It is time for another “ETS Family Interview” and today we speak to the very well-known Xray factory driver Alexander Hagberg (30) from Sweden! Alexander is one of the most successful touring car racers and we can call him “The Master of 1:12 Scale” of the last years. Let´s read what we found out about the life of Alexander Hagberg!
Hi Alex and welcome to our series of “ETS Family Interviews”. We are all facing hard and special times at the moment with the Covid-19 virus affecting the life of almost everybody. How is the situation for you and your family at the moment in the UK, we hope that you are all doing fine?
I am doing fine, and so is my family. I am “working from home”, which is a bit hard to do as a professional RC racer. But I’m keeping myself busy with social media, producing content for my YouTube channel, and responding to customer’s questions. I’ve also started running VRC PRO to keep my reaction and concentration levels up to par! My wife is working for the NHS here in the UK. She is working in the ICU unit at the hospital, which is now exclusively for COVID-19 affected patients. Needless to say, she’s having a very tough time right now, and I have my biggest respect for the work that she’s doing. At the moment, we are all doing fine, but we are taking it day by day, as nobody can know exactly what the future holds, or when the curve will start to flatten.
We all know you because of your very successful RC racing career. But in 2017 you got married with Joana and now you have a 15 month old son Francisco. As you are still winning big races, the family life seems not to “slow you down” at all! How do you organize your family life in combination with the many races you are doing all around the world?
Just like with everything in life, it’s about finding the right balance. When I’m at home, I try to make use of my time, to be able to spend as much time as possible with my family. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to be away as much as I am, but we are making it work. I feel really lucky to have the life that I have – I wouldn’t exchange it for anything!
Let us travel into the past to learn about where your RC journey started. You grew up in Sweden so tell us how old you have been when you got your first transmitter in your hands. Was it just a toy or did you start racing directly in one of the Swedish RC clubs?
I started with RC because of my dad basically. He was racing Formula 3 and rally in the 1970's, so I always had a natural interest in cars.
I started driving a Kyosho PureTen which I borrowed from my cousin. I just raced it up and down the street in front of my house! Eventually we got introduced to the local carpet track, by a salesperson at our local hobbyshop. I was 10 years old at the time. We raced locally and travelled around in Sweden for the first few years. The class at the time was touring car on carpet.
Can you remember the first time you attended an RC race? If so, which class did you race, which car did you use and which result you finally achieved?
Alex: Even though touring car was my very first class, ironically enough, I drove an Associated RC10B3 2WD off-road car in my first ever race. It was off-road on carpet, using foam tires! I finished 5th. I believe but there were less than 10 entrants in the class, since touring car was already taking over from off-road.
Did you have a good friend or a family member who helped you in the early stages of RC racing when you were young and not a sponsored driver?
Except for my dad, who worked on my cars until I was about 15 years old, another important person for me in my early years was Andreas Myrberg. He was the top Swedish and XRAY driver when I grew up, and he was a big mentor and friend for me. And still is, to this day. Thanks to Andreas, I ended up racing for XRAY in the first place!
Sweden is a really big country and the distances can be huge. Did you have a lot of tracks and races in Sweden or did you have to drive hours and hours to get your car down on a nice track for practice?
When I first started racing, there was a local carpet track in the city where I lived, Uppsala. But eventually, that track got closed down, and we had to start driving further to practice and race. I spent countless hours in a city called Eskilstuna, in the middle of Sweden. They had a big permanent indoor carpet track for many years, and I just loved it there. A lot of my practice and racing until 2009 took place there.
How was the feeling for you to race at your first international events before you became the well-known Alexander Hagberg of today?
When I first started racing outside of Sweden, back in 2004/2005, I definitely had a hard time to keep up with the best drivers. It took a couple of years to get used to the pace of the international racing scene. I am thankful for my father who happily brought me to those events to gain experience though. In 2004, I raced at the DHI Cup, LRP Masters as well as the European Championships. One must have in mind that there were A LOT less international events on the calendar than it is today. So those three events which I just mentioned were the main events of the season in Europe. My first decent international result was at the LRP Masters in 2005, where I qualified in the B-main, together with some strong names.
