Jens Hvaal is aiming to contest the full FIA European Rallycross Championship campaign in 2023, after unleashing a scene-stealing performance to secure the runner-up spoils on his Euro RX3 debut at the Nürburgring last November.
Despite his family’s rallycross heritage – as the son of Even Hvaal, younger brother of Ada Marie Hvaal and cousin of both two-time Euro RX event-winner Alexander Hvaal and Joachim Hvaal, who finished fourth overall in RX Lites in 2016 – the 18-year-old was a comparative latecomer into the sport. Alexander did not race himself until 2020, spending three seasons competing in the Norwegian Rallycross Championship’s ‘Junior’ category with a Honda Civic, with which he placed third in 2021 and second in 2022.
Off the back of that, Hvaal decided to test his mettle in Euro RX3, knowing he would be facing a steep learning curve. For starters, the car he was driving – the Škoda Fabia piloted to victory by Marius Solberg Hansen at Höljes earlier in the year – was not even his, belonging to his two cousins, and he had never driven it in the dry ahead of the race weekend.
He was also facing a sizeable leap from the domestic scene onto the international stage, but then, the Larvik native is no stranger to throwing himself in at the deep end...
“My entire family is into motorsport and many of them have competed, so people assumed I would go down the same route but I simply wasn’t interested when I was younger,” he explains. “All I wanted to do was go fishing and play football. It was only when my friends began racing that I started getting into it too.
“Everybody tried to warn me that I was taking too big a step from the national championship up into Euro RX3, but I felt it would be ok. I knew the car was fast because Marius [Solberg Hansen] had won with it at Höljes, but at the same time, I had only driven it twice – both times in the wet – and had no prior experience of competing at such a high level.
“Everything was new for me. My goal was to learn and reach the semi-finals if we could, but I felt immediately at home in the Škoda and we were fifth-quickest in free practice, which surprised me a bit. That was obviously good for my confidence, but still, we all know practice is just practice and that the races are a completely different matter.”
Notwithstanding his modesty, history recalls that the weekend turned out to be rather better than merely ‘ok’, as Hvaal replicated his stellar practice form to place inside the top three in every heat, win both his progression race and semi-final and take the chequered flag as runner-up in the final behind champion Kobe Pauwels. Going into 2023, he is bidding to build upon that, as he prepares to return to the track with the Fabia, only this time for a more concerted assault.
“To progress to the final and go on to finish second with my private team against so many fast drivers was honestly like a dream,” the talented teenager reflects. “The plan now is to come back for a full season in Euro RX3 – that’s what we’re working on – and to use it as a learning year.
“Of course our result at the Nürburgring was encouraging, but there’s a big difference between doing that in one round and doing it in every round. I’m very conscious that many of the others have a lot more experience than I do, so I’m not setting myself any targets as such but naturally I want to be able to fight up at the front as often as I can. We know the Škoda is a competitive proposition, so it’s up to me to make the best use of it...”