It was a tough start to the new FIA World Rallycross Championship season for defending teams’ champions Team Peugeot-Hansen as a mixture of weather and technical problems hampered their efforts.
Although Sébastien Loeb managed to secure fifth place in the final, 2015 runner-up Timmy Hansen struggled after losing power steering in the semi-finals, following a collision with EKS RX‘s Mattias Ekstrom.
“Everything that could go wrong this weekend did!” said Timmy Hansen. “We started off on the back foot when the heat races went badly, but even though we weren’t as dominant as last year, our performance was still reasonably good.
“At the beginning of the semi-final, the track was dirty on the inside where I was, which affected my braking ability. I hit Mattias Ekström, for which I apologised, and that was the end of my weekend. That meant we scored very few championship points in Portugal, which was far from the best way to kick off the new season.” he added.
While team principal Kenneth Hansen admitted he was impressed with Loeb’s efforts he was concerned with the overall result. “I cannot be completely happy with our result in this first round of the season.” he said. “We struggled a bit in the slippery conditions, when we found it difficult to adapt the car to adequately suit the drivers.
“When the track was dry, the Peugeot 208 WRX was very competitive, but we evidently have work to do to make sure we are ready to take on all eventualities next time.”
Director of Peugeot Sport, Bruno Famin had hoped for more from the weekend but believes there were some positives to take away from the weekend. “That was a mixed weekend.” said Famin. “The end result clearly did not live up to our expectations, but that does not detract from the fact that we were very much in contention.
“The competition is extremely close this year, and we need to dig deep to regain the slight edge we had over the opposition over the second half of last season. Even if we have not fallen behind on outright performance, we found ourselves in the middle of the pack at Montalegre. That left us vulnerable to the various incidents that can occur in the races, and there was no shortage of them this weekend!”
Elsewhere the Peugeot Hansen Academy team also struggled with Davy Jeanney and Kevin Hansen behind the wheel of the 2015 specification Peugeot 208 WRX’s, but Frenchman Jeanney remains optimistic for the season ahead, “I’m leaving Montalegre in a positive frame of mind.” said the Frenchman.
“Our weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts; the car wasn’t entirely to my liking to begin with, which meant I struggled for form. We worked hard to turn things around, though, and that allowed us to successfully qualify for the semi-final.
“I settled into a strong rhythm and really enjoyed myself, but the race unfortunately didn’t go to plan. Another car got sideways in front of me, which blocked my path and prevented me from attacking for third place and with it a spot in the final.”