Wednesday 25 December 2019

Is WRC heading for third straight nail-biter?

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
News on the world of rallying has certainly blown up in the last few weeks after Estonian Ott Tänak (Toyota Gazoo Racing) managed to overhaul six-time World Rally Champion, Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Racing) to claim his first WRC title. 

The World Rally Championship season finale in Australia was canceled due to severe fires in the region, while both championships were decided, the news kept flowing as the 2020 season is already shaping up to be an even more dramatic year of rallying.

As the 2019 WRC season ended, Hyundai Motorsport set the rallying world alight with the news of Ott Tänak signing a shock deal with the manufacturer for two years. The Korean manufacturer named their line-up for the 2020 season, as Thierry Neuville would join the team in a second car, while Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo would share a third car at selected rounds. 

With the cancellation of the 2019 Australian round, Hyundai (who led the manufacturers’ championship at this point) where crowned manufacturers' champions for the first time in WRC, after a very close battle with Toyota Gazoo Racing. The 2018 winners only trailed Hyundai by a mere 18 points. 

All seemed poised for Hyundai to hit the ground running in 2020 and lead out the (now) champion less Toyota and Citroen. An extremely close season tussle was set to close and become a season, dominated by Hyundai. 
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.

The rallying world, would, however, take yet another shock turn, in only one month when Citroen announced that they will withdraw from the World Rally Championship to focus on a new motorsport programme that will see Peugeot return to WEC from 2022 due to the new Hypercar regulations, as well as focusing resources on an electrified series. 

While Ogier was left without a seat for the 2020 season. Tänak’s departure from Toyota opened the door for the six-time WRC champion. Rumors immediately began circulating, as sources linked Ogier to Toyota, including speculation that Elfyn Evans would again join forces with his former Ford (MSport) team-mate at Toyota Gazoo Racing. 

The speculation soon ended, when Tommi Mäkinen (team principal) and his team announced the signing of Ogier and Evans as well as another young star, poised for victory. Kalle Rovanpeä, the WRC-2 Pro driver, will join the Toyota squad as the reigning WRC-2 champion, having won five of the thirteen rounds this year. 

While Toyota ended the contracts of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, the turn of events foreshadows a very exciting 2020 campaign. 

Latvala will get back behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris for two events in 2020 – Rally Sweden and Rally Finland, but the Finn has set his sights on three additional rounds yet to be announced.

The three leading championship contenders (Tänak, Ogier, and Neuville) were found in three different teams in the past two years, but the two dominant teams (Toyota and Hyundai) will now feature all three of the title contenders. 

Between these three drivers, they shared 92% of all the victories this year, with only Dani Sordo claiming a single victory in Sardegna. Tänak dominated the season taking six victories in 13 rounds, while both Neuville and Ogier took three wins apiece. 

It’s quite rare to see the domination that Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT has shown this year, with four manufacturers fighting for the title. Toyota started the year as defending manufacturers’ champions and ended it having fielded the fastest car and the fastest crew in Tänak and co-driver Jarveoja.

Despite ending the season on a high with Tänak and Jarveoja wrapping up the WRC drivers’ title with one round remaining, Toyota were still in the hunt for the manufacturers’ title but due to the cancellation of the final round in Australia, Hyundai Shell Morbis WRT were crowned manufacturers' champions. 

The Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Tänak and co-driver Jarveoja won almost one in every three special stages in 2019 regardless of the surface – snow, ice, gravel or asphalt.

Impressive isn’t it? Well, guess again. Ott’s success was not the only factor to highlight Toyota’s dominance this season. Kris Meeke (co-driver Sebastian Marshall) and Jari-Matti Latvala (co-driver Miikka Anttila) were the fastest on 107 special stages in total. 

Hyundai Motorsport secured their first title in the highly competitive 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, after five years in the championship. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
The 2019 season might have got off to a good start for the defending World Champion Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia who claimed the first win of the season in Monaco and kept a pretty consistent scorecard with 3 victories and five podium finishes. Ogier grew seemingly impatient with Citroen who appeared to lag behind in the development of their C3 WRC car, but slowly developments were brought to their car in 2019. 

Ogier and Ingrassia claimed the 2019 World Rally Championship Wolf Power Stage award this year by a single point from world champions Tänak and Jarveoja.

While Citroen exits the World Rally Championship in 2019, there is fresh speculation that Citroen is open to the sale of 2020 homologated Citroen C3 cars to a private entity. The 2020 homologated Citroen’s will include the evolution package tested ahead of Rally Spain. 
With the departure of the second most successful manufacturer in the history of the World Rally Championship having amassed 8 world Championships, with five consecutive titles with Sebastien Loeb. The long winding road of success is now open to the three remaining manufacturers – Hyundai, Toyota, and Ford.

Three new rounds are joining the 2020 WRC calendar (Kenya, Japan, and New Zealand), most of the field will head into unknown territory. It will, therefore, be a very challenging, but exciting season. 

