In­ter­view: Liam Do­ran

Why the Bri­tish ace is aim­ing to sim­plify things in 2016 to get back to the front. By Hal Ridge ONE STEP BACK TO TAKE TWO FOR­WARDS

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - CV

Liam Do­ran

Age: 28 From: Win­kleigh, Devon 2015: World RX as team-mate to Pet­ter Sol­berg in the SDRX team, but car run by LD Mo­tor­sports. Qual­i­fied twice for the semi-fi­nals. Fin­ished 16th over­all. Raced at X Games but re­tired.

2014: Ran Mon­ster En­ergy World RX Team in World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship. Had race li­cence sus­pended and missed five events.

2013: Set up LD Mo­tor­sports. Ran two-car team in Euro RX. Won twice, one other podium. Fifth over­all in ERX points. Won Gold medal in the X Games (Mu­nich) in a Pro­drive Mini. 2012: Set up own team with M-tech­nolo­gies with new Citroen DS 3. Won fi­nal round of Euro RX in Ger­many, three other podi­ums. Se­cond in points.

2011: Se­cured Mon­ster En­ergy spon­sor­ship for ERX, Citroen C4 run by Ken­neth Hansen. Fin­ished sev­enth over­all. Won X Games (Los An­ge­les) Gold medal in Rally Car Rac­ing cat­e­gory. Won MSA Bri­tish Ral­ly­cross GP at Croft.

2010: Joined Ken­neth Hansen’s Euro RX team in a Citroen C4. Won twice, third in points.

2009: Won three Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship events in a Ford Fi­esta, se­cond in points be­hind his father Pat. Made first Euro­pean cham­pi­onship start at Ly­d­den Hill. Took fourth in Euro RX in Czech Re­pub­lic. Fin­ished in 15th over­all.

2008: Ford RS200 Supercar in Bri­tish RX, eighth over­all.

2007: Su­per­mod­i­fied ral­ly­cross in a rear-wheel-drive Ford Fi­esta in three events; one podium.

2005-2006: Stock Hatch ral­ly­cross in a Citroen Saxo. Best fin­ish fourth, Ly­d­den Hill in ’05.

2002/03: Ju­nior Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship in 1000cc Mini, sixth over­all, one podium. Drove pro­to­type in Ly­d­den Hill demo ’02.

Ev­ery sport needs its he­roes and vil­lans. It builds the drama of any on- or off-track con­flicts, keeps the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion and ul­ti­mately pro­vides the kind of sport­ing nar­ra­tive that puts it slap bang in the middle of the spot­light.

And Bri­tain’s only full-time racer in the FIA World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship could be de­scribed as be­ing right at the heart of that. He might not have had the re­cent suc­cess he de­serves, but he has never been far away from the cen­tre of the drama – be that for good or bad rea­sons.

Liam Do­ran was one of, if not the, first trans-con­ti­nen­tally recog­nised ral­ly­cross driv­ers. The Brit didn’t see the re­cent growth of the sport and con­vert from cir­cuit rac­ing or ral­ly­ing – he has been com­pet­ing in ral­ly­cross since he could first drive a car.

A mul­ti­ple Euro­pean Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship event win­ner, Do­ran has a large fan base on both sides of the pond.

But, while pop­u­lar, Do­ran has never been far from con­tro­versy. There are prob­a­bly mo­ments of Do­ran’s ca­reer, out of the car at least, which he re­grets. He is con­sid­ered by some as one of the bad lads of the pad­dock.

The Bri­tish driver was forced to sit out a large part of the first year of World RX in 2014 af­ter his rac­ing li­cence was sus­pended while an in­ci­dent that took place at the Bri­tish round was in­ves­ti­gated.

In the Ly­d­den Hill in­ci­dent, Do­ran had an al­ter­ca­tion with of­fi­cials af­ter go­ing onto the race­track to at­tend to his father Pat, whose Ford RS200 had caught fire in a Group B demon­stra­tion race. With that re­solved, he re­turned for the fi­nal round in Ar­gentina.

Hav­ing writ­ten 2014 off, Do­ran de­cided to con­cen­trate on one car in­stead of the three his LD Mo­tor­sport team ran in 2014 and re­turned with great in­ten­tions for 2015.

He joined Pet­ter Sol­berg in the SDRX team, al­though both driv­ers ran their own op­er­a­tions in­de­pen­dently.

While Sol­berg won events and claimed his se­cond con­sec­u­tive world ti­tle, Do­ran only made the semi-fi­nals on two oc­ca­sions, and didn’t once fea­ture in the fi­nal. Ar­guably, 2015 was Do­ran’s worst sea­son ever. Some may sug­gest that the son of mul­ti­ple Bri­tish cham­pion Pat Do­ran sim­ply didn’t run his LD Mo­tor­sports team well enough or that he doesn’t have the drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion to run at a com­pet­i­tive level any longer.

How­ever, what isn’t ques­tion­able is Do­ran’s nat­u­ral abil­ity be­hind the wheel. When he first signed for Ken­neth Hansen’s Citroen team in 2010, he took on the most suc­cess­ful ral­ly­cross driver ever, al­most beat the Swede in the cham­pi­onship and even taught the old dog new tricks. That tal­ent hasn’t been able to shine since the for­ma­tion of World RX, and Do­ran doesn’t dis­agree that 2015 was a sea­son to for­get.

