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INTERVIEW: “I know I’m capable of winning the Championship” – Kevin Hansen is ready for World RX 2024

12 Mins read
Kevin Hansen in South Africa. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

Kevin Hansen is part of a dynasty of rallycross royalty. His father, Kenneth Hansen, won 14 European Rallycross titles throughout his career, while his mother, Susann Hansen, is the only female European champion, winning in Super 1400 in 1994. The pair are now Team Principal and Team Manager respectively of Hansen World RX Team, and their eldest son, Timmy Hansen, was champion of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship.

Now Kevin Hansen is one of the driving forces propelling world rallycross into an exciting new era, both as a driver and as team principal of junior rallycross team, #YellowSquad. 2023 was Kevin’s most successful world rallycross season to date, finishing second overall and securing a superb victory in Hong Kong. Having visited MotoFest Coventry earlier this year, scouting a new potential city centre circuit for world rallycross, and the FIA introducing the “Battle of Technologies” concept, the future of world rallycross looks very exciting for the young Swedish superstar. Kevin’s enthusiasm and passion for the sport are immediately obvious when talking to him. He joined The Checkered Flag from his office in Weybridge to discuss the future of the sport by first taking a look back at the turbulent end to the 2023 season.

Kevin Hansen celebrates his win in Hong Kong. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

If we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have a series this year.”

Kevin Hansen

We last spoke at Lydden Hill in July 2023 at the weekend that changed the rest of the season? How was the rest of the season for you, and how did you find switching to the RX2e machinery?

“I think the end of the ’23 season was not what anyone wanted but we did the best with what we had. We were able to put on a good show in Mettet and drive a good entertaining race for the fans there. In Cape Town and Hong Kong, we were able to pull something off. All the teams came together. We put our wallets where we wanted to be able to continue the world rallycross championship. I think if we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have a series this year.

It was really fun to have equal machinery. We’ve not seen that ever before in the world rallycross championship, so it was very interesting. We could see how much the car does influence performance as we had two new winners from those last two weekends. And I really enjoyed it. It was very challenging, very tight racing, but obviously we all prefer the RX1e cars because they’re more powerful. They are the most powerful and quickest rallycross cars in the world, and it’s really exciting that we’ll soon have them back on track.

Hansen racing the RX2e machinery in 2023. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

You’d raced the RX2 machines before. Was it easy to slot back in or did you have to re-learn it?

For me, I would say it was very easy. I’ve tested it quite a few times and driven the similar RX2 car back in the day, so for me it was very much like an old memory that came back and I really enjoyed driving it. It’s always fun to drive those cars. In Belgium, we were super quick. We just had a few contacts with people that cost me quite a lot of time and the result, but that’s racing. I really enjoyed it, and to win the first ever Hong Kong race was obviously a fantastic feeling in a car that I really enjoyed driving. We learned a lot for our junior team, #YellowSquad, to take advantage of. We collected so much data. We spent a world championship effort on a one-make car that is usually meant to be one step under, so I think they’ve learned a lot. We had to use those cars for a bad reason but we got a lot of good out of it!

You couldn’t wipe the smile off your face after that win in Hong Kong. Was it challenging learning a track that literally didn’t exist until the morning of the race day?

It was very interesting. It was incredible that we were able to pull it off. There were obviously a few complications out there, but I think making the race happen showed the possibility of having rallycross in city centres. We’re the only championship that can bring off-road racing to the people, and that’s a unique opportunity. It was quite tricky to get your head around the track. Luckily it was only 800m, which was good. And it changed so much throughout the weekend too. It was very soft sand so it did dig out a lot and it was always a bit different. You had to be very alert and sharp as a driver to pull off the consistent, good laps. So it was a challenge to have it that late, but the challenge is what we enjoy. That’s what your job is as a driver, to conquer the challenges. The execution of the weekend was great. We had some technical problems on the Sunday that didn’t enable us to go through to the final, but we secured second in the world championship. I’ve got a third, I’ve got a second, there’s only one remaining!

I know I’m capable of winning the world championship.

Kevin Hansen

Congratulations on that second place! Does that fuel you as you go through the winter break, does it give you even more motivation?

First of all, thank you! For sure, it gives me motivation. I know I’m capable of winning the world championship. We just need the car, we need to perform consistently and maximise the potential of myself, the team and the car. I really hope our winter progress has put the car in a better position to be able to fight. We also have a bit of the unknown with the “Battle of Technologies,” not knowing exactly which technology is going to come out on top. I’m quite sure it’s going to vary throughout the season. So it’s going to be a big challenge, but I’m ready to put up the challenge. It just needs to bounce a bit my way! Like in any sport, you need a bit of luck on your side. But, as another athlete in Sweden said, you create your own luck by practising a lot.

For sure, we are ready. We have looked over the whole car. We had a great start in Extreme E and starting off the season with a double podium there, which is always another sign that things are alright and we’re doing the right thing for myself. It’s a great confidence boost and I look forward to seeing where we can pick up our great finish with the RX1e cars from last year. We had some really good momentum going, catching up and being really quick so we’re trying to take those learnings and put them into practise even more to create the new pace of the car and hopefully be challenging from the go.”

The mighty Peugeot 208 RX1e in Sweden. Credit: Mihai Stetcu / Red Bull Content Pool

Are you relishing the challenge of the “Battle of Technologies”?

I think it’s going to be very fun. Our intention was always to have the most powerful electric car racing series in the world that promotes the perfect electric movement. We’ve taken the opportunity to bring this new technology in as we overview the whole of the car industry. It’s not only electric that’s moving forward. It really is sustainable fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen combustion, hybrids – there’s lots of different solutions coming forward and I think it would be wrong of us to stick with only electric. I think it’s really good we have the new change coming in.

It’s going to be very interesting. The question people have been asking from the very beginning is which is quicker. When you put everything into a world championship, everything becomes even sharper and more exciting. With the EOT [Equalisation of Technologies] we will see the strength of the electric power, but we will also see the weaknesses of it being a bit heavier and the petrol cars being a bit lighter and sharper under braking. It will be fascinating and also very fun to race. There will be strengths and weaknesses in the cars throughout the lap, so if you can stay close you can use your strengths to overtake in some sections and then have to defend really well from the strengths of the other cars. I can’t wait to see what comes out on top, and I can see it in the fans as well – they can’t wait to see what happens in the world rallycross championship.

Was there ever any consideration among Hansen World RX Team to run the two of you in electric cars and then maybe have a combustion car as well to get the balance of the two?

We didn’t close any doors or opportunities. We spoke to all our drivers to see the opportunities. Patrick O’Donovan has a very similar car to the one we run as electric. We never closed any doors. We want to promote world rallycross and its technologies. Hansen Motorsport has committed to a sustainable future and the electric option is a great way to showcase that, so that’s where our priority lies. For us as a company, to keep our sustainability work and commitment going forward and really share that message strongly, that is mainly through the electric. But we haven’t closed any doors on a future mix or different technology.

I already know what I would like to do for myself and my own performance to execute them well.”

Kevin Hansen

This season sees points for positions available in the heats and every race weekend is a double-header, meaning there are two full rounds of the championship completed over two days. Do you approach a double-header differently to a normal race weekend?

I think that you have to be more accepting of what happens in a double-header weekend. If it’s going well, you have to stay sharp, but if it’s going bad, you have to accept that it’s tricky but you have to move on quicker. You don’t have time to process, you just have to take the next race and really be very well prepared as an athlete. We’ve had a few double-headers over the years. We’ve learned a lot from them and I already know what I would like to do for myself and my own performance to execute them well. But it will be very hectic! So much going on. The EOT might change from day to day, so you might see different speeds from different cars on Saturday and Sunday. That can change from race to race. It will be interesting to see what comes from that. We’re trying to do something that’s fair and stable. I don’t think we’ll see massive shifts. We’ll see balanced shifts throughout the year from start to finish. But you never know how things will develop. You might get a small change on your car from one day to another, and then maybe the weather changes to help or hinder you even more. It’s going to be fascinating to work with it.

To race for position and for points a lot more, a good or bad heat influences the championship a lot more. You have to be a bit more sensible, but also you have to be aggressive and take your space because you do get championship points every time you’re on track. That will be very fun.”

L-R: MotoFest Coventry Director James Noble, Kevin Hansen, #YellowSquad RX2e driver Molly Taylor and Rallycross Promoter Managing Director Arne Dirks. Credit: Rallycross Promoter GmbH / Red Bull Content Pool

You were recently in Coventry for the MotoFest looking at a potential new track for world rallycross. What is it about Coventry that appeals?

Coventry has a lot of history of motorsport and the motor industry. It was and is the heart of the UK motor industry and for a while was the home of the European motor industry. That’s the first attraction, and also why the MotoFest is there, a celebration of the city and its work. It’s there to celebrate the past, the current and the future technology of Coventry. With sustainability and the transformation of the city going from an old-style of energy supply to something completely new is fascinating. For a rallycross series that is sustainable and is transforming its way, promoting new cars and technology, that’s also a very important message. My Veloce team was there last year speaking on a panel and there were talks about a new FIA homologated circuit, I immediately thought that it was an opportunity we must grab. We initiated the talks and had great first meetings. The interest was there, and rallycross is one of the cheapest world championships you can bring into a city centre. If you want to bring Formula 1, well, you can’t really. Formula E has gone completely crazy in its cost and bidding wars. There’s many great cities that would like to have motorsport that get played by those people. So I think rallycross holds the perfect opportunity to concentrate a great racing asset into a small place.

