Sunday 17 December 2023

Arne Dirks: World Rallycross “will succeed” in attracting manufacturers with “positive talks at the moment.”

Arne Dirks, Rallycross Promoter GmbH Managing Director speaking to the media.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIA World Rallycross Media
In it’s nine year existence, the FIA World Rallycross Championship has had it all, highs and lows, but like a phoenix, the championship rose from the ashes, and to this day remains as action-packed and thrilling as ever. 

The duel surface championship had it all, full grids, and four manufacturers in the early era, but as a result of uncertainty surrounding the switch to electric power under the stewardship of former promoter IMG, the four manufacturers withdrew at the end of the 2018 campaign leaving the championship in some doubt, but like rallycross, things never truly end. 

From 2019 to 2020, privateer teams ruled the roost, but like stories, IMG’s came to an end in 2020, handing the batten to Rallycross Promoter from 2021. 

In their first year at the helm, Rallycross Promoter began their steep learning kerb, before the planned switch to electric power in 2022, with Kriesel Electric supplying powertrains for teams to retro-fit into the already existing cars. And, whilst their was an initial delay with the delivery of these powertrains to the teams, the first-ever electric season went ahead, and was truly electrifying. 

With the new electric era of rallycross, also came the introduction of a new concept to determine the grid order, called “SuperPole”. Just one lap to decide your position for the first heat, thereafter, your overall heat time would decide your ranking. 

The first electric powered season ran smooth as butter, but just a year later, the World Championship faced it’s darkest days, as two Special One Racing cars (Lancia Delta Evo-E's), their equipment and a truck was lost in a blaze at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom, seeing the cancellation of three rounds. 

The 2023 World RX of Norway final, with Lancia's before they were gutted in Lydden Hill.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
But despite, the challenges, the hard work, determination of both the teams and Rallycross Promoter, saw the decision taken that World Rallycross would continue in equal machinery for the Cape Town and Hong Kong rounds 

Speaking of people behind the scenes, in 2021, Arne Dirks was appointed as the Managing Director of Rallycross Promoter GmbH. 

Dirks has a wealth of experience in Germany’s sports industry dating back almost 20 years.

“Who is Arne Dirks?... Arne Dirks has beeen working in sports management for 20 years, almost. I've worked in several different sports, such as football, volleyball, basketball, etc. and now working in motorsports for two and a half years. And, I really enjoy it,” he tells Slipstream SA.

“I worked together with one of our shareholders in the German Volleyball Federation, working on the German beach volleyball tour. And it sounds maybe a little bit strange, but beach volleyball is about entertaining. The matches are really important, but so is everything around. And we actually follow a similar concept. You know, it's not only about the races, but the fans should also be entertained. And you can see this already, if you look at what the CE Dealer Team have been doing, how they engage with the fans. We can do a lot more on that side to make it a great weekend for everyone coming out (to races).” 

The key to growth and success is adaptability, as with everything, change is something that no-one really likes, but with time, change becomes a norm. Met with some resistance, the World Rallycross Championship switched from soul vibrating anti-lag internal combustion engines to electric powertrains in 2022.

But, much like, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” electorial campaign, the World Rallycross Championship is in the phase of rebuilding, and as Dirks says, the championship “absolutely” has the potential to be great again 9

Having survived the withdrawal of manufacturers after the 2018 season, World RX still remains as competitive, as it ever was. However, there is work to be done, regarding growing within the sport, as well as fan engagement.

“I think not many people in the world actually know what World Rallycross is,” Dirks says. “If you attend a race, if you see it, then I think you drawn in, and want to come back to future events. As, I say, these races are so short, there's so much action. It's not a 90-minute football game that is not nil and nil at the end. You know, there's always something going on.”

In recent years within the motoring industry there has been a major push to electric, hybrid and hydrogen powered vehicles, but with the world championship going fully-electric, there hasn’t been any involvement from any manufacturers yet, however, Rallycross Promoter have assured us that they are working on it. 

“Of course, we want the manufacturers back in the sport, and I actually do believe that we will succeed on this. We have a couple of good talks at the moment. I mean, it hasn't been an easy start for us, with the pandemic and building the sport,” he says.

“(Cape Town and Hong Kong) was the first overseas race, the incident in Lydden Hill, obviously the fire, so there were couple of drawbacks, but we still absolutely believe that the sport is great. It has everything that especially, I believe younger generations are also looking for, with very short races, always action, and head-to-head racing, etc.”

