On 2 April, Team RX Racing driver Ollie O’Donovan has written a new chapter in the history of rallycross, becoming the first Irishman ever to claim a podium spot in a European Rallycross Championship event for Supercars.
At the wheel of a Ford Fiesta prepared by Tony Bardy Motorsport, the Irishman suffered a poor Q1 race, where he was caught out by rain while driving on dry-track tyres, struggling against the rest of the field. Seventh-fastest times in both Q2 and Q4 promoted him to eighth overall, thus granting him access to the semifinals…but the best was yet to come.
A blistering start in his semifinal immediately put him in the lead, eventually finishing to secure second place and a second-row grid position for the final.
Another race, another blinding start: on lap 1, O’Donovan gained second position, right behind eventual winner, Hungarian Tamas-Pal Kiss, until he took the joker lap on lap 3, and rejoined the track behind René Münnich of Germany, eventually clinching third place with a brave move round the outside.
Although his Fiesta was fitted with a 2016-spec engine due to a delay in parts delivery, the Irishman certainly caught the attention of his rivals, achieving a sure highlight in his long and established career.
“This is amazing. At the end of the first day we thought we would even struggle to make the semi-finals. Even when I finished the race in Q4 I thought we would be in the semi-finals but didn’t know, and was surprised that we were eighth overall to be honest,” said O’Donovan. “We made some great starts in the semi-final and final, and the races were very clean. To be fair to Rene Münnich behind in the final, he was very clean. He had opportunities to touch me but didn’t – it was great racing. I made the car about 15 feet wide.”
Having been the first Irish driver to make a European Championship Supercar final in 2015, O’Donovan bettered his previous personal best fourth place finishes by one position, to re-write rallycross history.
“We have a great bunch of lads in this team. We all do it because we love it and this result is as much for them as it is for me. I was willing the chequered flag to come out on the last two laps. A lot of work goes into making this come together, as I know it does in any team, but few work harder than Tony (Bardy) who does an amazing job of preparing such a stunning car and I’m delighted to be able to add another European Championship podium to his history.”
Team RX Racing will be back to action on 27-28 May at the second ERX Supercar round at Lydden Hill Circuit in Kent.