We are already on the edges of our seats, waiting for 23 January (Monte Carlo) to arrive.

Written By: Franco Theron and Junaid Samodien.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Is South Africa back on the international motorsport map?

FIA World Rallycross action at the Killarney International Raceway.
PHOTO CREDIT: Franco Theron/Galimoto Media.
Motorsport in South Africa is on an upward trajectory. The country has a variety of local categories from karting to Global Touring Cars, Motorbike racing, drifting and drag racing. But things changed for the better in 2017 when the FIA World Rallycross Championship announced a round of the international series in Cape Town (Killarney International Raceway). 

South Africa last hosted an FIA-sanctioned world championship event in 1993, and the announcement of the FIA World Rallycross Championship would put South Africa back onto the international map. 

While Cape Town returned to the international stage in 2017, the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in Midrand also took center stage in the rebirth of South African International Motorsport. This after undergoing renovation after being acquired in 2014 by Toby Venter CEO of Porsche SA. The Kyalami was awarded an FIA Grade 2 certification meaning the circuit could host international motorsport apart from Formula 1 which requires Grade 1 certification.

In 2018, it was announced that the Intercontinental GT Challenge would return to the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit to host the “Kyalami 9 hour”, an event that awakened global interest in South Africa after a spectacular race. Live stream statistics for the Kyalami 9 Hour was off the chart - becoming the number one watched motorsport live stream on YouTube in 2019.

Having seen the success of the Kyalami 9 hour, rumors quickly circulated that the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) could be heading to the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit in the not too distant future, but those rumors were silenced when the ACO announced the provisional 2020/21 WEC Calendar with South Africa included and scheduled to host the opening race of the 2021 calendar year on 6 February 2021. 

South Africa has a broad array of talented drivers racing in international motorsport series: Jordan Pepper, Kevin van der Linde, Saul Hack and David Perel in GT Racing. Tasmin Pepper competes in the women-only WSeries. Sheldon van der Linde and Jonathan Aberdein compete in the DTM series. The Binder brothers Brad and Darryn Binder have competed in the MotoGP feeder championship in recent years, but in 2020 Brad Binder will take the step up to MotoGP, while Darryn Binder will remain in the Moto3 championship. Stuart White has also represented South Africa in the French Formula 4 championship and became a Sauber Motorsport supported driver earlier this year. 

2020 will also see more African Dakar entries, with no less than 9 entries. While Donovan van de Langenberg, unfortunately, had to rule out his 2020 Malle Moto charge (due to an accident earlier this year), the Cape Town based rider is set to aim for the title in 2021. 

Hennie de Klerk, the 2018 Dakar rookie champion, will also take on the Dakar, aiming for even more of an improvement in new Red-Lined, Nissan machinery. Joining him in the car category will be the 2009 winner, Giniel de Villiers, aiming for a second title. 

The Formula K circuit in Benoni, Johannesburg.
In the motorbike and SSV category, Ross Branch, Aaron Mare, Stuart Gregory, Kristen Landman, Wessel Bosman, Graeme Sharp, and Conrad Rautenbach, is set to charge the first stage on 5 January. 

In addition to all these positives, a world-class Grade A certified CIK (Commission Internationale de Karting) and FIA circuit named ‘Formula K’ was launched in Benoni, Johannesburg. The Formula K circuit is the countries only track eligible to host world championship go-karting events. 

While motorsport interest is growing in South Africa, the country could soon welcome the (FIA) ABB Formula E championship in Cape Town. The City of Cape Town announced earlier this year that they are considering bringing Formula E to Cape Town and that a feasibility study will be conducted before any decision is made. eMovement, however, the company in charge of the feasibility study are certain that Formula E will come to Cape Town soon. 

While South Africa is seeing a growth in international motorsport interest, the FIA once again introduced the Kenyan-based, Safari rally after an 18-year absence. This investment is sure to see more growth in the local rallying industry. 

Over the past three years, motorsport in South Africa (Africa) has once again taken to the international stage, largely by virtue of the FIA and Jean Todt wanting the sport moving across global borders and truly making it a world series. 

This continuous collaboration with the likes of the South African government, City of Cape Town and the private sector will once again see the return of the golden motorsport years for South Africa. 

Written By – Junaid Samodien and Franco Theron. 

EXCLUSIVE - Timmy Hansen talks World RX, Lewis Hamilton, Projekt E, and his ideal RX circuit.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool. 
“Too many people want the appearance of winning rather than the practices and hard work that creates a true champion.” - T.D. Jakes. 

Hard work and determination paid off this year when Timmy Hansen was crowned the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion at the season finale in Cape Town, South Africa. The season was filled with trials and tribulations for Team Hansen MJP who just about beat the clock to enter the 2019 World RX season after Peugeot’s withdrawal at the end of the 2018 season. 

It’s never easy being a son of motorsport legends, but Timmy Hansen and younger brother Kevin Hansen take it in their stride. 

