Wednesday 23 September 2020

Mixed emotions for Team Hansen in Latvia

Team Hansen have not had the start to season that they had hoped for after being crowned World Champions in 2019. 

But it's not all doom and gloom, as both Hansen brothers have stepped onto the podium this season, Kevin with a second place in Sweden and Timmy with two third-place finish in Finland and Latvia.

This season has been rather tough forTeam Hansen as they have struggled with starts, grip and set-ups, but there have been glimpses of pace which still needs to be unlocked. On Sunday (round six), Kevin set the unofficial lap record at the Bikerneiki Sports Complex - a 48.098 second lap to show the team's potential. 

Round five of the championship on Saturday saw Timmy claim a third-place finish, while his teammate and younger brother Kevin brought his Peugeot 208 across the line in fourth-place.

Being a double-header weekend, Sunday saw all the teams take to the track for the sixth round of the championship, but the smallest of margins meant Timmy would not claim another podium finish, rather he would take home a fourth-place finish with Kevin making the cut after Timo Scheider was disqualified for an incident with Andreas Bakkerud. He would cross the finish line in sixth. 

The reigning world champion won two of his qualifying races, in Q1 and Q3, to qualify fourth overall and pick up a front row start for the semi-final. A straightforward lights-to-flag run in second place in the second semi-final meant a second-row grid slot for the final, though Timmy was beaten to turn one by both Niclas Grönholm and Robin Larsson and fell to fifth-place.

The fightback began quickly, with Timmy taking the joker on lap one and turning in a sequence of fast laps to put himself back in contention for a podium finish. Sensing the danger, Larsson took the joker [lap] on lap three, only just managing to get out ahead of Timmy as he covered the inside line on the exit of the last corner.

While Timmy missed out on a podium finish he proved a point by snatching fourth from Grönholm on the last lap, sweeping around the outside of the final corner as the Finn emerged from his joker lap.

"In general this weekend I'm extremely happy with what we delivered and the results we got," Timmy Hansen said. "With the pace we had and the launches we had, this was the maximum we could achieve. The team hasn't made a single mistake all weekend, and I haven't made any mistakes on track, so we extracted everything we had."

"That said, we also want more, we want to be able to fight for the top step on the podium. To do that, we need to take one more step with the whole package that we have. There have been good signs but we need to put it together."

"Our launches were better today and the car was better this weekend in general, so we're taking steps. But it's not easy at this level to gain everything that you need to suddenly be at the front." 

"It's about making little steps and this weekend we took several little steps. It's a hard game, we're a small team, but I believe in the crew we have and we'll keep on fighting," he adds.

While Kevin Hansen only made it to the final after Timo Scheider was disqualified. He had nothing to lose and repeated his strategy from the day before, swinging the car out wide on the outside, which had given him second on the track a day earlier. It didn’t quite work this time around, he tucked in behind Timmy into turn three.

There was still pace on display as he caught Grönholm towards the end of the race, but couldn’t find a way past and finished in sixth.

"I feel I have more and can do more, but the starts still aren't quite there. We're lacking a really small amount of pace, not much at all, but it's tough because it makes a big difference to the result," Kevin Hansen said. 

"We did the maximum possible and I still have a very good feeling with the car, which is a great positive, having that full confidence and not making any mistakes. Being in scenario two for FIA Covid-19 protocols this weekend meant we were able to bring Eric Färén with us as an extra team member to help us even more, which has been useful as well."

"It was very disappointing not to get through my semi-final on speed; I felt I had more speed than both Larsson and Grönholm," he adds. "I went to the pre-grid for the final even though I was sure I wouldn't be the one called up if a grid slot opened, so I'm very surprised they called me in. But understanding the rules afterward, going to pre-grid was a great choice!"

“I was a bit more relaxed than I usually am before a race so it took me about a lap to get fully back into my rhythm again. I feel like I had a good run in the final, even if I was maybe a little too aggressive at the first corner. But when you are starting last, there's nothing to lose of course."

Kenneth Hansen, the team principal of Team Hansen admits that his team can learn from their performance in Riga (Latvia), and aim to take a step forward in Spain in a few weeks time. He adds that Team Hansen will not give up just yet. 

"We need to look at what happened, what we learned, and find some further progression before heading to Spain in a few week's time," Hansen said. 

"It's very close this year and we don't have quite the level of performance we would wish for, but we don't give up. We're definitely pushing to get to the front and fight for wins again."

Written By - Junaid Samodien

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