Mon 23 Oct 2023

Susann Hansen: I’m waiting here for all the other women to join!

Susann Hansen – the first woman ever to win a European Rallycross Championship title and now Team Manager of the ultra-successful family-run outfit of the same name – hopes the burgeoning female revolution within the sport is set to continue...

Susann Hansen – the first woman ever to win a European Rallycross Championship title and now Team Manager of the ultra-successful family-run outfit of the same name – hopes the burgeoning female revolution within the sport is one that is set to continue.

In 1994, Hansen made history when she clinched ERA 1400 Cup honours for Group N cars up to 1,400cc. Almost 30 years on, she is a central figure on the FIA World Rallycross Championship scene, having played a key role in guiding Hansen Motorsport to three Teams’ trophies and one Drivers’ crown over the past decade alongside husband and Team Principal, Kenneth Hansen.

If Susann is one of the most prominent female faces in the World RX paddock, she is far from the only one. Countrywoman Klara Andersson has established herself over the past season-and-a-half as a consistent contender in World RX – staking her own claim to a place in the record books last year as the first woman ever to finish on the podium in top flight international rallycross.

Andersson might be the current trailblazer, but others are following in her wheeltracks. Over the past two years, no fewer than six fellow female racers have tested their mettle in the supporting FIA RX2e Championship, in the shape of Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Cristina Gutiérrez, Catie Munnings, Laia Sanz, Molly Taylor and Yan Zhang.

Gutiérrez advanced to the final on her debut, while Åhlin-Kottulinsky starred throughout the 2023 campaign, twice reaching the rostrum in the single-spec series and going into the season finale as one of just three drivers still in the mix to lift the laurels.

In Euro RX1, Mandie August finished a career-high fourth in Norway this year, while outside of the cockpit, there are an increasing number of women in vital positions, from RX2e Project Manager Janina González to CE Dealer Team by Volvo Construction Equipment mechanic Anna Palander, popular and knowledgeable paddock reporter Molly Pettit and Chairperson of the Stewards, Cheryl Lynch.

Behind-the-scenes, experienced World RX Event Manager Julie O’Leary plays an essential role in ensuring the smooth running of race weekends, Karin Bock-Leitert is in charge of the broadcast product and Dr. Anna Carreras is always on-hand as FIA Medical Delegate. As General Manager of Nyirád Racing Center, meanwhile, Orsolya Gyuris is responsible for staging World RX of Hungary, supported by a female-heavy management team and all-female start-line marshal crew.

While still a comparatively small number in what has traditionally been a male-dominated sport, more significantly, it is a growing number, and Hansen hopes the trend of greater female participation in rallycross is just the start.

“I would love to see more women here,” she enthused. “We need more diversity. A lot of the time, I don’t know if women even see that there is an opportunity, but there definitely is.

“In my case, I don’t think I ever thought this couldn’t be for me. Maybe it came from my upbringing, from my grandmother. She was alone with three children and there was nothing that she felt she couldn’t do because it was a ‘man’s job’ – she did it all. Maybe I didn’t realise that I shouldn’t do something because I was a woman.

“I think men and women need to change how we see ourselves and our values, and that has to come from within. There is always room for good people and my advice would be, just do it. Even if it looks like a closed world, I can assure you it isn’t. I’m waiting here on the other side for all the other women to join me!”

Focussed firmly on the future, Susann is now the driving force behind Hansen Motorsport’s long-term environmental and sustainability strategy, with the Swedish squad setting the pace as the first team in rallycross to achieve FIA 3* Environmental Accreditation two years ago.

“We have a dream and a vision, and I would like rallycross to be the most sustainable world championship around,” she explained. “That’s where my heart lies. Rallycross is still a comparatively young form of motorsport, so we have some freedom to be efficient, flexible and open-minded.

“Sustainability is about how we survive in the long-term, and for me, that is what we want to do with rallycross. We want to be here forever, and ultimately, I hope we will be 100 per cent climate neutral. I strongly believe that motorsport and sustainability do not have to contradict each other – they can go hand-in-hand.

“We have been through some really tough times, and maybe the toughest summer ever this year but we all know that this sport has so much potential, and the desire to show that to the world is what drives us. It’s what continues to inspire us every single day.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM