirád – it’s still not the quickest on the grid, but it’s definitely a step forward and the best feeling I’ve ever had in a rallycross Supercar. I obviously have more experience now too, which gives me the confidence to push harder. If things go well, I honestly believe we can compete with the top guys this year and cause them some trouble. It’s a really strong field in Euro RX1 and the leading four drivers in the championship will all be in Portugal, but my goal is to get through to the final – and from there, anything is possible.”