Thursday 26 November 2020

"An amazing feeling" to win Teams' Championship in first year as KYB Team JC - Joel Christoffersson.

In a shortened but challenging season, KYB Team JC has come out on top in their maiden season in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. 

Winning a  championship in a maiden season is something very hard to come by for any motorsport team, but this season KYB Team JC was leading from start to finish, and come out on top with their nearest rival only 16 points behind in the 2020 World RX Teams' Championship standings. 

Whilst Johan Kristoffersson led the way in the drivers' championship standings from the get-go, his direct rival Mattias Ekström did not make it easy for him. Winning two events of eight on his way to second in the championship for the third time in his career.

After eight rounds in four different countries, despite the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the ninth and final round of the World RX set to take place at the Nurburgring in Germany was officially cancelled yesterday handing KYB Team JC the teams' championship. 

JC Raceteknik under the stewardship of Joel Christoffersson enjoyed great success in rallycross through the years having won the European Rallycross Championship last year with Robin Larsson, and four titles in the RallyX Nordic series. However, after acquiring two 2019 specification Audi S1 Quattro's from EKS. The Varmland-based team took a leap to World RX as KYB Team JC in pursuit of the ultimate prize - the drivers' and teams' championships. Whilst they failed to achieve the drivers' title, the teams' title in their first year is an incredible achievement. 

"I started JC Raceteknik in 2014 with a dream to race in the World Championship at some stage, so to already win the Teams’ Championship in the first year of World RX as KYB Team JC is difficult to top," Joel Christoffersson, JC Raceteknik & KYB Team JC, Team Principal, said.

"To be World Champions is an amazing feeling. Before the season this was my goal, and to have led from the start only makes it better! Due to Covid-19, the season started late, and although it is, of course, a shame not to be able to finish and celebrate on-site at the Nurburgring, it feels good to be able to tie the knot."

Robin Larsson returned to World RX after a one-year hiatus with KYB Team JC, and was initially set to be joined by Jānis Baumanis. However, due to budgetary issues linked to the pandemic, the Latvian season would be over before it even started.

Surprise!! It was quite a surprise, as Mattias Ekström returned to the championship after retiring from a full-time drive at the end of the 2018 season. 

But was it a full-time drive in 2020, initially the Swede was signed up for the first double-header of the season, which grew to the second double-header and the rest is history after he negotiated with sponsors and clients to remain racing for the remainder of the season. 

It was quite a season, seeing Mattias closer to Johan Kristoffersson than ever before finishing just 27 points behind the three-time World Champion. 

"Mattias and Robin have done a fantastic job. I think we have given Johan and Kristoffersson Motorsport a good fight this year – we are the team that challenged them the most," Christoffersson said. "Mattias has done what he can throughout the season and we are really happy with his second place in the Drivers’ Championship. This is the first and probably only time he will race in a full season with us and it has been an honour to have him on the team."

"Robin has stepped up and shown that the pace he had in the European Championship last year has continued. Unfortunately, he was both unlucky and made a couple of mistakes of his own, otherwise, I think he would have had a great chance to get top three in the Drivers’ Championship."

The 2020 FIA World Rallycross season has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. With eight rounds condensed into four weekends, and the slightest mistake not only costing time to repair but it forces teams to put in additional hours. 

This season has also seen KYB Team JC taking the biggest step in performance overnight during the double-header weekends, and despite Kristoffersson getting out of the blocks the quickest, he finished behind Mattias at two events this year, in Sweden (round 2) and Latvia (round 2).

"I’m very grateful for all of the hard work by everyone in KYB Team JC and JC Raceteknik this season. It has not been an easy year for anyone, and everyone has fought really hard," he said. 

"Also a big thank you to all our partners who lined up despite these tough times, without them we would not have been able to take the World Championship title. Now the whole team will reload and work on trying to find a plan for 2021."

Ekström's KYB Team JC Audi Supercar with the Teams' Championship trophy and Vice-Champion trophy.
PHOTO CREDIT: JC Raceteknik.

One could say without Mattias' guidance and experience, the team might not have won the championship this season. As he is not only a master tactician but is also well versed in set-up and improving a race car. Whilst the Swede might not be happy with a second-place finish for the third time, he was a lot closer to the Kristoffersson (the 2020 champion) this year. 

"I got into this season without having a thought of driving rallycross again, and we sit here with the title in the Teams’ Championship and second in the Drivers’ Championship. The only other goal was of course to also win the Drivers' title, but we were simply not fast enough," Ekström said. "Everyone knows Johan's capacity and at the same time as his car is very good, but I think we gave both him and the team a good fight. Then Robin has, in my eyes, taken the biggest step and it has been fun to see his maximum level rise."

The 2016 champion labels the season-opening weekend in Sweden (double-header) and the World RX of Latvia double-header, as the coolest rallycross races of his career having claimed a second-place finish and a win at both events. 

"It has meant a lot to me to compete and have fun again together with JC Raceteknik, driving as a hobby instead of as a factory driver is a huge difference. In Holjes for example I had the coolest rallycross race of my career on Saturday, and then another fantastic Sunday in Riga," he said.

"I think it went better than expected to complete the season despite Coronavirus. We had a little trouble with some things, but that's also part of the rules of the game. It's fun that there are sponsors and companies who are willing to invest even in tougher times, especially since a lot of things have been quite last minute. I am also very proud to see how KYB has developed shock absorbers that can win the World Championship."

The 2019 EuroRX champion Robin Larsson admits that Ekström was very important to the team this season, and he was able to learn from the 2016 champion. 

"Mattias has been very important to the team and to me too. Being able to race in a full World Championship season with him has made me learn things all the time - with setup, driving on the track, and to recharge between races," he said.

The 2020 season has not been the smoothest for Larsson who only brought home a podium finish in Latvia (Riga) despite making the finals at four rounds this year. 

"My season has gone a bit up and down. In Riga, I had very good speed and finished on the podium together with Mattias," Larsson said. "Otherwise, I struggled with small errors and problems that cost a lot, while I also made some mistakes."

"The double-header events have also been difficult and costly if something goes wrong, but it is the same for everyone."

Larsson hoped that the teams' championship would be decided in Germany with a good old fight with the Hansen brothers.

"I would have liked to have decided the season on-site in Germany from a team perspective, where we would have had a battle between us and the Hansen brothers for the title," he said.

Written By - Junaid Samodien

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