For Coventry, it’s a great opportunity. The track will be absolutely fantastic. I walked it while I was there, as I was part of the team designing it. Seeing turn 1, the joker section underneath the ring road, the path up to the ring road – it’s such an incredible location. Seeing the event as a whole, you just know that the world rallycross championship with MotoFest would be a national highlight, because it would be the size of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. MotoFest is free to enter, so to bring a world championship there, people would just go crazy. I can really picture it now so hopefully we can pull that off and make it happen.

Hansen leads the pack through the streets of Hong Kong. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

In Britain, we have rallycross tracks like Lydden Hill where the sport started. You’ve mentioned the appeal of city circuits for fans, they can get up close to the action. What’s the appeal of a city circuit for a driver?

Because you get close to the people and you get more people interested in the sport. I love rallycross. It’s where I grew up. I went in a bus from Sweden to Portugal to Belgium, all over Europe when I was young, travelling with the sport. I’ve seen it all and I always wish that more people can consume it. Everybody that’s seen rallycross asks how it isn’t bigger. It’s the greatest motorsport out there. I see the opportunity of city centres, when you bring the sport to the people, not trying to get them out of their boxes to come to us. It’s like any festival. If it’s nicely compact, entertaining, sharp, and not crazy expensive like Formula 1, then it really is a sport for the people, and I really think that’s a great asset that rallycross has. To race on city streets is for sure different. When I designed the Coventry rallycross track with others, you have to remember that you don’t just want to tick the box of racing in a city. You have to have exciting racing. That’s always got to be a really important part of scouting new locations. I love the sport of rallycross and I think it’s the perfect sport for city centres, financially, sustainably, and in terms of entertainment.

You’ve mentioned Extreme E already, the opposite of city centre racing. What’s the different challenge of Extreme E compared to rallycross?

Oh, so much! Both championships are rallycross as a sport, cars racing side by side doing a couple of laps. The sporting formats are a bit different. At the end of the day, Extreme E is very challenging in reading the road, fighting people on tracks that are changing so much from lap to lap, and in a car that sometimes would like to roll over! It’s such a big challenge because everybody has the same car, you get very little running, the track changes a lot, and there’s so much pressure when you go out for those races. World rallycross offers a much more pleasing way of driving the car. It’s a sport that’s built up very differently. It doesn’t have that Dakar background that Extreme E tries to bring in with its extreme locations. There’s such a big difference between the two. Both are based on rallycross, the sport that I love, so obviously I love both series. To experience the world with Extreme E and share the message of sustainability and climate change is super important, and then to share the technology, and the power and entertainment of world rallycross is great, so I’m really pleased to be in both series.

Hansen racing through the desert in Extreme E. Credit: Extreme E | Lat Images

If you could have a go in any race series, what would you love to have a go at? I’m predicting the answer and I think it’s something off-road. I don’t think you’d want to go down the endurance road or Formula 1, even though you started in karting.

No, I always wanted rallycross. My idol has always been my father [rallycross legend Kenneth Hansen]. I love rallycross and off-road racing. I think it’s so much cooler than circuit racing. Anyone can drive quite okay on a circuit. In GT3, you have traction control, anti-lock brakes, and you can really analyse the data to see where you’re braking too late or too early – it’s very simple. But off-road is a completely different way of driving. You have to be creative and impulsive to react to so many different things. It’s a completely different skill that you can’t just show on a graph. It’s in you. It’s in your spine, it’s in your ass, what you feel when you drive around. It’s almost impossible to teach someone that, it’s such an art to drive off-road.

So, I wouldn’t go down the circuit racing route. But, if I could choose another championship, and I’ve tried it a little bit but it was a bit more stagey than I wanted, but I would love to do the Dakar Rally. It’s like asking whether you want to sprint 100m or run a marathon, that’s comparing rallycross to the Dakar. To have a co-driver, no track, you drive through nature with free navigation – it’s a mad, mad championship that I’d really like to try one day. But, when I’ve spoken to my partners, they’ve all said I have time to do the Dakar, right now world rallycross and Extreme E are my strengths, so let’s focus on that and in the future I can do Dakar.

L-R: Susann, Timmy, Kevin, and Kenneth Hansen. Credit: Extreme E | Lat Images
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Lifelong fan of motor sport, covering the FIA World Rallycross Championship and the FIA WEC, the shortest and longest races covered by the FIA!
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