WTCR season build-up Q&A: Andreas Backman
The older of the two Bäckman siblings racing in the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup in 2021, Andreas Bäckman is a young man with a plan.
“My goal has always been to get into WTCR, it was the right time to take one more step to develop more as a driver”
Although he steps up to touring car racing’s top level a winner in TCR Europe, the 25-year-old Swede is keeping his expectations firmly in check as he embarks on his maiden WTCR adventure with fellow newcomer Target Competition.
With a Masters of Science in Industrial Engineering to complete, 2021 will be a learning year in more ways than one for Bäckman, who must also try out several new tracks and his all-new, Goodyear-equipped Hyundai Elantra N TCR. But he’s not fazed in the slightest and is raring to get started.
What made you choose the WTCR for 2021?
“My goal and also [my sister] Jessica’s goal has always been to get into WTCR. Now we have done three years in TCR racing and two in Europe, it felt, especially for myself, that it was the right time to take one more step to develop more as a driver. I have raced against a few WTCR drivers in Europe and I felt I wanted to race against more of those drivers and gain more experience. It’s also good to race on the different tracks we have in WTCR, very challenging tracks. It will be a very good year for me to develop. And, of course, I want to develop but I don’t have too big expectations. I know it will be a very big challenge because the drivers and teams are very good.”
As well as new tracks, you also have a new car. What’s the new Hyundai Elantra N TCR like?
“It will be completely new. But it will not take too much time to get used to it because we have driven Hyundais now for two years, so we know a little bit about what to expect.”
Your first WTCR race is on the world’s toughest track, the Nürburgring Nordschleife. What did you make of it during the two NLS races you have done to prepare?
“The first lap I did there was quite scary to be honest, but I thought the track was fun. I have driven on the simulator but when you arrive it goes so much up and down with so many different corners. But after a few laps I got more and more confident. Now we have done two NLS races we have got some experience of the track at least, even though it was in a different car. But I really can understand why the drivers really enjoy to drive there. When you start to get the flow and things start to work, it’s a really enjoyable track but, at the same time, it’s a very challenging one. It will be two very tricky races in the WTCR.”
The races might be tricky but you’ll get plenty of experience, which is the priority, right?
“For sure. If you look on this year’s calendar, there is only one track I have been to before and that’s the Hungaroring. All the other tracks are quite new and I am not expecting to go to the Nordschleife and win straight away. That could be a big ask. It will be the first round and one of the toughest ones so I would like to take it step by step and hopefully we can start to challenge later on in the year. But, at the same time, we want to do the best results possible, and will always try.”
With so much to learn and take on board, how important is the continuity of being able to continue your partnership with your team, Target Competition?
“We have raced for this team for two years and we know them very well and we feel we have a good relationship. We have the same goals and we both wanted to take the next step and join WTCR. For both of us it will be a very exciting challenge but very fun as well. They have also strived to get here and now this year we have the opportunity to keep working together and that’s really exciting.”
Your younger sister Jessica will be joining you in stepping up to the WTCR this year. What’s your relationship like?
“To be honest we are working very well together. Normally siblings want to fight but we are helping each other and we see it as an advantage rather than a disadvantage being siblings. If we have any tips, we can give them to each other and can both move forward. It’s not like we are trying to fight and not help each other. At the end of the day, we both want to be on the podium. We are similar in speed so we can be on the same place on the track quite often.”
Has that caused any problems in the past?
“Not really! We had one race a few years ago but we never had any problems. When we are racing each other, we are not too aggressive because we know if both of us crash, we will both lose. We always try to race each other fair but we don’t have any team orders. We race and the one in front doesn’t need to lift off. But we don’t make any stupid moves, there’s no point.”
Who is better, you or Jessica?
“We are quite different. Normally I am quite good in qualifying because I think I am more an aggressive driver because I tend to push the tyres a little bit better, but Jessica is very smooth in her driving and is normally quite good in longer races to keep the tyres in good shape. We are good on different things and we can both learn from each other so that’s a good thing.”
What do your parents make of the fact their two children are preparing to race in WTCR, such a high-level series?
“They are really happy we could take the step. It’s also very fun for them to be part of the journey and they are really enjoying the racing as well and always want to go to watch. We are doing it like a family thing but with the COVID-19 it’s difficult for the travel. But we have always had a very good relationship with our parents. We are doing it together always.”
Where’s home in Sweden and what’s keeping you busy when you are not racing?
“We are living very close to the Arctic Circle in a town called Boden. We are 1000 kilometres north of Stockholm. By car we are 30 minutes to one hour from the Arctic Circle. As well as racing in WTCR I am a student at university in Luleå, which is 30 minutes away from my home. I am studying a Masters of Science in Industrial Engineering and I am in my final year now.”
And if you could summarise your TCR category career so far, what have been the good points and the not so good points?
“I started with TCR three years ago. In the first year I raced in both the Scandinavian and UK series. The first year was very good actually. In TCR UK I got a podium already in my first race and during the season I managed to get one win and finished third in that championship. In 2019 I moved to TCR Europe after doing the last race of the previous season. I had really good pace all year, especially in the end of the year when I started to feel more at home in the car and also in the series. And I also got my first win during the season and was also quick during the qualifying, I managed to get two pole positions.”
What about 2020?“I was aiming to go for the title but already in the second round in Zolder, I had two big incidents and then I got a hand injury, so I had to skip one round in Monza and the championship was not as I wanted it to be. I finished sixth last year having finished fourth the year before. I managed to come back and take a win in Barcelona after missing Monza and that was good because I was straight back on the pace and managed to win. Even if it wasn’t the best year, it was still a very good year and now we are here in WTCR.”