World Rallycross Championship frontrunner Kevin Hansen will make his rally raid debut on this week’s Andalucía Rally, the main warm-up event for next January’s Dakar Rally, competing for Red Bull’s junior team.
Reigning Nitro RX champion Hansen has been drafted into the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team’s line-up to deputize for the injured Blade Hildebrand and will race the team’s Overdrive OT3 side-by-side buggy, which is built by the same company running Toyota’s works cars in the top division.
The Andalucía Rally has joined the rally raid schedule as a replacement for the Rally of Morocco, which is regularly used as a warm-up event for the Dakar Rally but has been canceled this year due to COVID-19.
It will be the first time Hansen has driven an event with a co-driver and with pacenotes.
“To have a co-driver is a bit strange [for me] but you’re not alone in your adventure,” said Hansen.
“It’s something very tricky because in the beginning, you don’t even understand the words they are saying, like ‘300 sharp right to fork left’. What does it even mean?
“So you have to experience everything and I will need to continue to work hard on the pacenotes, and also getting in the rhythm to listen.
“I have a spotter in rallycross but the language and the attitude is so different.”
While Hansen is already a round winner in World RX, he said he expects his rallycross experience to only be useful up to a point, citing former team-mate Sébastien Loeb’s advice that the two disciplines are vastly different.
“The biggest differences to rallycross? Everything!” said Hansen.
“When I was team-mates with Séb, I always asked whether he preferred rally raid or rallycross, and it’s always impossible to compare because the sensations are so different in each.
“In rallycross, you push yourself and the cars to the absolute limit, which is unbelievable.
“Here you are pushing the nature and your co-driver together to maximize the small information you get and reading everything around you.”
Hansen would not be drawn on whether his stand-in appearance at Andalucía Rally would be a precursor to a Dakar bid in the future, though said he is keen to show he is competitive compared to his more experienced team-mates Mitch Guthrie and Seth Quinteiro.
“My goal is to do well in every car that I’m in,” he added.
“The team’s target is to get the car to the finish and get many kilometers, and I have to respect that. But I also want to do well.
“You don’t have a second chance in motorsport. You need to prove yourself when you have the opportunity and I need to do that, so I will have to push myself together with François [Cazelet, his navigator] to show that I am here to stay, and it’s something that I want to do.
“The second chance will not come if I am not good, that is for sure. It’s a target of mine to prove I’m good, and to prove that I need to beat my team-mates.”
Andalucía Rally runs from October 6-10 and features eight stages totaling 657 competitive miles.
Reigning Dakar champion Carlos Sainz leads the entry list for the X-Raid Mini JCW Team along with team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel.
Toyota Gazoo Racing has brought a single works Hilux for Nasser Al-Attiyah and long-time co-driver Mathieu Baumel, while former top-level World Rally Championship privateer Yazeed Al-Rajhi will also drive an Overdrive-prepared Hilux.