Friday, 11 June 2021

Timmy Hansen determined to 'write a new story' in World RX

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Former World Champion Timmy Hansen has confirmed his return to World RX in 2021 with the family-run Hansen World RX Team and is determined to 'write a new story this year.'  

The 29-year-old has had a successful career having competed in World RX since its inception in 2014, and he is one of only three drivers' to have entered every round, achieving ten wins and 32 podium finishes at the wheel of a Peugeot 208. 

His 2019 campaign was his most accomplished to-date having claimed four wins from ten starts on course to secure both the drivers' and teams' titles for Team Hansen MJP alongside younger brother and team-mate Kevin Hansen, in a dramatic finale in South Africa, which saw Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud end the season on level points.  

A year later, it was a bit more challenging for Team Hansen, but after some thorough testing, they were able to find some improvements which resulted in a win and three podium finishes.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX Media
After Kevin's [Hansen] return was announced earlier this week, it was just a matter of time before we'd find out about Timmy's future, and his return to the World Championship is truly great news.

The Swede acknowledges all the challenges that his family-run team has had making it to the grid each season, and is very grateful to once have the opportunity to compete in 2021. 

"In the last few years since we've become a fully independent family team, being on the grid has never been a given each season. I'm very grateful I have the opportunity to come back and compete again this year," Timmy Hansen said.

"I love rallycross and it's always been part of my life, and it still is in a very big way. We run the family team every day and our involvement with rallycross goes back decades. It's in my blood since I was born so I'll always want to compete here."

Having recorded ten World Rallycross career victories, the Swede is more motivated to write another successful championship story in 2021. 

"Even though this will be my eighth consecutive season in World RX now, I'm as motivated as ever to write a new story this year: will we compete for the title, who will be fast this year, and how will we stack up?" Hansen adds. 

Could the Hansen's clinch the World RX title in the final season of the internal combustion engine? They certainly could, and Timmy believes that his team is better prepared this season than they were last year. 

"We've been working really hard ourselves and the car feels much better starting in 2021 than it did in 2020. All the great ideas and talented people working with us have made a big difference, even as a small team that's improving step-by-step," he said. "We might have a good shot at competing for the title this year, but let's see how it goes!"

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Grönholm and Szabó join forces to fight World RX title glory.

PHOTO CREDIT: RallyX Nordic
Niclas Grönholm and Krisztián Szabó will join forces for the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship, as the GRX-SET WORLD RX TEAM sets their sights on championship glory. 

Grönholm – the son of two-time FIA World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm - has enjoyed a lengthy career in World RX since making his debut in 2015. He returned for the full 2016 campaign with Olsbergs MSE, before switching to his family-run GRX squad in 2017 behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 Supercar. 

The team took a significant step forward in 2018, as they progressed to the final on four occasions with a newly developed Hyundai i20, which paved the way for a full title fight the following season. They went on to clinch three wins and four podium finishes, on course to second in the teams' championship standings. 

It's also worth noting that had Niclas not missed two rounds due to appendicitis, he could have challenged for the championship having ended the season just 25 points shy of the drivers' title. He claimed another race win in Kouvola, Finland holding off a fast-charging Kristoffersson to cement a fourth overall spot in the standings. 

The GRX squad used the off-season to test the new developments of their Hyundai i20 entering RallyX Nordic in Höljes. An event that saw Niclas walk away with two wins, whilst newly announced team-mate Szabó claimed a third-place finish. 

The 25-year-old returned for his home round at Ouluzone (Finland) and went on to claim yet another win ahead of three-time World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson. 

Having had a successful test program in RallyX Nordic, GRX-SET World RX Team now has a thorough understanding of how to extract maximum performance from their Hyundai i20 Supercars.

Grönholm admits that he is ready to fight for the biggest prize in international rallycross - the World Rallycross Championship crown. 

"My hopes for this season are quite simple – to fight for the championship. Last year was difficult, but I think we learned a lot and we are going in the right direction at the moment. We have done a lot of experiments with the car and found some good things, as well as some areas to work on," Niclas Grönholm said.

