Thursday, 12 May 2022

EXCLUSIVE - Getting to Grips with Cooper Tires’ Matthew Vincent.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
They are round, black, patterned, and come in different sizes. Mmmmm.. What are they? Did you say tyres? Well. You are right!

So, while we are on the subject, let’s talk tyres, shall we? They make the world move in more ways than one... Moving from point A to B, or the transportation of goods and services, which is essential to businesses and countries' economies, without them we’d be going nowhere slowly.

There are so many different tyres brands available for everyday use, but some that stand out above the rest are: Pirelli, Michelin, Bridgestone, Cooper Tires, Dunlop, Yokohama, to name a few. This is mainly due to their involvement in motorsport, but interestingly enough, despite their strong marketability,
DID YOU KNOW: the LEGO Group is the world's largest tyre producer. "After introducing their tyres in 1962 with a Lego kit set, the products have surged in popularity. Lego produced 318 million mini rubber tyres in 2011, making it the largest tyre manufacturer in the world. Coming in second is Bridgestone, with 190 million in 2011."

While the LEGO Group is the biggest producer, their tyres won’t fit on our daily vehicles, and because we are talking about tyres, it’s fascinating to note that different manufacturers or brands have different tread patterns based on their research and development. Technology and innovative solutions are also key to development.

Motorsport is another way of learning, gaining marketing popularity, and improving tyres for road use. In motorsport, tyre grip is essential in any condition, and that is exactly the case in day-to-day living, because without grip moving from point A to B in cars or heavy modes of transport would be unsafe.

So, what’s the real difference between road car tyres and racing tyres? Well! Certain racing tyres are developed with performance and grip in mind with certain tread designs or even slicks available, whilst road tyres are designed for all weather conditions, whether it be dry, rainy, or snowy conditions (in some countries).

There is a wide range of tyre manufacturers across many national and international motorsport championships, but as motorsport makes a shift to greener technologies and different methods to extract performance. There is never one tyre or manufacturer that can be transferred between series, and with the recent push to electric power, example, the 2022 FIA World Rallycross Championship, it would be quite interesting to learn more about tyres within a particular championship. 

In the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Cooper Tires has been the official tyre supplier since the championship's inception back in 2014. Their involvement in rallycross started in the early 2000’s under the AVON tyre brand. With a focus on rallying and rallycross, Cooper Tires also provides tyres for the Road to Indy championship as well.

With rallycross being a dual-surface discipline, the demands for rallycross requires tyres that work on tarmac and dirt/gravel, which means drivers and teams need tyres that enable them to extract or gain as much grip as possible through corners and when accelerating. However, putting power on the road or gravel comes with its own set of challenges, such as tyre wear, sliding, and overheating.

So, how do teams solve these issues? It may sound simple, but it could be more challenging than expected, and it all comes down to finding the ideal set-up.

An example of this would be the Hansen Motorsport (Peugeot). They are historically strong on high abrasive tracks, but with a few damper and suspension changes, the team gains a bit more grip on loose surfaces (dirt sections).

Building a tyre that can handle the stresses and strains of rallycross machinery is something Cooper Tires has done brilliantly over the years. So, why not learn a little bit more about the manufacturer behind the RX1e cars, who we all know and love?

Matthew Vincent, Cooper Tires Product Technology Manager - Motorsport 
PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Vincent.
To gain a much better understanding of Cooper Tires and the development of tyres for the series and road use, we spoke to Matthew Vincent, the Product Technology Manager – Motorsport for Cooper Tires.

Matthew attended his first rallycross round in 2009 at Lydden Hill, where the then 14-time European Rallyross Champion, Kenneth Hansen, raced his Citroen C4 to victory on the AVON tyre brand (now known as Cooper Tires).

With 25 years of experience and 15 years of managing the development of the Rallycross product range for Cooper Tires, Matthew is the ideal person to gain a better understanding of tyres in rallycross and the tyres for everyday use.

So, how did the Cooper Tires and FIA World Rallycross Championship partnership come about?

"At that time, the FIA World Rallycross Championship evolved out of the FIA European Championship. At that time, it was open to all tyre manufacturers, and we were very active in developing products in this area. From the mid-1990s to the present, almost every FIA European Rallycross Champion has used our product. So, when the FIA World Championship was formed, it was only natural for us to continue this long-running involvement and to be an active part of its future, as we are today with the introduction of electric," Matthew Vincent explained.

Let’s talk design. The design of tyres for any motorsport championship is quite challenging and rather demanding. Could you explain to us how Cooper Tires are designed to prevent an unfair advantage between teams?

MV: "Designing tyres for rallycross can be quite challenging, especially when you consider the relative freedom in the regulations the teams have in the suspension design of the car when compared to most other championships. On top of this, you will find quite a range of driving styles, with some drivers almost drifting every corner and others that are much more precise. These can result in quite different car set-ups, but the advantage of the Cooper tyre is its specific type of cross-ply construction, which is able to work within a wide range of setups and still perform. Importantly, this tyre has not been designed around one specific car or setup but is a culmination of over 20 years of development."

To gain a better understanding of tyre manufacturing. Could you be able to talk us through the manufacturing process of a set of tyres for the World RX championship? And, how many tyres are produced each year for the championship?

MV: "Unlike a road car tyre, which can be produced on highly automated machinery and, as a result, very quickly, the complex construction and specialised materials used in the rallycross tyre mean these take longer to produce."

"All our rallycross tyres are produced in our factory in England, where specially trained operators apply the multiple plys of fabric and other components to produce what is known as greenstock (unvulcanised tyres). These are then cured (vulcanised) in presses at a specific temperature and time that are chosen to provide the best performance of the tyre; even a few degrees or minutes difference can have an impact on the product's performance.We have to produce for, and have available at, each event enough dry and wet tyres to cover all eventualities, and with each car being allowed up to 12 dry and 12 wet tyres per weekend, this can be quite a significant number."

