TIMMY HANSEN ON WINNING AND BEING WORLD CHAMPION
Friday 13th of November 2020
One year ago this week, Sweden’s Timmy Hansen became the fourth ever FIA World Rallycross Drivers’ Champion following a dramatic season finale in South Africa.
Looking back on the weekend in Cape Town, from the build-up to aftermath, in the following Q&A Hansen tells all about what went down in the last race of a nail-biting season.
Q: Exactly one year on, what are your memories of the build-up to the 2019 final round in South Africa?
TH: “I think the thing I remember the most is being focused on the doing exactly the things I needed to do myself, each lap, each race, exactly what I needed. I tried to avoid having a too broad focus, because when you look at the big picture there is a lot of pressure, but when you look at the small picture, just this race, it’s just another race. I spent a lot of time preparing mentally to do that. Then during the actual event I was even surprised myself how well we were able to keep that focus. Okay we looked at a strategy early on, then it was always focused again on the next four or six laps that we had.”
Q: How did the qualifying stages of the weekend pan out compared to your expectations?
TH: “As I said, I was so incredibly focused on my own performance, I qualified second. Niclas (Gronholm) took the TQ, obviously I would have liked to be TQ, as I in any other race, but I was quickest twice which meant it was a great qualifying. I remember the Q3 run as one of the best I did all year. I remember it clearly, because I’d seen from pre-grid that Andreas (Bakkerud) had just taken the fastest time, he had a free run from start to finish, and I knew that would be hard to beat. But my run was extremely good and I think I beat him by two seconds, so that was a nice moment for myself. From that point I felt like I had the upper hand.”
Q: Was it important that you were in the semi-final with Kevin, so you could manage the first corner between you and make sure you started on the front row of the final?
TH: “Actually coming into that semi-final was the first time that me and Kevin said between each other that we would race for me. He came and told me that ‘now we don’t need to be equal any more, I will protect you from here on’. That was extremely important, that was the first time all year we had made any separation. All year we had been good teammates but we had given priority to whoever had the upper hand in the race at that moment. For that semi-final Kevin came to me and said ‘we want to grab that World title and I’ll race for you’. I actually picked my old tyres for that semi-final, knowing that if I just stayed tight Kevin would help me get the win, then for the final I still had four new tyres left. That was a big strategic part of the weekend.”
Q: Talk us through the first lap of the final.
TH: “Coming into the final I was very confident. Of course I knew Andreas was there and in the back of my head I knew it was all on the line, but again I kept the focus on my own performance and on my own race. I was really clear in my head that I was going to win that final. Andreas had done a fantastic job beating Niclas in their semi to get up on to the front row, so Andreas also pulled in a fantastic performance throughout that weekend. He actually got the jump on me at the start which was not at all in any of our plans, that he should be able to jump ahead like that but he did and he also put everything together right when he needed it. Coming out of the next couple of corners over the jump, I remember Kenneth (Hansen) saying on the radio that we would have to pass him, because we knew where we had to finish relative to Andreas. Two corners later, he made that mistake which he never does, you know. I’ve been racing with him for many years and he’s a strong racer, he very rarely gives you any gap or anything. But he did make a mistake and I didn’t think going into it, any logical thinking, I just saw the gap there and went for the gap, of course then I did get up side-by-side but on the exit of the corner he slid into the barrier, which meant he slid into me, spun me around and I came out at the back. From there it was like ‘oh s**t, it’s all over’.”
Q: After you had spun, what was your thought process for the rest of the race. Did you think it was all over?
TH: “Yeah I thought it was over, you know when you crash then it’s done, but I knew I didn’t have to beat Andreas if he didn’t win. Then Timo Scheider had a spin, which was kind of unseen and had damage on his car, which gave me the fourth place. Before that I was pushing as hard as I could to gap Timo to be able to joker at the last lap and get out on in front of him. From there on Kenneth was telling me on the radio not to hit any track markers and keep it safe until the finish.”
Rewatch the final here
Q: How quickly after you had crossed the finish line did you realise you’d become the 2019 World RX Drivers’ Champion?