"I expect the competition to be similar to the 2019 and 2020 seasons – nothing will be won easily. We will need to be ready to fight and put in the work required at every round to have a chance to win. The events I’m most looking forward to are Sweden and Portugal – the tracks there are so nice – but also the Nürburgring because it’s new for everybody and nobody knows what to expect, which always makes things interesting."

His team-mate in 2021, Krisztián Szabó has enjoyed a lot of success in his junior career. He clinched his first car racing title at the age of 16 in the Hungarian Autocross Championship in 2008. 

He had further success in the FIA Junior Buggy championship in 2009 and 2009, before stepping up to the Buggy1600 category, where he claimed third in the European Championship in 2013. 

2014 saw the Hungarian make the switch rallycross, making his debut in the FIA European Rallycross Championship's Super1600 class. A year later, he claimed a third-place finish in the championship, setting the scene for consecutive Euro RX Super1600 crowns in 2016 and 2017. 

The 29-year-old then entered two Euro RX rounds in 2018 with Mattias Esktröm’s EKS Audi Sport squad with a second-place finish in Lohéac before making the switch to World RX a year later with EKS Sport, and despite a challenging season, he went on to claim tenth overall in the championship. 

Left without a season for the 2020 season, he joined up with the GRX-SET team for the Swedish and Latvian rounds progressing to the semi-finals on both occasions, but in 2021, he will return for the full campaign. 

"I’m very happy that I can continue with this great team, especially under [Team Principal] Jussi Pinomäki, and I’m even more pumped that I can finally play a part in fighting for the Teams’ championship. The Hyundai is very good – I love it – and it’s really great to work with Niclas; I can learn a lot from him and everyone in the team," Krisztián Szabó said.

"It’s hard to know where we will be, but I’m pretty optimistic that we will be fast this year. My personal aim for the season is to have strong and stable results and to be in the final as much as possible. After the first few rounds, we will know better where we are compared to the others and what we can aim for overall, but I believe we can be very strong contenders this year."

There is no doubt that it has a challenging road trying to secure the necessary funding to compete at World Championship level, due to the current economic climate, but with hard work, the Finnish squad will return in 2021 with one aim in mind, and that is to challenge for the drivers' and teams' championship.

Jussi Pinomäki admits that returning to the championship with Niclas and Krisztián can help the team deliver on their potential. 

“We have worked hard to be able to return this year, and it’s brilliant to do that with Niclas and Krisztián. I think together they can help us to deliver our potential at every event," Jussi Pinomäki, Team Principal, GRX-SET WORLD RX TEAM, said. "As Niclas says, nothing comes easy, especially at this level, but I’m very proud of our hard-working team and we will be doing everything we can to achieve the best results possible."

Today's announcement means that after three years with Grönholm RX team, Timur Timerzyanov will not return in 2021. 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

"I feel faster than I've ever been" warns Kevin Abbring.

PHOTO CREDIT: GCK Motorsport
Dutch racer Kevin Abbring returns to contest the full FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2021 behind the wheel of the 'UNKORRUPTED' Renault Mégane R.S. RX, and he has warned his fellow rivals that he feels "faster than ever." 

The 32-year-old began his motorsport career in rallycross - winning the Dutch and Belgian titles three times by the age of 16, before switching to rallying in 2017, achieving success on the international stage in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship and making history becoming the youngest driver ever to win a JWRC round.

In 2019, he returned to rallycross, competing in two rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship with ES Motorsport, impressing many after claiming two fourth-place finishes, and even leading the final on his debut in Hell, Norway in tricky weather conditions. 

A year later, the Dutchman joined GCK Motorsport as the development driver for their rallycross and cross-country programmes, and make his World RX return for the Finnish double-header in Kouvola to assist the "UNKORRUPTED" team after a rather challenging season.

Guerlain Chicherit driving the Renault Mégane R.S. RX.
PHOTO CREDIT: GCK Motorsport
With GCK not returning to the World Championship until its switch electric in 2022, Kevin has chosen to partner with French engineering company FORS Technologies to race for a Championship win in 2021. Having raced under team name UNKORRUPTED last season, he decided to take to the start line under the same team name this year.