Currently, there are two different compounds in World RX . The dry and wet tyres, which are pretty self-explanatory. Are there any plans by Cooper Tires to expand the range of dry tyres to add some spiciness to the racing, as different compounds could make a huge difference in performance?

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool

MV:
"The tread compound plays a huge part in the performance of the tyre, and the current compound has been specifically chosen to meet the challenges of working in a wide range of conditions and temperatures. We work closely with the promoter and the teams on the future direction of the product to ensure we don’t just have the best tyres but help provide the best racing and entertainment for the spectators."

As the world moves towards sustainability and greener technology, so are Cooper Tires, and Matthew explains a little bit more on this:
"A key direction we are looking at, though, is looking at the use of sustainable materials in the tyre whilst maintaining or even improving performance. We have been using bio-sourced and recycled materials in the rallycross tyre for some time, but as the evolution of the tyre continues, we are looking at increasing these further."

As the years progress, so does the car performance. So, are Cooper Tires altering or tweaking tyre compounds each year, and, if so, how are tyres developed per season?

MV: "We are constantly monitoring tyre performance at every round of the championship to ensure the product is meeting the requirements required of it. You are constrained to some degree when supplying a control tyre to a championship over a fixed term (the FIA World Championship is typically over a three-year period). Unless there is a specific requirement for change, the design of the tyre remains relatively unchanged. However, data we take from the World Championship is used in the development of our rallycross products that are used in other regional/national championships to ensure we continue to be one of the best products in the sport."

With the FIA World Rallycross Championship going fully electric in 2022, there may be additional stresses placed on the tyres. Projekt E saw, drivers constantly on the limit of their cars but constantly dealt with overheating. With that in mind are Cooper Tires planning to make any compound or construction changes to reduce tyre overheating for the new era of rallycross?

MV: "The transition to electric will have a significant impact on the tyres as you have instantaneous torque that provides instant acceleration combined with an increase in the weight of the car. Both of these will place significant additional strain on the tyres which, if not factored into the tyre design, will result in higher tread compound temperatures and also higher wear."

"We have already been successfully running our product on the RX2e cars, which were introduced last year, and this has certainly helped us with the future direction of the tyre. As a result, we are actively testing new evolutions of the rallycross compound to meet these challenges, ready for the start of the season in July."


Having had an indept chat about tyres in the World Rallycross Championship. What is the biggest difference between road tyres and the product for World Rallycross? And what are the differences?

MV: "The race tyres we use in World Rallycross are significantly different to a typical road tyre, the biggest of these being in the construction. Almost all road tyres are of radial construction, meaning the cords of the case run radially from bead to bead and the tread is supported by a steel breaker.”

"The Cooper rallycross tyre, however, is of cross-ply construction, with multiple plys of cord running diagonally and with no steel breaker. This construction provides significant advantages in this type of racing. In particular, the much larger slip angle the cross-ply construction can operate at results in much more controllable sliding through corners. The tread compounds are also very different to a normal road car tyre, with the compound for the rallycross tyre being specifically designed to meet demands placed on it that are a world away from those of a passenger car. This is achieved by using specific polymers, oils, resins, and carbon black which are selected to provide maximum grip and consistency."

With thanks to Matthew Vincent (Cooper Tires), we certainly hope that you’ve gained a better understanding of tyres in World Rallycross (motorsport) and the road going specification. For more information, please visit: Cooper Tires
www.coopertire.co.uk/motorsport-tires/rallycross/

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

CE Dealer Team makes history with gender-equal driver line-up.

PHOTO CREDIT: CE Dealer Team
History made, as rising star Klara Andersson and multiple race winner Niclas Grönholm join forces at Construction Equipment Dealer Team (CE Dealer Team) with first-ever full-season gender driver line-up for the 2022 FIA World Rallycross Championship.  

New on the grid in 2022, the CE Dealer Team confirmed its participation last week, with a multi-year commitment to the championship and a pledge to prioritize sustainability, diversity and inclusivity alongside sporting success.

This morning, the Swedish squad formally confirmed driver line-up for the season, Andersson and Grönholm – with the former becoming the first permanent female competitor since the World Championship’s inception eight years ago.

Klara, the younger sister of Euro RX TouringCar event-winner Magda Andersson, made her rallycross debut in 2018 and defeated no fewer than 55 male rivals to clinch the 2021 Swedish Rallycross Championship, in the 2150 class. 

The Sweden Junior National Team member went on to contest two rounds of the inaugural FIA RX2e Championship, impressing with a fourth-place finish first time out at Spa-Francorchamps.

"I am very proud to become the first female full-season World RX driver – this is by far the most inspiring thing I have done in my life. I have a lot to learn, but my long-term goal is to become the first female World Rallycross Champion," Andersson said.

"I have an unconditional love for rallycross; it’s so intense and unpredictable, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel for pre-season testing. While I have rallycross experience, World RX and the awesome 500kW (680bhp) electric beasts that we will race are new to me and none of us are expecting to get anything for free – we have plenty of hard work ahead of us to establish ourselves at the top."

Grönholm is one of the most accomplished drivers in World RX, with multiple race wins to his name, three of which came last year. 

In 2019, the Finn fell just 25 points shy of the title despite missing two rounds due to appendicitis, as he achieved the highest points-per-event tally in the field. He concluded the 2021 season in a career-best third.

"I am honoured and extremely inspired by getting this opportunity with CE Dealer Team, and I think we have strong conditions to fight for the very top. We need to work very hard for each round and while the team is a new set-up, we have a lot of combined experience and I think we can spring some surprises this year," Grönholm said.

Operated by PWR RX and headed up by experienced Team Manager Jussi Pinomäki, CE Dealer Team will join defending title-holders Hansen Motorsport, Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS, ALL-INKL.COM Muennich Motorsport, GCK Motorsport and ESmotorsport in the fray in 2022. All teams are currently finalising the development of the ultra-powerful, fully electric cars that will do battle for glory over the coming months.

