HAL RIDGE T
“It was great to see RX recognised”
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.