Liam Doran: PH Meets


Clad in Monster Energy apparel, and with a ragged ponytail hanging from beneath his baseball cap, first impressions of Liam Doran seemingly conform to the sometimes controversial image attributed to him. Juxtaposed against this the soft Home Counties accent, professional pride and modesty suggests greater depth than he's often credited with. Our chance to talk to him came at the launch for Codemasters' DiRT Rally - which now includes Rallycross - to discuss his sport, his career thus far and the pending arrival of Sebastien Loeb into his realm.


Obviously your father was heavily involved in Rallycross - was that the main motivation for you to get into the sport?
"Rallycross became my passion because, I think like every son, I wanted to be like my dad. Me perhaps more than most because with my dad being a professional racing driver, he was my hero. So it seemed natural for me to do that."


Having proven yourself in the British Rallycross Championship you had the opportunity to work with Kenneth Hanson in 2010; what did you learn from him and what impact do you think he had on your career?
"Most of the stuff I know today to be honest. Getting the opportunity to work with Kenneth was like being a footballer and going to live with Arsene Wenger. He's won more than anybody's won or come close to winning in Rallycross, so it was the best thing I did really because I learnt so much. It was a great opportunity that he gave me and I'm very lucky and thankful for the opportunity that I got. He's become even more successful now in recent years, not as a driver but as a team owner, so he's doing great."

So would you say that his example was a contributing factor behind you wanting to manage your own team as well as driving?
"Yeah, you could say that. The difference between then and now though is that the sport's grown so much. At the time when I decided to start my own team, the sport wasn't massive, the budgets weren't huge, and there weren't a huge range of options out there for drivers. So rather than me wanting to be a team owner, it was more that I needed to be because I didn't want to go and drive for the couple of teams that were available. Whereas now it makes much more sense to go and drive for one of the factory teams. There are so many teams building cars, it's almost a waste of my time trying to compete with them because they do that solely, day in day out. Going forward, it's more likely that I'll be driving for a team rather than running my own because it just makes more sense nowadays. Being a driver's hard enough without having to run a team as well."


What do you think the main differences are between a rally driver and a Rallycross driver?
"Being a Rallycross driver you have to put every single thing you have on the line to win. If you're not pushing past the safety limit then you're not going to win a race because the other guys are going so fast nowadays that you have to go that far. And the reason why is that in Rallycross there's a safety barrier, there's a comfort zone - you can go off, you can go wide, you can touch each other and you're not going to crash. You have to take that risk. In rally you'd be in trouble, because there's no room for error at all. Rally driving is very much about discipline and calculation, not pushing yourself past the limit. One mistake can take you out of the whole event, whereas in Rallycross there's always a way to get back."

Would you ever want to try your hand at rallying then?
"I would be very bad at rallying because I would crash straight away - I'm a true Rallycross driver. You could say rally drivers are more skilled because they can push to the limit and not go over it. But then, on the other side, when you bring a rally driver [into Rallycross], such as Petter Solberg in his first year, or Marcus Gronholm when he raced, they're top top rally drivers who struggled to find the pace to compete, because they're used to going right to the limit and not past it. Maybe rally drivers are more skilled but Rallycross drivers are more committed."


Do you think that's why you were able to beat Marcus Gronholm in 2011 to win your X-Games Gold medal?
"Yes, because he was still very new to Rallycross and I'd always done it. I definitely wasn't the better or more skilled driver, I would say I was just willing to take more risks at that time. You might say that's crazy, watching in car footage of a rally stage in Finland and then saying there's not commitment in rally driving. I don't mean there's no commitment in rally driving. Rallycross is nowhere near as scary or dangerous, I would never have the balls to go through those stages as close to the trees as they do, it just takes a different kind of mentality.

"And I think Sebastien Loeb might be exactly the same. He's coming in this year and it's really fast and there are no bad drivers. He's an amazing driver, probably the world's best driver, but I think it might take him a couple of races to get the hang of it before he starts winning, and then he'll probably start winning..." [laughs]

How do you think Rallycross is perceived in general against WRC?
"Well, you have circuit racing and you have rally and they're the two types of motorsport that have been done since the first cars were built. It's really good for Rallycross to even be associated with rally on such a high level. Is Rallycross level with WRC though? No, I don't think it is.

"I mean, it's a huge deal to win the World Rallycross Championship, but it's a bigger deal to win WRC. The next question would be, will Rallycross take over from rally and I think it will. I think in modern times, Rallycross is more suitable to people's lifestyles and is more viewable than rally is, so I think World Rallycross will become bigger than World Rally."


What has working with Petter Solberg been like?
"Working with Petter has been very different than working with someone like Kenneth Hanson. Again, Petter's got vast amounts of experience and is a massively successful driver and talent and team owner and so on. He's a massive help, knows a lot and is brilliant. He has a different mentality than most towards racing though, but it works obviously. He's three times World Champion, two times World Rallycross Champion and now going for his third title this year. What can I say? He's done a lot more than I have. He's different to work with than others, but it works for him so fair play."

Do you think the newer format has made it easier for more rally drivers to make the switch to Rallycross?
"I think the good guys who've switched such as Sebastien Loeb, Petter Solberg, Mattias Ekstrom, Tanner Foust and so on, all of whom have come from different disciplines within motorsport, have all had to learn a lot before they've become good at Rallycross. But yes, it's closer now because now it requires that extra discipline and consistency which it didn't before, it just needed you to go as fast as you possibly could. So yeah, it's become more suitable for those guys but it's still not directly suited to them, they have a lot to learn.

"I'm not saying I know everything though. Sebastien Loeb is probably the best driver in the world, maybe of all time, but I'm sure if you asked him the same question he'd say the same thing. It's just great for the sport that people are thinking of switching across. When I think I've been around the sport for so many years, how small it was when I started to now having the stature of drivers that are in it this year, it's crazy."

[Photos: LAT]

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Comments (12) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Furyblade_Lee 07 Apr 2016

    Absolute nutters rallycross drivers...... I suspect Loeb will take to it like a duck to water though....

    I did a rallycross experience day at Lydden Hill with Peter Gwynn in their Swifts. Probobly the best driving experience I have ever done, on track for a full race distance with some of the proper Swift drivers out there with me. Adrenalin to say the least ✌️

    Edited by Furyblade_Lee on Thursday 7th April 16:12

  • octainejunkee 07 Apr 2016

    cause you did Tyrone!


  • DCLXIV 07 Apr 2016

    "And I think Sebastien Loeb might be exactly the same. He's coming in this year and it's really fast and there are no bad drivers. He's an amazing driver, probably the world's best driver, but I think it might take him a couple of races to get the hang of it before he starts winning, and then he'll probably start winning..."

    Erm... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jjZiv9gHOU

  • pozi 07 Apr 2016

    DCLXIV said:
    "And I think Sebastien Loeb might be exactly the same. He's coming in this year and it's really fast and there are no bad drivers. He's an amazing driver, probably the world's best driver, but I think it might take him a couple of races to get the hang of it before he starts winning, and then he'll probably start winning..."

    Erm... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jjZiv9gHOU
    That was the US Global Rallycross series which does not have the same caliber of drivers/cars when compared with WRX.

    Not to say Loeb is slow, just that he is less likely to suddenly dominate proceedings to start with.

  • Clickbait 07 Apr 2016

    Furyblade_Lee said:
    octainejunkee said:
    I did a rallycross experience day at Lydden Hill
    cause you did Tyrone!
    hehe

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRJxNpPj6Zc

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