For much of the past week, Klara Andersson has been on cloud nine, and that’s not just because she’s been spending as much time in the air as she has on track.
Currently competing in Chile and making her Extreme E debut in place of the injured Jutta Kleinschmidt, the 22-year-old made history last weekend by becoming the first female driver to stand on a World Rallycross Championship podium.
Having crossed the line fourth, Andersson was automatically promoted to third following a 10-second penalty which was applied to on-the-road winner Johan Kristoffersson.
It’s not the way she would have wanted to score her maiden podium, but take nothing away from Andersson, this is a result that has turned heads.
“A podium is still a podium, and the stewards made their decision, so I am still very happy,” Andersson told DirtFish.
“It still doesn’t feel like it’s sunk in completely yet; it’s something that has always been a big dream for me, both to get into World RX and take a podium.
“It’s kind of bittersweet to get a podium that way, but I am very proud; the whole weekend for me was positive in terms of progress and development.”
Taking a breakthrough podium just six races into your World RX career is an achievement on its own, but it is particularly remarkable given Andersson’s rapid ascension to rallycross’s top table.
Five years ago, Andersson had never so much as sat in a rallycross car, let alone race one. Following her title win in the Swedish national SM 2150 championship last year, she made her RX2e debut at Spa-Francorchamps before adding a second outing at a snowy Nürburgring.
Her first foray had impressed incoming team Construction Equipment Dealer Team and bagged her a full-time drive for 2022.
“For sure this is just the beginning for me [in World RX], I am learning so much this season: new car, new team and new tracks. I didn’t really know what to expect at the start of the year, results wise, but I am really proud of my season so far.
“Coming from last season, where I had a lot of podiums and wins, I knew it would be a small struggle this year. The main goal has always been to look at the bigger picture, improve myself and learn as much as I can.”
The learning curve at the start of this season has been steep, with the first three tracks on the calendar – Hell, Riga and Montalegre – completely new to her.
Montalegre, in particular – with its demanding gravel section and pervasive barriers at the end of the lap requiring an aggressive driving style. Something which doesn’t come naturally to a circuit racer at heart.
“I was prepared for it to be a really challenging weekend for me, because asphalt is my strong side and always has been,” explained Andersson. “I love racing on gravel, but I still haven’t done it as much as I would have liked to.
“It was my first time ever racing there, I knew it would be the hardest circuit to get used to because of my driving style; I’m from a circuit racing background and I like to be neat and tidy, but here you needed to be really aggressive, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
The most satisfying bit was definitely on Sunday in the semifinal, when I found the rhythm and trusting myself and the car and really pushing as much as I could, so I was really proud of that.Klara Andersson
“But the mission for the weekend was to take it step-by-step and I got to grips with the first sector of the lap pretty quickly, which was asphalt based, but I struggled with the gravel parts.
“The most satisfying bit was definitely on Sunday in the semifinal, when I found the rhythm and trusting myself and the car and really pushing as much as I could, so I was really proud of that.”
If Sunday was euphoric, the first round of the double header did not quite go to plan in the semifinal, as contact between Andersson and team-mate Niclas Grönholm broke Grönholm’s rear suspension, causing enough of a delay that both missed out on the final.
“Of course, Saturday wasn’t really that positive in the end for either one of us…team tactics don’t always pay off, but we all learn from that which is the good thing,” Andersson said.
“And we bounced back from that on Sunday, with a clear mind and I’m really happy we did that.”
With the monkey now off her back, Andersson heads to somewhat familiar territory next month aiming to prove her podium was no one-off.
“Mentally, it’s a huge thing to come to a track the second time around, so I am feeling positive going to Spa-Francorchamps,” says Andersson. “It will be interesting to go to a track that I have raced at before and see how to feel immediately. In Riga, Norway and in Portugal, practice on the first day has mostly been like a warm-up you can say, figuring out the track, building up the sectors and being more competitive on the Sunday.
“But, hopefully the development can be quicker at Spa and the Nürburgring, I won’t be starting a step behind everyone this time.”