Timmy Hansen’s rise to stardom took a slightly different course from that of his parents – Kenneth Hansen, the most successful rallycross driver in history, with 14 European RX titles, while his mother Susann Hansen is the only women ever to have won a European title in rallycross.

Despite his family's firm roots in rallycross, Timmy’s motorsport career began in circuit racing with karting, where he claimed the Swedish Karting Championship in 2008 and then progressed to single-seater racing for two years where he won races in Formula BMW and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. 

In April 2011, Timmy competed in his first-ever rallycross event in France in a borrowed Citroën Xsara Supercar. 

Hansen then made his first competitive rallycross debut in 2012 at the Finnish round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship where he finished in a credible fifth place. 

He returned to the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 2013 in a Citroën DS3 and went on to take several podium finishes – including winning in Hungary and finishing third overall in the championship. 
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA.

The Swede progressed to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014 at the wheel of a Peugeot 208 WRX supercar and he claimed his maiden World RX win in Italy along with three more podium finishes to end the championship in fourth overall. 

The 2015 World RX season was Hansen’s most successful year in the sport, where he claimed three wins – Norway, France, and Turkey, eventually finishing the season in second place behind Petter Solberg.

In 2016, Nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb joined Timmy at Team Peugeot-Hansen. The pair claimed a win apiece and eight podium finishes. 

Hansen remained at Team Peugeot-Hansen in 2017 and claimed four more podium finishes on his way to fifth in the overall standings. At the end of the 2017 season, Peugeot announced full factory support for Team Peugeot-Hansen. And, with factory support came a name change: Team Peugeot Total. 

In 2018, Team Peugeot Total got off to a competitive start, but later introduced an evolution of its baseline model, named: Peugeot 208 WRX Evo. The new car was introduced in Sweden and immediately showed a strong pace.

Timmy claimed a third-place finish in Belgium and second-place in Canada. He ended the 2018 season in sixth in the drivers' standings. 

Peugeot later announced their withdrawal from the FIA World Rallycross Championship citing uncertainty surrounding the sport’s switch to electric cars, which was postponed from 2020 to 2021. 

While the Hansen’s future in rallycross seemed bleak, hard work over the winter break helped the team secure the necessary funding to secure two Peugeot 208 WRX cars and an entry into the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

The 2019 season got off to a bang for Timmy who led the way through the qualifying heats in Abu Dhabi but was involved in an accident with Andreas Bakkerud who thought that the race ended a lap earlier. His Peugeot 208 WRX suffered extensive chassis damage, but after nine days of hard labor the car was rebuilt and on the grid in Barcelona where the Hansen brothers claimed a 1-2 finish. Timmy claimed three more wins, in Great Britain, France, and Latvia on his way to a dramatic season finale in Cape Town, which saw Hansen and Bakkerud end on equal points and a countback of wins being the title decider.

With the added pressured of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Timmy Hansen and younger brother Kevin competed in the Titans RX Europeans Series, as well as the Nitro Rallycross Championship, where Timmy finished second best to Kevin Hansen. 

In November, this year the Hansen brothers’ announced that their driver development programme “Yellow Squad” will join the RX2 International Series in 2020, after joining forces with Team Färén.

Timmy Hansen was officially crowned the FIA World Rallycross Champion having finally received his trophy at the FIA Gala on 6 December 2019 at the Louvre museum in Paris.
The Hansen family celebrates on the podium in Cape Town - Kenneth Hansen (left), Timmy and Kevin (centre) and Susann Hansen (right)
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA. 
Timmy Hansen took some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us at the Killarney International Raceway ahead of the title-deciding weekend. 

Junaid Samodien: Team Hansen MJP just about beat the clock to enter the 2019 World RX championship this season. How much work went into securing an entry? 

Timmy Hansen: Many hours of work went in to secure an entry, but it’s more than just hours, it was everything. My whole passion. It’s quite hard to describe all the things that we have put together and our ambitions. You don’t achieve this by working for hours. It took a lot, it really took everything that we had, but we are here.

JS: Many drivers worldwide race for manufacturers or international teams, but not many have ever raced in there own team or let’s say a family team. What is it like to race in a family team?

TH: I think a lot of drivers experience it (family team). We have a really good relationship within the family (including team) and I think that everybody can relate.. for example: Christmas Day - you are with your family and you have this amazing feeling that you are all together. That is the way that we spent every race weekend (as a team).

JS: Your father is your spotter. What is it like to have him in your ear during a race?

TH: His great! We are basically driving the car together – he knows exactly what I am going through and his guiding me well. 

JS: The 2019 season did not get off to a good start for you in Abu Dhabi, but you have made a comeback and claimed four wins more than anyone. How did you find the mental strength to fight back?

TH: It was tough. I put all that work in and to go to the first race and have a crash – it’s bad for the results and it was not what I had imagined. I had won Q1 and Q2 and I was leading Q3 – so I had a brilliant race and I felt that it was taken away from me and it also cost a lot of money (to repair the damage) that we were working hard to get. It was tough, but the guys managed to repair the car in time and we were back on the start line in Barcelona, and then I just wanted to get out there - try again and work hard and I won that race. It was a complete contrast and Kevin was second.  

JS: Projekt E launched in Latvia a few weeks/months ago, and yourself and Kevin were in attendance. What are your thoughts on the concept?

TH: I hope that Projekt E can become a success. I think that it is good to showcase electric rallycross to the fans one year earlier and that is already next year. Everything else will run as normal with the normal engines and all the sound that we have, while Projekt E will run on the side. So, I think that it is really good to show the fans the racing on the track. The action that we all love is going to be no different but we are going to miss the sound. It’s not that it is silent – it’s another sound but I think it is good to showcase it. 

JS: You took to Instagram to congratulate Lewis Hamilton for achieving six World Championships. What can you as a driver learn from that success? You also mention that he inspires you. How does Lewis inspire you?

TH: It’s not the success in its self that motivates me, because then it would be more motivating to look at Sébastien Loeb who was my teammate last year – he has more titles. Seb is a friend now, but it’s different – I have never met Lewis but I wish I will one day. I can relate a lot to what his going through and what he is saying about having to perform race after race and it takes all that you’ve got. It’s really hard to be on top of your game every race but his still able to be very humble and trying to spread his positive attitude into the world. He also takes his position as Formula One World Champion and tries to make something good out of it. 

He does not limit himself to Formula 1, but also trying to in his own way to contribute to the world bringing awareness to some topics that need to be done and spread some love. I am trying to do that too – I want to inspire people with what I am doing and if one kid wants to live their dream because of me inspiring them – I have succeeded. That would be the greatest success I could ever reach. In that way – I look up to him a lot. 
Timmy's Helmet on the roof of his Peugeot 208 RX ahead of Qualifying.
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA.

JS: Can you take us through what goes through the mind of a racing driver minutes before a race? Do you think of anything? Or is it a clear mind and muscle memory taking over?

TH: I would say that you could compare your launch to riding a rollercoaster. People often compare racing to rollercoasters but it’s not quite like that. Although the sensation is like that or quite similar. But the focus that you’ve got. I will give you an example: When you are studying really hard at school and you want to succeed, and there is a topic where you feel that you did not master it yet. Then the teacher hands you a test and you really want to do well in this essay. You’ve studied so hard and you have the pen in your hand and you are about to start. That is kind of feeling we have. Nothing goes through your mind – you just focus and you know that you’ve prepared and there is a sense of comfort, but still a nervousness. So, that is kind of what happens inside the car as well. 

JS: What would it mean to you to be crowned 2019 FIA World RX champion?

TH: It would mean a lot of course. It has been my dream and my goal for many years. FIA World Champion – it’s a title that not many people have reached, and the ones that have reached it are the very greatest to have been in motorsport. So, It would be amazing, but on the other hand, it doesn’t make it any easier for me if I win or not – after that race, I am going to look forward to 2020. In 2020, I want to be World Champion as well and to do that I have to prepare and study for my essay if you want say that. Prepare everything and prepare through the winter and that is not going to change. So, the work that I have ahead is exactly the same but of course, I want to achieve my goal of becoming a world champion – I don’t think that it changes my everyday life but I am super focused on my task ahead. 

JS: What would you still like to achieve in your motorsport career?

TH: I don’t know. I like driving cars. When I was a kid I used to dream of driving in Formula 1, it would be cool to try it one day. I won’t race there though. There are a lot of professional goals, but I also want to be with my family and I want my son to grow up happy.

JS: What do you think of Killarney Raceway, or of Cape Town and its people?

TH: The people in Cape Town are great. Super friendly wherever you go and they have a friendly approach and I think that is why I enjoy being in Cape Town. It’s also a beautiful city with the mountains and coming here the track is good. I think it’s a fair track – it opens up for good and hard racing. It’s a fantastic place to be and to end this season. 

JS: You have raced on a number of World RX circuits in a number of countries? I have a challenge for you. Can you DRAW your ideal World RX circuit or what would it look like?

CIRCUIT DRAWN BY - Timmy Hansen.
TH talks us through the circuit design: I am going to use the Killarney first corner. It’s a long one and then it tightens up followed by a banked left then a jump and into a banked right. This is kind of Nitro RX. I like a circuit with a good flow, so then it will stretch out into a hairpin left into a double left followed by a right-hander. Maybe if I actually build a circuit then I’d spend more time on it. 

A special 'Thank You' to Timmy Hansen for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to Susann Hansen, Team Hansen MJP team manager for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Circuit drawn By - Timmy Hansen
Photographs By: Red Bull Content Pool, FIA World Rallycross Media & Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron

Friday 20 December 2019

Rallytechnology confirms two-car entry in Projekt E series.

