Fri 17 Feb 2023

Collisions and celebrations in Cape Town

Cape Town’s Killarney International Raceway left an indelible mark in the memory of FIA World Rallycross Championship fans in 2019, staging a dramatic season finale that culminated in an opening lap collision and a title decided in the stewards’ room...

Going into the race weekend – Cape Town’s third World RX event – the scene was already set for a pulsating dénouement to one of the most thrilling campaigns the championship has ever produced. Just a single point separated Timmy Hansen and Andreas Bakkerud at the summit of the standings, with Kevin Hansen similarly in the mix at only seven points further adrift.

The heats saw the elder Hansen brother marginally extend his advantage, and with both he and Bakkerud triumphing in their respective semi-finals, they entered the final facing a winner-takes-all showdown.

From the outside of the front row of the grid, Bakkerud got the better start to seize the initiative, but a small error later around the opening lap allowed Hansen to stick his Peugeot’s nose up the inside of the race-leading Audi. Contact was inevitable, with the Norwegian emerging from the dust cloud in second and his arch-rival down in fifth.

That would have been enough for Bakkerud to clinch the crown, but issues for Timo Scheider subsequently elevated Hansen to fourth – and with it, enabled him to take the title on countback.

“It was the day I realised the big dream I’d always been chasing,” the Hansen World RX Team ace recalls. “It was also probably the most intense race weekend I’ve ever been through.

“It was very tight between myself, Andreas [Bakkerud] and Kevin [Hansen] going into the event, and in the end, Andreas and I were side-by-side on the front row of the grid for the final. He took the start but made a mistake and ran wide, and I went into the gap. We collided in a big dust cloud and after he bounced off the wall, he bounced into me and spun me round.

“At that moment, I must say, I thought the dream was over, but I managed to pull back some time and finish fourth, which was so important. There was a lot of confusion around the result for a while since we ended up equal on points, but once I heard on the radio that we had done it, I was incredibly happy and sent the car into donuts. To have the whole family up on the podium was a great moment.

“Then of course, we had to spend a few hours in the stewards’ room because they wanted to get it right about the collision, and with so much at stake, they needed to look through what had happened in great detail. Both Andreas and I gave our sides of the story, and the stewards finally came to the conclusion that it was a racing incident.

“Lifting the biggest trophy in rallycross was huge for me, and I’m so grateful for having achieved that and to the team that took me to the title that year. I’m still very hungry for another one – that’s the big goal – and I’m really excited to see what this season will offer following all the development work over the winter.

“I’m definitely looking forward to going back to Cape Town. It’s a fantastic track and I have wonderful memories there. It would be nice to make some more...”

Younger sibling Kevin has reached the final in all three events to-date in South Africa, with a best finish of fourth place to his name in 2018. Like his brother, the 24-year-old is a big fan of both the circuit and the ‘Mother City’.

“Cape Town is a glorious place to go, and what a great atmosphere!” he enthused. “The track is absolutely phenomenal. Turn One is so much fun, with a lot of options, and then you have big jumps and a great crowd and backdrop.”

While the Hansen-Bakkerud duel stole the spotlight in 2019, the winner that day was Niclas Grönholm. After failing to make it through to the semi-finals in the two previous editions, the Finn lived up to the old adage that ‘third time’s a charm’ with a popular second career victory at the highest level.

The other two wins – in 2017 and 2018 – went the way of five-time world champion Johan Kristoffersson, although it is not the event itself that the Swede remembers most fondly...

“Cape Town is an absolutely amazing place,” remarked the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS star. “Not only the track and organisation, which have always been very good, but also the scenery, like Table Mountain – and they have excellent sushi!”

Former European champion Jānis Baumanis – who topped the times in heat two in 2017 – similarly has happy memories of the ‘Rainbow Nation’.

“South Africa is a very nice country with a spectacular atmosphere and views and a wonderful culture, and there were always a lot of enjoyable activities around the racing,” the Latvian recollects. “With its blend of fast chicanes, slower sections and some big sideways slides, the track is a big challenge – and very interesting to drive.”

World RX of South Africa will return to the World Championship calendar this year with a double-header race weekend in October.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM