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.