While Kevin’s work on green motorsport development programmes will continue throughout 2021, he’s committed to using this season to push for the world title in rallycross as preparations continue for the switch to electric.

"I’ve been working on some incredible projects, and I’m really excited about the future of motorsport. To get the chance to contest an entire championship at world level in parallel this season is something I’ve been working on for such a long time now," Kevin Abbring said.

"Thanks to the latest projects and test activities I have been involved in, I feel faster than I’ve ever been. I’ve worked with every team member closely before and I’m starting to understand the Mégane better and better. I can’t wait to push for victories together!"

Monday, 7 June 2021

Kristoffersson has firm grip on RallyX Nordic title.

PHOTO CREDIT: Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS
Johan Kristoffersson has a firm grip on the RallyX Nordic title having picked up a win and a second place in Ouluzone, Finland this weekend. 

The three-time World RX champion emerged victorious on Saturday after a thrilling battle with Niclas Grönholm, which ended with the Finn picking up a puncture. 

On Sunday, Grönholm got his revenge, with a perfect launch in the final, leaving Johan to try alternative lines to carry more speed, but that was not enough to beat the Niclas, as he led the way to the checkered flag. 

"Good points. I did what I could this weekend. I can't go any faster," Kristoffersson said."I would have needed pole position to be able to beat Niclas."

With one round remaining, at the Westombanan in Arvika in August, Kristoffersson leads the championship by 27 points over Niclas Grönholm who confirmed on Sunday, that he is not likely to return for the final, whilst Sondre Evjen is a further 29 points behind the top 2. 

"[It will be] fun to hopefully decide the title on a home track," he concludes. 

Johan's father and team manager of Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS admits that despite being in control of the championship "it is not over until it is over."

“It's my time to shine!” - Kevin Hansen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Nitro Rallycross and European Rallycross champion Kevin Hansen has confirmed that he will participate in the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship, with the Hansen World RX Team in the final internal combustion-engined season, which kicks off next month in Barcelona. 

The 23-year-old Swede is already an established force in World Rallycross and has won in almost every series that he has entered to date. 

This season, he will enter his sixth consecutive season with the 2019 World RX Teams' Champions, Hansen World RX Team.

Yes, a new team name, but the same old fire to succeed in top-level rallycross!

Kevin challenged for the world championship up until the last race in 2019 coming out in third place behind his older brother Timmy (2019 champion) and Andreas Bakkerud. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
The shortened 2020 season, was a challenging one for the Swedish outfit, but despite all of that Kevin went on to claim two podiums, and he is now ready to compete for the ultimate prize in rallycross once more. 

"I’ve been looking at all areas of my development in order to put myself in a better position ahead of the season," Kevin Hansen said. "I know where I’ve been weak, and where I’ve been strong, and it’s time to put it all together in the final year of the petrol era."

"I’m capable of winning championships – I think my junior career showed that! This is no different and I hope the changes around me will showcase the progress we've made together."

Whilst last season provided to be a Kristoffersson vs. Ekstrom show. The Hansen's weren't too far away, and as the season progressed, the team slowly began to find some improvements with their Peugeot 208 WRX supercars to an extent that they claimed five podiums and one victory. 

Car development is key to finding improvements, hence why, testing is always a useful tool. This season (2021), Kevin feels that his family team has taken a step in the right direction.

"Our car development has moved towards a direction I feel more comfortable with, and the car did fit me much better last season than in 2019," the Swede says. "I believe since then we've progressed even more in that direction and I can’t wait to extract all of it on track."

The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship will mark the end of internal combustion-engined Supercars, an era that Kevin hopes to end on top. 

"To close World RX's petrol chapter with the Hansen name on top would be a beautiful story, given the team's rich history and the upcoming shift to full electric rallycross," he said.

“It's my time to shine!”

Hansen World RX Team has indicated that the second driver will be announced at a later date.

Grönholm strikes back to seals third RallyX Nordic win.

Niclas Grönholm gained his revenge over Johan Kristoffersson with victory in Round 6 of the RallyX Nordic Championship at OuluZone, Finland (yesterday).

