Fri 12 Apr 2024

More experienced Volland returns for Euro RX3 title tilt

Nils Volland has confirmed he will return to the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 2024, as he bids to put to good use the lessons he learned last season in his quest to clinch the coveted crown.

Volland made his debut on the international stage just two years ago, and entering the 2023 Euro RX3 campaign, he was still lacking significantly in the experience stakes compared to many of his rivals – not least Volland Racing stablemates Damian Litwinowicz and Espen Isaksætre.

Be that as it may, it was the German who came out-of-the-blocks fastest in the Hungarian curtain-raiser at Nyirád with victory in the opening heat, only for a last lap clash with home hero Balázs Körmöczi in heat three and an error at the start of his semi-final to cause his bid for glory to rapidly unravel.

Five weeks later in Portugal, Volland saw another opportunity to win bite the dust – this time, through no fault of his own. Third in the intermediate standings, he pipped Litwinowicz to the chequered flag in the pair’s semi-final to earn pole position for the all-important final, in which he looked set to repeat the feat.

After responding to his team-mate’s second lap joker, however – emerging side-by-side with the Pole before narrowly fending him off – engine issues dropped the Audi driver to third, but next time out in Norway, nothing would stand in Volland’s way.

Back at the scene of his breakthrough European podium ten months earlier, the 23-year-old dominated, topping the timesheets in every heat, his semi-final and the final to tally a maximum score.

Buoyed by that stellar performance, he was firmly in the mix again at Höljes’ ‘Magic Weekend’ to snare second spot in the post-heats ranking – denying Isaksætre a clean sweep of wins along the way – but a scrappy last lap in challenging conditions in the semi-final dropped him from first to third, and that in-turn restricted him to fifth place in the final.

On home soil at the Estering, Volland could manage no better than seventh during the heats, but battled back after getting caught up in a first corner mêlée in his semi-final to cement a front row grid slot for the final. Despite two instances of contact with Isaksætre, he ended up third following post-race judicials to secure the same position in the championship standings – making him the highest-placed returnee in 2024...

“The whole season was a bit up-and-down,” reflected the Roth native. “In terms of raw pace, we were definitely right up there, but the other guys had more experience than me and that clearly showed in the overall results.

“I really didn’t expect to be as fast as I was at the beginning, or to be able to match Damian and Espen. My lap times were good, but my racecraft still wasn’t the best. I remember at Höljes, I was leading the semi-final with a big gap behind, and then I made a mistake – so I definitely wasn’t always clever enough...

“I learned a lot from working alongside such strong drivers, though – particularly in terms of how to handle the first corner, which is so important in rallycross – and the weekend in Norway was a big confidence boost. We came quite close to winning in Portugal as well, but after getting out of the joker ahead of Damian, my engine developed a small problem that left me down-on-power so that was disappointing.

“This year, my aim is to perform the best I can. I don’t know who else will be on the grid yet, but there are sure to be some fast drivers as the level in the European Championship is always high. Some of the tracks will be new to me again, but I know the car is quick – it’s always a pleasure to drive the Audi – and I’ve got a really good team behind me.

“My approach is to take everything race-by-race and then see where we are at the end of the season, but the target has to be to reach the podium in every round – and now I’ve got a taste for winning, I want to win some more... I’m ready to go racing!”

Volland’s new team-mates for the forthcoming campaign will be announced in due course.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM