The spectacle and emotion of the purest Rallycross was served this weekend at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The World Rallycross of Catalunya put the finishing touch to the intense second season of the FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship, crowning the Belgian Viktor Vranckx as the new champion in a race won by the Swedish Isak Sjökvist.
The event in Spain, which was also attended by Nick Heidfeld, Carlos Checa and Laia Sanz, began on Saturday with two free practice sessions in which the riders took the reins of the Catalan track for the first time. Afterwards, time to analyse the data collected and set up the RX2e for the first two races of the weekend, Heat 1 and Heat 2.
Patrick O’Donovan made a perfect start in Heat 1 to take the lead, followed by Pepe Arqué. Viktor Vranckx got involved in the battle with Laia Sanz and Carlos Checa, falling behind and losing the fight with the two Catalan riders. O’Donovan completed the race with a perfect strategy to take the victory. In the second race, Nils Andersson took advantage of a fast Joker Lap on the opening lap to take the win ahead of Isak Sjökvist, Raül Ferré, Pablo Suárez and Nick Heidfeld.
After a short time for checks and repairs, Heat 2 began with some great battles once again. Isak Sjökvist got rid of his rivals with a good start from pole position to secure the win, beating Viktor Vranckx, Raül Ferré, Pepe Arqué and Nick Heidfeld. Nils Andersson won again in a race in which Patrick O’Donovan skipped the start. The British rider took advantage of Pablo Suárez’s puncture and Laia Sanz’s retirement to take second place ahead of Carlos Checa.
Sunday, the most decisive day of the season, started with the morning Warm Up to get the pulse of the track for the remaining races ahead, Heat 3, Progression Race, Semi-Finals and Final. Patrick O’Donovan set the fastest time to show his credentials in his fight for the second place in the championship, ahead of Pablo Suárez, who gave a blow to the problems experienced on Saturday.
In Heat 3 O’Donovan started well, but caused a chain effect when he hit the inside wall, bouncing into the car of Raül Ferré and Pablo Suárez. The Spaniard was able to recover and moved up to third, but not the Andorran, who had to retire. Suárez executed the strategy to overtake the Briton, who in turn made a mistake. Viktor Vranckx took the win ahead of Suarez. In the second race, Isak Sjökvist passed Nils Andersson with a superb Joker Lap, while Pepe Arqué was left behind after a touch in the first corner, being overtaken by Checa and Sanz.
The provisional ranking, formed by the combined results of the Heats, determined the starting grids for the Progression Race, the key race in which the starting positions for the Semi-Finals are decided. In the first of these, Viktor Vranckx was the winner after an intense battle with Isak Sjökvist and Pablo Suárez, finishing ahead of Raül Ferré and Nick Heidfeld. In the second race, Patrick O’Donovan strategically won against Nils Andersson, ahead of Pepe Arqué, Laia Sanz and Carlos Checa, who had to retire after a touch.
The Semi-Finals were presented with the intensity and excitement that usually accompanies them, leaving no one indifferent. Vranckx and Andersson fought throughout the race, winning the pass to the Final, with Suárez third and waiting to see what happened in the second. In the second race, Arqué took the lead, but closed before the first corner, pushing Sjökvist and O’Donovan against the wall. The Catalan managed to open the gap and come out on top after the Joker Lap, but the Briton did not give in and in the last corner pushed him against the wall, passing the finish line in first position.
During the checkered flag pass, Pepe Arqué’s car hit the crash barriers after Patrick O’Donovan closed the track, with Raül Ferré also impacting, without being able to avoid the collision. The incidents of this race were investigated by the Stewards and a five second penalty was given to Arqué for the touch with Sjökvist at the start and a ten second penalty to O’Donovan for pushing the Spanish driver against the wall at the finish line. In this way, Sjökvist and Ferré moved on to the Final, with Suárez completing the grid as the third best in the provisional ranking.
The big moment of the weekend and of the season arrived. The last race, the final dance that would put the finishing touch to a spectacular season, with five spectacular drivers: Isak Sjökvist, Viktor Vranckx, Nils Andersson, Raül Ferré and Pablo Suárez. The start was sublime, with Sjökvist holding the lead and Suárez putting himself in podium position momentarily. Vranckx and Andersson rebounded in a convulsive battle on the dirt of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with the second and the Spaniard entering the Joker Lap.
The strategic execution was perfect by Pablo Suárez, who overtook Raül Ferré as the Andorran went through the Joker Lap, while Isak Sjökvist held on to the lead. Viktor Vranckx fought against the Swede, but in the end, he couldn’t beat Sjökvist who took the win, his first of the season in RX2e. For his part, Vranckx clinched the title, proclaiming himself FIA RX2e Rallycross Championship Champion, succeeding his compatriot Guillaume de Ridder, who is also his spotter.
With this impressive weekend of racing in Barcelona, the season came to an end for the prelude to the World Rallycross Championship. A season that has been the second in which the RX2e electric cars, developed by the Swedish specialist Olsbergs MSE and the Spanish electromobility manufacturer QEV Technologies, have filled the circuits of half of Europe with passion and spectacle. 2022 is already history, in 2023 the best international Rallycross will return.