NRX Groupe E: Lydden Hill Recap

Vermont SportsCar got its Nitro Rallycross Group E campaign underway last month with Travis Pastrana and Conner Martell taking to the iconic Lydden Hill Circuit in the UK.

It was the first event on an expanded global schedule, which will also visit Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and Canada in addition to having four stops in the US.

For VSC, it marks the first time the company has entered electric motorsport of any kind, as well as being its first full foray into a single-make race series.

Despite only getting his first taste of Nitro RX’s FC1-X electric race car in a test on the Thursday ahead of the event, Pastrana was quickly on the pace setting the third fastest time in free practice, with Martell going fourth quickest in the second session.

In the Battle Bracket head-to-head portion of the weekend, both drivers were given a bye through the first round. Sadly that set up a round two clash between the pair.

In a closely-fought contest, Martell narrowly edged it, only for the result to be reversed post-race after he was judged to have hit a track marker. Pastrana went on to race against five-time World Rally winner Kris Meeke but spun out.

On Sunday, Pastrana carried on his streak of qualifying for the final directly from the heats after finishing second in his opening race, overcoming a slow start to round his rivals in turn one and slot in behind eventual race – and event – winner Robin Larsson.

Martell meanwhile was left fighting through the heat rounds, and despite setting the fastest lap in his semifinal, needed to grab a strong result in the Last Chance Qualifier to join Pastrana in the main event.

That looked set to be forthcoming, with him taking an early lead over Fraser McConnell, only for a pair of inverter failures to curtail his charge and end his day early.  Despite this setback, Martell says “I believe the first race went really well for the series which I’m super happy about. The people and fans really liked the electric cars which is a big positive moving forward. The VSC team and I also had a good weekend showing excellent pace. We had some unlucky moments in the battle brackets and heats… but those will all get worked out for Sweden and we are stoked to do our best and be on the podium in the next round.”

That left Pastrana as the sole VSC flag carrier in the main event. After another sweeping move round the outside, he was in prime position to fight for another podium finish, but for a collision upon rejoining the racing line which forced him to retire with damage.

Behind event winner Larsson was his RX Cartel team-mate, former Subaru Motorsports USA driver Andreas Bakkerud, with late entry Niclas Grönholm rounding out the podium.

Despite the mixed results, it was nevertheless a strong weekend in Britain for the team as it showed solid pace and competitiveness in a new motorsport arena. Says VSC Founder and President Lance Smith, “There’s a lot to learn as we lean into this new motorsports discipline and we are thrilled to be at the forefront of Electric Rallycross.” 

Next up is Nitro RX Sweden at Strängnäs Motorstadion on July 30-31.

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