The Ardennes forests have seen a new battle at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The Belgian track hosted this weekend the fourth round of the FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship, a prelude to the world championship, in which Patrick O’Donovan took the victory in front of the crowd that enjoyed the great show from the stands.
The track, which has a dedicated Rallycross area and uses part of the historic Spa-Francorchamps layout, including the legendary Eau Rouge and the Raidillon climb, has been modified to improve the opportunities for thrilling close fights and intense battles between the drivers. To this end, the first corner has been opened up and work has been done on the last corner to create several racing lines on the inside and on the banked outside.
On track activity started on Saturday with two consecutive Free Practice sessions, where the fastest driver was Nils Andersson. The track conditions were changeable, from the relatively heavy rain that greeted the drivers at the start to the increasing sunshine that illuminated the track in the closing stages.
Heat 1 gave way to the first two races of the weekend, with Isak Sjökvist, Viktor Vranckx and Pablo Suárez fighting for the win as soon as the lights went green. Sjökvist held off Vranckx, with Suárez entering the Joker Lap. The Spaniard upped the pace and overtook the Belgian as he entered the alternate course, also hitting the wall in his path and losing position. The leader came in, managing to fend off a fast-finishing Suárez to enter the finish line first.
In the second race, a touch in the Raidillon between Raül Ferré and Patrick O’Donovan left the Andorran out of options, with the Briton able to continue only to have to fend off Nils Andersson and Filip Thorén. O’Donovan managed to hold off a combative Andersson, very attentive in the strategy, to get out in front of him when he entered the Joker Lap, finally taking the victory.
Heat 2 took place with a new starting grid order, shuffling the drivers in order to favour the great spectacle that already distinguishes Rallycross. Nils Andersson held off Pablo Suárez and Filip Thorén at the start. The Swede held the lead of the race, with the Spaniard attacking at the Joker Lap and leaving ahead of Thorén. Andersson did not give up and managed to cross the finish line in front.
The high voltage battle took place a few minutes later, with Isak Sjökvist, Viktor Vranckx, Patrick O’Donovan and Raül Ferré fighting for the win. Vranckx and O’Donovan were locked in a fight for the lead, which Sjökvist took advantage of to enter the Joker Lap, followed by Ferré, and come out with his homework done. The fight between the top two went against Vranckx, beaten by Sjökvist and with O’Donovan holding off the Swede to win.
These results resulted in a three-way tie on 90 points between Nils Andersson, Isak Sjökvist and Patrick O’Donovan at the top of the provisional standings, with Pablo Suárez just six points behind. The most important thing on Sunday was to get the pulse of a very wet and cold track again in the morning Warm Up, trying to get the most out of the car to break this tremendous equality in the standings.
Heat 3 continued the great action of Saturday, starting with a first race in which Sjökvist and Suárez fought for the win against Thorén who couldn’t keep up with the pace of the first two, with the Swede winning a clean race to continue scoring points for the all-important provisional ranking at Spa-Francorchamps.
In the second race, neck-and-neck battles were a constant feature, with O’Donovan, Andersson, Vranckx and Ferré fighting each other for the win. The Briton’s perfect Joker Lap was the key to his victory, ahead of the Belgian, the Swede and the Andorran. With this and the sum of previous results, the ranking for the fourth round of the FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship season was made up, breaking the tie to make Isak Sjökvist the best-placed driver before the decisive Progression Race.
This session again had two heats, with a spectacular duel between Isak Sjökvist, Nils Andersson and Viktor Vranckx, which brought the spectators to their feet. The Belgian took advantage of the opportunities and made a sensational pass through the Joker Lap, taking advantage of the loss of time of both Swedes due to the intense fight they were having. Vranckx won in front of his home crowd, followed by Andersson and Sjökvist.
The second race saw Patrick O’Donovan win unopposed, with Filip Thorén and Pablo Suárez fighting for second position, while Raül Ferré was out of the fight after an unfortunate start. The Spaniard attacked with the strategy and overtook the Swede, but the latter did not give in and hit the Gran Canaria rider, gaining the advantage. Thorén was subsequently penalised five seconds for the incident, dropping to fourth place behind Suárez and Ferré.
The semi-finals were faced with all the intensity that Rallycross generates, reaching huge amounts of spectacle. The first of them had as protagonists Viktor Vranckx, Pablo Suárez and Isak Sjökvist, who from the start fought to achieve the passes to the decisive race. Sjökvist launched the strategic attack, successfully responded by Suárez and then attacked Vranckx, who managed to hold off the attack, with the three of them crossing the finish line in the same starting order to certify their place in the Final.
The second race then saw Patrick O’Donovan, Nils Andersson, Raül Ferré and Filip Thorén all going all out for the same goal. O’Donovan once again set the pace from the start, breaking away from the front to take the win and into the Final. On the other hand, Raül Ferré was perfect in the Joker Lap, which was the key to overtake Andersson and earn a place on the final grid at Spa-Francorchamps, leaving out the two Swedish drivers.
It was the moment everyone was waiting for, the FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship Final at Spa-Francorchamps. Patrick O’Donovan defended first position at the start against Viktor Vranckx, with Pablo Suárez holding off Raül Ferré and Isak Sjökvist and avoiding the incident that left the Andorran and the Swede out of the running. Vranckx entered the Joker Lap to force O’Donovan’s strategy, but it was not enough to avoid the second consecutive victory of the British driver. The Belgian took second place in his home race and Suárez made history again with his second podium in the category after last year’s podium at the Nürburgring.
The FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship thus completes a spectacular fourth round in which the excitement was once again at its peak and which leads to the last round of the season in Spain. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will host the last round of the category on the 29th and 30th of October. The 2022 RX2e champion title will be decided there.
FIA RX2e Championship 2022 – Standings
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