Friday | 17 Dec 2021

Kristoffersson: To think this all started as an April Fools’ joke...

The story of Johan Kristoffersson’s astonishing title triumph in the FIA World Rallycross Championship this year is well-documented, but perhaps less well-known is how that story began – as a light-hearted April Fools’ joke that soon turned very serious indeed...

The story of Johan Kristoffersson’s astonishing title triumph in the FIA World Rallycross Championship this year is well-documented, but perhaps less well-known is how that story began – as a light-hearted April Fools’ joke that soon turned very serious indeed...

Having clinched three crowns at the highest level in Volkswagen Polo machinery in 2017, 2018 and 2020, this season, the Swede took to the track in an Audi S1 run by KYB EKS JC – a merger between Joel Christoffersson’s title-winning JC Raceteknik operation and 2016 world champion Mattias Ekström’s EKS outfit. For a variety of reasons, the campaign did not get off to the most successful of starts – but as Kristoffersson reflects, the potential was there from the outset.

“It always takes a little bit of time to learn the tricks of a new car, but rallycross is all about the ability to adapt quickly to new situations,” he explained during a press conference ahead of last night’s annual FIA prize-giving gala. “No car is perfect – there’s always a compromise to be made – and we initially spent too much time trying to solve some of the Audi’s weaknesses, rather than relying upon its strengths.

“I have to say, the S1 is the best rallycross car I’ve ever driven on high-grip tracks – when it’s really dialled-in, it’s unbelievable how good it is. It’s like you’re driving to the shops, and the cars in your rear-view mirror just keep on getting smaller and smaller and smaller, and you can’t wipe the smile off your face.

“Despite the way things went in the first half of the season, we never stopped pushing. I think some of the mechanics had the lowest point of their motorsport careers at times, before celebrating possibly the highest point of their careers at the Nürburgring. That’s the beauty of sport and why we do this. I want to feel the thrill of those highs and lows, and there’s no question that it was a thriller of a season.”

That much is beyond doubt, with Kristoffersson and arch-rival Timmy Hansen winding up tied on points at the summit of the standings following last month’s Nürburgring double-header finale. The four-time title-holder is quick to pay tribute to his countryman, who led the way throughout the campaign until the very last race.

“I’ve been competing against Timmy since 2013, and before that, our fathers raced against each other back in the day as well,” the 33-year-old reflected. “He isn’t the loudest guy outside of the car – he was well-raised to be very polite – but when he gets into the car, he doesn’t fear anyone and always puts up a hell of a fight. That’s what I enjoy so much about racing with him; we can have a fierce battle on-track, and then chat about family life afterwards.

“It was incredible to fight back to end the season level on points and win the title on countback. Your first title is something special – nothing quite compares to that instant outpouring of happiness when you cross the finish line to become champion – but to win with a new team in a new car and with very limited testing was a fantastic achievement.

“It’s funny to think now how it all came together this year. On the first of April, Mattias Ekström published an April Fools’ post on his social media channels that I would race for him, and that was how the whole conversation started – as a joke...”