The Finnish race winner, who was leading the Round 5 final before suffering a puncture, looking unstoppable on Sunday, when he set the fastest time of the weekend in Q1 - beating Johan Kristoffersson in the process. 

The three-time FIA World Rallycross Champion responded by claiming Q2, but the pair reversed positions once more in a thrilling Q3 dual run in dramatically changing conditions.

Both drivers won their respective semi-finals, setting up yet another thrilling final, with Kristoffersson getting a marginally better start than Grönholm, but with an inside line, it was slightly easier to defend. Trying to outfox his Finnish rival, Kristoffersson ran quite wide into turn one to carry a bit more speed, but ultimately Niclas powered his way into the lead, and the rest is history. 

"This was revenge for yesterday [Saturday] – that sucked. It all seemed to go my way yesterday until the puncture so very happy to get the win here today. I was a bit nervous all day to be honest, we haven’t had good launches, and starting on the inside has been really tricky – I think it’s the worst spot on the grid!" Grönholm said. "I had a decent launch in the final though, the car was stalling a bit and I couldn’t hold it anymore and Q3’s launch was a bit worse than that, three of our starts we struggled with stalling."

"Johan [Kristoffersson] took me after turn one for the first few meters over the bump but then I got him on the gears. Johan was close on the first lap, that’s been the same all weekend. For me, the second or third lap has been the best once the tires get up to temperature. The first lap I’ve generally been quite cautious, I was trying to avoid any mistakes and obviously go carefully over the bump after yesterday."

Right behind them came, Juha Rytkönen, who was quite impressive securing third on his return to RallyX Nordic having shown strong pace throughout the weekend in his Betomik Racing Team prepared Ford Fiesta. 

EKS JC's Enzo Ide came home in fourth ahead of Jere Kalliokoski, whilst championship contender Sondre Evjen failed to finish the final due to broken steering. And, despite failing to finish the final, he remains ahead of Fraser McConnell in the championship standings after the Jamaican driver's steering collapsed in his respective semi-final. 

Grönholm's victory sees him climb to second in the championship standings despite missing the season-opener at Nysum, having won three times in four appearances. 

"We came here to get more racing under our belts and to compete against Johan and the other guys in this series so we're very happy to get the win and get more time in this car," the 25-year-old said. "We learned a lot this weekend, what works and what doesn’t and there’s obviously a lot of tarmac here so it's useful to know these things for when conditions are similar to this."

So, will Niclas return to potentially challenge Kristoffersson in the RallyX Nordic final in Arvika?

"No! I don't think so!," Grönholm said. "This was the extra round for me. It was quite close to come here... only a nine-hour drive."

Monday, 31 May 2021

RallyX Nordic title battle heats up as World RX stars join the fray

PHOTO CREDIT: RallyX Nordic
It's race week! Words all motorsport enthusiasts love to hear. This weekend, the RallyX Nordic season continues at Oulu Zone, with the Finnish double-header, that is set to have a major impact on the ongoing title fight. 

Coming off the back of a hugely successful weekend at the iconic Höljes circuit in Sweden a few weeks ago, Niclas Grönholm is back for more RallyX Nordic action. Having secured consecutive wins on his season debut, the Finn is joint-fourth in the standings despite missing the opening double-header and will hope to get the better of his rivals on home soil in OuluZone this weekend. 

Fresh from the oceans of Senegal, Johan Kristoffersson will have his work cut out for him, as he has a giant target painted on his back. The Swede currently leads the Supercar standings after a victory and two second-place finishes at the opening four rounds of the RallyX Nordic season. 

Kristoffersson will have one target on his mind - to consolidate the top spot in the standings. 

The Swede's nearest rival, Fraser McConnell is just 13 points behind after a challenging weekend in Höljes, whilst Sondre Evjen is only four points further back and will be a mission to close the gap. 

Grönholm will be joined on track by fellow countrymen and World RX racer Juha Rytkönen. The Finnish national rallycross champion took a surprise second place on his debut at Kouvola last year and is an exciting addition to the field. 

Finnish RX racer Jere Kalliokoski will also make his season debut this weekend, along with Juri Tuuri. 