Multiple Polish rally championship-winning team, Rallytechnology, has confirmed a two-car entry in the Projekt E series in 2020. 

Rallytechnology has become the second team to announce their participation in the Projekt E series alongside Norwegian outfit Holten Motorsport AS.

While the team has already confirmed their first driver but yet to be announced, there have been ongoing conversations with Polish drivers since STARD demonstrated the Projekt E car in the “Barborka rally” in Warsaw two weeks ago. 

The Polish team said the possibility of building their own race cars incorporating a common powertrain package from STARD within a cost-controlled regulation was a key factor in the decision to enter Projekt E.

"Our company became successful by building and racing group N rally cars. We want to be building our own cars again, which is possible in Projekt E," said Robert Gabryszewski, CEO Rallytechnology.

"Combined with the all-electric powertrain from STARD and the cost controlling regulation, this concept offers us a great business opportunity as a race car builder and team.

"So we see it as a huge opportunity for us to be among the first in this future area and at the same time take our company to the next level. Rallycross is no stranger to our team so we plan to offer world top-level service from the start."

"You can put the EV powertrain easily into an R5 rolling chassis with the support STARD provides, and this is exactly our solution," he adds. "The cost of the complete car is then marginally higher than one of our three R5s but considering the very low running cost of the Projekt E car, and our optimized structure, I expect we can offer very competitive packages."

The team plans to have the first car ready to commence testing in March 2020, ahead of the first race at Spa-Francorchamps in May. 

Having dominated the Polish Rally scene with 2019 WRC2 runner-up Kajetan Kajetanowicz for a number of years, Rallytechnology identified Projekt E as the ideal opportunity for private teams to run high-performing electric race cars.

"In the rally scene, we are well known and have had great successes since we started back in 2006. Electric racing, from our point of view, will definitely be the future, but up until now there was no option for a private team to even think about EV racing because of a lack of options," Gabryszewski said.

"The Projekt E electric rallycross series is the first-ever affordable option to build and race proper EV race cars for private teams like us. So it is a little bit like we have waited for exactly this opportunity. Next year will definitely be very exciting for us."

Michael Sakowicz, the CEO of STARD, has welcomed the entry of Rallytechnology. "Having the renowned rally team Rallytechnology participating in Projekt E is great for the series," he said.

"Their plan to build their cars based on a R5 chassis and integrating our Projekt E powertrain kit is the perfect choice to get a cost-efficient yet competitive car."

"Rallytechnology are well known in the market. I think they can be a great option for drivers looking for a turn-key arrive and drive rental option."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Exclusive Interview with Andreas Bakkerud on World RX, Subaru Motorsport and his ideal Rallycross track.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media.
Fast and popular – are words that one could use to describe Andreas Bakkerud.

Andreas Bakkerud is one of the most popular drivers in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. He has a strong presence on social media and uses his own YouTube channel “Bakkerud Life” to provide insights into his life in-and-around the world of Rallycross.

The Norwegian ranks among the world’s best rallycross drivers. He has contested all 81 rounds of the World RX championship, made it into the final on 48 occasions, claimed 30 podium finishes and six event wins. 

Bakkerud’s motorsport career started at the age of nine when he started karting but soon made the transition to rallycross at the tender age of 16. 

In 2009, he finished second in the Norwegian Championship. The same year in which he made the step up to the FIA European Rallycross in Division 1A, where he finished thirteenth overall. He returned to Division 1A in 2010 and finished third overall in the championship before stepping up to the Super1600 European Championship claiming back-to-back titles with the Set Promotion team in 2011 and 2012. 

In 2013, Bakkerud took the step up to the Supercars category in the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship with LD Motorsport, finishing fourth overall and claiming two event wins in Sweden and France.

2014 saw Bakkerud move to Olsbergs MSE for the inaugural FIA World Rallycross Championship, where he claimed wins in Great Britain and Turkey clinching fifth-place in the overall standings. 

The Norwegian was retained by Olsbergs MSE in 2015. He went on to win in Italy and claimed two podium finishes. Bakkerud switched to the Hoonigan Racing Division team in 2016. A match made in heaven? It could well be, as he claimed a hat-trick of wins on his way to third overall in the standings. 

Bakkerud was the first driver – and remains one of only three drivers – in World RX history to have claimed a clean sweep of victories winning all four qualifying sessions, the semi-final and final (at World RX of Norway in 2016). 

The 2017 season was a bit more challenging for the Hoonigan Racing Division team, but despite these challenges Bakkerud went on to add four podium finishes to his CV. Ford Motorsport later announced their withdrawal from the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the end of the 2017 season leaving the Norwegian without a seat. 

In 2018, Bakkerud joined Mattias Ekstrom’s Audi Sport-backed EKS RX team. He took five podiums, including a second-place in Great Britain, Sweden, and France, earning him third place in the championship. In August that year, Audi announced their decision to withdraw from the World RX championship, and Mattias Ekstrom later took the decision for EKSRX not to return in 2019. 

