Anton Marklund could seal his second FIA European Rallycross Championship title with a round to spare the Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal (17/18 September). The Swedish driver has a comfortable lead over his main rival, the luckless Janis Baumanis, who needs to outscore Marklund by at least 7 points to have a hope of winning the title.
If Marklund wins the event on Sunday 18 September, there is nothing his rivals will be able to do. The SET Promotion driver has been the dominant force this season, winning the first two rounds, and narrowly missing out on victory in the subsequent two. Crucially, neither of the other winners this year have been permanent entries in the championship. Norway’s Andreas Bakkerud secured a very popular home win in Hell in round three, and his compatriot Sondre Evjen produced a stunning display in the wet last time out in Latvia to secure a fantastic win. Having beaten Marklund off the line, he coped brilliantly with the pressure being heaped upon him by the Swede, keeping his cool and defending his position to claim the win.
These performances, while meaning he was beaten on the day, have meant that Marklund’s main rivals have been kept at bay. Belgium’s Enzo Ide has demonstrated stunning pace at times this year, frequently being in the mix for the top positions at various points over race weekends but ultimately failing to deliver when it mattered. Baumanis, driving for #YellowSquad, has had appalling luck and consequently has never really got his title campaign underway, despite being second in the championship.
In round four of the championship at the Biķernieki circuit in Latvia, Baumanis showed great pace throughout the weekend, but suffered a freak intercooler issue during the semi-final, meaning he did not progress to the final. Team manager Eric Färén expressed disappointment at this turn of events, saying “Until the technical issue happened in the lead of the semi-final, we had a very solid weekend. We struggled a little to find the last tiny bit of pace, but Janis had some very good race wins in the heats. The intercooler problem was just a freak thing, we have never seen that happen in all the years Hansen Motorsport has run this setup in World RX on the Peugeot 208, so it is just one of those things.”
While it may well be “just one of those things,” the simple fact is that Marklund has not suffered any major reliability issues so far this season. He has been able to deliver when it counts in a car that seems perfectly set up for him, and consistently scores a large number of points. For anyone to stop him taking the crown for the second time, there needs to be a major change of fortunes.
The Lusorecursos World RX of Portugal takes place on 17/18 September.
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