As the lockdown period continues, The Checkered Flag sat down with the most successful driver in Rallycross history, Kenneth Hansen, to talk about his time driving and the highs and lows of running Hansen Motorsport.
Hansen first emerged on the international rallycross scene in 1987 when he entered the European Rallycross championship driving an ex- Lars Nyström Volvo 240 Turbo.
He secured an impressive fifth place in the championship that year. In 1989 he changed to a 500bhp Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth and proved that he was the man to beat. He went on to win 4 consecutive European titles in his Sierra. From 1993 onwards, he exclusively competed with Citroen cars.
The Swede went on to win another ten European titles before retiring from driving in 2010 securing his place in the history books as the most successful rallycross driver in history with 14 titles. We spoke with Kenneth about what made him stand out from the rest of the pack when it came to winning this incredible tally of championships.
“Quite simply, I don’t like to lose!” laughed Kenneth. “It’s all about consistency when it comes to winning championships. If you look at the championship tables from all the years that I was racing, even my lowest finishes were high scoring! So, for sure consistency and reliability were key”.
Kenneth raced in European Rallycross for 23 years securing over seventy wins and over one hundred podiums during that time. We asked Kenneth if he had a particular favourite moment from his time racing.
“Wow, where do I start! Obviously, it’s hard to choose because I raced for so long but definitely winning my first title in 1989. That was incredibly special. Winning my first supercar title in 1994 is also up there. My favourite race win however was in 2001 in Loheac. The atmosphere there was incredible and winning in front of a packed crowd of 40,000 people was something I’ll never forget.
In 2010, Kenneth stopped his own racing to continue the development of his team, Hansen Motorsport, with his wife, Susann Hansen. Hansen Motorsport entered World RX in 2014 and was taken over by Peugeot in 2017. Peugeot left at the end of 2018 leaving the Hansens with the job of trying to field an independent team.
They came back under the name Team Hansen MJP with Kenneth’s sons, Timmy Hansen and Kevin Hansen taking race wins. Timmy, of course, went on to win the driver’s title on countback after a season-long battle with rival, Andreas Bakkerud.
“It was incredibly tough. When you’ve got a manufacturer supporting you, they provide personnel and, most importantly, the money.
“When Peugeot left, so too did the personnel and the budget. We knew we wanted to race again so we pulled together to form Team Hansen MJP.
“Now that we’re an independent team, I actually think it’s much easier to run! If you want to make changes, you can. It doesn’t have to ‘go up the food chain’ so to say”.
Being a part of the sport of rallycross for more than thirty years, Kenneth has seen the sport change more than most. Recently, World RX announced the introduction of electric power to the series from 2022 onwards.
“I must say, the changes I’ve seen have been great. Back when I started, there was a massive problem with dust hanging over the circuit during the race and making it impossible to see. Watering the track has certainly helped that, for example.
“I do think we need to keep moving forward with rallycross because it’s such an incredible sport. It needs more investment and more passionate people behind it to make sure it keeps growing.”
The 2019 World RX season was arguably one of the best in the sport’s history. We have to wait a bit longer for round one of the 2020 season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic but we asked Kenneth what his plans for the future of Team Hansen are and whether he thinks the World RX Championship is in a good place at the moment.
“I don’t want to reveal too much of course, but we’re looking to expand the team. That being said we want to expand with a focus on success, not on the sheer size of the team” Kenneth remarked.
“As for World RX, I do think it’s in a good place but more can be done. I really hope the promoter will continue to take it to the next level as rallycross is a sport for the future. I think one of the objectives should be to focus on the tracks.
“You want a small arena where it’s easy for the spectators to see the race and also much easier for the broadcasts to provide coverage of the races. Rallycross is strong, we proved that after 2018, but we need to keep pushing for more”.
The first round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship is due to get underway in Höljes on the 20 August and Team Hansen MJP cannot wait to get back out on the circuit.
All of us at home also cannot wait to see World RX return. For now though, stay home, stay safe.