The Generation Game; Hansen Learning Fast In RallycrossRX

by Hal Ridge |

The rallycross history books are dominated by one name; Hansen. Kenneth Hansen is by far and away the most successful rallycross driver ever, and his fourteen European titles are unlikely to ever be beaten. Being the son of a driver as successful may open some doors, but at the same time brings its fair share of problems; most common of which is having to fight off the comparisons with your old man, all the time.

In what is already a very accomplished first season for Timmy Hansen, he has become his own man and is living up to the family name. As RallycrossRX enters its final three races of the season, Hansen sits just four points off the championship lead.

Formally a single-seater driver, Hansen made the move from circuit racing to rallycross full time for 2013, drawn to the sport by the new-found potential of rallycross as a new career path in the newly re-branded RallycrossRX series;

“This winter when I made the choice to step into rallycross I didn’t know how big the changes to the sport would be, but every race that goes by they are doing a better and better job. The attention from sponsors and media is rising really fast and I’m more and more happy with my choice. I feel really good in the rallycross paddock and I definitely want to keep doing more.”

While Hansen has arguably been the surprise of the season, the young Swede also admits that he entered the year not really knowing how it would pan out;

“If I were to compare this moment to when I started the year, it’s just that my goals and what I want to do have risen. Because I’m second in the championship and it’s been going so well I’m expecting myself to do better every time. Coming into the season I was quite relaxed, I didn’t know how it should go but obviously I wanted to be fast, and I wanted to be there or thereabouts. I didn’t know if I’d be eighth or tenth or whatever at this point. Now it’s going so well and I’m second, I’m still pushing myself and I’ve kind of forgotten that I’m in my first year.”

Despite it being his first full year in rallycross, Hansen is no stranger to the sport, having been around his family team all his life. He has himself raced a supercar twice before this season, once in a French Championship event in 2010, and last year in Finland where he finished fifth overall on his European Championship debut.

“I’ve felt part of the rallycross paddock all along because I’ve grown up here, so it’s feels normal to be here. I’m so comfortable being in the paddock but as a driver I probably feel more confident I can go out and perform straight away the longer the season goes on.”

Hansen’s season started better than he or anyone could have expected, topping the order after the first day of round one. He would go on to finish fourth on the road on his first fulltime rallycross start.

“The Lydden weekend was very special because it ran so smoothly and the track just made sense and I was quick without having to push really hard. There are not many times you get a weekend like that. Then we went to Portugal and it didn’t go so well, but then I won in Hungary. That was completely different to Lydden because it was not such an obvious track for me to be fast at. Lydden is like a pure race circuit, where Hungary is a rallycross circuit so I had to find my way around some problems and fight the whole event. But I’ve done it so I know I can do it, the bar is just higher now.”

Like a driver in any sport, Hansen is quickly learning about rallycross as a driver, and who in the category he can and can’t race hard against. “The three of us (Hansen Motorsport drivers) get along quite well, so I’m comfortable racing with them because I know they won’t do anything stupid. I know I don’t have to be afraid of them if I’m in front, they won’t push me off or anything. I know we will leave each other room, we respect each other perhaps more than someone else. You learn fast which drivers you can trust and which you can’t, I think it’s a lot down to what relationship you have in the paddock. We are all racing drivers and we all want to finish ahead of everyone, but you have to be smart sometimes. Our team has been a lot about strategy, getting to the finish line, and that’s why we are first and second in the championship, because we are quick and finish very many races.”

Not only having the expectation of being the son of a champion, but also driving for his team, as Hansen does, has its own pros and cons;

“The obvious reason that it is good to drive for Hansen Motorsport is the sixteen European championships the team have won; fourteen for Dad, one for Mum and one for Timur, who we built the championship winning car for last season. The car is fantastic, and that’s down to the experience here. The guys working for the team are all amazing, they all make their own decisions and if there’s a problem the mechanics can solve it on their own. I don’t know how they do it sometimes. But, obviously if we have disagreements we are going to have it around the dinner table too, so we are kind of always working in a way. I have my team manager and my mum and mechanics all around home, so it can be ten o’clock at night when I get an idea. I can just go straight up to dad while he’s watching TV and say something like ‘I’ve been thinking about that gear strategy’ for example. I know he gets quite annoyed by that sometimes. He’s just more experienced, and I guess I can come across as quite annoying sometimes when I’m always coming up with ideas. I’m just eager.”

Hansen is also aware of the complexities of driving a car in his family team when they have other drivers with equal equipment. The professionalism of Hansen Motorsport was highlighted in Hungary this season, where Timur Timerzyanov and Hansen were fighting for victory in the final. Kenneth Hansen was on the radio for Timerzyanov at the time, and pushed the Russian as hard as ever to beat his competitors, even though his rival on the day was Kenneth’s son;

“I am one of three drivers, and Dad can’t be my Dad on race weekends. He is my team manager, and he treats all three of us exactly the same. It can’t happen that they start to think I’m being treated differently because I’m his son. When I did formula racing dad was 100% on my side, now he’s 33.3% on my side. We discussed over the winter that it is a special thing when the son comes and races for his parents’ team but we can’t let that effect us. Dad does a very good job with that.”

Away from the races, Hansen spends a lot of time in the workshop, which also adds an interesting dynamic to his season. “The day before Holjes I spent 12 hours working on Timur’s car to get it ready. I’m both part of the team as a mechanic and as a driver. I’m used to cheering for the teams drivers, that’s what I’ve always done and of course I want them to do well.”

While rallycross drivers in the past may have turned a blind eye to their own fitness, Hansen is part of a new era of rallycross drivers that prepare and train as hard as their circuit racing counterparts to excel in every way they can and make the difference between them and their closest competitors. On the 3rd August Hansen will tackle his first triathlon in his native Sweden;

“I’m doing the triathlon because I like to see how I compare to other athletes, and because I love all kinds of competition. I’m 100% sure I’m better behind the steering wheel because of my training. My big thing is my fitness, which I work on always. I do it so I’m really awake and ready and have lots of energy. I watch hours of on-boards for the driving to learn the new tracks because basically every race this year has been a new circuit for me, and after two runs of practice I have to be competitive straight away. I need to know all the points so by watching hours of video I see the mistakes they have done last year and I try to carry that with me. I watch lots of practice because that’s where people make most mistakes. I also do some mental training just before to get into the circuit. When I’ve prepared with the video I go to my mental trainer, drive together with him, relax really deeply and imagine I’m driving the circuit for a complete race. If my video work and my mental training is fine, I go out there already with a set rhythm… like it is in real life. I feel I need to do that because to compete with these guys who are more experienced than I am, and as fast as I am, I need to do something different. Now I just need to do a little bit more…5 points more.”






« »