FIA World RallycrossInterviews

INTERVIEW: Timmy Hansen on the “very exciting” 2024 FIA World Rallycross Championship

10 Mins read
World rallycross superstar, Timmy Hansen. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen is one of the sport’s most successful drivers. As part of the family-run Hansen World RX Team, he is a regular contender for podiums and race wins, a run of form that continued into the sport’s new all-electric era in 2022. After a tumultuous year for the championship in 2023, when the season was turned on its head at a fateful weekend in Lydden Hill, the championship is back with a brand new “Battle of Technologies” concept which will see electric powered cars facing up to their internal combustion engine rivals on rallycross tracks for the very first time.

With the team fully committing to an all-electric line up, Timmy joined The Checkered Flag from his home in Sweden to discuss the end of the 2023 season, the upcoming year in rallycross, and why he is so excited by the upcoming “Battle of Technologies.”

Finally this whole thing is behind us and we can go full focus on the RX1e cars and putting them on the start line.”

Timmy Hansen

Last time we spoke was at Lydden Hill in July 2023. We didn’t know then, but there would be no more racing RX1e machines for the rest of the year. How did you find the rest of the season and the switch to the RX2e machinery?

Last year was a big challenge. From that moment, we as a sport needed to come together. Cancelling everything was very much an option but we didn’t want to do that. We needed to put on the show for the fans, the sponsors, and for everyone involved. We managed to get that good solution and we did get back on the start line.

It was difficult though. For myself, I’ve been running the bigger car for a long time. Having less power is a different driving style and it wasn’t easy to adapt to it. I had to drive in what felt like unnatural ways to get the most speed out of the car. I think we were competitive, but Kevin was maybe a little bit better. He was champion in those cars a few years back, he was super quick and definitely earned his second place in the championship and his win in Hong Kong. As a team we had a very good end to the season, even though it was a challenging year. And now, finally, this whole thing is behind us and we can go full focus on the RX1e cars and putting them on the start line.

Timmy and his brother Kevin Hansen, both drivers for Hansen World RX Team. Credit: Rallycross Promoter GmbH / Red Bull Content Pool

You are such a close-knit family and team. Is it ever a challenge to ever manage those relationships and rivalries?

Anyone who runs a family business knows there can be huge advantages and you can really do some special things being a family. But also, everyone who’s done that knows it’s also a big challenge. Sometimes you fight at work because you have different opinions; that’s just how running a company goes. Generally, for us it’s a great thing but it’s not without challenges to be in a family team. Sometimes you fight with your brother, your mum, your dad, about work things. We also want to be a family and celebrate Christmas together and all that. We do have a great relationship, there’s not anything difficult. Right now we’re all very focused and doing our thing where everything’s flowing pretty nicely.

Of course, we will do everything we can to be competitive…nobody really knows how close they will be.

Timmy Hansen

You said, when we met in July, that maybe it was a mistake not to have internal combustion engines and electric vehicles together. Did you know something we didn’t? How excited are you about the upcoming “Battle of Technologies” that we have this season?

I think this is a result of the challenging year we have behind us and the whole sport realising we do need to take a step up and make it more exciting for the fans and give a good show. I wasn’t the only one of the opinion that it should have been more of a battle between different cars. I love this, it’s going to be very exciting. For the fans, they can root for combustion, electric, whatever they want. They can choose their favourites. It doesn’t have to be electric and that’s the only option.

Of course, we will do everything we can to be competitive. There will be that EOT [Equalising of Technologies] and it won’t be team specific. It’ll be combustion cars as one group, electric cars as another, and then they try to balance those. The FIA have a system in place now of how to manage that. Nobody really knows how close they will be.

Hansen in his lighting fast Peugeot 208 RX1e at Höljes in 2023. Credit: Mihai Stetcu / Red Bull Content Pool

Any predictions for that battle? You’ve mentioned before that electric cars are lightning fast off the line and their rate of acceleration never slows down. Do you think that will work in your favour?

Yeah, that’s what I hope of course, but we also have to carry about 10% heavier cars than the combustion cars. What it means is that, on a lap, the electric cars don’t have shifting, we don’t have turbo lags, so we should gain there. Also, we have more power so that should be our advantage. The disadvantage will come on braking. That’s where the combustion cars are very strong, because they’ve got one motor driving four wheels. We have two motors driving two wheels each, which means the biggest difference in running the cars come in braking. I remember that was the biggest switch for me, learning to drive electric, was how to manage braking. At the end of the day, we do lose a bit of time in the entry to corners because, if we brake as late as they do, we would end up locking the rear tyres. The combustion cars don’t lock because all four wheels spin the same speed, so they can brake later.

At the start, we do have more power and the instant torque of the electric should be an advantage, but we don’t know how that 10% extra weight will play into the equation. It will be a surprise for everyone when we get to Höljes [the first round of the championship in Sweden].”

In rallycross, our job as a team is to show that electric cars are cool.”

Timmy Hansen

As a team, you have always been very pro-electric, and recently celebrated being classed as carbon neutral for the second year running. Was there ever any consideration of running a combustion car as well as electric?

We were always only electric. We never really considered anything else. When you want to get sponsors and move forward, personally I think electric is the only way in the coming 10-year period. We do have to stay close to the car market that we see on the roads, which in the foreseeable future will be electric. No company will want to spend their marketing budget on something that gets a bad reputation for their own green initiatives, which I think is a critical part today.

We all need to do our part, and on a personal level it’s also important to be carbon neutral. We all need to do our little part. We do run a racing team, but, as in any company, it’s important to do your little part for the world to make a better future.

You also compete in Extreme E, which is turning into XH [Extreme H, all hydrogen powered cars] in 2025. Do you see hydrogen in rallycross’s future?

