“There were 56 drivers, but only one female so to win the overall championship as the only female against 55 men was epic, it was a totally amazing season.”
Emerging as the best national rallycross driver in a country that seems to produce world class talent at will is an achievement on its own. To do so as the only female driver in the field is quite another triumph.
For Klara Andersson, the 2021 season has been a whirlwind of emotions which culminated in winning the Swedish Rallycross Championship in her first year in the senior class. And to put that achievement into yet more context, this year was just Andersson’s third year of car racing, period.
Those who know their rallycross will no doubt be aware of the Andersson family; Klara’s elder sister Magda raced in the European Rallycross Championship between 2015 and 2018, while parents Pia and Håkan were keen racers throughout their youth as well.
“My mom and dad both raced in rallycross when they were younger and that is how they met actually, so it goes back a long way,” Andersson tells DirtFish.
“I was seven when I first started karting; my dad really wanted me and Magda to just have a go of it and see how we felt about racing because he has been building cars and racing all of his life, so we rented a small go-kart, and we had a go.
“And after the first time, I was like: ‘OK, this is pretty fun! I want to do this again’, so that’s how it all started and me and my sister shared go-karts for a few years.”
Andersson then got the chance to get her own go-kart and began racing in the junior classes of the South and West Championship in Sweden from 2009, eventually winning the title the following year.
From there, it was a case of building the necessary experience and knowledge to one day forge a career in the sport she loved most. Trips to the World Cup Karting Championships in Italy pitted 11-year-old Klara against the likes of Sophia Flörsch and Nikita Mazepin.
As far as career trajectory was concerned, Andersson seemed to be doing all the right things at the right time. But an enforced period on the sidelines between 2013 and 2018 left her champing at the bit to get back into competitive action.
We had sold our kart but that made me stronger and made me want this even more because I had to fight for itKlara Andersson on dealing with an enforced racing hiatus
That’s where the move into rallycross finally came about.
“I didn’t actually drive anything for five years, because I was supposed to drive the Junior Rallycross (JRX) Championship but then the class disappeared,” Andersson explains.
“We had sold our kart and everything so it was not ideal, I stood there with nothing to drive and also my sister was going really well in the European Rallycross Championship, all of which made for some unwanted time off from racing until I was 18 when I could drive my BMW 120. But I think that actually made me stronger and also made me want this even more because I had to fight for it.
“[The move to cars] began in 2018, so this is my fourth year in rallycross this year, but the first year was really just learning the cars and as much as I can at the time.”
Having felt her way through the opening campaign in 2018, Andersson was right at the sharp end of the Junior National Championship 12 months later, eventually finishing fourth in the standings. In addition to a first season learning the ropes in the Swedish championship, she also got a first taste of Set Promotion’s – with whom she would later team up with in the esports world – RX Academy program at the 2019 season finale in Tierp, Sweden.
As the apprenticeship progressed into the COVID-affected 2020 season, so Andersson confirmed her status as a regular frontrunner in the Junior class, missing out on the title by a solitary point to Filip Martinsson at the final round at Arvika.
Spurred on by this disappointment, Andersson stepped up to the Senior class this year and avenged her narrow title defeat in fine fashion, by claiming the overall SM 2150 title.
The title triumph was even more impressive given Andersson’s tumultuous start to the season at Höljes back in May.
After two races in the Swedish championship, we were 14th in the points so it was quite tough to reload mentallyKlara Andersson
“The opening round didn’t go as well as we had hoped, because we’d had a pre-season test there in April which went brilliantly, and I had never felt so good in the car,” Andersson reflects.
“But then we got to Höljes and we just couldn’t find the grip anywhere, it was a real challenge. After two races in the Swedish championship, we were 14th in the points so it was quite tough to reload mentally, but the main goal was just to go home and analyze why we didn’t find the pace in the wet conditions.
“And when we arrived in Piteå for the second round, we found a solution and we were P3 and P4, so we started to gather points and from there it was just getting better and better as the season progressed.”
The consistency across the rest of the season was perhaps the most important element of Andersson’s path to the title, particularly rewarding in rallycross given the number of points awarded over the course of each weekend.
