Interview: Liam Doran and his 600 hp RallyX Citroen DS3

European Rallycross Championship front-runner Liam Doran will start his 2012 season by racing in the first round of the Monster Energy MSA British Rallycross Championship, at Lydden Hill Race Circuit next weekend, before contesting the European Rallycross Championship as well as the US-based Global Rallycross Championship.

If that doesn’t sound busy enough, Liam will also return to X Games from June 28 through to July 1, 2012 and driving his 925hp RS200 Evo 2 up the Pikes Peak hill climb. Are you jealous yet?

In the build up to the season he’s been showing his new Citroën DS3 rallycross car to the public, first at last week’s Goodwood Festival of Speed media launch and then later in the day at the Masters of Dirt event at Wembley Arena. The new Citroën DS3 has been built by French company Mtechnologies but will use an engine built by British tuner Julian Godfrey with, race engineering coming from Sussex team Autopoint Specialist Engineering.

If his surname sounds familiar in the context of rallycross, that’s because Liam is the son of Pat Doran, MSA British Rallycross Champion in 2002, 2005, 2009 & 2010 and nemesis of Will Gollop, Stig Blomqvist and Kenneth Hansen. To use the old cliché, racing is most certainly in his blood.

At last year’s X Games 17, held in Los Angeles, Liam toppled heavily-favored WRC veteran Marcus Grönholm in the finals for the gold medal. Doran was about to do the same in Rallycross when Top Gear US presenter Tanner Foust punted him into the barriers in the first turn.

With Liam returning for X Games 18 in 2012 (as part of the Global Rallycross Championship), Foust may just find himself on the receiving end of some British Rallycross pay-back.

James and Ash from Monster Energy, invited us along to meet with Liam last week and after a quick phone call to Adnan from Car Throttle, he was only too happy to oblige on our behalf. The following interview is published on both SkiddMark and Car Throttle and you can tweet with Adnan directly via @carthrottle.

Interview with Liam Doran

Ken Block, Tanner Foust and Marcus Grönholm. These are just a few of the big names racing on the Rallycross circuit this year, each with their own A-list careers and each with mega-sponsorship deals lining their bank accounts. However a new young gun on the block cometh. His name is Liam Doran and for Rallycross newbies previously unaware of this 25-year-old British lad, now is the time to sit up and take notice.

We caught up with Liam outside Wembley Stadium to take a look at his new Monster Energy & Citroen sponsored DS3 supercar and to get inside the mind of this European Rallycross Championship front runner.

Adnan: All young guns dream of getting into motorsport, as you probably did Liam. What was your route into Rally Cross?

Liam: It’s the coolest sport you could possibly get into. In all honesty, you’ve just got to start at the bottom. I started in my own car which I bought with my own money when I was 14. I went up from there every year, I upgraded through the classes and by the time I was 19 or 20 I drove a fairly good well-built car.

And I’d learnt enough from the time I’d been driving my own cars and then got offered an opportunity to drive someone else’s car, and then picked up sponsors. And then picked up sponsors every year until now, obviously getting Monster [Energy], and now I’m in a dream position. For me I am still one of those kids that dreams of doing motorsport, so I still pinch myself every morning to know that I’m going to go race a car.

Adnan: You’re racing in the US but you’re testing the car in Europe?

Liam: My schedule is basically a full European championship which goes all over Europe, a full American championship called the GRC which includes the X Games and I’m also doing Pikes Peak Hill Climb as well. I’ve got 25 events this year so I’m all over the world!

Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Tanner Foust – they’ve been doing it for more than 10 years, but it doesn’t mean I still can’t beat them.

Adnan: Say something like the Hill Climb, it requires a different skillset, but what overlapping skills do you need for both events?

Liam: Well car control is car control. If you can drive a car, you can drive a car. It’s just mental attitudes. It’s a different style of driving of course as it’s all tarmac whereas I’m used to driving dirt and tarmac.

But you know I’ve driven tarmac stuff before and the car is very powerful and very aggressive so it’s going to take the same man-handling as RallyX cars do.