“What do we need to make it bigger, make it larger? I think we are on the right track at the moment. We saw a growing field already this season. Again, the fire from Lydden was problematic. I think appointing Mattias Ekström, as our sports director will make us progress and look towards a brighter future. As he has many, many ideas, obviously many contacts, not only to manufacturers, but also the existing teams. It's really fun working with him. So, I'm not worried, but I know we have some more work to do,” he added. 

The first-ever Asian pacific round of the World Rallycross Championship in Hong Kong. 
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
As an FIA sanctioned championship, World Rallycross is required to compete across the globe, but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the calendar, somewhat shrunk, however with Rallycross Promoter they are looking ahead to the future. 

Dirks believes that it’s essential to “keep some of the iconic locations in Europe, like Höljes" because, “as you know, there are 79 people living in Höljes, Sweden, and when we visit there are 25,000 spectators. It's just unbelievable! But we also see a future in city centres, and we are very much looking forward now to the first ever city centre race in our history in Hong Kong. We also have so much potential now that we are a sustainable championship.”

He adds that the championship “could look into ice races, but as I said, cities are very, very important, alongside maybe festivals, etc. So there are certain ideas where we could run and working on different ideas.”

In addition to bringing new ideas, and a format change to the world championship, Rallycross Promoter along with sister company WRC Promoter introduced an OTT (over-the-top) streaming service for avid rallycross and rallying fans –

Some would argue that watching or streaming World RX has become challenging, if not difficult, as it’s hidden behind a paywall, but Dirks says that's “not true” citing “yes, we have our own OTT channel, which is, and I believe that it is a fantastic model for the future, as we show WRC and Rallycross. So, we have over 30 weekends per year where rally fans can watch the action.”

“On the other hand, we do sell the rights to broadcasters all around the world. And in South Africa (in particular), we have broadcasters carrying live coverage. So, it's definitely not our model to just put everything behind closed doors. But we do absolutely believe in We also believe in working together with nationwide and worldwide channels all around the world. And for example, even this year already, all the races are shown live on SVT in Sweden,” he added.

As the championship continues on an upward trajectory, with a promoter focused on the success and growth of the series. The sustainability, and use of electric powertrains, should be a draw factor for manufacturers who are looking to develop their powertrain technologies for future implementation on our roads. 

“I absolutely believe that we are at the point of bringing manufacturers. I mean, especially when you look into EV, I think World Rallycross is a showcase for what an electric cars can actually do. You can go flat out and really can show that it is more than just small cars running through the city, that actually even motorsport is fantastic using EV technology,” Arne Dirks explains. 

UK's Patrick O'Donovan makes strong case for rookis, as he achieves a podium on debut in Hong Kong.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
Whilst focusing on the improvement of the spectacle, and attracting manufacturers is important right now, there is another important aspect that needs to be taken into account. Like Formula One, World Rallycross has two junior series, somewhat of a stepping stone to the main championship, but due to budgetary constraints, it is often not possible for junior drivers to make the necessary steps up the ranks, and it is clear that juniors who have won championships in the past, and have also won events get lost along the way, the likes of Viktor Vranckx, or even Nils Andersson, who is the reigning RX2e champion, but attended the final rounds of the 2023 campaign as Team Manager for Kristoffersson Motorsport. 

Dirks says that “we need to make the sport cheaper”. 

“It is absolutely our ambition that if you win the RX2 competition, which is a series for younger drivers to develop their talents. That you have the chance to step up into World Rallycross, but at the moment, that is a massive step to make,” he explains. “We had a couple of talks with the former RX2e winner, and it wasn't possible. So, we need to work on making this sport and especially World RX cheaper to compete in.”

As a new season fast approaches, there is no information regarding the Lydden Hill investigation, however, the FIA World Motor Sport Council, who met in Baku earlier this month, announced that sustainably-fuelled combustion-engined (ICE) cars would now be eligable to contest the pinnacle of rallycross for the first time since 2021, on equal terms with EV's, in what the championship has billed the "Battle of Technologies", which heralds a new era for World Championship. 

*Italicized number included for competition to WIN a cap signed by all the World RX starts. Stay tuned to @JunaidSamodien_ on X, and Slipstream SA on Facebook for more information. 

