Liam Doran on why World RX is the best spectator motorsport in the world
“Motorsport is dangerous.”
That is the warning printed on the back of every single ticket sold to every motor racing event in the world.
These days, of course, that element of danger is not nearly as great as it once was – and rightly so. The powers that be have worked tirelessly to improve safety in all walks of motorsport, and thankfully now drivers are able to compete without the risks their early predecessors had to face.
But all motor racing is still dangerous – just ask World Rallycross Championship driver Liam Doran.
“The craziest thing to happen to me must have been the opening race weekend in Abu Dhabi,” he says. “In the semi-final the car in front of me hit a kerb and flew through the air, then landed on top of the car next to me.”
If that sounds like racing driver exaggeration, it’s not. Here is the accident Liam is talking about:
“I somehow managed to come out the other side of that,” he adds casually.
Thankfully both the jumper Reinis Nitiss, and the unfortunate rival he landed on, Anton Marklund were also OK.
If that sounds incredible, it’s all in a day’s work for Liam and his rivals in the super-exciting World RX series. If you’ve never watched it, you should.
It’s a racing series that is custom-built for a spectator audience – unlike traditional rallying or Formula 1 where you can go minutes at a time without seeing a car, then watch one fly by so fast you can barely tell what you’ve seen.
World RX is not like that.
“Rallycross is all about explosive starts and short, sharp, door-to-door racing on mixed surfaces in amphitheatre venues,” Liam explains. “Fans that come to a World RX event get to see all of the track and all of the action.
“Races are short, no more than five minutes, and we have four qualifying rounds, semi-finals and a final. So there’s lots of action. For the SpeedMachine Festival, the British round of the championship at Silverstone on May 25-26, it will be intense in front of my home crowd.
“Fans can also relate to our cars such as my Audi S1 – which they can see on the high street – albeit with some race tuning and aero-packaging and lots and lots of noise.”
What about the cars’ performance? You might think that running in stadium setting surrounded by thousands of fans on all sides must mean the teams have to run tamed beasts.
You’d be wrong.
“Our cars have over 600hp and can go from 0-60mph in less than two seconds – faster than an F1 car!” says Liam. “The most dangerous thing about it is that we are constantly pushing the limits but trying to stay in control. With the sport progressing and at this level of competition you have to always be driving on the edge.”
All that power in such tight confines and with five cars running wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door, means action is guaranteed – and scrapes are a sure thing too. Not that Liam worries about it.
“Luckily I’ve never had anything too bad from racing in terms of injuries, but I’ve been in some big accidents – including rolling nine times.
“When that happened I don’t really know what was going through my head. It all happened quickly, like most accidents do. I was happy to be ok when I got out.”
If it all seems like utter madness from the sidelines, imagine being Liam’s parents and watching him compete in this crazy series.
“I have been a Rallycross driver for 15 years,” he says. “My dad (Pat Doran) raced Rallycross. I grew up watching him, and no matter how hard he tried to keep me from racing there was no stopping me.”
It’s perhaps no surprise then, that Liam doesn’t hesitate when asked what his favourite part of the job is. “Driving,” he says. “It’s not a lavish lifestyle by any means. There’s a lot of hard work – mental and physical – behind the scenes, but I love to drive. Pushing to the limits and getting the most out of the car. I also like the engineering side of racing. I am always striving for the perfect set up for the car.”
Like all drivers, Liam didn’t get handed the keys to a top-line drive right away. He previously competed in European Rallycross Championship, and X Games 17 in 2011 in Los Angeles – the scene of one of his proudest moments so far. “I was the underdog and to win the gold medal against the biggest names in World Rallycross was incredible.
“And now more recently securing a podium at the opening round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship in Abu Dhabi, in front of my kids – there’s no greater feeling. My kids are still quite young, but they most definitely want to follow in my footsteps. I love that they love what I do.”
Does Liam have any advice for his own children and any other budding World RX drivers out there?
“Drive anything you can get your hands on. Go to track days, I grew up being able to go to Lydden Hill. Stay focussed on your dream, work hard and make it happen,” he says.
The British round of the World Rallycross Championship is taking place during the SpeedMachine Festival at Silverstone on May 25-26. Click here for tickets and more details.