I don’t, actually. But this format that we have now does open up for that. If someone wants to build a hydrogen project, it is much easier now to come in with a third energy source and run on that. I guess we’ll see, but personally I very much believe in electric.

I drive electric cars at home now, just because I prefer them. I think I’m too damaged from running and developing race cars for a long time. I hate anything that is inconsistent or not smooth. On the roads, it’s so comfortable to run electric, and in rallycross, our job as a team is to show that electric cars are cool.”

Hansen World RX Team are ready to do battle once again in 2024. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

Looking ahead to the 2024 season, there’s a relatively short calendar of 5 race weekends but each weekend is a double-header with two full rounds of the championship taking place at each event. Does that change your approach to the race weekend?

That’s the magic balance, isn’t it. I think you can’t really hold back because then you will just be behind. You’ve got to be flat out. It maybe comes in battles in the heats early on in the weekend. Maybe you don’t put your nose in. I had that incident in 2023 in Norway where I got a little bit mad. It’s all good now! When the electric cars hit a big compression, we have a safety system in place that means, if the car hits over 25G, the car will shut down and that means the end of the weekend for us. That is the main threat for running electric cars, we can’t have those big compressions.

But apart from that, going into the first corner, if you want to play it safe in rallycross, you’re just a sitting duck. You’ve got to be aggressive, it’s the only way.

How about the fact that you now get points for position, not just time. Does that change the approach?

It very much comes down to the start. You have to be strong at the start and through the first corner, which will be the main way to get all those points. That’s my belief. Of course, you always have to fight all the way to the line and take the joker lap at the right moment, but you might save the craziest part of yourself until the end of the race. It does promote aggression and passing which I also think is the right direction for the sport and what we should be doing.

You can’t have your favourite track as a racing driver. Every track has to be your favourite.

Timmy Hansen

Is there any event in particular you’re looking forward to?

I guess you’re thinking I’ll say Höljes. It is my home race and a fantastic circuit. I’ve been there so many times, that’ll be great. But you’ve got to look forward to every race weekend. You can’t have your favourite track as a racing driver. Every track has to be your favourite. That’s just a mental aspect of being a driver. You have to go into every race weekend being very motivated.

At the moment, it’s Sweden. Mainly, what I’m thinking about is that it’s been so long since I drove the car. I’ve driven tonnes of other race cars since then, but this is the fastest car out there that I’m driving so I’m a bit nervous about jumping into it again and feeling that acceleration. We’ve got three days of testing, so you have to be fast immediately. I know for a fact that every time you jump in the car for the first time in a year, it feels lighting fast and you think you’ll never need to push full throttle in this. But then you do three laps and you’re complaining of not enough power!

Hansen suited and ready to compete in the E1 Series. Credit: E1 Series / Team Brazil

In the FIA World Endurance Championship, Valentino Rossi has famously switched from two wheels to four. You have gone from four wheels to none in the E1 racing series. How does a race in the boat compare to racing in the Peugeot?

Not at all! I thought it would be quite similar. Starting off in the boats, I told the team we have a steering wheel and racing lines, I’ll be able to do this. It turns out that it’s not actually similar at all and I’ve had to learn everything new. What is similar is that it’s short races, only 5 laps, and the start is very important. Our strength on the water is having good starts, and that’s something I very much know from rallycross that the start is the key. I’m not the fastest driver yet on the water. There are some very experienced people who know how to read the waves and everything, so I’m still very much learning. We have had some very good weekends, we have been fast and we are challenging. We’ve had two brilliant weekends and we’ve been on the podium. We’re having a great time.”

Hansen in action in his RaceBird boat in the E1 series. Credit: E1 Series / Team Brazil

You are 2019 FIA World Rallycross Champion. Does that ever apply pressure to you?

I’ve never felt pressure from it. It’s something that I have done in my life. It was my main goal forever, I’ve done it, and I’m super proud of it. But it was a long time ago now. You can’t really think about it too much, every season is a new story. I’m very competitive and driven. I’m very involved in the technical side of the team. I love diving into the details and trying to squeeze out that extra 1%. That’s what I love to do, and to do that with the family team is really exciting. They’re our cars, our babies, and we’re our full crew together again.”

You started in karting and open-wheel single-seater racing. Do you ever miss that type of racing?

I think I would enjoy the world of endurance quite a lot. I tried to apply for a licence in the endurance world, but it didn’t go very well. I wanted to get the silver licence and then maybe get some drive somewhere, but they ended up giving me a platinum license because I’ve driven in a world championship. I think the competition is pretty hard, and having a platinum licence in the endurance world, I think my prospects are not too bright to get into there!

I love diving into the details and trying to squeeze out that extra 1%.”

Timmy Hansen

I would enjoy it a lot. I still know how to drive on tarmac pretty well. I have also learned how to drive on dirt since then. What I love in the boat, and what I liked to do back then, is when you drive your best and you get some results but you know there’s huge potential performance sitting out there somewhere that you’re not getting. Finding that is incredible, so I really like any new challenge like that.”

Ignoring all licences and practicalities, if you could have a go in any race series or race anywhere in the world, what would it be.

Wow, that’s a good question. My dream used to be Formula 1, but I’m not sure I would pick that at the moment. Endurance racing would be amazing, also the Dakar Rally, they’re both endurance events. The longer formats would be interesting. I’ve always done the short formats. That’s where I’m very comfortable, but to run something longer would be amazing to have that different strategy, different mindset, different perspective on the race – that would be a very nice challenge. So, if I could choose anything, it would probably be the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Dakar Rally.”

Timmy with his father, rallycross legend and team manager Kenneth Hansen. Credit: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

The 2024 FIA World Rallycross Championship kicks off in Sweden on Saturday 6 July.

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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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