Anton Marklund currently looks set to make it three wins from the first three rounds of the FIA European Rallycross Championship. The championship leader looked in commanding form as he set the pace in today’s two heats, taking his SET Promotion Hyundai i20 to victory in both cases.
He was challenged on the very opening corner of the first race of the day. Sivert Svardal tried to challenge by taking his Volkswagen Polo R right around the outside, but didn’t quite have enough to send it into first place. Marklund then disappeared off into the distance, taking an easy win.
Race 3 of Heat 1 saw some spectacular battles between the Audis of Tamás Kárai and home favourite Sondre Evjen. After both drivers got their elbows out in the first couple of corners, it was the Hungarian Kárai who just managed to squeeze into second position behind Belgian Enzo Ide. Kárai and Evjen then battled bumper to bumper, neither giving an inch, until Kárai bailed and dived for his Joker Lap on lap 4. Evjen absolutely sent it on his standard lap, meaning he came out well ahead of his rival. Neither of them, however, could match Enzo Ide, who took advantage of the squabbles behind him to finish up only half a second behind Marklund.
Then came the noise. Local superstar and 2019 Euro RX1 champion Andreas Bakkerud emerged for his heat race in his EKS Audi S1, and the crowd went wild. He put on a show for them, going three abreast into turn one with Jānis Baumanis and Euro RX1 debutant Fraser McConnell. McConnell, who had promised to “send it in Hell” was as good as his word, barging into the side of Bakkerud as he emerged from his joker lap, but Bakkerud held his line and second place. Baumanis, though, was absolutely flying, finishing his race just 0.013 seconds behind Marklund.
Heat 2 Race 1 demonstrated a remarkable feat of survival from Marcin Gagacki. After lap 1 contact to his Ford Fiesta, his rear left tyre rubbed on the bodywork to the point where the tyre completed gave way, before practically the entire rear left of the car disintegrated, littering the track with parts that unfortunately Mandie August collected en route, causing an unfortunate end to her race. Somehow, Gagacki managed to nurse three quarters of his car home, much to the delight of the crowd.
McConnell showed that he is a serious contender in race 2, finishing his race with a time of 3:16:190, two tenths faster than Marklund’s winning time from Heat 1. Fellow driver from Heat 1 Race 4, Bakkerud was up next, putting on a commanding display to finish his race in 3:16:533, four tenths slower than McConnell.
Finally, the big guns came out in Heat 2 Race 4. Baumanis’s bad luck returned with a shocker of a start dropping him right to the back of the field. Marklund surprised no-one by launching his Hyundai into the lead. However, the Audi of Enzo Ide was crawling all over the back of him for the first couple of laps before coming out of his Joker Lap behind Baumanis, causing him to lose time to the race leader, Marklund, who ended the day with a simply astonishing time of 3:15:058.
There’s a long way to go in this race weekend and this championship, but Marklund is setting the bar extremely high for anyone who wants to compete with him. Let’s see what surprises tomorrow brings.