"CE Dealer Team and its partners strive for gender equality, and our programme is a key part in driving this shift via Klara and Niclas. They complement each other well in terms of raw talent and experience, and we are confident we have a robust set-up that will enable our long-term goal of fighting for the FIA World Rallycross Championship titles," Jussi Pinomäki, Team Manager, CE Dealer Team, said.

"With that said, the competition in World RX is extremely tough and we are humble to the task ahead of us with this new challenge, so we will work calmly and methodically towards our goals."

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

CE Dealer Team commits to all-new electric World RX era with two-car entry.


Weeks after hinting at an FIA World Rallycross Championship entry, the Construction Equipment Dealer Team (CE Dealer Team) has today announced a multi-year, two-car entry to the full series ahead of the eagerly-anticipated electric era.

"We are pleased to announce our entry to World RX, which is a perfect fit for the CE Dealer Team and our push for a more sustainable future with our partners," Emil Axelsson, Sporting and Commercial Director, CE Dealer Team, said. "The World RX programme provides us with an excellent activation platform, one where our partners can showcase their innovative products and solutions through the world’s most exciting electric motorsport category."

The Nordic-based squad will be operated by PWR RX, a sister company of the successful Swedish motorsport team PWR Racing. They are set to enter a pair of 680hp electric rallycross cars for two soon-to-be revealed drivers (reveal date - 10 May at 10am CET).

Like World RX, the team is firmly committed to spearheading a sustainable future, both on and off-track. Through its participation in the championship, they aim to drive the shift towards greater diversity and inclusivity, while highlighting the excitement that the move to an electric future offers.

"While World RX is new to us, building and developing fast electric race cars is not. Our extensive racing experience coupled with the vast technical expertise of our industrial partners gives us confidence that our long-term goal of fighting for FIA World Rallycross Championship titles will ultimately be successful," Daniel Haglöf, Co-Founder, CE Dealer Team, said.

"An important additional element of our programme is to drive a change that will see motorsport become more inclusive and diverse. We look forward to announcing further exciting details surrounding these elements soon."

The 2022 World RX season will begin with an official launch at iconic Höljes track on 2-3 July, followed by rounds at the legendary Nürburgring, Hell in Norway, Rīga’s Biķernieku trase, Montalegre in Portugal, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and a yet-to-be-confirmed season finale.

Monday, 21 March 2022

World RX reveals tweaked 2022 calendar.

PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World RX media
Rallycross Promoter GmbH, the promoter for the FIA World Rallycross Championship has today issued a revised 2022 calendar, as ratified by the FIA World Motor Sport Council last weekend.

The first season of the electric era will see the championship travel to seven countries with 11 rounds (four double-headers) - a return to normality after two seasons affected by the global pandemic.

The all-electric World Championship will be officially launched at the iconic Höljes track over the course of the ‘Magic Weekend' at the beginning of July, alongside racing action from Euro RX1, Euro RX3, and the FIA RX2e Championship.

Having hosted the season finale in 2021, the famous Nürburgring (Germany) will host round two of the championship at the end of July, before the trek to Hell (Norway) which makes a welcome return in mid-August. 

After three single rounds, now the pressure and action heats up, four double-headers are on the cards. First up, is Rīga’s Biķernieku trase (Latvia) followed by Montalegre (Portugal) in September. Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) will host the penultimate round of the season. 

Cape Town (Killarney) was originally set to host the season finale, but the latest revised calendar has mentioned an undisclosed venue potentially in November. Further information on the season finale is expected to be released in the coming weeks. 


Tuesday, 1 March 2022

World RX sets up group to research ways to improve track design.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Arne Dirks has revealed that Rallycross Promoter has created a group tasked with understanding track design with a focus on improving overtaking possibilities in the championship.

In December, the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) revealed a number of changes to the 2022 Sporting Regulations ahead of the championships switch electric power this year. 

The changes range from the renaming of Qualifying heats to Heat 1, 2, and 3 instead of Q1, Q2, etc. along with the introduction of a Superpole timed session instead of the much-hated grid draw. 

The final qualifying session, known as Q4 named “Heat 4” will be replaced by a “Progression Race” which adds another stage in the progress towards to Semi-Finals. Read More Here. Additional changes include five laps in all races (Qualifying, Progression Race, Semi-Finals, Final) and no driver may use the Joker Lap on Lap 1 if the Joker Lap is in Corner No.1.

Leaving no stone unturned for the new era of World Rallycross, Rallycross Promoter launched a live stream platform (RX+) last year, which achieved great success, but with a new era of rallycross on the cards. The series promoters have looked at other ways to improve the spectacle for the fans.

In recent years, it has become quite apparent that circuits were designed with one racing line in mind, a subject we addressed when speaking to the World RX Championship Coordinator, Tim Whittington last month. [Read Feature Story] He explained that the championship "is working to introduce changes to circuits for the 2022 season." 

Arne Dirks, the Executive Director of Rallycross Promoter has now made it clear that they aim to assess track design within the championship.

“What we are doing at the moment, we are working heavily on track changes together with our organizers and the FIA. And, therefore we have set up a group of experts, there are drivers, team principals, circuit builders, and even across the board disciplines involved to get an understanding of how we can change tracks with the overall goal of creating more overtaking possibilities because we think that is key to the sport, and that adds more excitement for the fans, for the partners, and for everyone,” Arne Dirks explained. 

Monday, 28 February 2022

Hansen Motorsport explains chassis selection and performance differences for new electric era of World RX.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
It’s been four years in the making, but finally, the electric era of World Rallycross is upon us!

The dawn of a new era, an era that is set to thrill us in more ways than one… not talking about the electrification, but an era that could potentially see the championship thrive. 

