The opening round of the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship takes place this weekend at Nyirad in Hungary, where Finnish squad SET Promotion and reigning champion Anton Marklund will begin a fresh challenge with a special car.
Having claimed the coveted Euro RX1 title last season with a latest-specification Hyundai i20 Supercar, the SET squad never intended to run that car again for this year. But, when a last-minute opportunity arose to embark on a fresh challenge for Marklund and the SET squad, the inviting proposition to do something different was embraced.
The M-Sport developed Ford Fiesta RX was, in its day, one of the best rallycross Supercars in the world. The concept was initially used in America, and later in the World Rallycross Championship by the late, great Ken Block, and later other drivers.
Now, almost a decade since Block raced a Fiesta RX to a World RX podium-finish in Norway (in 2014), Marklund will campaign a SET-run Fiesta RX through the six-round 2023 Euro RX season.
The programme will pose a challenge for the reigning champions, the Fiesta RX being significantly more dated than many of the cars racing at the front of the highly-competitive Euro RX1 field. But, from SET’s Turku workshops in Finland, work has been undertaken on one of only six Fiesta RX’s to be produced, to bring it more into the present day.
SET has history with the Fiesta RX concept too – Latvian star Reinis Nitiss won the Euro RX series in 2018 with a sister car to the one that will be used by the team this season. While the current machine is not one that was driven by Block, Niclas Gronholm or Nitiss in it’s history, the shared DNA within the chassis will stand the team in good stead this year.
The 2023 effort comes with special relevance too. Block – the first person to race an M-Sport Fiesta RX in rallycross, sadly passed away on January 2 this year. Like SET Promotion, Block’s Hoonigan Racing Division team was, and still is, a tight-knit bunch of hard-working people with a common passion for achieving success, with an emphasis on enjoying the journey.
One individual who worked with Block and the Fiesta RX in its heyday, and today within SET’s small but committed team on the Euro RX programme is Finnish technician Henrik Rautanen. It’s through ‘Hepa’s’ link with the Block family and Hoonigan Team Principal Derek Dauncey that the car that Marklund and SET are running this year will honour the memory of the American star within its stunning new livery.
As part of the striking design on the Fiesta RX, the roof section carries the American flag in tribute to Block, while the team’s support of the foundation created to continue Block’s creative legacy, 43i.org, intended to create paths of opportunity for the exceptionally driven who may lack the proper support system for growth and success, is acknowledged within the design.
10-time Euro RX Champions SET Promotion and three-time European Rallycross Champion Marklund begin their challenge on the 2023 season this weekend in Hungary, having recently tested the Fiesta in Riga, and are working hard to achieve the best possible results with the car.
Anton Marklund (SWE) #1:
“I’m very much looking forward to this season. We are the reigning champions, but I see us as the underdogs this year. Of course we are doing everything we can to win because that is why we go racing, but the Fiesta was built in 2013 and things have changed a bit since then. Having said that, the team is very good and I think together we can create something special. It feels nice for me to come into the season not being a big favourite to win the championship and we will see how we get on. The car looks really good, for me it is special to be able to honour Ken’s legacy, it was with him that this Fiesta project started and Ken’s passing is a huge loss to the whole motorsport community. I know Henrik’s time with Ken was a special part of his career, so it means a lot for us as a whole team to be doing this project, and carrying the livery on the roof of the car that we are. I can’t wait to get into the car in Hungary this weekend and see what we can do on track, and most importantly continue to enjoy what we do as much as we did last season.”
FIA Euro RX1 2023 Calendar
R1 – Nyirad, Hungary – April 29 - 30
R2 – Montalegre, Portugal – June 3 - 4
R3 – Hell, Norway – June 17 - 18
R4 – Holjes, Sweden – July 1 - 2
R5 – Mettet, Belgium – August 5 - 6
R6 – Estering, Germany – August 19 - 20
Full Euro RX information can be found on the FIA World Rallycross Championship website.
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