Ask any racing driver how they’d like to spend every weekend, and nine times out of 10 they’d say they’d want to be out there driving, non-stop.
That was very much the case for Kevin Hansen in 2019, who was rarely seen away from the race track during the season, as he juggled a World Rallycross Championship campaign with a title-winning run in TitansRX and a debut victory at Nitro Rallycross in the States.
It was a landmark year for the now-22-year-old, who narrowly missed out on the World RX crown to brother Timmy Hansen, despite leading the points for much of the year.
The successful season for both Hansen and his family’s outfit was made all the more sweet after the team began the year with the crushing blow of losing Peugeot backing amid an exodus of manufacturers on World RX.
“I would reflect on it as a very strong year,” Hansen told DirtFish.
“I think the craziest one we’ve had in our company and myself too, coming back extremely strong from a big setback, from a dream being shattered by a manufacturer [pulling out] but coming back, creating this team … and performing at such a high level was for sure amazing. It’s something I’m very proud of now.”
On a personal level, despite missing out on the landmark achievement of a World RX crown, Hansen was extremely proud of how last year turned out, even saying that “I see myself as the best rallycross driver in the world last year”.
“I won TitansRX and had a podium streak in every race there, and Nitro was great too, taking the win there on my first attempt, [and] World RX leading half the season, just coming out a bit short in the end.
“I think that World RX is the main thing, it’s the thing that closes the year and what people remember.
“But for me it was my breakthrough season in World RX, not as a driver because I’ve had good results in the past, but to be putting all the things together in the top class, at the top level was something I’ve worked hard for and was hoping was going to come in 2019, originally with Peugeot but in the end it was with Team Hansen. [It was] the best I could hope for, really, during a season to have such big success.”
Fast forward to 2020 and things are radically different. This time last year Hansen had already completed seven World RX rounds, six TitansRX rounds (at three venues), and Nitro Rallycross at the Nitro World Games. In 2020? Besides a one-off CrossCar outing, nothing.
“It’s been really strange not to drive so much, but for me it was really necessary to get the longer break,” he said. “It was a really tough season last year, wearing all of us down really hard and I think I’m a lot better prepared now than I was in April for the original start of the season.
“So for me I’m very happy that we got a few extra weeks off – not because of the reason, I don’t really enjoy the reason why we got it off, [but] just have collected everything, get some more time to reflect, it was really necessary for me to have that.
“Heading into a season with a long break is, for me, very good. I feel very ready and we’ve done some good work over the winter so I believe we will pick up at a strong point and I’m excited to get going.”
That new season begins with a trio of double header weekends, something unusual for World RX, but something that Hansen and his team are well prepared for thanks to their bumper schedule last year and the experience that came with it.
“I think a lot of things, especially for this special season, will be learnt from TitansRX, with the double headers, we will have three of those kicking off the season now and that will be very important to take that experience” he said.
“We have a few guys in the team from TitansRX too so most of them really know how it feels to do a double header like that.
“For me I’m one year older again and I feel [that] every year I do, I learn more and more and I get calmer and calmer, and I feel less of a need to prove myself.
“And that is a really nice feeling; I know and the competitors know I’m in the front and can fight for wins so for me being young and on the way up that I’ve been for many years it’s a good feeling to step-by-step feel even more secure with that.”
Some drivers however have used the extended break to get regular Supercar seat time elsewhere, namely RallyX Nordic. While some may think failing to capitalize on that opportunity could prove to be detrimental to the Hansens, Kevin actually believes the opposite.
“I think it’s completely fine not to have done the races,” he insisted.
“We spoke about it but we took the decision not to do it, to put our money where it’s needed and not on races that at the end of the year don’t count.
“I think we made the right decision, I wouldn’t say that we are less prepared than the ones that have done anything, I would say that they have shown their hand a bit – they don’t know what we’ve been up to and that’s a pretty nice feeling heading into the season opener without having shown anything and just working in the dark.
“We are very well prepared anyway and have done updates to the cars and the team that I think are well planned and well structured. We’ve had a lot of time to go through the changes.”
Those changes, a raft of minor tweaks under the skin of the team’s Peugeot 208s, have been made with the help of the outfit’s long-standing partners, and have focussed on small areas of improvement rather than wholesale changes to what is clearly an already potent formula.
“We have great partners and that’s really key for us, as a small company and a small team in size, to have great partners to work with,” said Hansen. “We have taken those relationships with Öhlins, Sadev, Oreca, and NGK to a very high level and we’ve spoken a lot, taking their expertise to help us to improve.
“Small things we have changed, just what we need to do – we don’t have the capacity to a complete new car. That’s not something we have done, we’ve been working on the details that we saw last year were our weaknesses and I won’t share the details but I can say we’ve worked on each of the areas that we have the technical partnerships in, so suspension, engine, and gearbox.”
One thing that won’t change will be the unique dynamic between Kevin and Timmy Hansen. The duo famously work together, while also maintaining a level of competition between each other. And while Timmy may now have the title that Kevin is so eagerly after, both will continue on the same path as last year.
“It’s going to work the same,” he said of their on-track dynamic. “I think our strategy last year was spot on with that mentality to help each other and not race each other in that way. It was really the key, if we wouldn’t have done that, we wouldn’t have won two world championships (Drivers’ and Teams’).
“That’s something we will continue as we see it as no one is faster than the other, we are equally fast, equally good so it’s down to who has the better day than the other on the luck side.
“It’s really about continuing to work together and I was leading a lot of the championship last year, he was too, and in the end we had a really strong ending of the season, I was not far behind, just a few points so I think that really shows it even more that we need to continue on the same path, working on the details together and supporting each other 100%.
“It’s so much easier being together with someone out there than to be against everyone and I think that really sums up our partnership.”