Manufacturers could return, and the racing could be a lot closer than before, not forgetting the return of Kristoffersson Motorsport with four-time World Champion Johan Kristoffersson in a Volkswagen Polo R5 (chassis), Guerlain Chicherit in a Lancia Delta Evo-e, and Hansen Motorsport.

Hansen Motorsport is the most decorated team in rallycross, and they have recently announced a multi-year commitment to the championship with the Hansen brothers returning in new-look electric cars, based on the previously used Peugeot 208 platform but re-engineered to adopt a homologated powertrain from Kreisel Electric, which generates 500kW – equivalent to 680bhp and 880Nm of torque. 

Having competed in World Rallycross since the series inception in 2014. The Hansen's have tons of experience in building race-winning cars, having fielded the Peugeot marque since the very start.

14-time European Rallycross Champion and team principal Kenneth Hansen has explained why his team has chosen to stick with the Peugeot 208 platform for the electric era rather than switching to the Rally2 specification chassis, which is permitted by the FIA Regulations. 

"You can choose two different specifications. You could either choose a Rally 2 regulation car or you can retrofit old cars, and Hansen Motorsport have chosen to retrofit our old cars. We think that is the most efficient for our team. It's cost-efficient. We also recycle something, so that's good, but it's also performance-wise. We also think it's good. We think also with the electric coming now, it's such a lot of other things we need to learn. So, if we have the same platform, we don't need to start all over with that at the moment," Kenneth Hansen said.

The possible electric powertrain layout in the Peugeot 208.
PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport
With a clear explanation for continuing on with the Peugeot 208. Where does the Swedish outfit see a performance difference coming from when all teams run the same powertrain kits this year? 

Well! 2019 World Champion Timmy Hansen expects the performance differences to come from the installation of the new powertrain kits, development of the chassis, as well as the technology in the car, such as the dampers, etc. 

"I think we are going to have the same power train, and we don't quite know exactly the regulation yet, but I expect there to be performance in finding the set-up of the drive train. But then, as always, as part of what we love Rallycross for, we're still developing our own chassis, and if you knew what was going on behind the scenes, like the technology in the Dampers, for example, with Ohlin’s, it’s mind-blowing, and there is a lot of performance to find," Timmy Hansen said. 

“So, we are going to push as hard as we've always been on the chassis side, it won't be exactly the same car. We are going forward in the best way that we can do together with our partners. There will be a lot of performance in that and also currently in fitting the electric battery and everything. This heavy part into the chassis in the right position is important.” 

Once all the hard work is done building the cars to specification, younger brother Kevin Hansen believes that it will then come down to the drivers putting in a lot of work to get on top of the changes to gain an early advantage, while others adapt to the new technology. 

“In the end, us (drivers) behind the wheel needs to do a really good job to put it together and be on top of these changes when they come out in the early stages before everyone starts to find their way through and looking what others are doing and so on,” he said.

The 2022 FIA World Rallycross Championship is set to get underway at Höljes on 2-3 July, followed by rounds at Germany (Nürburgring), Norway, Rīga in Latvia, Montalegre in Portugal, fan favourite Spa Francorchamps in early October, and Cape Town rounding out the season in November. 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Hansen Motorsport commits to electric rallycross future with "huge investment."

PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport
The defending team champions', Hansen Motorsport have announced a ‘multiple-year’ commitment to the FIA World Rallycross Championship, hailing a ‘huge investment’ in the new electric rallycross era.

One of the most decorated teams in rallycross history, Hansen Motorsport has been at the forefront of the dual-surface discipline since founder and Team Principal Kenneth Hansen claimed the first of his record 14 European Rallycross Championship titles in 1989, prior to graduating to the headlining category four years later.

But, this year marks a major leap for the Swedish outfit in its efforts to increase sustainability and environmental awareness, while also continuing to challenge for wins and titles in the top flight as the World Rallycross Championship switches to all-electric cars.

"This a huge investment that we are making to the World Rallycross Championship, with a plan for multiple years – it’s the biggest thing we have ever done. It’s very new and very exciting for all of us," Kenneth Hansen said. 

“It feels a little like when we entered four-wheel-drive rallycross for the first time in 1993. We didn’t know many things then, and with the switch to electric technology there are many things we are learning about from scratch as well. It’s very refreshing to be focusing on something so new, with some people we have worked with for many years and some new faces around inspiring us as well. There really is a lot of fresh energy here to push forwards.

"The group of drivers at the top in World Rallycross are among the best in the world, and that mine and Susann’s sons, Timmy and Kevin, are part of that group and choose to drive with our team is very special."

PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport
Three Teams’ World Championships is a testament to the caliber of the team – the most recent of those coming last season when Timmy Hansen waged a hard-fought fight with fellow countryman Johan Kristoffersson that culminated with the pair tied on points at the top of the Drivers’ standings, the 2019 champion ultimately missing out on a second career crown on countback.

"World RX is where I’ve built my career and it’s given me some amazing opportunities. The level of competition in World RX is the very best, but that’s what drives us to push ourselves further. I believe we will have a very strong package going into the new season, which I’m very excited about," Timmy Hansen said.

“It’s second nature to our family to look for solutions to be as competitive as possible, especially in rallycross; it’s just what we do, and we are all extremely motivated for 2022. This is a big step in a new direction that I’m super-happy to be part of, racing extremely fast cars on great circuits against the best drivers and teams in the world. There really isn’t anything better.”

Today's announcement has formally confirmed Timmy and younger brother Kevin Hansen will remain with their family team. The Swedish siblings will pilot new-look electric cars, based on the Peugeot 208 chassis, but re-engineered to adopt the homologated electric powertrain from Austrian firm, Kreisel. 

"It’s a super-exciting time for our company and team to embrace this new electric era. Since 2018 we have spoken about electric rallycross in the World Championship and finally, it’s going to happen," Kevin Hansen said. "The electric powertrain kits will be arriving at Hansen Motorsport soon and for me to be part of this World Championship winning team, with a great philosophy for what the car and everything around us should be, I couldn’t be prouder."

