European Championship stars Hungary for success in Nyirád curtain-raiser
The 2022 FIA European Rallycross Championship will race into life at Nyirád in Hungary this weekend (21-22 May), with a whole host of candidates set to vie for victory in both Euro RX1 and Euro RX3.
Absent from the highest level of international rallycross for nearly a decade, Nyirád – located just 25 kilometres from Hungary’s famous Lake Balaton – makes a welcome return to the schedule this year. Characterised by technical curves, dramatic elevation changes and a host of overtaking opportunities, it is affectionately known as the ‘Red Cauldron’ for the distinctive colour of its unsealed surfaces – having been built on the site of a former bauxite quarry – and it was a popular fixture on the Euro RX calendar from 2006 to 2013.
During that time, drivers of the calibre of Kenneth and Timmy Hansen, Andreas Bakkerud, Timur Timerzyanov and Reinis Nitišs all ascended the top step of the podium in Hungary, often on their way to clinching the coveted crown. Two more names are set to join that illustrious roll of honour this weekend.
In the headlining Euro RX1 series, it is impossible to pick a favourite amongst the 22-strong field. Two-time champion Anton Marklund is one of several competitors to have raced at Nyirád before, and the Swede – who will be behind the wheel of a SET Promotion-run Hyundai i20 – has fond memories of the track.
“It’s really exciting to be going back to Hungary,” enthused the 29-year-old, who finished second there in 2012 on his way to winning that season’s TouringCar title. “I have only good memories from the event. The audience was really passionate – it was a great crowd to race in front of.
“Competing in rallycross brings a lot of joy in terms of action and adrenaline, but there are a special few circuits where it is every bit as rewarding simply to go out in free practice as it is in the races, and alongside Höljes and Hell, I would include Nyirád on that list.
“You can really send the car on the loose gravel and drive full attack, which I love. You need a lot of commitment but also a lot of precision to make sure you get it exactly right – that’s very challenging, but huge fun. I will really enjoy taking part in the first round of the year on a proper rallycross track.”
Marklund will face tough opposition this weekend, from the likes of Jānis Baumanis (#YellowSquad) – the highest-returning driver from last season – multiple Andros Trophy winner Jean Baptiste ‘JB’ Dubourg, reigning Euro RX3 Champion Yury Belevskiy (Volland Racing) and 2021 Cooper Tires ‘Rookie of the Year’, Sivert Svardal.
Other leading contenders are likely to be René Münnich – who celebrated his maiden Euro RX1 success at Lohéac last summer – Enzo Ide, entering the fray following a learning campaign alongside multiple world champion Johan Kristoffersson in World RX, rising star Patrick O’Donovan making his debut and Ulrik Linnemann, who rejoins the series after placing inside the top five in the Super1600 (now Euro RX3) standings on seven consecutive occasions between 2011 and 2017.
“I’m happy that Nyirád is back on the calendar as it is always great fun to race on a ‘proper’ rallycross track with real gravel sections, and the fans there go crazy when they see the competitors,” recollects the experienced Dane. “I remember the autograph sessions in Hungary back in the day, when me, [Andreas] Bakkerud and [Krzysztof] Skorupski were fighting for glory. I have been on the podium twice in Hungary and would love to be back there again this year...”
Three-time European Autocross Champion Tamás Kárai spearheads the Hungarian charge, joined by five of his countrymen, while home heroes are also in abundant supply in Euro RX3, making up almost a third of the entry list and led by Zsolt Szíjj ‘Jolly’, who reached the rostrum in Catalunya last year.
Škoda stars Jan Černý and Jiří Šusta will take the fight to the all-conquering Audi brigade, which is represented by series sophomore Damian Litwinowicz, Portuguese duo Nuno Miguel Da Costa Araújo and João Ribeiro and Kobe Pauwels, who impressed on his way to the runner-up spoils in 2021’s title battle and whose father Koen competed at Nyirád a decade ago.
“During pre-season, we tested there and I absolutely loved it!” revealed the highly-rated Belgian teenager. “It’s a typical old-school rallycross track, with all the dust and elevation changes. It’s really challenging. You need to switch off your brain and go full-throttle, and that’s what I like. I’m really looking forward to the race weekend.”
Racing will get underway at 13:00 on Saturday (21 May), with Sunday’s Progression Rounds, Semi-Finals and all-important Finals to be broadcast live on RX+. Event passes are available for €7,99, with the full season pass on sale for €49,99. More info can be found here, while race weekend tickets can still be purchased here.
About Rallycross Promoter GmbH
Rallycross Promoter GmbH, a joint company of Red Bull GmbH and KW25 Beteiligungs GmbH, is responsible for all commercial aspects of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, including TV production and the marketing of global media and sponsorship rights. The Promoter also has responsibility to increase the field of participants and to propose the venues that form the calendars in the FIA World Rallycross Championship and supporting series.