Come the final weekend at Arvika, Andersson was in prime position to capture the title at the same venue she’d experienced heartbreak the previous year. A dominant performance across the weekend followed, winning three out of four qualifying rounds and wrapping up the title with victory in the semifinal.
“Arvika was probably…actually it was the best weekend I’ve ever had in my career,” says Andersson.
“Everything just clicked, and I just really enjoyed myself, even though I had a lot of pressure from the media as I came there as the championship leader, I just enjoyed every second of it and I think that was the winning recipe.
“In Q4 we actually played a bit of a tactical game,” she laughs. “I didn’t want to take any risks, so I took it easy off the start and finished P2 in the end. Otherwise, I was the quickest in all the qualifying and the final, it was the perfect way to win the championship, I think. Winning the title in that way, nobody could really argue that it wasn’t deserved or luck from my side, it was just fair.
“To win it directly after the semifinal, that was like, when my dad – who is my spotter – shouted on the radio that we won the Swedish championship was just…ah, it still gives me goosebumps.”
Off the back of her title win, Andersson could have been forgiven for taking some time off, to soak up the championship and all the emotions that come with the end of a frantic season of rallycross. But that’s not in the DNA of Klara Andersson. Instead, the focus quickly shifted to the next challenge: a call-up to RX2e, the electric support category of the World Rallycross Championship at the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.
Up against the likes of former RX2 regulars Jesse Kallio, Guillaume de Ridder and Conner Martell, Andersson stacked up pretty well, achieving an overnight position of third, before bagging fourth in the final.
“After winning the Swedish championship, everything has just been going at like 100mph, in an amazing way of course,’ she says.
“It was a big culture change from my rear-wheel-drive BMW, switching to the all-wheel-drive electric car with the instant torque and also with my driving style too.
“In the BMW, I am quite an aggressive driver with my steering input and throttle modulation, and I drive way more aggressively there, but in the RX2e car you have to drive a lot smoother and I actually had to drive like I did in karting.
“I’d done a couple of tests in four-wheel-drive cars before – a Supercar Lites and the Projekt E car in Austria – but I went to Spa with barely any experience, so to compete against these drivers and adapt so well was very cool.”
Andersson benefited from the support of Kevin Eriksson during the Spa weekend as well, with the World RX and Nitro Rallycross driver acting as her spotter and de facto driver coach for the races.
“Having Kevin there as my spotter and mentor that weekend was also really good,” says Andersson. “I’ve known him for a few years through the Sweden National Junior Team and he has been around the paddock in the Swedish championship a lot before too and I’ve always looked up to him as I think he’s a really good driver as well as a spotter and driver coach.
“It was a really fun weekend working with him and he helped me so much, just walking the track and immediately I felt like we had the same values and approach to things, and he understands my point of view as a driver and how I drive, how I take the first corner of a race. So, it was quite collaborative, I don’t think I could have had a better spotter for Spa-Francorchamps.”
The collaboration worked especially well as Andersson not only finished just off the podium on her first ever RX2e weekend, but that result also netted her a chance to take part in the Extreme E Rookie Invitational test in Sardinia.
“I had been in touch with Extreme E for a while before, just like chatting and the manager of the Sweden National Team also has contact with them, but it was actually my performance at Spa that made that test possible,” recounts Andersson. “So that was fun because I never expected the Spa opportunity to lead to another opportunity like this.
“I’m pleased with how I drove on the test, and I think the team was also happy with my times. The track was pretty cut-up, really rough and messed up because we drove it on Tuesday and they had started driving on the Friday, so that was quite a challenge. But I brought it home, got some push laps in and didn’t break anything so I was happy.”
Aside from a return to RX2e for the World RX finale at the Nürburgring this weekend, what happens next is still relatively unknown for Andersson. But the goal of forging a career in motorsport remains the same as it has always been.
“My main job for the moment is being a personal and group trainer but I will switch to racing full-time soon and just go for it and see what happens.
“Extreme E is definitely on the radar as well for me, I think it’s a cool new series and I would absolutely like to get involved with that, and we are speaking with some teams, and we will see what happens next year.”