Thursday 14 December 2023

LONG READ: 'My key to success is paying attention to details and having very, very good people around me', Kristoffersson says.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
The journey to greatness always starts somewhere…. Born to a motorsport family, Johan Kristoffersson was always destined for a life in motorsport, as his father ran the successful, Kristoffersson Motorsport, where he competed in both rallycross and the Swedish Touring Car Championship [STCC].  

Traveling through Europe with his family, and their team, as a kid, he immediately became involved - cleaning and preparing racing tyres, as well as driving the teams truck around the paddock, and getting stuck into pitstops in STCC. 

Unlike his father, Johan opted for a different career route. He decided to compete in Cross Country Skiing, where he achieved a top 10 ranking in Sweden, but after completing school, his career in motorsport well and truly kicked into high-gear. 

It was 2008, when he climbed into a race car for the first time in the Junior Touring Car Championship, and after his very first race, the Swede was hooked. 

As his career developed, he gained the necessary experience for the success, which would soon grace his record. 

Johan Kristoffersson wins the first STCC race of the season at Mantorp Park.
After four years of racing, success was just around the corner, as he claimed his first race victory in the 2012 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, and went on to win the championship, along with four other titles that year - the Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia, Italian-based Touring Car Championship, and the Superstars Series in all three categories (Italian, International and Rookie).

The two years that followed kept Kristoffersson grounded, but 2013, saw him make the transition from circuit racing to rallycross, and it wasn’t until 2014, that he claimed his first rallycross victory in the European Championship. 

A year later, he claimed a third-place finish in the World Rallycross Championship, but as the years progressed, he continued to apply his trade in different championships. 

But, it wasn’t until 2017, when he teamed up with Petter Solberg’s PSRX Volkswagen Sweden, and despite getting off to a slow start, acheiving two podium finishes in rounds 2 and 3, thereafter, he claimed seven straight wins in the 12-round calendar. 

Returning with PSRX Volkswagen in 2018, Kristoffersson won all but one round, which would begin a record breaking career in rallycross. 

Despite missing the 2019 season, after Volkswagen Motorsport withdrew from the championship. He returned with family-run – Kristoffersson Motorsport, in a modified version of his 2016 VW Polo, but despite having some pressure applied throughout the season, he went on to win another championship. 

Kristoffersson celebrating after winning upon return to World RX in 2020.
Having only driven Volkswagen Supercars in rallycross, things were different in 2021, when he joined EKS JC [Audi], in what would be the final season of internal combustion powered cars. And, whilst it was a topsy turvy season, Kristoffersson wrapped up his fourth title, whilst also competing in the Extreme E Championship alongside team-mate Molly Taylor, a season that would see the Swede win the inaugural season. 

After years of talking, 2022 was finally the year of implementation, as the World Rallycross Championship went fully-electric, with teams retrofitting their cars with Austrian firm Kriesel’s powertrains. 

The future within World Rallycross did not seem all that clear for Kristoffersson Motorsport, but as we all know, the Swedish team never gave up, as they managed to secure two VW Polo R5 chassis’ from long-term partner Volkswagen Sweden. 

Starting from a blank slate seems a lot easier then retrofitting the Kriesel powertrain to an already existent chassis, or is it? “I think it was much more difficult to build a brand new car,” Kristoffersson explains. “I mean if we had the possibility, and if we had the choice from just out of the driver and engineer point of view. You would definitely convert an old car with all the benefits that come together with that. But we didn't have the possibility, so we just had to build a brand new car.”  

Working away on developing a new car, Kristoffersson Motorsport engineered what would become an all conquering machine, that went on to win 8 of 10 rounds in the inaugural electric rallycross season. 

With his wealth of experience, Kristoffersson’s input into the design and the development is certainly something that a team would factor in, the likes of, if the car should have more understeer or oversteer 6.

He explains: “I was lucky enough to work with the guys that developed our cars since 2017. So, the engineer that is project leader of the electric car build has been my chassis engineer since 2018. So, we did the 2018 World Rallycross Championship season together, and we also did the 2019 TCR season and 2020/21 World Rallycross Championships together, the latter with the Audi S1. So, we’ve actually raced three different cars plus some others... I've done some rallying together with him, as well so I've driven the R5.”

“I think he knows me very well and how I want the car to be set up… So, I think in terms of how involved I am on the project. Yes, I am involved because I'm curious, but I think not involved in daily meetings because they already have all the data that we’ve collected over the years.” 