"I think it’s going to be even greater than people can imagine."

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

INTERVIEW - Kristoffersson "always believed" a fourth title was possible despite points deficit in final round.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
In recent years, fans have been spoilt with the opportunity to witness true greats at their peaks, the likes of Sebastien Ogier, Marc Marquez, Johan Kristoffersson, and Lewis Hamilton.

Athletes whether it be in racing or athletics, they tend to push themselves to higher levels in order to succeed in life because as we all know “success is not given, it’s earned!”. Something four-time World Champion Johan Kristoffersson knows all too well having broken every record in the book, and set a couple of new records. 

A career that spanned over seven seasons in the FIA World Rallycross Championship has seen the Swede claim four titles in 67 starts, 27 wins, and 78 qualifying heat wins, a record yet to be beaten. 

Some may argue that Johan’s success can be attributed to the very competitive Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R that he raced from 2017 to 2018, but recently without factory support, we’ve seen the championship-winning Swede show his incredible talents fighting for victories against the stiffest of competition in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. 

The fightback last year (2021), may have been his hardest to date having had to overcome a number of issues, from reliability to penalties for infringements of the regulations. But, the multiple World Champion did not let that phase him any one bit, despite being 28-points down after the first three rounds. He kept focused and went on to claim a first victory of the season at round 5 in Latvia, which would turn his season around completely. 

With two rounds remaining in the 2021 campaign, 17 points were the difference between Timmy Hansen and Kristoffersson, it seemed like a very tall order, but there is no discounting a determined Champion who approached the weekend in a very calm manner. 

The pressure was on, and it immediately reared its head, as championship leader Timmy Hansen was disqualified from the semi-final for an incident with Niclas Gronholm meaning Kristoffersson would have the opportunity to narrow the points gap, which he did successfully.

One round to go, and just four points splitting the top two, it was Kristoffersson who would prevail in the very last race of the season with a third-place finish to clinch a fourth World Title on countback, a scene last-seen in 2019 where Timmy Hansen came out on top.  

Fresh from clinching another championship, Kristoffersson had more work on his hands. The Rosberg Xtreme Racing team were leading the Extreme E championship ahead of X44’s Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, but with a clear strategy, Kristoffersson and team-mate Molly Taylor kept it clean in the final and finished the season on equal points, meaning they claimed the inaugural Extreme E championship by virtue of more event wins. 

With a few months to reflect on, his incredible achievements, Johan Kristoffersson has already confirmed his plans for the coming year. The Swede will return to defend his World RX title with family-run Kristoffersson Motorsport under the banner Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS and return to Extreme E with the Rosberg Xtreme Racing team. 

We sat down with the four-time World Champion to talk all things World Rallycross, from the new electric era to the car he will race in 2022 and more… 

JS: Congratulations on achieving your fourth World Championship. Did you think winning the title was possible heading into the final round with a 17-point deficit to Timmy Hansen?

Johan Kristoffersson: “I always believed that winning would be possible because in motorsport anything can happen.”

In any sport, pressure can make or break an individual, but as we’ve seen through the years. You are always cool, calm, collected, and focused. It may be a strange question to ask, but do you ever feel pressure or feel pressured heading into a race weekend? And, how do you keep focused and calm?

JK: “The pressure I put on myself is more between the race weekends, as I want to be as well prepared as I can be when I’m on the race weekend.”

“On the race weekend, I can only do my best and hope that the preparation I’ve done is good enough. And most important, don’t forget to have fun!”

Fun is always forgotten when you are in the heat of a tense championship battle, but that’s quite an interesting point. 

You have had some rather unfortunate incidents last season, whether it be the disconnection of your data logger (DSQ) or mechanical issues that cost you valuable points. 

How do you as a driver approach each race weekend knowing that you had a points deficit and need to start gaining points on your rival?

JK: “I analyze previous race weekends, adjust and try to do better in the next race. That’s it, I can’t do more than my best.” 

Kristoffersson leading rival Timmy Hansen.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
Having driven Volkswagen machinery for most of his career. Kristoffersson took the leap, and joined the KYB EKS JC squad in 2021, a story that all started after Mattias Ekström published an April Fools’ post on his social media channels that Johan would race for his team, and that was how the whole conversation started.

Being so accustomed to Volkswagen Supercars, adaption to something new is not always easy. So, how hard was it to take a step into new machinery with so many different components? And, where changes were made to cater to his driving style? 

JK: “Some adaptations were made to the car and my driving. We had a very good team around the car with a mix of people I’ve worked with before, which makes it easy to quickly understand each other, and EKS JC had a lot of experience with the car. That together made it easier to get comfortable quickly, and we showed brilliant speed already at round one in Barcelona.”

The title G.O.A.T. is something not many can claim, but those who can are the Greatest of All Time in their respective fields. The acronym is often used to praise exceptional athletes from the many different disciplines, namely: Michael Schumacher, Michael Jordan, Sebastien Loeb, Muhammad Ali, Sebastien Ogier, Valentino Rossi, Lewis Hamilton, etc. 

In recent years, it’s pretty clear that we’ve witnessed the emergence of a new G.O.A.T., in the form of Johan Kristoffersson. A driver who has surpassed all the records set in the championship since its inaugural season in 2014. 

Kristoffersson has rewritten the rallycross history books with all his successes on and off-track, which clearly makes him a "Greatest Of All Time" in World RX. Does this title mean anything to you, or do you thinking of it at all?

JK: “It means nothing! I do think about it, but I would rather like to continue collecting more trophies in World RX. That is my main focus!”

With the formal confirmation of your return in 2022 with one of three Volkwagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS cars. Could you give us any clue on the body shell that your team will use in the new electric era of World RX?

