7/10/2015 Version 12.2 About the Author Sverre Isachsen Found In Translation By Neil M. Szigethy 7/10/2015 Version 12.2 Going from three-time European Rallycross Champion to a relative unknown in America is just another challenge for Sverre Isachsen, in a career marked by successfully overcoming many obstacles. After starting with Subaru as a guest driver, Sverre (rhymes with bear) Isachsen signed on full-time with Subaru Rally Team USA (SRT USA) in 2012, and recently renewed his contract to compete in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) and Summer X Games along with his teammate, Bucky Lasek. His aggressive racing style and relentless drive to win have earned him the nickname, “The Viking Warrior.” It almost seems that he was born to race. Born with a Gearshift in His Hand Isachsen started early, driving an old VW®Beetle on the farm in Drammen, Norway, when he was only 5 years old. “I built my first race car when I was 11 years old,” he recalls. “I loved everything that ran on fuel – gasoline, diesel, whatever.” The Norwegian View of American Rallycross “It’s totally different racing in Europe. I think maybe rallycross is more like a circus!” Sverre Isachsen laughs at his own joke. Going from Norwegian Champion to European Champion to a newcomer in America was a big challenge for “The Viking Warrior,” but, step by step, he’s surmounting every obstacle that stands between him and a podium finish. His strategy is part physical and part cerebral. Before each race, he walks the course. “I put it in my head and try to use my experience to think how to attack this corner or that section,” he says. “You need to learn it completely before you’re out there in the race, when you’re flat out. And then, when you’re coming into the final sections, you take some chances. But you have to balance it – sometimes you take a bigger chance than others.” His face lights up with a smile and you can see the competitive spirit in his eyes. Taking chances and balancing winning with wiping out is what comes naturally to Sverre Isachsen. Sverre was soon piloting cars around his village well before driving age. I drove many times without my driver’s license, but the local police knew me and they would tell my mom, ‘you need to talk to your son. Kids, Don’t Try This at Home One episode, in particular, stands out. He was 13 years old and working on a race car after school. Once he had the engine back together, he needed to make sure it ran well at speed. He reasoned that driving on the nearby highway was a bad idea; so instead, he ran it up and down an adjacent bicycle path. “I drove like this was my test track,” he says with a smile. “Then the police came – not the local police, but the highway patrol – and I got pulled over. Two policemen got out of the car. I could see that one was very angry. But the other one was laughing so hard, he had to go back and sit down!” Ultimately, his father had to come and get him, and he was given a strong warning. “It was an experience … not a good experience, but an experience,” he says. Building Success While continuing to build race cars for drivers in eastern Norway, he got his driver’s license at age 18 and then his racing license very soon afterward. His first race was a mixed success. “I didn’t finish that race – I broke a driveshaft on the last lap. But I had worked on all three podium cars – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, I had built them.” A 10-Year Hiatus After a stint in the Norwegian military, Sverre built up several businesses over the course of 10 years. Soon, the constant attention to his enterprises took its toll. “I was working on one thing or another 24/7. A lot of people told me to take it easy. I said, ‘That’s not me.’ My health went way down and I was sick for 14 months.” His health declined to the extent that doctors gave him a dire warning – he had to take it easy or else. “So after that,” Sverre says, “I went back to racing." Wait a minute – racing was taking it easy? “I was back doing what I loved,” Sverre explains. Eventual Championships Within a very short time, Sverre was at the top of his form. By 1999, he was the Norwegian Rally Champion. He repeated that success in 2000 and 2001. Always looking for the next big challenge, however, he began competing in Europe. After a few years of hard knocks, Sverre was again on top. Slowly but surely, Sverre Isachsen honed his strategies and his skills. It eventually paid off. He was European Rallycross Champion in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Then he set his sights on America. Coming to America “It was a big change for me,” Sverre says, his customary smile fading as he grows serious. “In Europe, I was used to being at the top level. Everybody knew who I was. I came here and nobody knew my name or what I could do.” He pauses. “But then I told them I was three-time European champion, and they understood. I’m really happy to be racing for Subaru.” Sverre has worked closely with