The 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship was certainly eventful. Multiple event winners, great on track action, new and classic circuits, an untouchable world champion, and, of course, that fire, all contributed to a season that will live long in the memory. This is your review of all the action from an eventful season broken down team by team.
Special ONE Racing
Special ONE Racing were always going to provide drama in the 2023 season. In our preview of the season, they were the team attracting most attention, partly because of their stunning Lancia Delta Evo-e RX machinery, but also due to their stellar driver line-up. Guerlain Chicherit was partnered with nine-time world rally champion and all-round racing legend Sébastian Loeb, both of whom were eager to be competitive from the start. Chicherit summed up the team’s attitude: “The scene is set to see Special ONE Racing become a top-notch team. From this season, we’ll have the opportunity to make history.”
Their 2023 campaign started very successfully. Loeb successfully made it to the final of the first two rounds in Montalegre, Portugal, and Hell, Norway, with Chicherit carrying on that form in Höljes, Sweden. Loeb in particular demonstrated superb racecraft, battling against Niclas Grönholm in the first major moment of the year. It felt like a maiden podium for the team was within reach. However, it was at round 4 at the birthplace of rallycross, Lydden Hill, UK, where everything went wrong.
Just before 8:45am on Friday 21 July, as the teams were getting set up and ready for a thrilling weekend of rallycross action, a fire broke out in Loeb’s car as it was charging. The fire brigade responded swiftly, but the fire had already spread rapidly to Chicherit’s car and the workshop truck. Miraculously, thanks to the fast evacuation by the Special ONE Racing team, there were no injuries.
RX1e racing, the top class of world rallycross, was cancelled for the rest of the weekend, and remained so for the rest of the 2023 while the cause of the fire was investigated. The teams switched to the RX2e class machinery, the very rapid ZEROID X1 cars, for the remaining rounds. No points were awarded for the rounds in Belgium or Germany, with championship action getting underway again for the final rounds in South Africa and Hong Kong.
For Special ONE Racing, their championship was over. However, there are signs that they will be back in 2024. Having made a three-year commitment to the sport, they announced their intentions to race in November 2023. With the FIA approving the “Battle of Technologies” concept for the 2024 season, pitting electric cars (EVs) against those with internal combustion engines (ICE), hopefully there will be more to come from the fantastic French outfit.
Regardless of what machinery they were in, Kristoffersson Motorsport enjoyed another imperious year at the top of the standings. The team secured their second successive team title, and their star driver, Johan Kristoffersson, secure a record sixth championship win. The Swedish sensation stood on the top step of the podium five times this season, including all three events using the RX1e cars. Indeed, he only missed out on a podium position once when his car suffered a fault in the final of the penultimate round in Hong Kong.
After the opening three rounds, Kristoffersson was already an astonishing 27 points ahead of his nearest rival. In a series where the maximum amount of points awarded per event is 23, he already had an event in hand before the fire put a halt to his progress. Once everyone was in equal machinery, he found the going a little trickier but still managed to secure two victories. With news that Kristoffersson Motorsport is potentially fielding a five car line up in 2024, with a mix of EVs and ICE cars, the team is looking to dominate the sport next year as well.
But who will be going into battle alongside Kristoffersson? Ole Christian Veiby still has yet to achieve his first win in world rx, but there were times when he was Kristoffersson’s closest rival. He qualified second a number of times, but he was a victim of the gods of rallycross who ensured that incidents and car trouble kept him off the top spot. After a mighty debut season in 2022, Gustav Bergström had a less successful 2023. He became renowned for his lighting starts in 2022, but didn’t manage to reach the final once in 2023. Bergström certainly is a very rapid driver, but will he get the opportunity to develop in 2023?
