Timo Scheider talks about rally cross and the fascination it holds for him
Former DTM driver Timo Scheider will soon be lining up for his first season in the WRX. In the run-up to the opener, he speaks with SPORT1 about his personal goals, his rivals and the sport’s future.
The World Rallycross WRX will start its new season on Friday but in a completely new format.
Many more big names have disappeared through the loss of VW, Peugeot and Ford. Missing from the 16-strong list of entrants for 2019 are current world champion Johann Kristoffersen (World Champion 2017 and 2018), Mattias Ekström (World Champion 2016, World Championship runner-up 2017 and 2018), Petter Solberg (World Rally Champion 2003) and World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb (nine world titles).
Still, two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider is contesting his first full WRX season again since 2017. The only German in the series will race a Seat Ibiza for All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport Team.
He will challenge for the title in a total of ten races this season, starting in Abu Dhabi on Friday. The last race will take place in South Africa on 9th November. (Service: All the latest info about the 2019 WRX season)
In the run-up to the season opener, Scheider speaks with SPORT1 about his personal goals, his rivals and the sport’s future.
SPORT1: Herr Scheider, what prompted you to take the decision to contest the full season of the World Rallycross Championship with All-Inkl.com Racing?
Timo Scheider: After my first forays into the world of rally cross, it quickly became clear that I wanted to contest a full season. I have developed a great passion for it. It’s a very pure, hard and intense sport and I feel that rallying is the way I’ve always known motor racing. Motorsport has developed considerably in recent years, taking a very different tack. I really love the very normal, down-to-earth life in the paddock and the extremely tough scraps out on track. I’ve reached an age where I’ve decided to only do the things that I enjoy. I’m pleased that I was able to sign up for the whole year. I feel pretty elated.
SPORT1: What do you particularly like about the World Rallycross Championship? What’s its fascination for you?
Scheider: The atmosphere in the paddock is really great and very relaxed. We sit and chat about things from time to time and drink coffee with the other drivers, but as soon as you are on the starting line, hurtling down towards the first turn five abreast, the adrenaline kicks in and your pulse hits 150 even though you have not even set off yet. Adrenaline rushes like that are very rare in motorsport. And then there are magnificent scraps and no complicated strategies larded with instructions to follow over the radio. That’s what makes it so special for me.
SPORT1: What are your goals this season? Is the title a realistic proposition or will it be more about winning individual races?
Scheider: Without the works entrants, the opportunities will be greater than ever, that’s for sure, but it will be a very tough championship because of the high number of participants, which is good. I don’t want to be handed victory on a plate. It always feels better when you have to fight hard for success, which is why I’m looking forward so much to the year ahead.
SPORT1: Who are your biggest rivals and how much do you fear them?
Scheider: Well, there’s world championship runner-up Andreas Bakkerud, obviously. He will certainly be the hottest iron in the fire in the car, with which he came second in the world championship. And then I think the two Hansens in the Peugeots might well be up front and could be contenders for victory and we’ll have to see how the Renaults do as well. They were not quite where they wanted to be last year, and I think that’s another car to keep an eye on, especially when you see how well Niclas Grönholm did in the Hyundai last year. He was always good for some real big surprises. These are my Top Five, my top podium contenders. But there are new drivers coming along that we don’t yet know, and you can’t just simply write them off.
SPORT1: Some people see the future of the World Rally Championship in danger without the participation of any works teams and the loss of some big names like Solberg and Loeb, but what do you think?
Scheider: You need works participation to get a certain level in the world’s most diverse championships and to generate certain standards. However, at the same time, that means that some will fall by the wayside, those who can’t compete financially and do not have the same resources as works entrants. So the works teams raise the bar but that can also hurt smaller teams and possibly even destroy championships.
With 16 cars in the line-up, there are more cars than ever before in any world championship from recent years. What makes it so exciting is that, in my opinion, there are at least ten or twelve cars that could finish on the podium. In the past, it was more like two or four. This is why it will be the toughest world championship as far as different candidates for the podium are concerned. There are a lot of good drivers with good cars. I’ll have to see where I stand. This will be my first time contesting a full season. We’ve built a new car and it feels really good. Testing went really well. At the moment, we’re just hoping, wishing and praying, but my goal is to win races. We will find out whether that’s achievable after the first or second weekend at the latest. My gut feeling tells me that we will be in a position to challenge up front.
I think it’s really great that the rally cross scene has managed to survive despite the big question mark hanging over it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most spectacular sport on the planet.
SPORT1: Unfortunately, you will not be able to go up against former DTM colleague Mattias Ekström this year, but at least he is staying on as team leader. Are you looking forward to seeing your old mate again or would you rather battle it out with him on the track?
Scheider: Mattias and I have spent many years together as DTM team-mates. We know each other inside out. We know when it gets uncomfortable on the track and also where the limits were and currently are. We both know what we are capable of. I would love to beat Mattias on the track, because I really enjoy winning against someone, who has been so successful.
SPORT1: You still also have commitments as a BMW works drivers to think about – will it be a difficult balancing act for you to perform?
Scheider: BMW signed me on the basis that my focus will be on rally cross, so it’s always been clear right from the outset that I have to be free to do what I want, and we’ll try to fit the rest of the programme around that consideration to make things OK for both sides while ensuring that neither party is at a disadvantage. We’ve found a good way to balance things out. The World Rallycross Championship takes precedence and that’s a luxury I’m willing to accept.