While the 2019 season seemed bleak after the withdrawal of Audi, Peugeot, Volkswagen, and Olsbergs MSE. Bakkerud would remain in the FIA World Rallycross Championship with Liam Doran as his teammate in Monster Energy RX Cartel in two hired EKS Audi S1 Quattro supercars. He went on to claim five podium finishes, 1 win in Canada and ended the season as Vice-Champion.

Andreas Bakkerud leading Timur Timerzyanov in the World RX of SA final.
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien/Slipstream SA
Andreas Bakkerud was in high demand at the World RX season finale in Cape Town last month. We are very thankful that we were granted the opportunity to chat with him for a few minutes. 

Junaid Samodien: Where did it all begin for you? What got you interested in Rallycross or motorsport itself?

Andreas Bakkerud: It all started when I was growing up with my dad and uncle racing rallycross at the National level in Norway. So, I kind of grew up in the paddock – it’s kind of the same story as Timmy and Kevin [Hansen] who I am racing with now and Liam [Doran] as well. 

So, I took the steps from playing in the dirt with toy cars to karting when I was nine-years-old, and then I started rallycross when I was 16-years-old. I built my career stone-by-stone becoming European RX champion then joining Liam Doran for a few years in 2013 with his team in Supercars and from that moment on I kept ongoing. 

JS: What do you think was key to your improvement over the course of the season?

AB: I think it has something to do with the fact that we were a very new team. And, at the beginning of the year, we didn’t have any engineers. We were disorganized, but with a few races we were able to create a winning team and everybody had the same ideas. I think that was the key element to success. 

JS: What were the challenges you faced this season on-and-off the track?

AB: It’s been economical – hard to find a budget to go racing. As well as, running a team and driving at the same time. Basically, it’s the full story around being a race car driver and running a team. 

JS: Having competed in two Americas RX rounds this season. Do you think Subaru Motorsport could do well in World RX?

AB: I have driven the cars and I think they are impressive. There are a few things that I would have liked to change, but I think if they come over to the World Championship they would definitely be at the top or maybe even winning the championship. 

JS: What do you still want to achieve in your motorsport career? 

AB: Just surviving in motorsport – having motorsport as my job is my first dream, and to become World Champion is another dream of mine. I don’t have one big dream – I have many small dreams.

JS: Have you ever considered competing in any other motorsport series?

AB: I did a test in DTM last year and that was great fun. I would love to do that. I love rallying and also karting. I would like to do more karting.

JS: Take us behind the visor. What do you think about when you get into your car and you are moments away from a race? Do you have any superstitions before getting into your race car? 

AB: I have my routines, but that is just basic stuff. I always put on the right sock before the left. That is kind of my thing.  

JS: Will we see Andreas Bakkerud on the grid in 2020?

AB: I hope so! I will cross my fingers for that. 

JS: What do you think of Killarney Raceway, or of Cape Town and its people?

AB: I love Cape Town! Killarney is a killer of a track (laughs). Especially, the rallycross track. I haven’t driven around the full circuit yet even though I have been here for three years. I love the scenery and the fact that you can see Table Mountain from the track, and the people here are so friendly. The food here is the best. It is really lovely!

JS: You have raced on a number of World RX circuits in a number of countries? I have a challenge for you. Can you DRAW your ideal World RX circuit or what would it look like?

AB: I have no idea! (laughs) I can try. 

AB to Liam Doran: Should the track be clockwise or anti-clockwise?

LD: I prefer clockwise.

AB: Well, this one is going to be clockwise. I am also extremely confused but this is my joker lap. (Laughs) This is so hard!

Rallycross Circuit drawn by: Andreas Bakkerud.
A very huge 'Thank You' to Andreas Bakkerud for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us ahead of the FIA World Rallycross Championship title decider in Cape Town. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor – Franco Theron
Circuit drawn By – Andreas Bakkerud
Pictures By – FIA World Rallycross Media/Junaid Samodien.

Friday 13 December 2019

Exclusive Interview: Guerlain Chicherit on World RX, Dakar Rally, GCK Academy and his ideal rallycross circuit.

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
Guerlain Chicherit, an innovator with a passion for changing the rules. Changing the rules - in what way? Essentially, the GCK brand strives to be unique, thought-provoking, eco-friendly and a game-changer in the World RX paddock. 

Born and raised in Tignes, France, near a skiing resort, Chicherit quickly adopted skiing as a sport and went on to win 4 World titles in Freeskiing, one of the world’s most dangerous and demanding sporting disciplines.

Having won fourth world titles in freeskiing, the Frenchman traded his skis for a steering wheel in 2003 when he entered and won the French Rally Cup. In 2005 Chicherit tried his hand at the Dakar Rally. 

He returned to the Dakar Rally in 2006 with a BMW X3, winning one stage and finishing in 9th place in the general classification. 

At the 2009 Dakar Rally, Chicherit suffered an unfortunate accident while fighting to improve his overall classification and finished in ninth place overall. Later that year, he finished third in the Tunisia Rally, and he went on to win the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup. 

2010 saw the Frenchman return to the Dakar Rally where he claimed a stage win and finished fifth overall in the final classification. In 2013, he piloted a SMG buggy at the Dakar Rally and he claimed an eighth-place finish overall. 

In February 2013, Chicherit became the first man in history to complete an unassisted backflip in a car. In 2014, he walked away from a shocking crash following an attempt at the world’s longest car jump. 

Guerlain made his FIA World Rallycross Championship debut in 2015 with a JRM Mini RX Countryman. He returned in 2016 and 2017, entering selected events before committing to a full-time programme with his own two-car GC Kompetition team in 2018.  

The 2019 season saw Chicherit return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship with 2 teams – GC Kompetition and GCK Academy. Swedish Rallycross driver Anton Marklund joined Chicherit in the GC Kompetition team, while two young rallycross talents, Cyril Raymond and Guillaume de Ridder joined the GCK Academy team to compete on the world stage with two Renault Clio R.S. RX Supercars.  

Despite suffering from his fair share of misfortune. The Frenchman claimed a fourth-place finish in Canada, his best result in World Rallycross and ended the season in twelfth place overall. 
Guerlain Chicherit leading Timo Scheider and Guillaume De Ridder (GCK Academy).
PHOTO CREDIT: Junaid Samodien
Guerlain Chicherit took some time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us at the World RX of South Africa last month. 

Junaid Samodien: Why did you become a racing driver? 

Guerlain Chicherit: Since I can remember, I really loved motorsport and I’ve always been crazy about the sport, and when I was doing my skii career. I was a professional skiier, but my dream was to become a professional driver. 

When I stopped my skii career, I then decided to become a professional driver and I have been working really hard on that because I am coming from a completely different sport and you have to learn everything from zero, which was really hard for me because I am fighting with guys who have been driving go-karts since they were really young. So, I don’t have the same background it was really hard for me at the beginning and now we are getting there. 

JS: Having competed in the Dakar Rally for a number of years. Would you return to the Rally Raid in the future?

GC: I have competed in 10 Dakar Rallies.

JS: Would you consider returning to the Dakar Rally in the future?

GC: Yes, that is my plan. My cars are ready. They are in the workshop ready to go, but we are not going this year because we decided to change the technology and want to return in 2021 with the Dakar car(s), but with a different energy. It is not going to be a petrol engine anymore.

JS: Electric?

GC: (laughs) MAYBE!

JS: Having successfully completed the first-ever unassisted backflip in a car? Is there anything you are still contemplating doing in a car?

GC: The thing is when I started to drive and really became a professional driver – I always liked to push myself and do something that has never been done before or try and create something. And, when I stopped my skii career I was starting to be a professional driver, and I said: ‘why not try and mix the two sports’ and do something with my race cars. Something that I used to do with my skii’s. So, that is how the project with the backflip started, but it took almost four years to make it work. We started to build the cars in 2008 and we finally made it in 2012 after fifty or sixty crashes. So, it was a pretty long and hard process. 

JS: Based on GCK’s performance this year there appears to be a performance difference between Fors and Prodrive. Have you noticed the difference in performance?

GC: This is good and bad. Prodrive is for sure an amazing brand and they designed these cars, and this car (Megane R.S. RX) is really amazing, but Prodrive is used to working with manufacturers spec, and a big budget which was not really feasible for a private team like us. So, that is why I had to make the decision last year and work with my guys in France, called Fors Performance. 

They are not Prodrive, and they are not as big as Prodrive but on the other hand, they know Rallycross and they have been involved in the sport for 15 years, which is not the case with Prodrive. So, the best we could have done was use both Prodrive and Fors, but I couldn’t make it happen and I had to make the choice.

JS: GCK has made an impressive step from 2018 to 2019, having come incredibly close to a victory this season. What do you think the team needs to make that final step and claim wins on a regular basis?

GC: We are there in terms of performance if you look at statistics (data) at every track. The cars have been quite fast but we had some issues. It’s only the second year of the Megane, and don’t forget we are fighting against the Audi who have been in the championship for four or five seasons already, as well as Peugeot – I think it’s their fifth or sixth season. So, we are fighting against people who know the sport really, really well and those cars have been improved and developed to the top level, and especially in the last few years. 

The Audi’s and Peugeot’s were developed with a big budget, which is not our case and to be at that speed already and fight with them sometimes is really, really amazing, but now the next step is to beat them, which is going to be another big step which will not be easy because the drivers and cars are super fast and super reliable which is our problem at the moment. We have the speed but something always happens and the question is to be able to put everything together which is the biggest issue at the moment, but we have already started working and testing for 2020 – and that is why Rokas was not here [in Cape Town] for the final race because we needed to keep one car in France. We have already started testing the developments for next year. The clear objective for 2020 is to fight for the championship.