A year later, the World Rallycross Championship encountered one of it’s most challenging moments, as two cars - Special One Racing, the teams equipment and a truck caught a light. 

The future of the championship seemed bleak, as round after round was canceled, but in an extraordinary move, the FIA World Motor Sport Council elected to continue the championship with equal machinery [RX2e cars], but despite these challenges, Kristoffersson kept his finger on the pulse to clinch a sixth World Rallycross Championship. 

He also clinched the Extreme Championship with team-mate Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky in Chile.this year. 

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson celebrate their 2023 Extreme E Championship win in Chile.
PHOTO CREDIT: Extreme E Media
Like Extreme E, and the final rounds of the 2023 World Rallycross Championship in equal cars, should the world championship have equal machinery? 

“I think having equal cars makes it a completely different kind of a championship,” he said. “And for me, it wouldn’t be a world championship because there is no manufacture title if there are equal cars. If you compete with equal cars, it's more like a national championship or Porsche Carrera Cup.”

Having achieved championships in circuit racing, rallycross and off-road racing, Johan Kristoffersson has certainly cemented himself in the history books, as one of the greatest of all time, but what makes him great, or the greatest: “It's a combination of many things, I believe my key to success is that I pay attention to details and it all comes down to the fact that I am a very, very competitive person."

“I think it also comes from a cross country skiing background, if you do a race, or compare it to a marathon. And, you’re at the start line of a marathon, you need to have done your homework. So, everyday you would wake up, and don’t want to go out running, but if you don’t do it then can’t arrive at the start line prepared. So, I think that is one part, and then of course in motorsport, it’s also an individual sport in terms of – it’s only me driving the car. So, it’s teamwork with all the mechanics and engineers, as well. It is also very, very important to have good people around you that want to win just as much as you do,” he added. 

With nine years of experience, the Swede has seen the good, bad and ugly of the world  championship, but in his opinion, is the sport at it’s greatest point right now, or is there room for improvement? 

“I think everything that comes naturally will be better for the spectators, like if there were a little bit more cars and more drivers at the top level,” he said. “As soon as there are more drivers in the top level there will be tighter racing, more excitement and tighter at the top. So I don't think that it has really so much to do exactly with what World Rallycross is today. I think that it is more of that it is still missing some cars. In 2017 and 18, there were many teams, and many very professional teams. There are still professional teams, but it's not as many as it was at that time. It hasn't changed much since then but I think it just takes some time also in the transition from internal combustion to electric.”  

Nothing is ever a given in the world of motorsport - even achieving championships does not guarantee the possibility to progress through the ranks, but in the ever evolving world of rallycross, it is rather expensive to rent cars and the equipment to compete, which is something seen in Cape Town, where 2023 FIA RX2e Champion Nils Andersson worked as the team manager of Kristoffersson Motorsport instead of racing. 

Whilst Nils brings a wealth of knowledge in RX2e, Johan believes that the world championship needs to have teams with the ability to pay drivers. 

“Nils [Andersson] should be in a car. But, in order to get the best drivers in the world to drive the World Championship, you need to have teams that have the possibility to pay the drivers,” Kristoffersson said. “If the drivers pay to join the championship, you will never get the best drivers in the world. That's simple!  So, you have to find a way for the team to have the financial power to pay drivers to come, and then they will find a way also to find a third car or a fourth car for a driver like Nils to join the championship to prove his skills.”

Four years since manufacturers departed the world championship due to lack of clarity regarding the switch to electric power.There has been a continued push to a greener future, with manufacturers looking for new opportunities to test their technologies, and Kristoffersson believes that World Rallycross is “definitely 100%” ready for manufacturer return. 

The COVID-19 pandemic really proved challenging, as the FIA World Rallycross Championship did not race in Cape Town for four years, but upon return, Johan was reacquainted with his championship-winning Volkswagen Polo R Supercar, named “Wilma”.

“The last time I drove it [the Polo R] was in 2018, and I reckon that it was the weekend that we raced in Cape Town or at the Gymkhana Grid event. I will always have a special feeling towards that car, as I drove it for two seasons and I also won 18 rounds with the car in World Rallycross,” he said.

“I won my first championship with that car, as well, to me it feels like an old relationship, but we've been through a lot. So, yes, that car will also remain very, very special to me. I saw it when arriving at the circuit [for set-up and media day], and the last time I saw it was in 2020, when I visited Volkswagen Motorsport in Hanover, when I then used the car that Petter [Solberg] raced in 2018 for th 2020 World Championship.”

“To give you some history, Jari-Matti Latvala won the 2014 Rally Sweden in this car [chassis], and he also won Rally Finland with the car in 2004. So yeah, it has some history,” he added.

DID YOU KNOW: Johan Kristoffersson named his 2022/23 Volkswagen Polo RX1e - "Greta".

Andreas Bakkerud, Kevin, Timmy Hansen, Klara Andersson, Guerlain Chicherit and Timo Scheider's ideal World Rallycross tracks.
Like every World RX one-on-one, we placed a blank seat infront of Johan Kristoffersson, and asked him to draw his ideal circuit, but looking at the track designs of Timmy Hansen, Guerlain Chicherit, and Klara Andersson, you could see the cogs begin to turn…

Kristoffersson was quick to note the short comings on the other track designs, saying: “they are missing a gravel corner, one corner and then a corner again in the same direction. If you only go right, left, right, left, right there's no overtaking ever. You need to have right, right and a left, left. Then you get overtaking.”

“Then if you have gravel on the inside and tarmac on the outside. The gravel on the inside will always be fast. It will just spit all the gravel onto the tarmac and it will then be slower anyway. I mean it looks cool. But these layout don’t work,” he added.

Johan Kristoffersson's ideal World Rallycross track.
Putting some thought into it, the newly crowned six-time FIA World Rallycross Champion, put pen to paper and immediately drew seven grid slots, to which, he said: “There seems to be seven grid slots, but anyway. It's fine, we can have it in the future, Thinking ahead. [he laughs]”

“Then you need a long straight thereafter. And, then you start braking on the gravel. It's very narrow my track. But then you need to have a left and then a left again. There will be a lot of gravel on my track as well. We then need a big jump.”

Thereafter “we need to find a way to put the joker [lap] in with a tight chicane on the inside. The joker should ideally be on gravel.”

He mentions "that there should be more banked corners, but in rallycross it is difficult to maintain them. My track should actually have a bit more gravel, because it’s a lot more difficult. I prefer gravel then sand,” he says. “The joker lap needs to be that if you take risks, you should gain time. If you want to be safe, you lose time.”

Whilst designing the track, he said that Nitrocross tracks “are cool when they go over and under [each other], but that won’t be allowed [in the world championship.]”

Enjoy the video below, where Johan briefly talks us through his track design in the video below:

VIDEO FILMED BY: Rhea Morar [The PitCrew Online]

Johan explains his track layout - “So here, the start, then you have a long right hander followed by another a long right hander. And, then you have a big jump that goes into a corner, into the hairpin. And then you go into this, and then you have a big jump again. Then you can choose if you want to stay really tight inside off-camber. Or if you jump long, and you go to the banked corner, and try to go do some overtake into here. This is not so bad."

Sunday 10 December 2023

World Rallycross “best suits manufacturer support to privateer teams” - Kenneth Hansen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
In a career spanning nearly 40-years, Kenneth Hansen’s journey through rallycross has been nothing short of exemplary, earning 14 FIA European Rallycross Championships along the way, but after hanging up his helmet at the end of 2012, he now remains at the helm of Hansen Motorsport. 

Hansen's career started with karting back in 1976, before the transition to rallycross, were he won the first of many FIA European Championships in 1989, and to this day, his desire to win remains as strong as ever.

Through his career, Kenneth secured an impressive 14 European, and 10 Swedish Rallycross championships - and he explains just how he managed to achieve the record setting fourteen titles: "It was a long journey from the beginning. When I started with motorsport, I was not successful from the beginning. So, I needed to work it out and learn. My career started with karting, before I switched to rallycross. It took me four years to win the national title, before moving into the European Championship, and how I could manage 14 titles? That is because I’m quite stubborn, and I don’t like to lose."

“So, when that happened, then of course, I focussed more on the equipment and everything around it. I think it’s not easy to pinpoint a specific thing [to win 14 championships], it’s a combination of everything, but most of all, I’m quite stubborn [he laughs].”

In the early days of competitive motorsport, racing drivers had somewhat of an easier time fans fans and media, compared to the scrutiny faced in the new social media era. And, whilst being the team principal at Hansen Motorsport, Kenneth has been exposed to both the positivity and negativity on social media, which he believes affects drivers very differently.  

