Two more teams have confirmed they will be on the start line for the first round of the 2019 FIA World Rallycross Championship, presented by Monster Energy when the season gets under way at Yas Marina next month meaning 16 permanent drivers in six teams and four individual entries representing eight automotive brands and 11 nationalities will battle for World RX bragging rights.
Hansen Motorsport in the for of Timmy and Kevin will compete as Team Hansen MJP, while the Lithuanian team ESmotorsport-Labas GAS announced 19-year-old Rokas Baciuska as its driver.
The Hansen brothers will field a pair of Peugeot 208 Supercars and the 2019 World RX entry comes after a period described by Team Principal Kenneth Hansen, holder of 14 FIA European Rallycross Championship titles, as the most challenging in the Scandinavian squad’s history.
“The months following Peugeot Sport’s decision to close their RX activity – which saw the Hansen family stranded without a team and programme – have been some of our toughest ever,” he says.
“Since then, with a commitment deeply rooted in our love for rallycross, Hansen Motorsport has used almost every single waking hour to find ways and possibilities to get a team and budget together to be able to return to World RX.”
Max J Pucher, the owner of MJP Racing, added: “It was a great moment when Kenneth and I decided to do more together in 2019, as we have an almost similar vision for the future of rallycross. Kenneth worked really hard on this, and I am very glad that Team Hansen MJP is now a part of World RX. I look forward to more rallycross than ever in 2019.”
Widely regarded as a champion in waiting, Timmy Hansen has concluded every season inside the top six in the World RX standings, racing to five victories and 24 podium finishes as well as the 2015 World Championship runner-up laurels. As he looks ahead to the forthcoming campaign, the 26-year-old is primed to fight for the biggest prize in international rallycross.
“It feels like it’s been a long winter since our last rallycross race in South Africa in November, so it’s brilliant to confirm that we’ll be back in the World Championship,” he says. “For a long time, we genuinely weren’t sure if we were going to make it or not so it’s a huge relief to know we will be there and I couldn’t be more excited right now.
“Looking at the drivers and teams confirmed so far, it’s shaping up to be a competitive season with a very level playing field. The addition of a couple of new tracks only adds to the unpredictability, but I have a fantastic team of people around me, the 208 WRX is a great car that I feel very comfortable in. We have an incredibly busy year ahead, but I can’t wait to get out to Abu Dhabi and see how we shape up.
“To everybody that has believed in Hansen Motorsport, believed in rallycross as an amazing sport and believed that together, we have more to give, we cannot thank you all enough. Now we have new goals to focus on, new challenges, new races and – hopefully – new victories to conquer.”
Despite his age, younger brother Kevin Hansen already has a long career in rallycross under his belt, going all the way back to 2013 and yielding titles in the RX Lites Cup and FIA European Rallycross Championship for Supercars – the latter earning him the most coveted award of all for newcomers, the FIA Rookie of the Year Award in 2016.
Since then, the 20-year-old has consistently impressed on the World Championship stage as he cements his status as one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars.
“It feels amazing to return to World RX as a proper family team,” he says. “We have worked so hard to make this happen, and to finally be able to say I’m a driver for Team Hansen MJP is crazy. Wow – what a journey we’ve been on.
“After two full seasons in World RX, I really feel that I’ve found my feet in the series and that I’m capable of taking on the very best drivers in the discipline. The next step is to begin pushing for podium finishes. That’s clearly going to be no easy task with so many quick drivers, teams and cars signed up, but it’s what I need to be aiming for and if I can achieve podiums, why not target a first win..?”
Team Manager Susann Hansen reiterated that it had been a monumental task to put all the pieces in place for the World RX entry. “We were mentally and emotionally at rock-bottom for a while, but now, finally, we are back,” she said.
“It’s a big relief. During the hard times, we have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from our partners, suppliers and fans, and despite what initially looked like an almost impossible task, step-by-step, we chipped away and now here we are.
“We have some amazing partners who have made this announcement possible, and we look forward to rewarding them throughout the year with strong on-track performances and a committed title challenge.”
Rokas Baciuska, the current European Rallycross Champion in Super 1600 class, will campaign a Skoda Fabia in the 10 rounds of the new season starting in Abu Dhabi on April 5.
ESmotorsport-Labas GAS may be new to World RX but according to team founder and former rallycross driver, Ernestas Staponkus the team has covered more than 1 000 km of testing in 2018 and has prepared well for the challenges ahead.
Staponkus also has confidence that Baciuska can meet the demands of a rookie season in World RX. He says: “We developed our car with the help of many different drivers from different categories, not only rallycross. But at the end we decided to start with young talent from our country.
“Last year, Rokas Baciuska won European Rallycross Championship in the Super 1600 class. We are sure that he will be able to fight with the fastest drivers in the world this season.”
Baciuska is looking forward the upcoming season.
“From the very first full season in Super1600 class I won the European rallycross championship straight away. Of course, I don’t expect to do the same this season in World RX, but we will fight for the highest places. Not from the very first race maybe but during the season we believe we can go to fight for the podium.”
Staponkus also confirmed that ESmotorsport-Labas GAS team is working on a second car and that Kevin Abbring would fill the seat.
“The second car is on the way. We want to introduce it in World RX during the season and to be able to fight for the team championship from the next season,” says Staponkus.
“To my mind Kevin Abbring is one of the fastest drivers in World Rallycross. He can win World Championship and we are happy that he will try to do it with us.”
Likely to have strong claims on the title, is the eye-catching pairing of flamboyant Briton, Liam Doran and World RX front-runner Andreas Bakkerud of Norway who join forces in Audi S1s for the newly-formed Monster Energy RX Cartel team.
As first revealed in January, Latvia’s Janis Baumanis will represent Austrian team STARD in a Ford Fiesta, supported by Ford Performance. He will be joined in a second STARD car with a driver yet to be named.
The four individual entries will compete for the drivers’ title but do not claim team points.
Britain’s Oliver Bennett, who competed in selected World RX and ARX events in 2018, will pilot the Xite Racing Mini Cooper in his first full world championship season.
Former DTM champion Timo Scheider, who made a series of World RX outings in 2018 for ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport, carries the German team’s hopes for the entire season in an all-new Seat Ibiza. He will be joined by team owner Rene Munnich at selected events.
Krisztian Szabo competes for Mattias Ekstrom’s EKS Sport team, winners of both the drivers’ and teams’ titles in 2016. The Hungarian will run an Audi S1.
According to Paul Bellamy, Senior Vice President of IMG Motorsports, the series promoter, the strength of the entry list is testament to the healthy state of the championship.
“What we have put together is a high quality entry list which features names synonymous with world rallycross, and a number of young guns aiming for the world championship crown. This underlines the robust nature of the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
“The entry list illustrates the lure of World RX for both teams and drivers. We have all the ingredients for a fierce battle among privateer teams seeking the kudos of a world championship in one of motorsports’ most demanding environments.”