TH: “It was actually a long time after, because in my head it was kind of obvious this incident would be looked at by the stewards, and it was under investigation. At first I thought ‘I have to celebrate now, I have to take this moment as if it’s mine’ so I let myself be happy for a while on track and on the podium, but always not fully because everything was under investigation. Then going into the stewards room was really tough, of course that much being on the line, but after it all, the stewards deemed it a racing incident, which I agree I think it was. I think in any other situation, if it wasn’t the championship on the line, it would have been a racing incident because I tried to overtake but I came out worst. But anyway, when we got that decision, then I could fully settle on being World Champion.”
Q: Looking back, how was it to be part of one of the closest ever finishes in World Championship history, with you and Andreas Bakkerud tied on points after a whole season of racing?
TH: “I think that’s what rallycross deserves. Great action, unpredictable racing, hard racing and close finishes. I think that’s what rallycross is about, it’s kind of built into the DNA of the sport, that it’s always going to be unpredictable. We’d come from two years where Johan (Kristoffersson) had been dominating, then 2019 the biggest winner of all was the sport of rallycross, it was again as close as people hope it to be, whether the fans are on my side or Andreas’ side, everyone wants to see a good race. I think it’s fantastic for the sport that it was so close. Of course from the inside it was very tense, looking back at it now I still feel I get a heart rate talking about it, but I’m happy that it ended it way it did and I was the lucky guy who got the title. We had the same points but I had four wins and he had one, so I’m happy it went my way.”
Q: Try and describe the feeling of winning the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles with your family team in the same season, and the same race weekend?
TH: “I think that’s what made it almost too much to handle, because so much of myself had gone into be on the start line and get the team up and running after the factory teams pulled out, so I had so much invested in this as had the whole family. To be honest I was exhausted after that year, so much pressure, so much work, so much driving with all the races we did, but we did what we had to do to be where we were and you know if it wasn’t for Kevin, I wouldn’t have been champion. Throughout the year, we had a fantastic partnership, driving really together like brothers not as teammate rivals, so the whole key to achieving it as a family was that we had that passion and drive, that’s not something you can buy, you have it or you don’t. That year with the family team we definitely had all the will that we had to achieve it. 2019 was by far the best year in Hansen history, we won everything we were taking part in. Although it’s not easy to get the best year in Hansen history because dad has won a lot himself, you know now us all four being part of it and you can’t really compare different results, but we’re all champions and it was a fantastic year for us.”
Q: How was it to attend the FIA Gala as a World Champion?
TH: “It was cool. I sat on the champions table, it’s such an honour sharing a table with the other world champions of motorsport, the greatest names there are. It was an honour seeing my own car, a car I had been working on for many years with Peugeot and we ran with our family team, seeing that car standing on the side of the Toyota LMP1 car, the Mercedes Formula One car and Hyundai WRC, these are fantastic cars and teams. Seeing our own car at the side of those was a huge moment for me.”
Q: How, if at all, do you think having a World RX Drivers’ title to your name changed your approach for this year?
TH: “I didn’t think it would change a lot before the year, but looking back on a personal level the way that I performed in 2020 has probably been my best ever. I’ve been more consistent than ever, that was really a key that I wanted to work on for 2020 and I think I’m just more relaxed, more calm. I don’t have to prove anything any more. I am World Champion and I’m always going to be a World Rallycross Champion even if I’m not the reigning one. So I feel quite a lot more relaxed and confident, I don’t have to take every single battle on track, I just have to take the battles that count. And drive as fast when I need to drive fast, like that final in Barcelona when I finally finished ahead of Johan, that was also a big moment. I think it’s made me a better driver if anything. A bit more relaxed, more calm, better calculated and still being able to drive fast when I need to. It’s definitely changed me as a driver quite a bit, and it’s fantastic looking back at that championship and knowing that I have achieved in life what I set out to do. I’ve always told myself I want to be World Champion and now I have done that. I’m extremely proud of that, but I do want more also. I’m not done yet and I hope one day I’ll be World Champion again.”
That thrilling climax to the 2019 season is documented in detail within the new book, Kenneth Hansen | Fourteen, written by rallycross journalist Hal Ridge. The book documents Kenneth Hansen’s career and his rise to becoming the most decorated champion in rallycross history, before forming the Team Hansen squad he runs today in World RX.
Many rivals, team drivers and other names from the rallycross and motorsport worlds discuss Hansen in the book. For more details and to order, click here.
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