Adnan: What’s the main difference between US and Europe racing?

Liam: The US tracks are actually a lot faster than European tracks. The European tracks are very technical, the surfaces vary a lot each lap and each track is very different. There’s a lot of corners and it’s very hard to get a good lap-time. Whereas in America they’re a lot more like street courses.

They’re much easier to drive round but they require more performance from your car, so it’s really good for me because it’s a massive variety of tracks and driving styles so I hope by the end of the year I’ll be 25% better than I am at the start of the year just because I’ll learn so much.

Adnan: You were in a Citroen C4 last year, now you’re in the DS3. How does the car feel?

Liam: I haven’t driven the car yet so I’m looking forward to doing the first tests this week. Obviously we’ve upgraded to the DS3 because I’m sponsored by Citroen and it’s their current model, but we’ve improved the technology of the car incredibly so I’m hoping the car will be a lot faster this year.

We’ve got more power and we’ve changed the style of the transmission and suspension so hopefully it’ll be a lot faster. But I’ve still got the C4 as I’m racing it in America, so we’ve still got the variety there. I’m racing an old school Group B Rally car in Pikes Peak so got a big variety of tracks and cars so definitely going to need to have 5 heads this year to be able to change to each event.

Adnan: What modifications does something like a stock DS3 Racing – which our readers are familiar with – need to compete in these types of events?

Liam: It’s literally a bare chassis they start with from the DS3 and go from there. This car has 600hp, 4-wheel drive, everything is different. But it still looks like a DS3 and styled like a DS3. Like any motorsport race car, they all look like something but they’re never anything like the stock car.

Adnan: You’re up against the “great” Marcus Grönholm this year. How does it feel to be competing at that level?

Liam: Yep, you name it: Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Tanner Foust – all these huge celebrities, action sports heroes. They’re bigger in fame, but these guys are just the same as me they all started from somewhere. Yeah they’ve got a lot more under their belt than I have but one day I could be in their position so why should I give up easily? I’ve only been doing it 2-3 years but they’ve been doing it for more than 10 years, but it doesn’t mean I still can’t beat them.

Adnan: And you say that a large part of it is to do with your team, how much of a part does your team play?

Liam: Huge part. I think team plays 50% at least of the actual performance of the team and the car, the driver is 25%. All I’ve got to do is get in the car and drive it which might sound like a joke but if your car’s not fast, if your car’s not well prepared, if your car’s not there at an event, and the right guys aren’t doing the right job, then I’ve got nothing to drive.

My job is important but I’m just the finishing touch. Without a good team you’re never going to get good results and I’ve got this year a really great team behind me, so I’m looking forward to it.

Adnan: I saw on your Facebook Page you were trying to come up with a name for this DS3. Got one yet?

Liam: Not yet! The reason behind that is I’ve got the RS200 that I’m racing at Pikes Peak which is the sister car of my Dad’s car which is called Rosie the RS200 and that’s really stuck with my family’s motorsports ongoings.

His car is named now everyone expects a name from my car. Most people come up with a name not from the start but as they find the character of the car. I might end up calling it a “Bitch”!

Adnan: What are your hopes for the next couple of years, after this season?

Liam: Obviously for the last 3 years I’ve met my dream every single year I’ve raced. I’m above where I ever dreamt I would get. When you’ve achieved your dreams you don’t have much left to achieve but obviously it doesn’t mean I have to give up. So I’m going to keep going and win as much as I can; X Games, Gold Medals.

The only thing I haven’t got which is on my dream list is a European championship, actually holding a championship belt. That’s my aim this year. It’s not the biggest thing I’m going for but Pikes Peak would be good but in my eyes it’s the most crucial thing for me to get before I can say I’ve done everything I want to do.

Adnan: Thanks Liam, and good luck this season!

About Adnan

Adnan
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of motoring website, Car Throttle, Adnan is an economics graduate from University College London and was Virgin Media’s “Pioneer of the Week” in December 2011. Adnan is passionate about performance cars and is successfully building a community of young automotive enthusiasts.