The high-octane action-packed racing will be broadcast live, free and in high-definition at tv.rallyx.se, with the racing set to get underway on Saturday, 5 June and concluding on Sunday, 6 June.

What does the future hold for Andreas Bakkerud?

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Love him? Or love him? Yeah! There’s only one real option. Why? Because Andreas Bakkerud is one of the most loved drivers in rallycross, and not having him in top-flight rallycross would be rather disappointing. 

After a grueling 2019 World RX season, Andreas walked away as the runner-up, which isn’t the best feeling when you finish the season on level points, with your rival. But despite the disappointment, he returned in 2020, this time in a PRODRIVE developed Renault Megane R.S. RX Supercar, which might not have been the easiest car to get to grips with from the offset, but he kept chipping away. 

In the season finale (in Barcelona), the Norwegian came very close to leading the final and even had the pace to fight for the win, but unfortunately, his race ended in the barrier before deflecting into the path of Robin Larsson. His final result was seventh overall in the championship standings. 

The 29-year-old has competed in World RX since its inception back in 2014, and has raced in his fair share of teams – his RX career kicked off at Olsbergs MSE. He then moved over to the Hoonigan Racing division with Ken Block before moving to EKS RX, but following their departure at the end of the 2018 season. Andreas was left without a seat, he then became a team principal and driver after hiring two Audi S1 Quattro Supercars from the EKS squad. 

Whilst money keeps the world spinning, it also helps keep aspiring sports professionals within their sport. Seeking sponsors or should we say partners, is never an easy task. So, building a reputation is always important, as it attracts respective partners. But things became a lot more challenging with the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies have their money tied up. 

Andreas Bakkerud climbing the kerb in his STARD electric Ford Fiesta.
PHOTO CREDIT: Andreas Bakkerud.
The 2021 World RX campaign will get underway next month (in June) with eight rounds in Europe, but the identity of the field remains relatively unknown, with two teams confirmed. EKS JC and All-Inkl.com Motorsport have committed to the World RX championship thus far. 

So, with that being said, will we see Andreas Bakkerud return to World Rallycross in 2021 or will he sign up for the Nitro Rallycross series? It’s a bit of an unknown right now! Speaking at the RallyX Nordic double-header in Sweden, the Norwegian confirmed that he is currently working on plans for the 2021 season. 

“[I am] still working on it. I wish I could tell you something, but it's still very much up in the air, and it’s very much moving around [constantly]. It’s a positive and negative,” Bakkerud said. “The good thing is the phone is ringing all the time and things are changing.”

“In the World RX championship, Nitro RX, and in the RallyX Nordic series things are happening, but we are seeing changes from naturally aspirated cars to electric cars and also the Covid-19 situation on top of it.”

“It’s very hard for us, the drivers because everything is changing from one week to another,” he adds.

Bakkerud made his return to competitive racing two weeks ago in the RallyX Nordic series behind the wheel of a STARD all-electric Ford Fiesta, and his pace was quite impressive. He beat a few internal combustion-powered Supercars along the way. 

For now… Andreas Bakkerud's future is uncertain, but we certainly do hope that he returns to competitive rallycross in 2021! 

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Kristoffersson and Grönholm rivalry set to continue in RallyX Nordic.

PHOTO CREDIT: Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS.
Johan Kristoffersson and Niclas Grönholm are set to go head-to-head once again when the RallyX Nordic series returns next weekend in Finland. 

Fresh off the back of a thrilling duel in Höljes last time out, it was Niclas Grönholm who stood out above the pack winning Rounds 3 and 4 at the iconic Värmland circuit behind the wheel of his 2021 World RX specification Hyundai i20.

Whilst it all went to plan for Niclas, Kristoffersson on the other hand had to deal with a few mechanical issues, as well as a puncture in the semi-final of Round 3, but despite that, he bounced back pretty well and fought his Finnish rival all the way to the checkered flag in Round 4.

Kristoffersson's fightback on home soil ensured that he remained at the top of the Supercar championship standings. 

