A jubilant Liam Doran made his long-awaited return to top-level rallycross competition last weekend with a last minute entry into the new Americas Rallycross series.
Doran’s deal to race at the season opener at Silverstone only came together on the Wednesday before the event, giving him very little time to prepare.
“The car was only halfway built at that point,” he said. “We didn’t practice on Friday because we didn’t have the car finished – we were waiting on a critical part to get the car running – it then hadn’t turned a wheel or even run until Saturday morning in warm-up so back foot isn’t the right word, against factory teams.”
“It’s literally a brand-spanking new car, it wasn’t supposed to be ready for this, but we got it ready,” he added. “We didn’t really get it working until Sunday. On Saturday it was going around the track but a lot of systems were not working because we hadn’t fixed and worked them out yet, we had issues but we were finishing the races and that’s really all I expected.”
“I couldn’t expect anything more than to get to the finish line in each qualifying heat.”
The Brit missed Friday running completely while his team waited for the arrival of a critical component, but managed to complete in all four qualifying heats, finishing in eighth overall, and then take second in his semi final to qualify for the main event.
In the final, Doran made a strong start to challenge front row starter Scott Speed from the off. After racing side-by-side for most of the opening lap, the American took the joker early in order to take advantage of a clear track. Speed eventually stayed ahead of Doran, who took third place. At the end of the race, Doran celebrated with his home crowd as if he’d won a championship, such was the magnitude of the result in what was his first rallycross event in nearly two years.
“The reason why I was celebrating was for nothing else than my family and my team, because of how hard we worked to even get the car here,” he said. “To have finished all the qualifying heats and then to have got in the semi-final, to have got through to the final and then get onto the podium is a dream come true.”
“It might not mean as much as lets say when I won X Games in 2011, but to me I didn’t work hard for that back then, I just drove a car and did what I do. This is real hard work and passion just to be able to compete.”
Doran hasn’t competed since 2016, when he left the JRM team midway through the season. He was then forced to sit out the 2017 season following a license suspension following an incident at the Gatebil festival in Norway.
“I’ve had the odds against me, and alright I’m the one that’s created the odds against me,” Doran said of his absence. “I’ve got myself in trouble where I shouldn’t have. I put the odds against me and everyone thought I was down and out and that was it, but I didn’t give up and this was more than enough to put me back into this position where people realise I’m not going to be a waste of time, I’m going to be a contender.”
With a podium finish in the very first ARX race, Doran is now looking forward, and is keen to see out the rest of the four-round US season.
“This was kind of a favour to IMG and rallycross as a sport – because it’s what I’ve always done, I owe a lot to rallycross, it’s what my family’s based around,” Doran said. “They [IMG] wanted this event to work, they needed people to race and they wanted me to come and do this event.”
“But with that result in the bag I’m hoping it’ll be a negotiating tool for sponsors to try and get a budget together to carry on,” he continued. “I would like to carry on, I would like to do the full ARX – it’s a great series, it’s got great potential.”
“I’m privileged to be able to race with Scott Speed and Tanner Foust and I would like to be able to take it to the next level and go over there and race against Ken [Block] and Steve Arpin and all those guys. I’d like to do it. We’ve got a lot of work to do now, we’ve done a lot of work to get here, and there’s now even more work to do if we want to carry on.”
Doran was a fixture in US rallycross competition during the sport’s early days Stateside, where he won the 2011 X Games gold Medal in Los Angeles, and took top spot in the extreme sports competition when it visited Munich in 2013.