A regular on the Rallycross stages since 2009, Andreas Bakkerud was already a two-time FIA European Rallycross category champion before making his switch to the world stages in 2014. Since then, he’s collected wins and podiums with Ford, Audi and Skoda, made his Nitro Rallycross bow in the US with Subaru, and even finished as World RX championship runner-up in 2019.
The 2022 Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS though was the first endurance race for the 30-year-old Norwegian. And, potentially, not the last…
“I’m Andreas Bakkerud, I’m 30 years old, and I’m from Bergen in Norway.”
“Oh, in that case, I’m 21 years old!”
“I was 16 – I’m not sure which year that was – and it was my local track in Bergen, in a Folkrace. You may know autocross? It’s more similar to that.”
“Oh, wow, that’s hard! I’ve done a lot of different stuff and I’ve done many, many different championships. Rallycross is my main sport, but I’ve done Folkrace, Pikes Peak, Trophée Andros, rallying and karting for many years. I’ve done the Danish Thundersport Championship. I’ve tested in the DTM.* I’ve tested Formula Renault 3.5 and Formula 4. So, in a mix like that, I can’t point out just one thing!
“For sure I love Rallycross and that’s my go-to. But to be able drive so many different sports – and also to do a 12-hour race at Spa, which was also on my bucket list – and then choose just one is really hard.”
*In preparation for his DTM test with Audi – more on that later – Andreas got some “downforce training” with Formula Renault 3.5 and Formula 4 single seaters at the Red Bull Ring in October 2018.
“Well… okay, the first year with the Hoonigan Racing Division with Ken Block was great. That was in 2016 and it was my first year being paid to drive. We had a very hard car to develop in the first part of year. But the second half was extremely good: we won a lot of races, and at the last race in Argentina, we managed to win the final which meant I finished 3rd in the championship. That was a big win for the whole team. So… yeah, I think that year and that day was unbeatable.”
“In Rallycross, Sweden, and Portugal are two or my favourite tracks, but I’ve not done too many racing tracks. I’ve driven Jerez and a couple of tracks in Denmark and Norway, but… actually, I would probably say Spa-Francorchamps is already my number three track!”
“Ooh…. that’s a tricky one… [long pause]… I mean, there are probably tons, but…”
At this moment, CREVENTIC mentions a certain World Rallycross heat in Germany in 2016 that Andreas won with broken suspension…!
“Oh yeah, yeah! I won the race but I didn’t ‘finish’ because I put the car in the gravel after the chequered flag! That’s one of the strangest and definitely one of the most stressful times I’ve ever experienced because I didn’t know where the car would go.
“And remember, the suspension was broken at the first turn. It was just a small contact, but sometimes when it’s at the right angle with the right force, stuff breaks, and that’s what happened.
“Trust me, you don’t want to be at Estering, going down the hill, on the straight – and it’s really bumpy tarmac – braking into the hairpin at something like 170kph. Our cars are setup so soft, which means they keep loading and un-loading through the turns. And when they’re un-loading, it changes direction, and all of a sudeen the car is crabbing into the corner. It’s very unstable to drive.
“Weirdly, even though everyone was pumped that I’d won the heat, that year I was closing the gap to the top three in the championship. And I was so pissed off when I finished that I wasn’t higher!”*
*Andreas finished the event on the podium behind Kevin Eriksson and Petter Solberg.
“So, I’m sponsored by Monster Energy, and of course they are the helmet sponsor and a big part of the design as well. At the same time, I like to have my logo in there and the Norwegian flag alongside the green claw.
“I love my helmet designs, but at the same time, I rarely get to have it like it is in my mind. Growing up in karting, I had ‘lucky’ helmet designs with a lot chrome and fancy designs, so in many ways, I’m still trying to design the perfect helmet. Of course, those designs fit well in karting but don’t fit so well in rallycross.”
“I would say racecraft. This is maybe a bit cocky to say, but I don’t think too many have that same level of racecraft. That I’ve driven against anyway.”
“I would say the guy who played James Hunt, but I think everybody would say that [Laughs]. Plus, I’m not Chris Hemsworth.
“I would probably say I’m a Tom Cruise guy! When I’m racing, I’m very focused, I’m very serious, and I train a lot at home. But I’m also one of the guys who can celebrate the wins, the ups and the downs, and I think he’s the kind of actor who could give me, as a character, high highs and low lows in a movie.”
“Hopefully that’s still a few years down the line! First of all, the World Championship of Rallycross is what I’m missing in my [trophy cabinet]. I have bronze [2016 and 2018], I have silver , and I have European championships [Super1600 in 2011 and 2012, and the overall title in 2021]. But to win the the World Rallycross championship and to win the Nitro Rallycross championship are my two big dreams.”
“A few of my fans may already know this, but my nickname is ‘Snackerud.’ Ken Block, when we travelled the world… he has a gluten allergy, so he doesn’t eat that many snacks. But in 2016, I was pretty young and I could burn fat pretty easily. So often I was snacking. And one day he was filming me from a distance, calling me ‘Snack-errud’! That’s who I am now to a lot of fans!”
Andreas entered the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS with Car Collection Motorsport alongside José Garcia and Patrick Kolb in an Audi R8 LMS GT4. CREVENTIC caught up with him beforehand to gauge the rookie’s nerves!
“I work for a company called Triple X Adventures in the north of Sweden every January, February and March. The owner of Lionspeed GP, José Garcia, he came up last year to get some ice driving experience. We really bonded! After that, I went to Ascari with him and Patrick [Kolb] to do some testing where I could show my speed. This year they again came to Sweden, and after a few days they offered me the chance to come down [to Spa] to do this race. And for me that’s great: give me a steering wheel and a seat, and I’ll drive anything!”
“I think it’s a nice opportunity to not only do this race but also work on my driving skills. In my mind, rallycross is motorsport’s answer to MMA: you drag race off the line; you’re on tarmac, on gravel, on jumps; there’s door-to-door racing; everything’s just really full on!
In the [24H SERIES], you need to find your rhythm because it’s a long race, which is difficult because you’re constantly around other cars, especially when we’re in GT4, that are faster and slower than you are. So you need to be on it, all the time, pushing to the edge, but at the same time staying out of trouble. I think you can really work on your skills here.”
“December 2018. That was a DTM test with Audi.* Since then, I haven’t been in a [circuit] racing car.”
* At Jerez, Andreas drove an RS5 DTM as part of Audi’s Young Driver DTM test, which also included three-time Le Mans winner Benoît Tréluyer, FIA World Touring Car Cup race winner Frédéric Vervisch, and former Williams Formula 1 driver Sergey Sirotkin. At the time, Andreas was competing for two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom’s Audi-backed ‘EKS’ team in World Rallycross.
“No, never. Ah, actually, one in Sweden in a 1.6-litre Peugeot 206. It was a six-hour race I shared with three drivers. I was only 18 years old at the time, so it was a good car to start in. But, yeah, an Audi R8 GT4 is slightly different!”
“I’m enjoying it. I think the environment here is pretty nice, and I’m surprised by how many people I actually know in this paddock: SAINTéLOC Racing is here, and I’ve raced with them before in Trophée Andros, and one of the mechanics at Car Collection was one of my mechanics in 2018/9. So yeah, motorsport is a small world!
“We also don’t get to go to many Formula 1 venues with Rallycross, so I’m really enjoying pa-Francorchamps. It was cool [on Friday evening], me, José and Patrick jogged the F1 circuit, and that was a pretty awesome experience because Eau Rouge was so much harder than I expected! And not just Eau Rouge: on the run to Les Combes, there’s a slight climb. You don’t see that on the TV screens, and it’s not steep, but when you jog it, you really feel it!”
“Well, I had to be in Barcelona earlier in the week for the launch of the new electric Nitro Rallycross car [the RX1e]. So I missed private testing on the Wednesday and Thursday, and had just 20-25 laps on Friday on old tyres with full tanks. But in qualifying, we got to use the new tyres and less fuel, and I immediately improved by seven or eight seconds!
“Obviously, it’s one thing to drive one quick lap time – I will try to push it, for sure, but you don’t want to make any mistakes around here – but what’s going to be really tricky is being consistently fast. I would love to use this race, not only to do well but also as a test for future races if there is an option or possibilities.”
“Maybe. I definitely want to do more endurance races!”
*Having qualified 6th in-class, Andreas, José and Patrick managed to climb as high as 3rd in GT4 though overheating issues, and the resultant 40 minutes in the garage eventually drop the #499 Audi R8 LMS GT4 back to 5th in-class at the flag.
Andreas Bakkerud was speaking with James Gent at the 2022 Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS. Images courtesy of Petr Frýba, Monster Energy, and Audi. You can also check out this story in the 2022 Hankook 12H HOCKENHEIMRING magazine, available for download at the link below.