“I think that it depends on the driver. So some drivers don't care, and some of them are quite affected. When I go onto social media sometimes, and see what people are posting,and I wonder how they spend their time being so negative. But of course, we have a lot of people that are very positive. And, if I don't like something, I wouldn't put the effort in to posting it on [social media]. I would do something else instead,” the 14-time European champion said.

That winning feeling!
PHOTO CREDIT: Hansen Motorsport
Whilst the joy and elation of winning championships is one thing, facing an uncertain future is a completely different story after the four manufacturers [Audi, VW, Peugeot and Ford] withdrew from the world championship in 2018, but regardless of that, the Hansen name has remained in the championship since it's inception in 2014, and through the hard work and perseverance, one could liken them to the Frank Williams story. A man [Sir Frank Williams] who went through so much adversity, but despite everything he soldiered on to establish a historic team, which remains in the sport today. 

When asked what's the secret behind continuing in the world championship during the turbulent era, Kenneth Hansen said: “First of all, I really love the rallycross format, and the way to race in this championship. I've been in the rallying, I've been in circuit racing, karting, et cetera. This championship, it's something that really is close to my heart because there is such good competition."

"And of course, I think you target the season, you target the championship, but for me it's also to perform as best as you can on that day. So you don't look too far. Of course you have a vision of where to go, but you need to be in the game from where you are,” he adds. 16

Kenneth Hansen spaeking to his sons Timmy [left] and Kevin [on the right].
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
The future of the World Championship seemed bleek, but with the co-operation, hard work and determination of the existing teams, and the promoters, World RX continued in 2019 with full privateer teams, including the Hansen's under the name - Team Hansen MJP, after the team partnerd with Austrian businessman Max J. Pucher. 

2019 proved to be one of the most captivating, and thrilling seasons to date, with four drivers going head-to-head for championship glory. 

Finn Niclas Gronholm seemed to be the driver to beat, but unfortunately, he missed two rounds due to appendicitis, which dropped him out of contention. Heading into the finale in Cape Town, it was a three-way fight between Andreas Bakkerud, and the Hansen brothers'. Where Timmy, ultimately came out on top winning the drivers' championship in dramatic fashion, whilst also wrapping up the teams' championship in the process. 

World Rallycross continued for two more years with internal combustion engine [ICE] cars before the switch to an all-electric powertrain, which is supplied by Austrian firm Kriesel, and retro-fitted into the existing cars, but following a devastating fire at the 2023 World RX of the United Kingdom that destroyed two Special One Racing cars, equipment and a truck. The FIA World Motor Sport Council [WMSC] took the unprecedencted decision to continue the championship with equal machinery. 

With some form of equal machinery, and the rising push for sustainability in motorsport, and environmental solutions, ie. electric mobility, hydrogen fuels and bio-fuels, the World Championship almost certainly is ready for manufacturer involvement. 

“We had four manufacturers in the Rallycross, and we saw it climbing very quickly, in fact too quickly. I think there were positive aspects, but there were also some negative things as well. So, I think we learned a lot from these years,” Hansen explained.

What I think would suit rallycross best is to get manufacturer support to the private teams. So not the manufacturers coming full-time themselves because it would be cost effective. And the way to get the return of investment best would be to support the teams that are there, and of course it would be, one of the let’s say low cost world championships, because rallycross is very cost efficient. It's a very small championship and a very efficient, you don't need a lot of crew. You don't need a lot of equipment, but of course you need experience. And, clever people.”

Speaking of expenses, reaching world championship level is quite challenging, if not impossible for younger drivers, and potential championship winners due to the costs of renting cars and everything needed to run them, but like Kenneth, his youngest son Kevin formed a junior team - #YellowSquad, which was establisted to develop and find future stars, which has come to fruition since the signing of Patrick O'Donovan, who competed in European Rallycross, RX2e and in the final round of the world championship in Hong Kong, where he claimed a podium finish on debut. 

There are other drivers’ like Nils Andersson, who is the 2023 FIA RX2e champion, but due to budgetary constraints, he is unable able to compete with the worlds best. So, what can the championship do to make the sport easier for junior drivers to rise up the ranks? 

“I think we need the world championship to shine in order to get the full grids,” Hansen explains. “For me, that would be 16 cars, to have that set number and then to have a really good world championship to show the grassroots where to start to climb, to dream about. The young girls and boys should dream to be world champions one day, and that’s the way, it needs to be determined. It's not only the top, it's also the bottom. So, it's all together.”