“I could list off at least 10 dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios that shouldn’t have hap­pened this year but did,” he says. “I started the year in trou­ble with the FIA and had to re­build my car be­tween races. From there it never got bet­ter.

“We’ve had en­gine prob­lems, re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems with com­po­nents on the car that have never let us down be­fore – ev­ery week­end there’s been some­thing. I’ve learnt a lot, mainly how to deal with prob­lems and how to stay mo­ti­vated. Last year I just got told I couldn’t drive, but this year I’ve been able to try and drive but haven’t been able to make it work. It can’t get any worse, that’s for sure.”

De­spite his trou­bles, Do­ran says he’s still mo­ti­vated to con­tinue, and that he has had to look no fur­ther than across the SDRX awnings to see how things should work in World RX.

“To stay mo­ti­vated and to still feel like I want to carry on is a good thing, be­cause I do some­times ques­tion whether it’s worth it,” he says. “This year I’ve learnt how im­por­tant it is to have the equip­ment and the team around you. Pet­ter’s shown that his team and re­li­a­bil­ity is what’s given him the re­sults to win the world cham­pi­onship, and mine has been the op­po­site.

“It’s not my team’s fault – I’m not blam­ing the guys, but the car and per­for­mance we’ve had has just not been any­where close to per­form­ing where we need to be. If I carry on, I won’t do it with my own car and my own team.

“It’s got to the point now that even though there are am­a­teur teams in World RX, they are run at a fac­tory level. My team isn’t be­ing run at a fac­tory level. For sure I could com­pete in Euro RX with my team but I don’t want to go back­wards.”

The Brit be­lieves his best times as a driver came mostly with Hansen in 2010/11, and with Pro­drive at the X Games in 2013 where he won Gold medal in Mu­nich with the Bri­tish firm’s Mini.

“Prob­a­bly the best mo­ments of my ca­reer were with Ken­neth,” Do­ran adds. “I owe a lot to him. It was the right way to do things and now 75 per cent of the driv­ers in the pad­dock are do­ing what I was do­ing then. My two best years were in 2010 with Ken­neth, and 2013 with Pro­drive. That tells you a story – both times it wasn’t my car. I sup­pose I should have worked it out a lit­tle bit sooner.”

In 2013, Do­ran set up LD Mo­tor­sports for the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, and ran a pair of Citroen DS 3s for him­self and An­dreas Bakkerud. Both driv­ers won twice and the team ended the year with the most vic­to­ries of any team. The 2014 sea­son was set to be even bet­ter but run­ning three cars full-time (and then Do­ran’s li­cence sus­pen­sion) took its toll and the team didn’t de­liver.

Do­ran con­tin­ued to run his own car last year as part of SDRX, but feels that now is the time to look else­where: “I had a great year in 2013 with my own team, so I couldn’t give up then, but I think it’s time to take it on the chin and ac­knowl­edge that even though I’d love my own team to work, it’s not do­ing what I need it to do. I need to go back to just think­ing about the driv­ing.”

As part of his wild boy fa­cade, on­look­ers could sug­gest that not only has Do­ran lost the de­sire and drive to suc­ceed, but per­haps also the abil­ity to drive the car.

The man him­self ar­gues that his men­tal­ity is quite the op­po­site from that claim, and he is putting in con­sid­er­able ef­fort this year. To his credit, Do­ran is now in the same phys­i­cal shape as when he first raced in Euro RX full-time.

“I’ve worked hard at a lot of things; my fit­ness, my fam­ily and the things that can also make a big dif­fer­ence to how you per­form,” he says. “I feel I’ve done my bit in that way.

“I know I can still drive – I know that for sure. I’ve proven in the last half of the cham­pi­onship in 2015 that I can do the lap times and put the heat times in, but un­less you do that ev­ery heat you don’t get into the semis. It takes more than just the speed.

“I’m not go­ing to give up yet. Some peo­ple would prob­a­bly ar­gue with me and say it’s not worth car­ry­ing on. I feel like it is and I’m go­ing to do my best.”

Do­ran would like to con­tinue work­ing with world cham­pion Sol­berg next sea­son: “I think Pet­ter and I work well to­gether so far and if I per­formed to the level he has this year we would be very strong in the teams’ cham­pi­onship. Pet­ter sees that and he’s try­ing to help me. Hope­fully we can get some­thing to­gether where I can drive one of his cars or some­thing. I’m go­ing to work as hard as I can to get a deal to­gether so I can just con­cen­trate on the driv­ing again like I used to.

“There are op­por­tu­ni­ties at fac­tory level in the GRC [Amer­i­can-based Global Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship], which isn’t some­thing I par­tic­u­larly want to go and do. I feel like I need to go back to ba­sics and, no mat­ter where I am and what I’m do­ing, I need to do it right to get the re­sults. My pas­sion and dream is to win the world cham­pi­onship.”

As the World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship con­tin­ues to grow, so does the need for a Bri­tish driver com­pet­ing at the front. If Do­ran can find the drive he wants, he could still be that man.

Do­ran started out back in 2002 Saxo in Stock Hatch ’06 Bri­tish RX suc­c­cess in ’09 Do­ran was a Euro RX win­ner dur­ing the 2012 sea­son

Do­ran is in the mar­ket for a World RX deal for 2016

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