The world champion who wishes he’d started in rallying

Five-time World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson says he'd focus on rallying if he could start his career again

Johan Kristoffersson

Five World Rallycross crowns, three touring car racing titles, the honor of being the first ever Extreme E champion and a race winner in the World Touring Car Cup.

But what Johan Kristoffersson hasn’t yet conquered is rallying. At least when measured in titles.

Every time he has turned up in the World Rally Championship, always in a car run by the family Kristoffersson Motorsport team, he has been absolutely on it and he seems to be able to master any machine. He made the WRC2 podium on his third attempt, and scored another class podium on his first ever visit to Rally Finland.

Since debuting his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in 2018, Kristoffersson has only contested 16 rallies, but his returns from those events have been two WRC2 podiums, two wins and two other podiums in the Swedish Rally Championship, a WRC3 podium, two further rally wins in Sweden and one in Norway.

Next month he returns to action in Norway’s Numedalsrally, where he is thrilled to go up against his own father Tommy Kristoffersson, himself a former rallycross and touring car driver. Two-time WRC2 event winner Ole Christian Veiby will make it a three-car Kristoffersson squad for the the event.

Ole Christian Veiby

But given the WRC was in his home country two weeks ago, why didn’t Kristoffersson Jr end a two-year absence from the championship?

“Because if you don’t prepare for a marathon it’s not fun to run it,” he replied matter-of-factly to DirtFish, at Rally Sweden.

“I would like to be here, I would like to drive but there was no car, there was no budget to prepare well for this event so then I took more the role as running Ole Christian’s car, which I also enjoy.

“It’s a big challenge and I do think I actually learn things from that as well, and rather than just being home, I think it’s better to be within the game, within the fight.

“We have tried to find some solutions of the car so Ole Christian’s more happy and stuff like that. I think that is also actually helping me, you know, if you are in the same situation at one point or whatever, rather than just being home.

“I’d love to do some more [driving in rallies] but there’s just no budget and also a bit of time [is needed].”

There’s clearly a desire to go rallying in Kristoffersson, but one of the most successful drivers in the history of off-road motorsport doesn’t yet have his 2023 programs confirmed.

Johan Kristoffersson

The 34-year-old says “the plan” is to defend his World RX title, “and also try to do some of the Nordic events in rallycross to prepare”. He is expected to remain at Rosberg X Racing in XE.

Staying in those programs doesn’t leave much time to be committed to rallying, so would a full-time move to the sport be the only way for Kristoffersson to really make the most of his rallying talent and ambitions?

“No, I’m happy now,” he said. “I mean obviously rallycross is, I think, where I belong the most but like I’ve said before if I could restart my career as a 20-year-old or 18-year-old – I started when I was 20 – so then I would definitely do rally, because rally is so cool.

“I really enjoy that and I think that is the ultimate challenge for a driver, and as a crew and as a team as well to try and be successful in rally is a huge challenge and that would be great.

“But I think now, maybe the most I drove rally was 2019 but it takes so many years and experience to get to be in the position that I am in rallycross. It takes so many years to get to that position in rally if you ever get there.

“So it’s a difficult thing but I do think it really helps me in terms of the rallycross things as well, to drive more and to do some rally. The difficult thing is that I cannot start a rally without being competitive.”

Kristoffersson says “no, exactly” when DirtFish puts it to him that he wouldn’t enter a rally just to make up the numbers.

Johan Kristoffersson

“Especially in the beginning it was easy because then I had no experience at all of rally and then I could do a rally as a preparation for rallycross.

“And if I did a rally now, it would also be a preparation for rallycross but I would also… because I know that I’ve been on the podium in Rally Sweden twice, I’ve been in Rally Finland being on the podium, so then I know that I can make it.

“But that is with more preparation and stuff so now it’s a bit difficult.”

It’s easy to believe that Kristoffersson could have achieved remarkable things had he started off as a rally driver, and the door shouldn’t be closed on the possibility of him gracing a WRC podium again in the future.