And, guess what? They are back for me! Both Kristoffersson and Grönholm are confirmed for the Finnish double-header next weekend. These top-flight World RX drivers will undoubtedly bang doors once again when RallyX Nordic heads to Finland, a track Niclas has visited previously.

"It's a new course for me. Based on the videos I have seen, it is a very circuit-like track," Kristoffersson said. "Maybe not what our car likes most, but we have to make some adjustments and see what we can conjure up. Above all, we have to get the starts in order."

Having finished behind Grönholm in Höljes, the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS driver will be on a mission to beat his Finnish rival.

"[It's] time for revenge! We were beaten last time, but it's great to get another chance to try ourselves at the highest level. I always enjoy tough competition. It also makes winning more fun," Kristoffersson adds.

The three-time World RX champion admits that he needs to continue to collect points without taking any major risks if he is to maintain the championship lead. Whilst Niclas will have other plans in mind. 

PHOTO CREDIT: RallyX Nordic.
Grönholm RX has often used the RallyX Nordic series in preparation for the World Rallycross Championship, and this year it's no different. The Finnish squad will be hoping to keep the victory streak alive.

"We all had a good time racing in Sweden recently and importantly we were able to try a number of different things through the weekend," Jussi Pinomaki, GRX Team Manager, said. 

"We are all racers in the team and competing is what we love to do so when the opportunity came up to once again race in RallyX Nordic with Niclas in our ‘home’ rounds at Oulu, we were keen to make that happen.

"There is some strong competition in RallyX Nordic so it’s a good way to continue preparing for our plans this season, not only on track but operationally for the team too."

It's still all to play for with three rounds remaining, but it's fair to say that Kristoffersson will be both the hunter and hunted in Finland. 

Monday, 17 May 2021

Kristoffersson extends lead despite challenging Höljes double-header.

PHOTO CREDIT: Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS/QNIGAN
Johan Kristoffersson extended his RallyX Nordic championship advantage over Fraser McConnell this weekend, after a challenging weekend in Höljes.

The 32-year-old failed to make the final on Thursday (round 3) after a puncture, which saw him eliminated in the semi-finals. 

Returning a few days later, he was on a mission... and despite challenging weather conditions, it did not quite turn out the way he had hoped for. 

He struggled with starts and clinched third place overall on Saturday afternoon (in Q1 and Q2). 

"The starts weren't good enough - at all - and that's the most important detail in rallycross," Kristoffersson said.

The dawn of a new day ushered in new opportunities, and yet more changeable weather conditions. The third and fourth qualifying rounds ended in the same vein. Johan once again had problems with the starts, but he offered effective joker actions and a great overtaking display. 
After the qualifiers, Kristoffersson had still managed to secure a place at the front row for the second semi-final. 

"We had no really big problems, but far too many for us to be able to challenge the World RX cars," he explained.

Even in the semi-finals, Krisztian Szabo had the best start and immediately shut the door on Johan, but in a masterful strategy, the three-time world champion wisely used his tactic and skill to fight back and win to seal a place alongside Grönholm in the final.

"I drove to my absolute extreme, and had to turn out everything I could," he adds.

Yet again, Johan had a bad start in the final, but with Fraser McConnell with an inside line into turn two, he immediately took the joker lap and the push began. 

From there, his only target was "to win". He pulled off a masterful overtake around the inside of Andreas Bakkerud on entry to the velodrome, and from there pushed to close the gap. 

"Yes, it was different. I had to "take it on a volleyball" you could say, but it worked out," he said.

Once he passed the Norwegian, the Swede had a couple of laps to catch up with Grönholm, but it was not quite enough. Although he finished 0.400s behind the race winner, it was a solid second-place finish.

Former team-mate and championship rival Sondre Evjen missed the final, which means the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS driver now has a 13-point lead in the championship, over Fraser McConnell. 

Despite the challenge, team boss Tommy Kristoffersson is quite pleased. 

"We have to take the positives from this weekend," he said. "We knew it would tough against the World Championship cars, but we should not hide under the chair that we have struggled with some technical challenges."

RallyX Nordic will head to northern Finland in just three weeks, a track that not too many drivers have raced on before. So, it will be new for many, but the action will still be pretty epic!