A rising star in the Kristoffersson Motorsport ranks is Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky. She was sensational in this year’s RX2e category, finishing third overall just ten points behind the victor, Nils Andersson. Most tellingly, when the RX1e drivers merged with the RX2e class in Belgium, she finished second best only to her teammate Kristoffersson. Team boss Tommy Kristoffersson has been very open regarding his plans for her in the future: “The bottom line is that Mikaela is absolutely ready to take the next step and move up to World RX – I have no doubts at all about that – and I’m pushing to get her on-board in our team next year.” The potential is there for Kristoffersson Motorsport to become an unstoppable force.
Hansen World RX Team
Hoping to be the immovable object that puts a stop to this unstoppable force, Hansen World RX Team had a decidedly mixed season in 2023. 2019 world champion Timmy Hansen endured his worst season since 2018, the last year in which he failed to win an event. The pace is still there for all to see, as demonstrated by a superb second place in Sweden. After being eliminated from the semi-final in Norway due to contact with Veiby, his frustration at not being able to demonstrate his true speed led to him physically hitting Veiby’s Volkswagen, an action for which he was fined €1,000. His luck did not improve when the field switched to the ZEROID X1 cars.
By his own admission, Hansen said “for myself, it was a tough season, missing the goal all the time – so now, I’m looking forward to the future.” However, the challenge of getting back to the top is one the Swedish driver relishes. Speaking to The Checkered Flag in July, he said “if you don’t love the hard work, if you don’t love the challenge and striving for better, then you will never make it to the top of any sport. You need to go through the challenging time and you’ve got to love that as well.”
His teammate and brother Kevin Hansen enjoyed more success. Having been a regular feature in the finals for the opening rounds, the young Swede really shone once the field had switched to equal machinery. As manager of the #YellowSquad team, Hansen is no stranger to the RX2e cars, as he demonstrated by being the first driver ever to beat Kristoffersson to a win in a superpole session. After finishing second twice in South Africa, it all came together for him in day one in Hong Kong. As Kristoffersson wrapped up the championship, Hansen secured his first win of the year and cemented his second place in the overall drivers’ standings.
The team also welcomed British rallycross superstar Patrick O’Donovan into the fold for the final weekend in Hong Kong. He almost reached the final on his first day of racing in world rx, before going the step beyond on Sunday. Not only did he make the final, he also succeeded in defending from a very rapid Timmy Hansen, securing a podium position on only his second outing in the top tier. If Kristoffersson Motorsport think they have it all their own way in terms of talented upcoming stars, they are very much mistaken.
ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport
Coming into 2023, few people would have bet on a driver from ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport being the first to deny Kristoffersson a win. However, in South Africa, that is exactly what happened. German ace Timo Scheider started the season in the 2022 SEAT Ibiza RX1e, but despite being in slightly dated machinery, he managed to finish on the podium in only his second outing.
Once the championship came back after Lydden Hill, however, Scheider was mighty. Despite having never driven the ZEROID X1 cars before, he was untouchable. Having secured a podium on day one in South Africa, the former DTM champ pulled off a superb drive on Sunday to secure his maiden victory. With this sort of momentum behind him, he is hungry for more and will surely be a force to be reckoned with in 2024.
CE Dealer Team
CE Dealer Team might not have grabbed too many headlines this year, but they did show consistent pace. Klara Andersson got to live out a childhood dream and took the battle to her hero, Loeb, in the season opener in Portugal. Since then, a consistent showing from her secured a season best finish of fourth in Norway, and even topping one of the heat races in Hong Kong, the first time a female driver has done so. Now that she has more experience, she will be hoping to take the fight nearer to the front of the grid in 2024.
Niclas Grönholm was running second to Kristoffersson for the first part of the year. He is often there in the final without being really noticed, quietly getting on with the job of securing points and results. In fact, he only missed out on one final all year, and finished on the podium three times. He will be hungry to get back onto the top spot of the podium in 2024 having proved that he and his team have the pace to take the fight to the best of the best.
After such a dramatic year, 2024 certainly looks like it will be another vintage year for the sport. Follow The Checkered Flag for updates as we head through the winter break into the next season of FIA World Rallycross action.