After missing out on a maiden Euro RX3 victory by barely half-a-second in the 2023 FIA European Rallycross Championship curtain-raiser at Nyirád last month, Espen Isaksætre has warned his rivals he is ‘only going to get quicker’ over the remainder of the campaign.
For a driver who has regularly punched above his weight in the series with the support of a small family-run team and modest resources, joining multiple Euro RX3 champions Volland Racing this season is a game-changer for Isaksætre – and potentially a career-defining moment. It is an opportunity that he is already grabbing with both hands.
On his first visit to Hungary’s legendary ‘Red Cauldron’, the Norwegian overcame a shaky opening heat – where a big slide turned into a half-spin and he then came off worse in a scrap with home hero Balázs Körmöczi – to nail his start in heat two from the middle of the grid and subsequently check out into the distance. As he increasingly got to grips with his Audi A1, a faultless performance placed him second on the timesheets for the session.
He went one better in heat three to narrowly pip Volland Racing stablemate Damian Litwinowicz to the fastest run, before replicating that result in heat four, smartly undercutting his adversaries on the exit of Turn One on both occasions to cement the top spot in the intermediate standings and scoop the three championship points that accompanied it.
Isaksætre didn’t need to undercut anybody in his semi-final, leading away from pole position, but an overly cautious approach as he focussed on fending off a hard-charging Jan Černý behind allowed early joker Körmöczi to leapfrog the pair of them, relegating the Flisa native to the second row of the grid for the final.
Despite gaining a position to second at the start, Isaksætre completed the first lap 1.6 seconds adrift of Litwinowicz – an eternity in rallycross terms. Undeterred, he got the bit between his teeth and charged his team-mate down, posting the two quickest laps of the race to take the chequered flag just 0.565s in arrears – matching his finest Euro RX3 finish to-date. He is confident there is plenty more still to come.
“I enjoyed the weekend very much,” the 29-year-old enthused. “Going into it, we didn’t really know how fast we would be, and I was a bit too aggressive in the first heat. Rolf [Volland – team owner] said to me afterwards, ‘you need to calm down’, so I concentrated more on the details and from there on, things just got better and better.
“I played it slightly too safe in the semi-final, I think, but our speed in the final was really good and the car felt amazing. Damian established a decent lead early on, but we closed right onto his tail by the end. To secure a one-two finish for Volland Racing was fantastic, and a great result for my first weekend in the Audi.
“There’s a really positive vibe inside the team and a good working relationship between all the drivers – and of course, Rolf brings his wealth of experience to the table, too.
“We scored a lot of points at Nyirád, which is good, but the level in the championship is very high so we’ll need to stay focussed and sharp all year. I know all the remaining circuits and I’ve been to Montalegre twice before. Last time I was there in 2018, it snowed in the final and I finished second, which was cool. It’s a proper rallycross track, with passionate fans who create an incredible atmosphere.
“There are many fast local drivers on the entry list, and with such a big field, consistency will be even more important as there won’t be the luxury of being able to get away with a couple of bad heats like there was in Hungary – if that happens in Portugal, it will mean missing out on the semi-finals and potentially a lot of points. Hopefully we can be right up there again; at the end of the day, the more time I spend in the car, I’m only going to get quicker...”