Sixteen car grids have been achievable for years, but since the transition to electric cars, it’s become a touch more challenging due to costs. And, with the Lydden Hill fire, and the ongoing investigation, equal cars were used for the final four races of the season, in both Cape Town and Hong Kong, which added some extra spice to the championship. So, with that in mind, should the championship have some form of equality? 

“I think you are onto something there, but I don't think it should have a one marque category. Perhaps it should be a little more locked to keep the cost level down, but not fully locked. So, we have some freedom, because that has been the key point for Rallycross to do things and to develop things and so on,” he explained. “But of course, if we let it become to free, the cost will get too high. The RX1e car today is quite expensive. So, I think I would look to get some sort of limitation there.” 

Kenneth Hansen smiling after receiving the Slipstream SA draw your ideal track challenge [his sons track layouts in picture as well]
PHOTO CREDIT: Rhea Morar [PitCrew Online]
As customary with Slipstream SA, we asked Kenneth Hansen to design his ideal World Rallycross track, but in order to design his perfect track, he asked us, if he could take some time to design the layout, and surpringly, the inventor of the 'Joker Lap' did not add a joker to his ideal track. 

Take a look at the 14-time European Champions track design below.

Monday 4 December 2023

‘It is possible’ for women to reach top flight motorsport because 'If I can, so can you!'– Klara Andersson.

PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool
As the only female driver in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Klara Andersson aims to use her platform to inspire the next generation - ‘If I can be here, so can you!'

The 23-year-old has made waves since she transitioned to rallycross - achieving her biggest success – the 2019 Swedish Rallycross Championship, in SM (Senior) 2150, which propelled her to the forefront, and just a year later she claimed a fourth-place finish in the FIA RX2e championship on debut. 

"Dreams don’t have to just be dreams. You can make it a reality; if you just keep pushing and keep trying, then eventually you'll reach your goal. And if that takes a few years, then that's great, but if it takes 10 or 20, then that's part of the process." Naomi Osaka

Dreams do come true, as Klara Andersson proved after joining the Extreme E championship in 2022, and to this day competes for the ABT Cupra squad, in addition, she also competes in the all-electric FIA World Rallycross Championship with Construction Equipment (CE) Dealer Team where she immediately impressed on debut, and has since became the first-ever female to step onto the international rallycross podium. 

Slipstream SA sat down with Klara at the World RX of South Africa earlier this year and asked - what could be done to make motorsport more inclusive for females, to which, she said: “I think we really need to look into the founder series. So, we need to look at go-karts and cross-karts. We then need to look at more women and girls entering series’ at young ages, because they can then climb the ranks and reach the very high levels.”

“So I think, for me, I always try to show that it is possible,” she adds. “It's possible to be a girl in the top series. And I want to be a role model and see that if I can be here, so can you. And I want to make it more normal that it's possible.”

Klara Andersson with her SM (Senior) 2150 – Swedish Rallycross Championship winning BMW 120.
A career that started at the young age of seven karting. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Swede made the switch to rallycross after building a rear-wheel-drive BMW 120 with her father before competing in the 2021 SM (Senior) 2150 – Swedish Rallycross Championship, which she won.  

Coming from a racing background, with sister Magda [Andersson] who competed in European Rallycross – Klara’s career shone from the get-go. 

She lets us in on how much work went into building her championship-winning BMW.

“It was so much work. Just me and my dad [built it]. We started building it in 2017, and then I started driving it in 2018 in the junior series. So we put all the time, the money, and the effort into that car;” she said. “And, I haven't touched it since I won the championship [in 2021], it's still in the garage, because I can't sell it, you know, because it's too big a part of my career.”  

Andersson told Slipstream SA last year that "winning the Swedish Rallycross Championship was big for me. The level of Rallycross in Sweden is really high, and to win with my BMW that my dad and I built and have been working on for the last 3 years was amazing."

Beating a 50-strong entry list to the Swedish Rallycross Championship is a tall feat, but the Swede was more than capable of this. And, having now made the step up to Extreme E, and the FIA World Rallycross Championship results and performances are all that matters when going up against the best in the industry, the likes of Johan Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen, calls for consistency, but on a personal level, what is required to make the additional step to compete against them? 

