Irish rallycross star Derek Tohill got his 2018 FIA European Rallycross Championship campaign off to a solid start in the opening round of the series at Barcelona in Spain (April 15).
Driving the PFCRX team’s Ford Fiesta Supercar at the venue made famous for hosting Formula 1 and Moto GP, Tohill battled torrentially wet conditions and a low grip circuit on day one before having to radically change the setup of the 600 horsepower four-wheel drive Supercar for Sunday’s action, with drying track conditions.
The opening day required finesse and experience in order even remain on track, such was the slippery nature of the conditions, but two-time FIA European Rallycross TouringCar Champion Tohill kept his head, even when contact from other cars damaged the Fiesta’s suspension, to set 13th then 11thfastest times in the opening qualifying races and be 11th at the end of day one.
Further overnight rain then meant that despite track conditions improving throughout the day on Sunday, not starting in the final races of each qualifying run meant those on track after Irish Rallycross Champion Tohill were able to set faster times.
Held up by slower cars, the C-Sport-run Fiesta driver made the best of the circumstances to set 12th and then ninth fastest times in Q3 and Q4, and earn a place in the semi-finals.
However, a problem on the start line of the Q4 race where the Fiesta momentarily lost power caused a poor start, a scenario which reoccurred on the start line of the semi-final. Despite getting going again and setting fast lap times, Tohill was unable to climb higher than fifth.
Classified ninth in the overall standings, Tohill will enter the next round of the five-event series in Belgium next month ninth in the Drivers’ table.
Before that, the team returns to Ireland to compete in the second round of the Irish Rallycross Championship at Mondello Park this weekend (April 22).
Derek Tohill | Driver | Ford Fiesta #111
“The conditions on Saturday were incredibly challenging for everyone. We survived though, even if we took a couple of hits in the heats, which meant we had a few bent arms on the car and struggled a little bit more than we would have done otherwise.
Looking back at the footage I think I actually did well to hang onto the car. There were no mistakes and we kept out of trouble for the most part. Unfortunately, day one meant we started in the third last race in Q3, which we won, but then everyone afterwards went quicker in the next two races because the track was drying so quickly. It was the same in Q4. The pace felt good in the dry, every time we were behind a car we were being held up, so we went into the semi-final reasonably confident.
We’d had an issue in Q4 on the start line where the revs dropped and the car bogged down. The guys worked hard to fix it, but the engine cut out altogether in the semi-final and even though we had good pace once I got going, we couldn’t do more from there. On a perfect weekend the pace we had was probably good enough for a top six, maybe top four, so we have a good platform to build from going forwards.
The boys will get it sorted and we’ll be back out at Mondello this weekend to put on a show for the home fans.”
Barcelona Final Result:
1 Reinis Nitiss (LAT)
2 Anton Marklund (SWE)
3 Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (FRA)
4 Philip Gehrman (SWE)
5 Ulrik Linnemann (DK)
6 Peter Hedstrom (SWE)
9 Derek Tohill (IRL)
FIA European Rallycross Championship Points:
1 Reinis Nitiss (LAT) 30
2 Anton Marklund (SWE) 26
3 Jean-Baptiste Dubourg (FRA) 22
4 Ulrik Linnemann (DK) 21
5 Philip Gehrman (SWE) 19
6 Peter Hedstrom (SWE) 16
9 Derek Tohill (IRL) 10