I made my first international A-main at DHI Cup in 2007. I just made it, in the 10th spot. I remember I was extremely satisfied, almost in disbelief. Any racer that’s achieved some kind of success will understand the feeling that goes through your mind at a moment like that. From then on, my results started to become better and better, as I grew more confident, and also got faster for the years that followed.
Which was the first company who offered you kind of a sponsor deal and how did that feel?
XRAY was my first chassis sponsor. I raced for the Swedish XRAY distributor, Minicars, already since December of 2003. But I got offered a direct sponsorship from XRAY in 2005. And as you know, I’m still with the same company today. I am extremely grateful to the Hudy family for everything they’ve done for me over the years.
At one time you got the chance to race RC cars as a fulltime job and as a factory driver for Xray!
Was it easy for you to decide that this was exactly what you wanted or did you use some kind of a “pro and contra” list to make your final decision?
I had the opportunity to become a paid driver (professional) in 2011, as XRAY offered me a renewal of my contract, with a salary. But I had to choose - if I wanted to study at university, or commit all my time into RC. My original plan was to become a journalist, as I always liked writing. I had already started my first term at the university when I got the offer from XRAY. To become a pro was a dream coming true for me, so I can’t say that it was an easy choice, but I don't regret my decision until now!
Now, some years later you get paid for racing and you are travelling the world to race 1:12 scale and touring car at the highest level! Do you always feel some pressure when you fly to Asia, Australia or the US for a race that you MUST win or do you stay calm and more relaxed to achieve the best results for you and your sponsors?
Of course, there is always pressure to do well, not only from my sponsors, but from myself as well. When you are a professional driver, you will always have the eyes on you, no matter where you race. Doesn’t matter if it’s a club race, or a world championship, everyone expects you to win. So there is always pressure to perform, regardless of the size of the race. Ironically enough, smaller events are often the most challenging, as there is always a “local hero” who wants to beat you!
You have won a lot of major touring car races in your career, including a European championship, some ETS wins, the Snowbirds in Florida and the TITC in Thailand. But when we look over to 1:12 scale racing your list of wins is even more impressive with a world championship title and 7 European titles. What is it that makes you kind of a real “benchmark” in 1:12 scale racing?
Honestly it’s probably about my passion for the class, as well as the time and focus that I spend on it. Every year, I dedicate at lot of time both on and off the track to try and win the European Championships in 1/12, and it’s paid off many times! I also feel that my driving style is perhaps better suited for 1/12.
You have been the top Xray driver for many years, and then Bruno came onto the team and won a lot of races. Do you think, having Bruno as your team mate, made you even better and working harder than before or is it just good for Xray to have two top guns who are able to win big races at any time?
Most definitely, when Bruno came into the team back in 2015, it was a big motivation for me to try and improve, and to get even faster. Bruno quickly became the man to beat at every given race, so to have him on the team as a fellow racer, but also as a good friend off the track, has meant a lot for my racing career!
At races you always seem to be very focused in the pits and you are very well known for your perfect built cars. Is that attention to detail something that comes along with your character or was there somebody teaching you all these little secrets about wrenching in the past?
I always worked very hard on my race preparation, both leading up to an event, as well as during. I feel that I want to give myself the best possible chance to do well when I’m up there racing, so I want my equipment to be in immaculate condition, and my setup to be as perfect as possible. I picked up the knowledge from my teammates, from reading and watching online, as well as endless hours of “self-learning”. I don’t have a background in engineering like many racers do, but I still feel that I have a lot of knowledge and experience which is useful for RC car racing.
You don`t have a personal mechanic at the races. Do you just feel better when you make changes and maintenance work by yourself or what is the reason you are doing all the preparation by yourself?
For the majority of the events, I work on my own car, yes. If I would have a mechanic, it would be more for the sake of saving some time in between runs, and to rest my mind. I believe that I have all the knowledge that I need to prepare my own car. But it can be extremely valuable for a driver to have a mechanic or a friend help giving feedback from watching the car on the track. For this, I have our team manager Martin Hudy, who always helps out and consults me on setup changes, and how to progress on race day.
As we mentioned before, you have won a lot of titles already. When you have to pick one of them as the most important, which one would it be and why?
Of all my titles, the most special one for me is of course my 1/10 Nitro World Championship in Bangkok, Thailand. The feeling of crossing the finish line after the 60 minute final was one of the best I ever felt in my life. Its every racers dream to win a title like this, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to call myself world champion.
