Finalists at Montalegre

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Revealed at the last minute, the vintage livery of Special ONE Racing’s two Delta Evo-e RXs caused quite a stir this weekend, both on social networks and in the paddock of the Montalegre circuit (Portugal), where Sébastien Loeb managed to reach the final of the opening round of the 2023 World Rallycross Championship, finishing in 6th place. Guerlain Chicherit, who initiated the project, believes that this is a promising start, while all eyes are already on Norway, the next World RX destination in two weeks.

Already a firm favourite with fans around the world for its restyled Group B looks, the Delta Evo-e RX’s popularity was further boosted this weekend by the surprise adoption of a livery inspired by the golden age of the rally. Added to this is the popularity of the drivers, Sébastien Loeb and Guerlain Chicherit, who have made Special ONE Racing the new star team in the World RX paddocks. All that was needed was to honour these expectations with performances on the track…

A false start

However, the meeting got off to a bad start for the French team, which learned on Friday that it would receive a five-point penalty in the championship for having used one of its cars in demonstration mode (reduced power) during the off-season without having first made a request to the FIA. A mistake not to be made again.

The other concern at the start of the weekend was the updating of the engine management software, a new configuration with which all the teams had to contend, since the RX1e cars share the same power chain: an engine for the front wheels, an engine for the rear wheels and a battery pack. Whereas the previous version of the computer programme managed the two drive trains separately, this development now links them virtually by reproducing the behaviour of a mechanical longitudinal shaft. A real headache for the drivers and engineers of Special ONE Racing, who were already busy on Friday calibrating the settings of the second chassis just out of the GCK Performance workshops.

In the right rhythm

So it was with undisguised trepidation that everyone headed into the first day of racing, which comprised five heats, followed by a semi-final and a final. Sébastien Loeb’s 3rd place in the 2nd heat on Saturday quickly reassured the Special ONE Racing team, who then had to manage with a few minor teething problems: an electrical problem in Sébastien Loeb’s car in the 3rd heat on Sunday and a chronic lack of grip at the start, which penalised both drivers.

Sébastien Loeb had an average start and was classified 5th going into the final lap of his semi-final on Sunday, but managed to qualify by gaining two places. In the final, his hopes were all but dashed until the penultimate lap, when he suffered a puncture that meant 6th place. Guerlain Chicherit came very close to qualifying for the final, holding on to 3rd place until the penultimate lap when Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen) overtake him.

By scoring 8 and 10 points, Guerlain Chicherit and Sébastien Loeb ended their Portuguese weekend in 6th and 8th place in the championship. They head to Hell in Norway in a fortnight’ time with undisguised podium ambitions

I’m a bit disappointed with the result of the final, of course. It’s frustrating because we were on a really good rhythm and our strategy was faultless. We showed a good level of performance, because we mustn’t forget that we’re up against specialists in the discipline, drivers and teams who have more experience than us with electric RX1e cars. Johan Kristoffersson (Volkswagen) is clearly untouchable at the moment, but the podium is not so far.

Sébastien Loeb, driver of the Delta Evo-e RX #9

At the start of the weekend, we were completely lost with the set-up. But then we found something interesting that enabled us to make progress at each race. Today (Sunday), we were on the ball but we never managed to put everything together. The car brakes extremely well. It’s on the dirt that we need to make the most progress now. We’re going to spend the next ten days analysing everything so that we can take the next step in Norway.

Guerlain Chicherit, driver of the Delta Evo-e RX #36
Sébastien Loeb, in the final again
A tribute livery to the Delta
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