Former MSA British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan claimed a dramatic victory in the third round of the 2018 season at Croft (May 6) to move into title contention.
Having been pushed off track in the opening race of the year at Silverstone, O’Donovan had fought back with a podium finish in round two at Lydden Hill, but went two places better at Croft to claim his first victory in over 12 months.
Driving Team RX Racing’s Ford Focus Supercar, prepared by Tony Bardy Motorsport, O’Donovan was third fastest in Q1, second in Q2 and fastest of all in Q3 to secure a front-row grid position for the all-important final.
Making a customary fast start, O’Donovan took the lead of the final at the first corner and led for the opening two laps, before the race was red flagged due to a massive accident involving five-time British RX Champion Julian Godfrey, who thankfully walked away from the wreckage.
In the re-started final, O’Donovan again immediately took the lead and held off three-time British Rally Champion Mark Higgins throughout the race. Having held the advantage, O’Donovan was pushed wide into the circuit’s hairpin on the final lap, contact on the corner exit from Higgins’ Peugeot 208 then broke the left-rear suspension on O’Donovan’s car. But, the Irishman maintained his momentum to cross the finish line 0.061s ahead to secure one of the closest victories in rallycross history.
“Our game plan coming here was to try and bag points, a podium would have been great but we got that and more,” said O’Donovan. “We were careful with the engine at Lydden Hill but we gave it a little bit more here and we were right on the pace. I was pleased to lead the second running of the final after it had been stopped when we had the advantage. We were managing the gap on the radio with Tony (Bardy), but we were lucky at the end. We had a bit of an incident with Mark in the last corner, it took a wheel off the car and I think we had about 100 meters to go to the finish, but we just made it across the line.”
The result moves the London-based driver up to third in the British RX standings, just six points behind the leader. “This result is just what we needed. We can’t get carried away, but we need to go into the next events with the same approach, to get consistent finishes and later in the year we can start having a proper look at the points. I’m really pleased that I proved the old Focus is a match for the latest-specification Supercars that were at Croft.”
Making his debut in the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship, Patrick O’Donovan increased his pace throughout the day in the single-make 1300cc Suzuki Swift category and ran as sixth of the 10 starters throughout the qualifying stages. He concluded his maiden appearance with a solid drive to fifth in the final.
“It was a really, really great day,” said O’Donovan Jnr. “I had a bit of a moment in first practice but I felt more comfortable in the car as the day went on. It’s fun to finally be on the other side of the steering wheel after watching my dad for lots of years. I was losing a bit of time on the tarmac but I know where I was going wrong. I had good speed the gravel and for the first day out I’m just happy to be here and happy to finish fifth. I can’t wait for the next race at Pembrey.”
2018 MSA British Rallycross Championship Round Thee, Croft, Result:
1 Ollie O’Donovan (Ford Focus)
2 Mark Higgins (Peugeot 208)
3 Andy Scott (Peugeot 208)
4 Mad Mark (Citroen Xsara)
5 Steve Hill (Mitsubushi Evo)
6 Julian Godfrey (Mitsubishi Mirage)
7 Steve Mundy (Ford Fiesta)
2018 MSA British Rallycross Championship Standings:
1 Mark Higgins 80
2 Julian Godfrey 76
3 Ollie O’Donovan 74
4 Steve Hill 66
5 Mad Mark 55
6 Roger Thomas 41
7 Kevin Procter 34
8 Steve Mundy 32
2018 MSA Junior Rallycross Championship Round Thee, Croft, Result:
1 Tom Constantine (Suzuki Swift)
2 Luke Constantine (Suzuki Swift)
3 Ben Sayer (Suzuki Swift)
4 Morgan Wroot (Suzuki Swift)
5 Patrick O’Donovan (Suzuki Swift)
6 Matilda Procter (Suzuki Swift)
Team RX Racing 2018 event schedule
17 March (Sat) – Silverstone – British RX R1
02 April (Mon) – Lydden Hill – British RX R2
06 May (Sun) – Croft – British RX R3
25 – 27 May – Silverstone – World RX
23 June (Sat) – Pembrey – British RX R4
24 June (Sun) – Pembrey – British RX R5
29 July (Sun) – Croft – British RX R6
28 August (Mon) – Lydden Hill – British RX R7
31 Aug – 2 Sept – Loheac, France – World RX
23 September (Sun) – Pembrey – British RX R8
03 November (Sat) – Silverstone – British RX R9
23 – 25 November – Cape Town, South Africa – World RX