On the other side, in every racers career there are some sad moments when you lose a race you wanted to win so much! Do you remember a defeat which took you some time to get over in the past?
Absolutely. I lost the 2016 Touring Car Euros by less than 0.1s on the tie-break. I also lost the 2018 TITC on the finish line, after a controversial move by a competitor. Both these losses were tough to get over. But as they say, “when the going gets tough”. Every loss also teaches you something.
What, from your point of view, makes the ETS the most successful on-road racing series for so many years?
ETS is successful not only because of the high level of competition, with all the top European drivers, but mainly because of its function as a social event. People travel to the ETS to meet their friends, and to hang out at these great race venues all around Europe. As a bonus, they get to race cars, and to spend time on the passion which they all share. ETS is not only about the racing, and this is one of main reasons in my opinion.
You are producing some videos with tech tips and about products on your YouTube channel and for MonacoRC since quite some time. It seems that your videos are very popular out there and everybody wants to learn from your knowledge! Do you enjoy this part of your job as well?
I certainly like to spend time doing that kind of content to social media. I try to be active online on a daily basis to help out customers, and to reply to questions, no matter if you are an XRAY driver or not. The RC community as a whole, benefits from this. Hence why I find it extremely important, but also enjoyable.
Back to the track: You are leading a race and somebody is very close behind you. Most drivers get even more nervous when they are under huge pressure. Do you have a special trick to stay cool like special blocking techniques or do you just try to think that you are driving all alone by yourself?
With the amount of experience that I have, I have to say that you get more and more used to handling the pressure at races over the years. I remember getting a lot more nervous in my youth. But you need to use the adrenaline and turn it into something positive, not negative. It shouldn’t come to the point where you start getting the “shakes”. But it should help you to stay focused.
What is your favorite racetrack for 1:10 scale electric touring cars and why?
I enjoy racing at the HUDY Arena Outdoor track. It’s super smooth, has perfect curbing, a nice and flowing layout, as well as a high average speed. It has everything that you can ask for from a track!
Do you prefer indoor or outdoor racing?
I started racing on carpet, and this is still the most “natural” surface for me, and hence, it’s my favourite.
Who was your personal RC hero in your childhood and from which guy you learned the most?
Andreas Myrberg was the person that I looked up to, for the reasons that I mentioned in one of my earlier replies. I learned a lot from him!
Do you have other hobbies beside RC racing? How is your “perfect day off” looking at home?
I don’t have any other hobbies. But I do love cooking (vegan food) at home. When I travel, I mostly eat out. So I do enjoy to cook my own food when I’m at home. And of course, to try and spend as much time with my family as possible.
You lived in Sweden, Portugal and the UK until now. Which is your favorite food from each of those countries?
Each of those countries has food which I like. But I have to say, the Mediterranean diet was always a favourite. I like the seasoning and the freshness of the Portuguese kitchen. But on the other hand, I do enjoy a nice vegetarian meatball dish from IKEA, as well as a “full English” breakfast!
Have you ever thought about the time after your active career as an RC racer? Do you have any other profession or made some plans how your future can look alike?
I want to work with RC for many more years if I can, as it's my great passion. When my professional career as a driver eventually will come to an end, I hope that I can look into other options in the RC industry, to keep working with what I love.
You have a lot of fans all around the world following you on social media and on the racetracks as well. What do you tell people when they ask you how to get better and faster RC racers?
Practice, practice and more practice. And don’t be afraid to ask the top drivers for advice! It’s the best way to learn.
Alex, we would like to thank you for your time and answering all our questions. The whole RC community is happy to have such a great ambassador like you are to promote our great sport!
We hope to see you racing for many, many years and we wish you best of luck for the upcoming races. If you like just give a shout out to all people who support you and to your sponsors as well!
Thank you for featuring me on your series of interviews! I want to thank my main sponsor XRAY for all their support, as well as every other sponsor that puts trust in my racing program. I want to thank all my family, friends and fans around the world for all their support and friendship!
|07.||Frederik B. Mikkelsen||589pts|
|08.||Martijn v. d. Heijden||152pts|
|03.||Steven M. Olsen||595pts|