Peugeot-Hansen are eager to leave behind the inaugural meeting of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship in Barcelona, as they are now looking forward to next weekend’s race in Portugal.
The season opener hasn’t quite brought the results the team were hoping for: only Timmy Hansen made it to the final, finishing fifth overall; his younger brother, Kevin, finished eleventh, whereas Sébastien Loeb really felt disappointed with his fourteenth place finish.
Montalegre is a radically different track, compared to the one in Barcelona: while the Spanish circuit is mostly tarmac, with hard-packed gravel, the one in Portugal features much softer dirt sections, requiring an entirely different car setup, especially in terms of damping. Plus, its location, at 900 metres above sea level, makes it prone to bad weather conditions: torrential rain, in fact, marked the last two visits ot the World RX championship.
During the three-week break between the first two events, Team Peugeot-Hansen have extensively tested their cars (the latest 2017-spec for Timmy and Sébastien, and an older 2016-spec for Kevin, reigning European champion), both in Barcelona and at the Estering in Germany, in their bid to become Teams’ Champions in 2017, for the second time after 2015.
Kenneth Hansen, team principal admits that in previous season they’ve struggled in Portugal “Circuits like Montalegre, which features big kerbs and tight corners, have caused us a few problems these past two seasons. We worked particularly hard on these points during the winterbreak and I think we are much better prepared for the Portuguese round this time.
“We should also have some new parts on the cars following the testing workwe have done since Barcelona. We will need to be ready for whatever the weatherthrows at us – even down to team clothing! – and focus on scoring as manypoints as possible by getting both cars into the final. That will call for somesmart thinking both on and off the track!”
Sébastien Loeb echoed Hansen’s thoughts on the improvements while outlining his need to be further up the result sheets “I think the car has improved on this sort of rougher surface since last season and I believe we will be more competitive.
“In 2017, the weather was appalling, so I hope the conditions will be milder this time round, but that’s by no means a foregone conclusion given the circuit’s location inthe mountains. I absolutely need to reach the final this weekend to make up for my result in Barcelona.”
Timmy Hansen is looking to put previous results behind him and is looking forward to the challenge of the Portuguese circuit. “Montalegre is great fun. It’s got some big kerbs but you can settle into a good rhythm. My record isn’t particularly brilliant there, though, and that’s something I want to put right.
“I feel quite confident thanks to the test programme we got through over the winter. Compared with Barcelona, it’s a different sort of venue, with the emphasis more on the gravel section which calls for different engine, chassis and damper settings.”
Kevin Hansen knows that there is more to the circuit than just driving flat out, “It’s always hard to guess what the conditions will be at Montalegre. It’s quite a technical circuit, with a fairly flowing gravel portion and sometall kerbs. You really need to commit if you want to post a good lap time.
“The switch to the joker lap is just after the start, so it’s more complex for the spotters to come up with a good strategy as the cars are flagged away. It’s quite long and the part where you re-join the normal circuit is pretty tricky because you’re travelling fairly fast as you come out of the joker lap, whereas the other drivers are just exiting a slippery hairpin. You need to keep your eyes open!”
Action at the Montalegre circuit will start on Saturday, 22 April, with the free practice session, scheduled at 10:20.