The dark horse who World RX’s elite need to be afraid of

Larsson is already building on his European title success


On face value alone, the reigning RallyX Nordic champion winning the opening round of the 2020 season is nothing out of the ordinary. But that would be ignoring the bigger picture, because, as statements of intent go, Robin Larsson’s was pretty massive at the ‘All Star’ Magic Weekend.

That’s because Larsson’s sole objective in 2020 is not to defend his RallyX Nordic title but instead to become World Rallycross Champion. Laugh that off at your peril, but Larsson’s sublime performance at Höljes with his new JC Raceteknik-prepared Audi S1 proved the World RX establishment should be concerned.

Larsson’s World RX career to date has been something of an anomaly. He was a regular in the inaugural season in 2014, making it onto the podium at his fifth attempt, in the same year he won his first European RX title.

That upward curve continued into 2015, where he drove his family-run Audi S1 to the final several times and then won the season finale in Argentina.

But as Mattias Ekström’s EKS effort received Audi’s works blessing, Peugeot linked up with Team Hansen and brought nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb to the series and Ford Performance developed the all-new Focus RS RX, it became harder for Larsson to compete on an even keel with his now out-of-date Audi.

A step back into Euro RX in 2017 didn’t help either despite a win in Norway, as a lack of consistency left him 41 points behind champion Anton Marklund. He returned to World RX for 2018 with Olsbergs MSE, but the Ford Fiesta ST Mk8 wasn’t quite up to standard and Larsson never made a final appearance.


Photo: World RX Media

Last season was a rejuvenation for the fan favorite who is known for his fully committed and sideways driving style. Reunited with an Audi S1, Larsson won the four of the first five Euro RX rounds to claim the title a round early, and then grabbed the aforementioned Nordic title too.

As recent Euro RX Champions Kevin Hansen, Marklund, Reinis Nitišs and even Larsson himself can attest, winning the continental series is no bad way of teeing yourself up for World RX success. And Larsson’s performance at the weekend is clear evidence of just how much the 27-year-old has matured within himself. He is ready for a World RX title push, make no mistake.

The most obvious proof of this wasn’t simply his raw pace at Höljes, more the consistency of it. Pure speed has never been a shortcoming of Larsson’s.

Niclas Grönholm’s Hyundai i20 was the perfect on-track benchmark as it was arguably the quickest package in 2019, and he was the only other driver along with Larsson to line-up with a 2020-spec car.

Granted, Grönholm won all three qualifying races in round one but Larsson stuck with him valiantly. And when the chips were down, it was Larsson that aced the start and resisted Grönholm and double World RX Champion Johan Kristoffersson’s advances to win in the final.

Shrewdly, he’d reserved four new tires for the final whereas Grönholm had just three, and ultimately that made the difference. Tactics count for a lot when you’re fighting for the biggest prize in your chosen discipline.


The second round was another clear indication of Larsson’s class. Revelling in the ex-Liam Doran RX Cartel Audi, Larsson was again second to Grönholm in qualifying and won his semifinal; although this time he was denied first place by an inspired Kristoffersson who came alive when rain started to fall in abundance.

Kristoffersson’s start was sublime, and with windscreens quickly muddying in the spray of other cars, the race was won there and then. After the race, Larsson quipped that “the wrong guy” won the start and while clearly that’s a subjective opinion, Larsson’s new-found belief in his own abilities is telling. He isn’t happy finishing second to the most successful World RX driver in history, but more than that, he believes he shouldn’t be.

Every so often drivers reach a point in their career where things just click. Larsson seems to be entering his. That raw talent is now coupled with title-winning experience and a wise head; harnessed into a car that’s both competitive and panders to Larsson’s style. Andreas Bakkerud and Doran couldn’t quite optimize it, but Larsson certainly can.

Of course the Magic Weekend wasn’t a fully-blown World RX round so it therefore lacked the same depth of quality opposition nor the pressure that comes with a major championship.

Larrson RallyXNordic Magic Weekend reaction

While some of Larsson’s qualifying heats were relatively straightforward at Höljes, that same luxury will not be afforded when he returns in six weeks’ time up against not just Grönholm and Kristoffersson but Bakkerud, the Hansen brothers, Timur Timerzyanov, Marklund, Rokas Baciuska and team-mate Jānis Baumanis to name just a few.

But equally, the Magic Weekend showed in abundance that Larsson has the mettle to be unaffected by all of this. This was no flash in the pan and his rivals should be worried. Grönholm certainly is.

“I was a bit surprised [by his pace],” Grönholm admitted. “Now he’s in a really good car, I was impressed. I feel like in previous years he’s been a bit wild, he’s been known for his spectacular and wild driving style but this weekend I think we all saw a different side to him. He was really neat and tidy and the driving looked good so for sure he will be one guy to watch out for for sure.”

Surprise of the Magic Weekend? Definitely. Surprise of the rest of the season? Quite possibly.

Will Robin Larsson win the 2020 World RX title? It’s not as ludicrous a thought as it was one week ago.