“It's a very good question. Johan is extremely good, and so are all the drivers in the World RX. It takes a lot of will, you need every piece of the puzzle to fit – a lot of power, you need to have the team for it, the car for it, and the teamwork. Otherwise, you can't win, you win the championship as a team. If you have the drivers but not the team, or if you have the team and not the drivers, and if you don’t have the car for it, then it's very, very hard,” Andersson said.

“I truly think that we [CE Dealer Team] have all the components that we need.  And, you know, now with this championship, it's only the second year that we have run our cars, so there's still a lot of development that needs to be made. And I think they will just become faster and faster for years to come, which I'm really excited for. I think I go back to the word, but I think it's passion. It's all about passion.”

Niclas Gronholm and Klara Andersson sharing a laugh during a signing session 
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool 
Passion is both a motivator and a driving force, speaking of a force, Andersson’s team-mate Niclas Grönholm has been competing in the World RX since 2015, and in 2019 came so close to achieving championship glory, but it all came undone after he, unfortunately, suffered with appendicitis, which ruled him out of two rounds. Surely, working with an experienced driver of his caliber has its perks, and there are no doubts Klara can pick up a trick or two from her teammate despite his quiet nature, a typical Finnish characteristic.

“He is great! He's a great teammate. Not only a good friend, but also we chat a lot about the car and the tracks, and we look at the video and the analysis together,” the CE Dealer Team driver said. “[Laughs] Yes! But he is very quiet. He's actually quite shy, but he also truly helps me a lot as a driver.”

Competing in rallycross is quite accessible, but reaching the top, the likes of the World Rallycross Championship is rather challenging without the necessary funding due to the costs of hiring cars, and the equipment needed to run these cars, in addition, the championship fields is pretty compact field since the series' move to electric cars, with 10 entries usually fielded across the course of a season. 

At the 2023 World RX of South Africa 1000, Nils Andersson, reigning RX2e Champion, worked alongside Kristoffersson Motorsport, as the team’s manager rather than competing with the best, a similar thing can be said about Frenchman Viktor Vranckx, who competed in RX2e for a few years, but he recently made the move to Nitrocross [in USA]. Drivers’ of this caliber should make the step up the ranks, but rather they are getting lost along the way due to budgetary constraints. 

Andersson says a challenge that all drivers face is “more or less, struggles with the budget and the funding. If we all had the budget, then we would see more cars, more drivers, everything. But it comes down to the budget. You can do a lot of things, but I think, for example, bringing in manufacturers would help quite a bit to really grow the championship and make more seats available. But it's hard.”

 “When I got my contract after just winning the Swedish Championship, we initially planned to do one international race in Spa, in RX2e, just to get some experience. I didn't think so much about it. But if I didn't do that race, I would never be here today,” she added. “So you really need to, at least do what I've been trying to do, and that is to take all the opportunities that you have, really grow your network, and be everywhere. Try everything. And then maybe the right people see you at the right time. But it's not easy.”

Achieving one's dreams of competing amongst the best in the world is all that drivers can ask for, but grabbing all the opportunities along the way is something that can boost a driver’s career. So, if there were opportunities to try out any other championship, what would Klara like to discover? Formula One, Dakar Rally, World Endurance, or even Formula E? 

“Formula One might be a bit too difficult now. But, I think Formula E is actually very exciting. I've been watching them with the ABT Cupra.  And I was at the race in Berlin. It would be amazing to try the Formula E cars sometime in the future. That would be really fun,” she said. “I'm also a big fan of the Dakar Rally. I always watch it. So, I mean, I'm only 23 right now. My main focus is for sure on World RX and Extreme E. But who knows what's going to happen in a few years.”

With her focus primarily on World RX and Extreme E at this moment in time - what would her ideal World Rallycross Championship track look like? 

The CE Dealer Team driver talks us through her ideal World track layout - “Oh, wow! This is difficult. [She begins to draw and says] We want a wide gravel first corner. That would be the biggest wish on the Christmas list. Then we have a jump. Flat jumps, that's all I want. No breaking before jumps, in my opinion. Then we're in the wrong series. 

This [turn 3] was supposed to be a bit tighter. You could call it a banked corner. After the banked corner, you will have a proper hairpin gravel, just a full handbrake. And then you need a good flow over the jump. The jump also needs to be gravel, actually. And then when you land, you have quite a long tarmac corner. Then the last section is quite fast, but then it splits to the joker on the outside. So it splits just before the finish line. This one is quite fast! The cars will all line up on the grid. 

Ah, that was actually quite fun."