Jānis Baumanis has stated his intent for the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship by winning the opening round with a superb race at Nyirád in Hungary. The Latvian driver overcame a weekend-long illness to storm to victory just ahead of reigning champion Anton Marklund and Patrick O’Donovan, who secured a podium in only his second EuroRX outing.
Baumanis was in total control of the final. A perfect launch saw him out of the first corner first, while O’Donovan slithered past Belgian Enzo Ide into second, a position which he subsequently lost later that lap. O’Donovan battled with Andreas Bakkerud for most of the race before the latter retired, with the young Brit demonstrating superb defensive driving skills as he gets to grip with the ex-Hansen Motorsport Peugeot 208. However, it was a case of almost forgetting about Baumanis out front, he’d been so far in the lead. After the final lap joker, the RX Team Latvia driver had enough of an advantage to take a crucial victory.
Speaking after the race, Baumanis said “today and yesterday my neck was so sore that I could not normally breathe…but we are here and we win the race!” He dedicated the race win to everyone involved in the project, especially RX Team Latvia back in Riga who put in extremely long hours to rebuild the car at the start of the season, and, of course, his mother: “she had a birthday on Friday so this is a gift for you!”
Marklund’s second place is a remarkable come back from a big shunt in heat 3. After a great launch, he was tagged sideways while trying to get past Tamás Kárai at the first corner. Sat sideways on the track, he was nothing but a passenger as Sivert Svardal seemed not to notice the extent of the damage and accelerated hard into the Ford’s front-left corner.
From that point, it looked like Marklund would be out of action for the rest of the weekend. However, the SET Promotion team worked wonders and got the car ready for the semi-finals, where Marklund did exactly what he had to do and managed to progress to the back row of the final grid. From there, he went for an early joker lap, giving himself the clear air he needed to finish less than a second behind Baumanis.
Having topped the heat leaderboard to earn an extra 3 points, Baumanis has a 7 point lead over Marklund as they leave Hungary. The challenge has been brought to the 3-time EuroRX champion if he wants to defend his title. Despite not winning any heats outright, Ide was Captain Consistency and finished the heat stage second. He currently is in third in the championship, with O’Donovan fourth.
With four different heat winners and the podium finishers separated by less than 2 seconds, the season opener in Hungary has beautifully set up what promises to be a tasty year of European rallycross action.