JK: “Our car will be a modified electric Volkswagen Polo R5.”

Kristoffersson last raced a Volkswagen Polo R5 at the 2021 WRC - Arctic Rally Finland where he finished fifth in class (27th overall). 

Many fans have been apprehensive about the full switch to electric power in rallycross. How do you feel about the move? 

JK: “It will be a very challenging year with so many new things in the regulations. Both for drivers and the teams building the cars. I think the racing on track will be closer than ever because every team will use the same battery pack and powertrain.”

“Hopefully, World RX will attract more manufacturers and top-level drivers to make the series as good as it deserves to be in my opinion.”

2021 Extreme E Champions - Rosberg Xtreme Racing: Kristoffersson and Taylor.
PHOTO CREDIT: Rosberg Xtreme Racing.
You’ve competed in World RX, RallyX Nordic, STCC, Gymkana Grid, to name a few, but last year, we saw you make the most to something completely different, Extreme E. It was a challenging season with thrills and spills, but you and Molly Taylor came out on top and clinched the inaugural championship for the Rosberg Xtreme Racing Team. Did you find it challenging to make the switch from rallycross to the off-road Extreme E series? And, if you could explain, what were the biggest challenges that you faced with the switch?

JK: “The Extreme E car is a lot heavier and bigger than I’ve ever driven before, and as you know I’ve never done off-road racing. It was very difficult to judge and understand the terrain that the car could and could not handle. As off-road use to be a bit more long-distance race, Extreme E is very much a sprint race and every tenth of a second counts. Sharing the car with Molly [Taylor] was also a new experience and switching drivers during the race was a challenge. In the end, all turned out good and we, manage to win!”

A new era of World RX awaits with new opportunities, but one thing is for sure, the name Johan Kristoffersson will be right up there setting new records.

Monday, 31 January 2022

SuperSport confirms motorsport broadcast deals for the 2022 season.

South Africa-based pay-tv service, SuperSport has formally confirmed it's motorsport portfolio for the 2022 season. 

The South African/African motorsport community can look forward to eleven different championships this year, with a few additional broadcast deals are yet to be confirmed. 

As per previous seasons, Formula 1 coverage will be provided by SkySports F1. 

Fan favourites, MotoGP, Formula E, and IndyCar will also remain on the platform this year, whilst junior series, FIA Formula 3 will not be broadcast live, instead, a highlights package will be aired a few weeks after the live event.

Having failed to secure broadcast rights last year, the Race of Champions is back on SuperSport this year (live this weekend) after a deal was announced last week.

So, which championships have been secured, and which deals await official confirmation?

Rights secured for 2022:

    • Australian Supercars

    • DTM

    • Extreme E

    • Formula 1 (including F2 and F3 – not live)

    • Formula E

    • FIA World Endurance Championship

    • IndyCar

    • LeMans 24

    • MotoGP (including Moto2 and Moto3)

    • NASCAR

    • Race Of Champions ‘22

    • WSeries

    • WSBK 

Broadcast deals yet to be announced:

    • ETCR 

    • WTCR 

    • World Rallycross


The Broadcast Schedule for 4 to 6 February 2022:

Friday, 4 February 2022:

12:30 – 15:30 - Kyalami 9 Hour '21: Local Support Race (SS Motorsport)

15:30 – 17:55 - Kyalami 9 Hour '21: Kyalami 9 Hour Qualifying (SS Motorsport)

17:55 – 21:00 - Kyalami 9 Hour '21: Kyalami 9 Hour Pole (SS Motorsport)


Saturday, 5 February 2022:

08:30 – 12:55 - Kyalami 9 Hour '21: Local Support Race (SS Motorsport)

12:55 – 21:00 - Kyalami 9 Hour '21: Kyalami 9 Hour Race (SS Motorsport)

13:00 – 16:00 - Race of Champions '22: ROC Nations Cup (SS Action)


Sunday, 6 February 2022:

13:00 – 16:00 - Race of Champions '22: Race Of Champs (SS Motorsport)


Sunday/Monday, 7 February 2022:

00:00 – 00:55 - NASCAR Cup Series Build Up ‘22: The Coliseum (SS Motorsport)

00:55 – 03:00 - NASCAR ‘22: The Coliseum (SS Motorsport)

*Schedule subject to change without notice.

Monday, 24 January 2022

FEATURE: World Rallycross – everything you need to know about track design.

2021 World RX of Germany.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Love it, or loathe it… Circuit racing has been around for centuries, whether it be on cordoned off roads or airfields. 

Through the years, the motor racing spectacle has not only entertained but captured the imagination of fans, and future stars. 

In recent years more disciplines have joined the likes of Extreme E, MotoE, Nitro Rallycross, etc. but one thing they all have in common is a defined course, a track or route. 

Circuits are designed per discipline, which means, the likes of MotoGP, Formula 1, WTCR, WEC, etc. would share the same venue, whilst Rallycross, Extreme E, Dakar, Motocross all have their own specific designed tracks. 

If you were to focus on Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsport has many of it’s newer circuits designed by Hermann Tilke. Whilst the more historic circuits like Silverstone, the Hungaroring or Spa-Francorchamps were not designed by Tilke. 

Tilke designed circuits have a bit more run-off zones allowing for more disciplines to use them. 

Other motorport championships such as, Extreme E have their own method of designing a course/track. The newly formed championship (Extreme E) has two contracted “championship drivers”, Timo Scheider and Tamara Molinaro who design the course for the each event. Whilst the Dakar Rally shares similar characteristics being an off-road event, but the concept of route design is completely different, because a team would go into the Saudi Arabian desert to plot the layout for the two week event. 

So, with those differences explained, the FIA World Rallycross Championship is slightly different, as its a duel-surfance discipline meaning tarmac and dirt makes up the track. 

As, we know rallycross has a rich 54-year history with some of the most historic venues that capture that imagination of drivers’ and fans alike, a perfect example is the hill side, Hell track in Norway.  

