Euro RX - ‘Nothing can be better than this,’ says Euro RX1 race winner Baumanis


Jānis Baumanis said that ‘nothing can be better than this’ – after clinching victory at the opening round of the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship at the Nyirád Racing Center in Hungary

The Latvian driver was one of the pace-setters from the outset in the high-calibre Euro RX1 field, bolstering a heat win with a brace of further top three times to soar to the summit of the intermediate standings in his Peugeot 208 – ahead of the chasing Enzo Ide (Audi S1) and home hero Máté Benyó (Ford Focus).

From there Baumanis, a former European Super1600 (now Euro RX3) champion, led the first semi-final from lights-to-flag. He subsequently did the same in the final, winding up just under a second clear of his closest pursuer to tally a maximum score of 23 championship points with his seventh career victory.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Baumanis.

“This is for RX Team Latvia for all the long hours everybody has put in. We only got the team together and started to assemble the car in March, so they deserve this result so much. It’s unbelievable. It’s also for my mother, who celebrated her birthday on Friday. This win is my gift to her!

“It’s been a tough weekend. I’ve been feeling really bad and my neck has been very sore, but I tried not to think about it too much and did some mind yoga in the car to keep calm!

“Thankfully, everything ran smoothly without any technical problems, which was so important, and I need to say a big thanks to all the amazing spectators here at the track and all the Latvian fans who cheered me on. Nothing can be better than this.”

If Baumanis’ weekend (illness aside) was relatively trouble-free, the same could not be said for many of his rivals in the ‘Red Cauldron’. Indeed, the story of the eventual runner-up and defending champion Anton Marklund was a real rollercoaster ride.

Fastest in heat one, the Swede looked poised to pick up from where he had left off at the end of last season, but then a first corner crash in heat three – when contact with Tamás Kárai sent him into a spin, following which he was collected by an unsighted Sivert Svardal – threatened to derail his bid.

The damage to his Ford Fiesta appeared to be terminal and ruled Marklund out of heat four, but the SET Promotion crew produced a herculean effort to get their driver back out on-track for the semi-finals, which – courtesy of his earlier results – he snuck into by the skin of his teeth. He rewarded them by twice battling his way through from the rear of the grid, placing third in the semi-final to book his slot in the final and then unleashing a scintillating turn-of-speed to secure the runner-up spoils.

The rostrum was completed by British teenager Patrick O’Donovan, who bounced back from suspension damage in heat three to top the timesheets in heat four. He then exploited an early joker strategy in the semi-final to advance to the final, where he got the better of Ide to cement his first Euro RX1 podium finish in only his second outing.

Ide took the chequered flag in fourth to cap another strong weekend, with Benyó a superb fifth in his older Peugeot.

In Euro RX3, Damian Litwinowicz rebounded from a first heat coming together with Jens Hvaal to prevail in heat two and set further top three times in the remaining two heats, putting him on pole position for the second semi-final.

He proceeded to win the race – twice, after the first attempt was red-flagged due to a roll for João Ribeiro – and thereafter controlled the pace in the final to seal his breakthrough victory in the class.

The Pole was chased home by team-mate Espen Isaksætre – who topped two of the four heats on his debut for Volland Racing and maiden visit to Nyirád – and local star Balázs Körmöczi, who confidently took the fight to the all-conquering Audis and put on a spectacular show for the appreciative audience. Hvaal, fellow Škoda star Jan Černý (who clipped a wall in his pursuit of the podium) and Hungary’s Ferenc Ficza rounded out the top six, as Saturday pace-setter Nils Volland’s weekend unravelled on day two.

The Euro RX campaign continues at Montalegre in Portugal (3-4 June) in support of the opening round of the 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship.

1. Jānis BAUMANIS (LVA) RX Team Latvia 5 laps
2. Anton MARKLUND (SWE) SET Promotion + 0.901s
3. Patrick O’DONOVAN (GBR) Team RX Racing + 1.600s
4. Enzo IDE (BEL) Enzo Ide + 2.628s
5. Máté BENYÓ (HUN) Korda Racing KFT + 4.648s
6. Andreas BAKKERUD (NOR) Andreas Bakkerud + 2 laps

1. Damian LITWINOWICZ (POL) Volland Racing 5 laps
2. Espen ISAKSÆTRE (NOR) Volland Racing + 0.565s
3. Balázs KÖRMÖCZI (HUN) Szada Ring Racing KFT + 2.685s
4. Jens HVAAL (NOR) Jens Hvaal + 6.660s
5. Jan ČERNÝ (CZE) Pajr S.R.O + 13.223s
6. Ferenc FICZA (HUN) EAK M-Sport KFT+ 4 laps