Mon 04 Dec 2023

Euro RX3 Season Review: Pole prevails in tense intra-team tussle

Damian Litwinowicz led the way from start to finish in the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s Euro RX3 battle in 2023, but the points table does not tell the full story...

Damian Litwinowicz led the way from start to finish in the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s Euro RX3 battle in 2023, but the points table does not tell the full story of a dramatic campaign during which the momentum ebbed and flowed and the title was only ultimately decided by a clash in the very last race.

Litwinowicz entered his third season in the series as the early favourite having finished as championship runner-up in 2022. The Pole immediately stamped his authority on proceedings by winning the opening two rounds in Hungary and Portugal – but already, it was becoming apparent that he was not going to have things all his own way.

At Nyirád, new Volland Racing recruit Espen Isaksætre topped the times in two of the four heats prior to chasing his team-mate to the chequered flag in the final, missing out on victory on his debut in the all-conquering Audi A1 by barely half-a-second. At Montalegre, he ran Litwinowicz even closer, and in Hell, the Norwegian was the faster of the pair until a mistake in the final dropped him behind – although both of them had to play second fiddle there to an inspired Nils Volland.

That meant Litwinowicz carried a handy 12-point advantage into the remaining two rounds, but a dominant performance by Isaksætre at Höljes’ ‘Magic Weekend’ – his breakthrough international success – slashed the points gap to just five heading to the Estering season finale.

That margin was reduced further when the Flisa native – by now with the bit firmly between his teeth – topped the intermediate ranking in Germany, before matters perhaps inevitably came to a head in the all-important final. The two Audi drivers ran wheel-to-wheel the length of the back straight on the first lap at the Buxtehude-based circuit, with contact breaking Litwinowicz’s steering and causing a second collision in the joker.

The 25-year-old found himself stranded, while Isaksætre was subsequently disqualified, resulting in Litwinowicz taking a European rallycross title back to Poland for the first time since 2006.

Behind the top two, Volland wound up third, excelling in Norway – where the inexperienced German took a commanding clean sweep – and showing similar scene-stealing speed in Hungary until his weekend unravelled. The 23-year-old advanced a spot in the standings when Jens Hvaal was stripped of victory at the Estering due to a technical non-conformity, dropping the talented teenager – in his maiden full campaign at European level – to fourth overall.

Giant-killing countryman and brother-in-law Martin Kjær was close behind in fifth in a similar Škoda Fabia, despite missing the Nyirád curtain-raiser, as the Norwegian progressed to the final every time out.

Other notable displays came from Balázs Körmöczi – a podium-finisher on his international bow on home soil in Hungary – as well as French duo Dylan Dufas and David Bouet, who delivered an impressive one-two for RX Evolution in Germany following Hvaal’s disqualification.

Championship Standings

1. Damian Litwinowicz 91 pts
2. Espen Isaksætre 87 pts
3. Nils Volland 65 pts
4. Jens Hvaal 46 pts
5. Martin Kjær 43 pts
6. João Ribeiro 39 pts

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM