Saturday 4 May 2019

A fairytale start for Team Hansen MJP.

Team Hansen MJP's Kenneth Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Timmy Hansen, and Susann Hansen.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
Motorsport has its very own way of creating fairytales. Fairytales are often stories with a magical or positive outcome.

But, I hear you asking yourself: How can World RX have its own fairytale in 2019? That's simple...  

On a wintery day in Sweden on 18 October 2018, Peugeot announced their withdrawal from the World RX championship. The announcement came after uncertain around the future of the championship, but the withdrawal would mean that the Hansen brothers and family would be left with an uncertain future. 

An unfortunate end to a strong team, heading into the final race of the season. The Hansen family were inundated with questions about the future. Will we see the Hansen's in Rallycross again? The only replies from drivers and management were: "We are working on it." 

The question on many motorsport writers lips: Could the Hansen's return to World Rallycross? 

It definitely is not easy to go from a well-structured team to nothing. But, the Hansen family remained focused and worked throughout the off-season.

With no factory teams in the 2019 World Rallycross Championship, the future of the series appeared rather bleak. The big names of Mattias Ekstrom, Andreas Bakkerud, Timmy Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Sebastien Loeb, etc. all without a seat is just unheard of in motorsport. 

The FIA deadline for permanent entries looked, but no agreement had been reached yet. Time had come and gone... Did the Hansen's make the deadline? Would we see the Hansen family in World RX?

The world's media received a joyful press release on 6 March 2019, formally confirming that the Hansen family beat the deadline and have successfully entered the World RX championship.

The Hansen family partnered with Max J. Pucher to form Team Hansen MJP. Two Peugeot 208 WRX Supercars were acquired for Timmy and Kevin Hansen.

With the first round of the championship only weeks away in Abu Dhabi, preparations were well underway to get both cars ready for the season.

The 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship season-opening weekend has arrived with some uncertainty but plenty of excitement for the fans and all involved in the championship. With the start of every new season comes some uncertainty surrounding a potential series leader for that particular year. For the first time in the history of the champion, the 2018 World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson would not defend his title. That, in turn, meant a new champion would be crowned come the checkered flag in South Africa in December.

Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud were tipped as the leading contenders heading into the season opener in Abu Dhabi. 

The World RX action received the green light on Saturday morning and the season got underway. Who would be the leading contenders? 

After the first day of competition, it became evident that competition would be fairly close, but Team Hansen MJP's Timmy Hansen was the clear favorite after claiming the overnight top qualifiers spot. Despite Timmy claiming the top spot overnight, Andreas Bakkerud slotted into second while younger brother Kevin took third overnight with two qualifying heats, semi-finals, and a final remaining. 

As the weekend progressed in the scorching Abu Dhabi heat... Q3 got underway. Timmy Hansen led Andreas Bakkerud. 

With an alternate strategy, Bakkerud opted for an early joker lap. Trying to defend the position Timmy took the joker lap on the next lap to cover off a charging Bakkerud. 

Could Timmy stay ahead of the Monster Energy RX Cartel's driver Andreas Bakkerud? It appeared very close as they sped towards the lap merge. And, the unthinkable happened Bakkerud collided into the right-hand side of Timmy Hansen's Peugeot sending him running off track. 

Despite the damage to the Peugeot 208 Supercar, Hansen crawled to the checkered flag holding off Niclas Gronholm behind. 
Timmy Hansen's Peugeot 208 WRX Supercar chassis being rebuilt
PHOTO CREDIT: Matter France. 

After an evaluation in the paddock, it was deemed that Hansen's car was irreparable due to chassis and roll cage damage and needs to be rebuilt. 

With sadness on one side of the garage, it was not doom and gloom for the Hansen family, as younger brother Kevin was still in contention for race victory. 

Lined up in the final, Kevin had an exceptional start but had to contend with Niclas Gronholm who appeared marginally faster. 

Gronholm started ramping up the pressure and got close enough to affect an overtake. Hansen later got a tap on the rear with a lap remaining and nearly spun. 

Gronholm swept to the inside to claim the lead and claimed the race victory, but after an investigation from the race stewards. Gronholm received a three-second time penalty, thus handing race victory to Kevin Hansen. 

A weekend of ups and downs for Team Hansen MJP who claimed a win in the season opener and the matter of fixing Timmy's supercar for the remainder of the season.

Could Team Hansen MJP repair the chassis and roll cage damage in time? Team boss and 14-time European Rallycross champion Kenneth Hansen was fairly positive and said it would take a week or two. 

After nine days of extensive repairs, the chassis and roll cage damage of Timmy Hansen's Peugeot 208 Supercar was repaired and the team conducted a test before sending it to the second round of the championship. 

Off they went with a rebuilt Supercar, but what could possibly happen in Barcelona? 

The question was soon answered after the first day of competition when Timmy Hansen got his groove back. The Swede claimed wins in Q1 and Q2 with younger brother Kevin in second overall on Day One. 

It was all to play for on Sunday with two qualifying rounds, semi-finals and a final to go... Have other teams found some more pace after set-up changes? Can anyone close the gap overnight? No-one could answer the questions Timmy was asking. 

He claimed wins in Q3 and Q4 claiming the overall top qualifiers spot and stamping his authority on the race weekend. If that was not all... Timmy won the Semi-final. 

Kevin Hansen did not have it that easy, he had to contend with starting on the outside for Q3 and Q4, but he progressed to the semi-finals and clinching the win. 

The two Hansen MJP drivers and brothers would start the final front row of the grid. But who would win? Championship leader Kevin or his older brother Timmy Hansen who asserted his dominance on the race weekend.

With her sons locking out the front row of the grid for the final, Team Hansen MJP team manager Susann Hansen told her sons: "Just give it your all, this is now or never. You were in the position, just give it everything!"

All attention turned to the Ready to Race lights and away they went.. Timmy from pole leads into turn one with his brother Kevin alongside. Kevin was able to keep up with his brother on the opening laps, but Timmy began to scamper away towards the latter half of the final.
The World RX of Catalunya PODIUM.

Bakkerud then began pressure Kevin, but the young Swede stayed calm and managed to maintain his second place. With Timmy clinching his sixth World RX victory and Kevin coming across the line in second place, it was one for the record books, a Team Hansen MJP 1-2. 

"This means the world to us," said Susann Hansen in tears. "Its a true dream come true. We fought so hard for being here at all, and now having them one and two. It's just amazing!"

"It's been such a rollercoaster and now we are here first and second. It's overwhelming!"

Kenneth Hansen admitted that his teams 1-2 finish in Barcelona is even better than winning rallycross 14 titles. 

"I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of success in my career as a driver, winning many races and championships, but actually I think this feeling right now is even better," said Kenneth Hansen. "I can’t actually believe that it’s happened, so it’s going to take a while to sink in."

"I feel so happy and most of all so proud, both of what we have created with the Hansen MJP team but also as a dad."

"It’s hard to describe what it’s like seeing your boys finishing first and second, fighting so hard but so fairly. They think of the team first and they’re great friends," he adds. "I think Timmy had something extra this weekend, while Kevin had to fight a bit harder, but they learn from each other all the time and that’s the biggest strength of our family team."

The Team Hansen MJP fairytale continues....

TEXT - Junaid Samodien

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