HAL RIDGE T

“It was great to see RX recog­nised”

Motor Sport News - - Sporting Scene -

he taxi driver who took me from Vi­enna air­port to the im­pe­rial Hof­burg Palace last Fri­day in rush hour may want to con­sider a ca­reer in mo­tor rac­ing. I think he’d be rather good at it.

I en­cour­aged the Mercedes S Class pi­lot to re­main com­mit­ted, but didn’t ex­pect kerb-climb­ing an­tics to fea­ture in the mad dash. I hate be­ing late.

I had booked flights that would have got me to the FIA pre-gala press con­fer­ence with plenty of time to spare, but miss­ing a con­nect­ing flight due to de­lays and the next flight be­ing over three hours de­layed was a big prob­lem.

Thanks to the com­mit­ment of my taxi driver, and the ho­tel staff who let me dump my pos­ses­sions and run, I made it to the pres­ti­gious cer­e­mony just in time. I was hon­oured to be in­vited to the awards, and it was spe­cial to see the range of cham­pi­ons from across the mo­tor rac­ing spec­trum col­lect tro­phies that lives have been ded­i­cated to achiev­ing.

Most spe­cial for me though, was see­ing ral­ly­cross rep­re­sented in the way it was. Aside from the top three world cham­pi­onship drivers and win­ning team be­ing pre­sented with their awards, ral­ly­cross also fea­tured in the nom­i­na­tions for the fan-voted Ac­tion of the Year award (Kevin Eriks­son’s ‘around the out­side’ turn one from the Es­ter­ing). Mat­tias Ek­strom was also up for the Per­son­al­ity of the Year cat­e­gory, cho­sen and voted for by the me­dia. But, the most mo­men­tous prize for ral­ly­cross was Kevin Hansen be­ing awarded the FIA Rookie of the Year gong.

Take noth­ing away from Ek­strom or Jo­han Kristof­fers­son, who fin­ished first and sec­ond in the 2016 drivers’ ta­ble, but they are both vastly ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tors.

An­dreas Bakkerud, in third, has climbed through the ranks of ral­ly­cross from na­tional to Euro­pean level and onto Su­per­car, where he is re­garded as a vic­tory con­tender at the start of ev­ery week­end. Now team-mates with Ken Block, Bakkerud is ar­guably the sport’s first young ca­reer driver.

The youngest Hansen is be­com­ing that too, and fast. Af­ter a spell in kart­ing, Hansen be­gan his ca­reer in Ju­nior ral­ly­cross in the UK, win­ning the ti­tle in 2013 be­fore mov­ing to RX Lites and then Su­per­car this sea­son. One of the ris­ing stars of the sport, the fact that Hansen was even nom­i­nated for the Rookie award shows the in­creased aware­ness of ral­ly­cross, and that he won proves the 18-year-old’s abil­ity too.

As he said to me on Fri­day evening, you only have one op­por­tu­nity to win the FIA Rookie award. Hansen’s prize was a vic­tory for him­self but also for ral­ly­cross as a whole.

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