JS: How would you assess your performance this season?

GC: It was up-and-down for many reasons. Sometimes I was upset with the reliability of my cars because I had some problems. Most of the problems were on my car which was a bit difficult for me. I was not 100% concentrated this season because I have some other stuff to do during the week and arriving during the weekend, and the just find a way to be focused 100% on my driving is not always easy for me, but I think for the last 3 or 4 races I have shown some speed and some really interesting speed in the statistics (data) for the last few races. I have always been in the top 5 in terms of speed, which is good because fighting with the fastest guys on earth is not easy, and coming from a completely different sport and saying that I am top five in terms of speed is already pretty good. So, the question for me is: I need to try to be top 5 all weekend and to be able to fight for the final and also fight for a podium. I am not there yet and I still have a long way to go but I will get there. 

PHOTO CREDIT: GC Kompetition.
JS: What are your thoughts on Projekt E? Do you see GCK entering Projekt E?

GC: It’s really interesting for us. We have been talking a lot to STARD and we want to enter. We really want to go because my core business is eco-construction. So, for me, it is really important to turn motorsport into a green sport. 

So, that is why we have also been working on the charging solution on the GCK side. Not only on the race car. When you have green race cars… How are you going to charge them? Is it just going to be plugging them into a normal wall plug because then it will not make the sport green. So, GCK is trying to work on the complete cycle. 

The question that GCK has and it’s not only GCK - all the teams have the same question. Do we invest in Projekt E and then we have to reinvest in 2021 because it’s not the same technology? That is why it is a bit upsetting as a team because I could at least have one of my cars electric in 2020 because it is good to learn, but it is not the same technology and then again in 2021 we need to make another big investment to cover the cost, and then what do we do with the cars converted in 2020 other than just doing Projekt E. That is why at the moment it’s a hard decision because we are talking about big money. The kit is expensive but the conversion - the way you need to convert the cars is also a completely new development. So, it’s a bit confusing – the decision has not been made yet. We want to go (to Projekt E) for sure but we still have to understand where the sport is going first.

JS: How would you assess GCK Academy and the drivers this season? 

GC: We were super proud to have launched the GCK Academy team. We gave good opportunities to two young talented drivers. It was pretty hard for them this year because first of all, it was the first time that they were in the World Championship. So, they have everything to learn – they have the speed that is for sure and we know that. 

The pace that they show on some laps is quite impressive. The question is to be able to repeat it consistently, which is a bit difficult for the moment, but you have to consider that the Megane is new, and Clio is even newer, including the team and engineers. In GCK Academy, everything is new – the drivers, the cars and the staff and engineers. Altogether it’s good because it creates good energy, but they have also made some mistakes and that is why it was a bit difficult and we tried to understand them as much as possible, but we also want them to be quite independent and be able to be efficient but they have learnt a lot and we will see what we will do next year – if we (GCK Academy) come back to World RX or go in Euro (RX). 

To be honest the decision has not been made yet. For sure, we want to continue the Academy team but let’s see how we can do it because motorsport is hard – it’s not like when you do a marathon and you want to run. If you want to run, you take a pair of shoes and you are able to run. But motorsport is much more complicated and we need to convince partners and sponsors, and we have a long way to go to be able to make the decision to come back next year with the GCK Academy.

JS: What are your thoughts on Rokas Baciuska’s performance and does he stand a chance for a full-time seat in 2020?

GC: Rokas [Baciuska] is an amazing driver that is for sure and everybody knows that now. It’s funny because when we decided to take him nobody was really watching him so much and then we decided to give him a chance and clearly he showed the pace and the speed that he has. That is something that I am pretty proud of. To give a chance to young kids like this and he can show the pace that he has and it was pretty good. We really want to keep him with us next year. So, we are working on this. 

JS: What do you think of Killarney Raceway, or of Cape Town and it’s people?

GC: At this race (Cape Town), I have always come with my wife and the family, but this year we decided that we will not take the kids. I only came with my wife this year – because it’s one of the favourite races that we have. We love the people here and everywhere we go the people are so friendly and so nice. I love this place. And, to finish the season in sunny weather is always good because from where I live, it is already snowing and two days ago - I was in 15 cm of snow. I love to come here and I hope that this race will stay for a long time. 

JS: You have raced on a number of World RX circuits in a number of countries? I have a challenge for you. Can you DRAW your ideal World RX circuit, or what would it look like?

GC: This circuit does not exist yet. 


  • The joker lap should be short (faster). 
  • The jump needs to be on a curve (corner) because you will see action when the cars jump sideways. 
A very special 'Thank You' to Guerlain Chicerit for taking some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us. Also, a big thank you to Nini Mikolajski, GCK/Roots Management International for arranging the interview. 

Written By - Junaid Samodien
Circuit drawn By - Guerlain Chicherit
Pictures By - GC Kompetition/Junaid Samodien
Co-Editor - Franco Theron