If there’s one new driver on the grid at Summer Global X Games in Foz do Iguaçu who Global Rallycross Championship fans should be aware of, it’s Swedish phenomenon Anton Marklund.
At only 20 years of age, and with only three years of rallycross competition under his belt, Marklund already boasts a European rallycross championship, having won the Touring Car class last year. Now driving the No. 92 Volkswagen Polo Supercar for Marklund Motorsport, he’s already taken high-profile victories in Austria and Belgium, in preparation for a full-on assault on the European Supercar championship this year.
But some of the most high profile races Marklund will run this year will come at Summer Global X Games, where he has committed to running a minimum of three events. In looking forward to the new season, he sat down for an interview to give us some background on his accomplishments, his new car, and his great expectations for the coming years:
First things first: what is your background and what have you accomplished as a rallycross driver so far?
I started with rallycross when I was 17 years old, and I did it in the Swedish championship then with older and cheaper cars. But everything went very well, and in the next season, when I was 18 years old, I tried half a season in Touring Cars in the European championship. And I had third place in Sweden as my best result. We were very happy with that season, we had a lot of progress, so we decided to do a three-year plan to reach the championship title in Supercars in the third year. The first year was to learn tracks, and how all the races were working, and we did it in the cheaper class, in the Touring Car class. And it went very well, with a championship title.
So now we are going into year two, the first year with the Supercar. It’s a new car, and it needs to (have work) done on it during the season, because you can’t build a perfect car—you need to develop it so it’s faster and faster. But I’m really looking forward to this also because we’ve been testing it a lot during the winter, and I feel that the car is very good, we have not had that many problems with it. So I think we can be at the top already this year for sure.
I’m 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn on my own also—it’s not just the car that needs to be better and better, it’s me also, for sure. And then we also have the third, and we will be the champion—we are really aiming to be the champion in both Europe and hopefully we can go worldwide and be champions there also.
How did your program with Volkswagen initially come about? Who are some of the people involved with the program?
We thought it was a good opportunity to drive a Volkswagen Polo because there is no Volkswagen car in rallycross, and with Volkswagen Motorsport building the WRC cars and having their premiere this season, there will be a lot of media looking to the Volkswagen. So we thought it was a good opportunity to build that. We also looked at the car together with Gunnarsson Motorsport, the chassis builder, and also Trollspeed, who is the engine supplier. And together we decided that with the Polo, we can build a winning car. Because Volkswagen is doing the WRC, all eyes are on the Polo, and that could help us. So it was a pretty easy decision. The car looks good with the specs, the wheelbase, and the engines we can use.
When was the decision made to come to X Games? Can you reveal which X Games events you plan to participate in?
It was just one week ago that we confirmed that we will be in X Games in Brazil, and I’m very happy with that. We will also be in Barcelona and Munich, but we haven’t (confirmed) that we will be in Los Angeles. But I would love to be in Los Angeles, driving the fourth race also, so hopefully we can make something up so we can be in Los Angeles with the Volkswagen car also.
Last year you were driving in the European championship’s Touring Car class, winning the championship there. Have you had to make a lot of adjustments in your style to drive the Supercar?
Yeah—you know, those Supercars are sick! They’re so fast. But it’s actually pretty easy to drive it when you have learned how to do (it). With a four-wheel drive car, if you’re going too fast into the corner, you can just pull the handbrake a little bit and go full throttle, and you’ve made it. That’s not the way you do it with a rear-wheel car, so in the beginning it was hard for me to understand that if I’m going a little bit wide with the rear, if I’m going sideways, I need to put more throttle down. So that was a little bit hard in the beginning. But I’m enjoying it, I’m learning very fast. I think it has been very good, actually.
We did our first test with the car in October last year in Austria—I did 40 laps of testing and then I drove in the race of Austrian champions. And I was Austrian champion, I beat the four-time Austrian champion with the best time ever on that track, so it went surprisingly well.
You mentioned that you’ve done a lot of testing, and you’ve raced the car already, winning the Belgian season opener as well as the Austrian event. How much has the car improved since you started testing? How does it react when on track with other vehicles?
I think our car has one thing that’s very good that we could see in Belgium—on the starts, it’s very fast. We had a super start in the final from third on the start grid, and (it) was far ahead of others on the first corner. I think the car is very fast on the starts, and that’s very important in rallycross. We have been testing the Polo very much during the winter, on ice, tarmac, and gravel, and we have had almost no problems. I was very surprised because those cars are impressive, with so much horsepower and everything, and they should have some problems. But this car has had almost nothing during the test sessions. So that’s perfect.
Looking forward to X Games, have you looked at the track layout in Foz do Iguaçu yet? If so, what do you think of it?
I’ve seen it a little bit—it’s all gravel, right? I think it’s perfect for the Polo, with such good traction, that we have found on the ice—because we’ve been driving on the ice, and it’s slippery, (like) on the gravel. So I think it’s perfect for us to drive on gravel, both for me where I drive a lot on the ice, and the Polo we’ve tested a lot on the slippery parts.
The field at X Games should be incredibly deep as always. Which drivers do you think will be the toughest competition, and who would you like to beat the most?
I think all the guys who will be competing at X Games are seriously good, and it will be hard to beat all of them. But to race against people like (Tanner) Foust, (Travis) Pastrana, and Ken Block, it’s fantastic. I would really love to beat them, because they’re world stars. And we’ve been looking at the Gymkhana movies and everything, and you really want to beat them.
Finally, what are your expectations for your results in X Games? Do you think that you can challenge for a medal?
Yeah, for sure! I think we will be at the podium, I think we have a good chance to be at the podium. Absolutely. I wouldn’t go there, either, if I was thinking that I would be the last person to cross the finish line. I’m aiming for the podium, and hopefully we can reach there.
For more information on Anton Marklund and Marklund Motorsport’s participation in Summer Global X Games, visit their website.
Photo credits: Qba/QNIGAN.com