But, why Norway? Well! The Scandinavian countries eat, sleep and breathe rallycross, with their most successful rallycross driver of all-time, Kenneth Hansen, (14-time European Rallycross Champion) hailing from Sweden. 

Petter Solberg, is another legend from Scandinavia. A two-time FIA World Rallycross, whilst his former team-mate Johan Kristoffersson, the most successful driver in the FIA championship having won four-titles to date. 

Scandinavia has some of the most historic rallycross circuits, the likes of Holjes, Hell and Arvika to name a few, but do they really comply with the FIA regulations? Some may not at first but in order to host an FIA regulated event changes need to be made. They could either be safety related or just small tweaks. 

The World RX of Germany (Nurburgring) track layout overlay on existing circuit.
PHOTO CREDIT: World Rallycross of Germany.
So, what are the regulations set out by the FIA Off-Road commission for track design(s)? Let’s take a look below:

CHAPTER 3. RALLYCROSS CIRCUITS

1. Characteristics

Length (measured along the centre-line of the

course) : minimum: 950m; maximum: 1400m.

Width: minimum: 10m; maximum: 25 m

2. Composition

Sealed surface (asphalt, concrete, etc.): between 35 % and 60 %.

The remainder unsurfaced (consolidated /stabilised earth or gravel). In addition to watering, anti-dust treatment is obligatory.

3. Gradients

Must not be steeper than 10 %.

4. Starts

There must be at least 100 m of straight from the starting line to the first bend. The starting grid will have a uniform surface of asphalt, tarmac, or concrete, this to continue for at least 30 metres after the starting line. The width of the track at the start line (minimum 14.50 metres) will be maintained up to and through the first bend, which must have a maximum radius of 25 metres and result in a change of direction of at least 45°; measurements will be calculated from the centreline of the course.

5. Marking

Should there be a deviation in the course (e.g. an artificial chicane included to reduce speeds), this must be marked in an obvious and entirely unmistakable way.

6. Joker lap

Characteristics:

Length: must be such that the time needed to cover a lap is at least 2 seconds longer than the best lap time achieved in Division 1. at least 2 sec longer than the time needed for the replaced distance of the circuit.

Width: minimum 10 m, maximum 12 m.

The entry and the exit cannot be on the racing line.

A safety protection, to separate the two roads, must be in place. At the exit it must be possible for the cars to have the same speed as on the traditional circuit.

A marshals’ post will be put in place if judged necessary for safety reasons.

An Approval by of the FIA circuit safety inspector is required.

With a more clearer idea of how circuits should be designed for the FIA World Rallycross Championship, there are a number of other factors and elements that need to be taken into account. 

So, in order to get a better understanding of this, we chat to the World RX Championship coordinator, Tim Whittington who will give us a bit more insight into track design. We also delve into a bit more detail regarding the switch to the electric championship this year. 

After a six-year stint as promoters of the championship, IMG stepped aside paving the way for Rallycross Promoter GmbH, who immediately made changes with new broadcasting portals, etc, but one of there biggest tasks would be managing the switch to electric power in 2022. 

So, what involvement does Rallycross Promoter GmbH have when it comes to circuit design? 

Tim Whittington: “The Promoter is almost always involved. It’s generally a question of sharing information and knowledge, trying to ensure that every new track is as good as it can be. (For detail, the Off-Road Commission does not approve circuits, this is the Circuits Commission and the Circuits/Safety dept at FIA).”

World Championship status means championships can travel to all corners of the globe, a scene last seen in 2017 when the FIA World Rallycross Championship traveled to all corners of the globe from the USA, to Africa and Europe. 

2017 World Rallycross of Cape Town with Table Mountain in the backdrop.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media/Jaanus Ree 
How are new tracks designed? Is it based on facilities at hand or solely around the FIA regulations? Or is there a free reign element when it comes to designing a track for the world championship?

Whittington: “This really depends on the venue and varies quite a lot. Let’s take Cape Town as the example here, but many points are relevant to all new circuits. We need to achieve a track that meets the FIA regulations and which fits within the existing venue. It needs to be in a part of the venue that is good for spectators on-site and is going to create a good TV image. In Cape Town that very quickly became the T2, T3, T4 section of the Killarney circuit. It offered the space required, areas of infield that could accommodate the unsealed sections that would need to be added and gave the backdrop of Table Mountain so there was an immediate and obvious visual connection to the location.”

“Once those basic decisions had been made it was a question of designing a track that met the regulatory requirements, that was safe, which did not unnecessarily disrupt other activities at what is a busy race circuit and which could be built within a budget that allowed a viable business case for all parties involved.”

With an action-packed championship like World RX. Why are most of the circuits designed quite tightly? Meaning there is only one racing line, and once you're following it's difficult to make a pass or overtake. 

Can racing be improved by altering track design to allow more door-to-door racing in the future?

TW: “Rallycross Promoter is working with circuits, drivers and others to define how existing circuits can be changed to improve racing and how future newbuilds should be designed to encourage passing. We want circuits that provide great racing, encourage more passing and challenge the drivers.”

“Rallycross tracks are quite short, FIA regulations say between 800 and 1400m, circuits have generally been in this kind of range. Many of the traditional tracks in Europe date from the 1970s and 80s. Cars were smaller and technically less sophisticated then so there was more space on the track and because the cars were not as good, more difficult to drive, the drivers made mistakes more often. All of that made passing easier. The modern cars are outrageously good and, compared to cars from previous generations, easier to drive, so mistakes are much less frequent and drivers have more time to think about racecraft where in the past just keeping the car on the circuit was as much as many could do. We want to make the tracks more challenging to redress that balance.”

Many championships have their own historic tracks, Lydden Hill (UK) or Holjes (Sweden) for example. Each have their own rich history, so are any changes made to cater to the FIA championship? And, if so what changes are or can be made to them?

