JĀNIS BAUMANIS: EVEN THOUGH THE CAR LOOKS SIMILAR, ITS BEHAVIOUR IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
This weekend, on September 19 and 20, Jānis Baumanis will become the first Latvian to compete in the electric rallycross series Projekt E. His debut will be especially sweet due to the fact that it will take place in his home event, Neste World RX of Rīga, in front of fans partially filling the CSDD Biķernieki circuit grandstands.
“Last Tuesday, while at work in Tukums, I received a call and immediately accepted the offer. I did not want to miss an opportunity to become the first Latvian to compete in an electric rallycross car, especially in my home event. This was something new, so I jumped at the chance,” says Jānis Baumanis, who will compete as part of the Ferratum team.
Jānis first experience in a Projekt E car was last year, when STARD unveiled their car in Rīga. “The fact that I had driven an electric rallycross car last year helped me make a decision. There are not too many competitors, but this car has been significantly improved since last year, so it will be interesting to try it out and see how much faster it has become.”
Baumanis will be driving a Ford Fiesta ERX, which he is yet to drive, but it is notable that he has spent the past four seasons of World RX at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta. “The suspension setup is just like we had in Supercar, but this car is heavier and the centre of gravity is in a different spot. Even though the car looks similar from the outside, its behaviour is completely different.”
“The most difficult part to get used to will be the fact that we do not have to change gears, as the car does not have a clutch. This means that we will not be able to use the gearbox to assist with braking, which in turn results in a bit longer braking distances and the car feeling heavier in the corners. The acceleration is very similar to Supercar class cars. In Supercar, we sometimes used the handbrake, which is another thing that is missing in these cars,” adds Baumanis, shedding some light on the nuances of driving an electric rallycross car.
While drivers will have to make some adjustments in their style, for spectators the most notable change will be in the sound, or lack thereof. With Projekt E cars, there are no engine sounds. “You do not feel it as much when inside the car, as there is still noise from the transmission, brakes, and tire squeal. When the helmet is on, you do not think about anything else and just go for it. When competing with internal combustion engines, you also hear the engines of your competitors.”
At the moment, Jānis is unsure about his future after competing in Neste World RX of Rīga, but notes that we would not decline an invitation for additional drives, if one comes his way. “At the moment, it looks like the whole world is moving towards electrification. All large car manufacturers already have electric cars. I hope that electric cars in rallycross will mean that more manufacturers will get involved, so that we can see grids of 20 to 30 cars. That will also make the championship more interesting than it is now, when it is still in development and there are not so many cars yet.”
“The good news is that we have made it into the final,” laughs Jānis. “This time, I will be joined on the grid by Cyril Raymond in a Citroen, British driver Natalie Barratt, and Norwegian Svein Bjarte Holten, meaning that the competition will be tough and we will be fighting for hundredths of a second. In Sweden, there was only one rallycross driver, while the other two competitors came from a rally background and had to adapt to this event format. I believe that the Rīga event will be more suitable to electric cars because of its surface, and we are in for an exciting show.”
This weekend Jānis Baumanis hopes to learn more about Projekt E development plans from the organizers, as well as find out how many cars are expected on the grid next year. Asked about when he believes electric rallycross cars will be faster around the Biķernieki circuit than their internal combustion counterparts, Baumanis notes: “This question will be easier to answer after the event. It depends on how quickly we can reduce the weight of batteries as well as the development rate of the chassis and suspension side. Some more time is needed, but I believe that two or three years from now we will see that electric cars are faster than petrol powered ones.”
We would like to remind spectators that tickets to Neste World RX of Rīga are available in all Biļešu Serviss locations as well as online.
FIA World Rallycross Championship event Neste World RX of Riga 2020 is possible thanks to the support provided by the Rīga city council, event title sponsor Neste, and our partner Road Traffic Safety Directorate (CSDD) and supporter Pafbet.
News about the FIA World Rallycross Championship event Neste World RX of Riga are available on social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. When communicating on social media, we suggest using the hashtag #NesteRigaRX, which would make it possible to gather all rallycross related posts in one place.