Johan Kristoffersson, the most successful World Rallycross driver to date, has set his sights on yet another title, after confirming his full-time return to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2020 if and when normal racing resumes.
Kristoffersson will make a return to the World RX after a one-year hiatus, following the withdrawal of PSRX Volkswagen Sweden at the end of the 2018 season.
Left without a seat, Johan joined the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in 2019 and went on to claim three race wins - the stand out win came in Malaysia where started in 22nd place and won the race.
The 31-year-old Swede's motorsport career started in 2008; when he joined his father's team in the Junior Touring Car Championship. Ever since then, he has enjoyed a lot of success in both off-road and circuit racing.
His racing CV includes titles in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, International Superstars Series, Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia, and the Monster Energy Gykhama Grid.
Johan Kristoffersson. Image: Franco Theron
A record run
Having made his Rallycross debut in 2013, in the FIA European Rallycross Championship, Johan made the switch to the FIA World Rallycross Championship in 2014. Success soon followed when he claimed his first World RX win in 2015, followed by two podium finishes. In 2016, Kristoffersson claimed another victory and two podium finishes on course to claim the runners-up spot behind the 2016 World RX champion Mattias Ekstrom.
A year later, he joined forces with Petter Solberg, and the rest is history. It was the start of a tremendous two-year record-breaking run. In 2018, Kristoffersson won 11 of 12 rounds in defense of his first World RX title but was left without a seat in World RX when the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team withdrew from the series at the end of the season.
In 2019, he raced in the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). Again, plans of continuing in the series were cut short when Volkswagen Motorsport ended its factory-supported internal combustion engine programme in November last year.
Kristoffersson's hunt for a third world title will begin once the worldwide coronavirus pandemic is brought under control.
The Swede has had a successful career to date, but he is under no illusions that it won't be easy to claim a third title, having seen how tightly knit the World RX field was in 2019.
Johan Kristoffersson. Image: Junaid Samodien
While the world of motorsport is at a current standstill, we decided to ask the former champion a few questions ahead of the new season.
Junaid Samodien: Having had a one-year hiatus from World RX after PSRX Volkswagen Sweden withdrew at the end of the 2018 season. How are you preparing physically and mentally for the challenge?
Johan Kristoffersson: I'm preparing more or less similar to any other season. But of course, there are some small adjustments in the preparation to suit rallycross. The start is very crucial in rallycross, and this is one example of where I will put some more effort into before 2020 season. Since 2015 I've been competing in more than only one category in motorsport (racing, rally, rallycross) per season. I've always had the philosophy of driving a lot, even if it's competing in different categories, which is positive for a driver. But in 2020, I will only focus and put all my effort into World RX (WRX).
JS: How did the opportunity to return with a Volkswagen Supercar come about? How much work went into securing an entry?
JK: I originally planned to continue with Sebastien Loeb Racing and Volkswagen Motorsport in WTCR for 2020 season, but as Volkswagen decided to pull out from the championship, I had to find another solution. I evaluated many different options, and a return to WRX was one of them. After many discussions with Volkswagen Motorsport, and with a great partnership with our long term partners Volkswagen Dealers in Sweden and Bauhaus, we finally found an agreement to rent the Polo WRX I used 2018 to run in our private team, Kristoffersson Motorsport. We spent many hours getting that equation together.
JS: How hard will it be to switch from a 350bhp WTCR front-wheel-drive car to a 600bhp four-wheel-drive rallycross car? Do you think that it will take time to adjust?
JK: When I won my two world titles in 2017 and 2018, I drove a similar car to the WTCR back home in the Swedish championship. I'm used to driving different cars on different weekends. I think the starts in rallycross will be the most difficult to adjust quickly too. The cars are very powerful and with incredible acceleration from standing start. It's difficult to always be at the right place at the right time when everything is happening so quickly, but I will do my best to get into the 2018 mode as soon as possible.
JS: What changes have been made to the Volkswagen Polo GTi RX supercar to comply with the 2020 regulations?
JK: It's minor changes. Nothing will negatively affect the car in terms of performance. On the other hand, I hope we have found some small things making it a bit faster. The WRX championship was tighter than ever in 2019, and we need to be 100% ready and prepared if we want to fight for the championship title 2020.
Last month, the FIA World Rallycross Championship announced that Johan would join the driver line-up for the Esports Invitational. So, we asked him a few questions related to simulator testing and Esports.
Image: Junaid Samodien
JS: Do you rely on a simulator to sharpen your skills?
JK: The 2019 season in WTCR on all the different tracks was new to me. So, I did some simulator training with Volkswagen Motorsport before every event to learn a bit about the track and be as prepared as possible going into the weekend. But to be honest, I haven't done many hours in a simulator in my career.
JS: What are your thoughts about eSports? Have you watched any eSports series or races recently?
JK: I think it's good and a cost-effective way for young drivers to start their career, and for any racing driver to practice and sharpen their skills. Typically there is no spare time for anything else than the preparations I do for my races. So honestly, I barely watch any other motorsport than what I'm currently driving myself at the time.
The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination with such a close field, as seen in 2019, but who better then Kristoffersson to take on the might of the Hansen brothers, Andreas Bakkerud and Niclas Grönholm.
Image: Franco Theron
Content advisor: Franco Theron