TW: “We want the racing to be better and are working with the existing venues to make changes.”

With a better understanding of circuit design and an understanding of how the championship aims to improve racing. The World RX championship has a number of high and low grip tracks. Are these characteristics decided by venue or championship promoters? 

TW: “The greatest difference in the circuits is the degree to which the unsealed surfaces have been stabilised. In most of the environments in which we race some form of stabilisation is necessary. It is also required by the current FIA regulations. We have tracks like Riga and the traditional French tracks which are heavily stabilised. There are also circuits which have a lower degree of stabilisation such as Montalegre or Estering. Many factors can influence the degree of stabilisation; materials available, cost of construction and ongoing maintenance, how the rallycross track fits within other activities at the venue, etc. The mix of surface types is important because it gives the different circuits their own identity and each presents its own challenge. The mix could probably be shifted to include more circuits with lower levels of stabilisation where we have the opportunity to do that.”

Curve ball time, which track on the current calendar presents the best action, and why?

TW: “I think all of the tracks have their good points and can offer some good racing even if none of them represent the ‘best possible’ rallycross track at the moment.”

I guess he’s going to keep quiet on that one. 

In the Americas, the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) was the very first rallycross championship, but it, unfortunately folded in 2018, which paving the way for the previous World RX rights holders IMG, to start an American based series, Americas Rallycross (ARX) it also folded after two-years.

2019 World Champion Timmy Hansen's ideal rallycross track layout.
In 2018, Rallycross joined the Nitro World Games and instantly made waves due to the "extreme" nature of the circuit designs and the close action-packed racing. 

World RX driver Timmy Hansen won the inaugural event. 

A few years later, Travis Pastrana announced the Nitro Rallycross Championship, which would see teams race at five unique circuits designed by himself. It went off without a hitch and produced some thrilling action. 

In 2019, we spoke to a number of World Rallycross drivers, and asked them to draw their ideal circuits. A number of them designed Nitro RX themed circuits with jumps and high banked corners. So, could we soon see similar Nitro Rallycross concepts in the FIA World Rallycross Championship calendar?

TW: “There are elements of the Nitro tracks which could be used within an FIA World Championship circuit, but also some that I do not think FIA would approve.”

The 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship was the final season of internal combustion engines. So, with the move to electric power this year. Can fans expect to see circuit modifications to spice up racing?

TW: “We are working to introduce changes to circuits for the 2022 season, but that is not directly influenced by the switch to electric cars, and the new cars in themselves do not require changes.”

“A factor of the change of car that is likely to play a part in improving racing is that all cars will use the same powertrain kit, and so the differences between the cars will be reduced. Performance should be more even and racing closer.”

Having now learnt a bit more about track design, and what is allowed according to the regulations. We look forward to a thrilling new era in 2022. The championship will visit seven countries, including South Africa (tbc), with seven confirmed entries across four teams. Are you ready? Let’s go racing!

We would like to thank Tim Whittington, the FIA World Rallycross Championship co-ordinator for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us! 

Monday, 17 January 2022

Kristoffersson commits to World RX title defense with Volkswagen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Four-time FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson has set his sights on a fifth drivers' title, following confirmation that he will return in a Kristoffersson Motorsport-run Volkswagen, as the series prepares for its inaugural electric era. 

Kristoffersson is the most successful driver in World RX history, having clinched a fourth World Championship in dramatic circumstances at the Nürburgring last November overturning a 17-point deficit to fellow countrymen Timmy Hansen to win on countback.

That achievement came behind the wheel of an EKS JC-prepared Audi S1, but the 33-year-old's three previous titles were all secured in Volkswagen machinery, meaning Kristoffersson will return in familiar surroundings.

KMS will field three electric Volkswagens during the inaugural electric season in 2022, with the precise model and Kristoffersson’s team-mates yet to be unveiled. 

"Johan Kristoffersson is one of the biggest motorsport names Sweden has ever known. Four FIA World Rallycross Championship titles is an outstanding accomplishment, and we wish him all the best now that he is taking the step into the sport’s new electric era – most importantly, with a Volkswagen emblem on the front of his car," Sten Forsberg, CEO, Volkswagen Sweden, said.

Every car will be powered by the Kreisel RX1e kit that produces around 500kW with twin motorsport equivalent of 680bhp with 880Nm of instant torque. 

"It feels inspiring to be involved in developing the new concept. The last time we undertook a project on a scale of this kind was in 2014, when we built our own cars for the first season of the World Championship. The big difference is that back then, I was completely inexperienced in rallycross – whereas things are a little different now," Kristoffersson said.

"There are obviously a lot of unknowns when everything is so new. In recent years, we have all followed proven concepts, so the development steps have been comparatively small – but there is much greater potential with these new cars. Electricity is the future for both motorsport and the automotive industry in general, and helping to drive that development is one of the most fascinating aspects of the sport for me. I expect an incredibly tough and competitive season ahead, and I’m excited to get started!"

The team founded by former FIA European Rallycross Championship front-runner and multiple Swedish Champion Tommy Kristoffersson is under no illusion that the switch to electric will be a challenge, but they are ready to tackle it head-on.

"This will be the largest project in KMS’ history, with a small family business building and developing three new cars in accordance with a new concept. That clearly comes with great personal responsibility, but we can rely upon a team of extremely skilled individuals as well as a wealth of knowledge and experience from Germany and within our own workshop in Arvika," Tommy Kristoffersson said.

"It’s a great privilege to work in such an environment, and at this level, you realise that the more you learn, the more you understand how little you actually know! We are looking forward to putting to use all the lessons we have learned over the years in this exciting new adventure – and to challenging for the world championship under our own steam once again."

The 2022 championship is set to get underway in Höljes on 2-3 July, followed by rounds at the Nürburgring, Norway, Rīga, Montalegre, Belgium, and Cape Town (TBC).