Subaru technical partner Vermont SportsCar. “We made progress fast, and a lot of things came together. A small but passionate team can make things happen.” Turning Potential Energy into Momentum Last year was pivotal for the Subaru rallycross team, and with the new 2015 WRX STI race car, Sverre Isachsen and Bucky Lasek should have an even more competitive year. “The last half of the 2014 season, it all came together," Sverre says. “We had proof for Subaru and Subaru fans that we can win. " A lot of elements go into winning in rallycross. One thing that’s there in abundance is passion for the sport. “Racing is really close to my heart,” Sverre says. “For me, for the rest of my life, I want to race. I want to be there and I want to have fun.” (Never) Relaxing At Home With motorsports such a big part of Sverre Isachsen’s life, it’s hard to imagine what he does in the off-season. “I love to work,” he explains. “When I’m home, I work with digging machines, or I build something.” Family life with his wife and two children is also important, but his wife evidently knows her husband well. “If I’m home too long, my wife says, ‘You need to go out and do something.’ I guess I cannot sit still.” Being married to an international rallycross driver cannot be an easy job, but, as Sverre explains, “If I didn’t have my wife to take care of everything back home, it would be hopeless. She has supported me 100 percent from the start. She’s always behind me.” And what of his two children? Does he see them getting involved in motorsports just as he did? “I think so.” He pauses for a moment. “I don’t push them, but of course the dad is the dad.” Who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll be seeing the next generation of Viking Warriors! The School of Hard Knocks The School of Hard Knocks Global Rallycross Competition (GRC) is hard on cars and drivers, and sometimes it can seem like an unexpected shunt from a competitor might not be so accidental. Sverre Isachsen may have been pushed out of top finishes more than most drivers over the past three years, but you can also chart his steady upward progress, a testament to the car’s increasing speed and endurance as well as Isachsen’s acclimation to the rough-and-tumble driving in the GRC series. After officially signing with Subaru Rally Team USA in 2012, Isachsen’s first few races saw mechanical problems and then disqualification when he braked to avoid a crash. But he proved his mettle by finishing third overall at the GRC event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of that year. 2013: More Shoving but Two Podium Finishes The 2013 season started badly when Isachsen was bumped from behind by Ken Block at the X Games in Munich. Block was disqualified, and Isachsen, after being set for a 4th-place finish, ended up 8th overall. He then battled to 6th overall at the 4th round of the GRC at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, and scraped out a better finish in Bristol, Tennessee, in July with a 4th place overall. He was running as high as 2nd at Bristol before he was bumped from behind, crushing the WRX STI’s exhaust pipe, which reduced its power substantially. “The team is working really hard and it’s getting better and better in every race,” he said after the race. The X Games in Los Angeles in 2013 earned Isachsen a podium finish, the team’s best result of the 2013 season, and he took another 3rd place at the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Global Rallycross at Atlanta Motor Speedway later the same month. But bad luck returned at Charlotte in September of 2013, when Isachsen’s car was taken out from behind and forced to retire. “I’m not very happy with how others were driving in Charlotte,” he said at the time. “We had a very good chance at victory here.” 2014: A Tough Climb to Victory At the season opener in Barbados at the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross, Isachsen and Nelson Piquet Jr. locked horns throughout the race, dueling for 3rd overall. But Isachsen landed hard on the dirt jump late in the race, causing critical damage to his WRX STI. He ended the race in 6th place. At last year’s X Games in Austin, Texas, teammate Bucky Lasek earned a Silver Medal while Isachsen crashed in the quarter-final when he was hit from behind on the opening lap. In this case, race officials refused to penalize the offender. The inaugural Washington, D.C. Global Rallycross event in June was a disappointment, with Isachsen finishing 10th overall after a false start, but it all came together the next month when Isachsen took 2nd place at the Red Bull GRC in Charlotte. Starting from the second row of the grid, he worked his way up the field from 5th to 2nd, giving the team their second podium of the season. Next up was Daytona, where he battled from the back row of the grid to finish 5th overall. The GRC event in Los Angeles last September saw disappointment return, as Isachsen, teammate Lasek, and guest driver Travis Pastrana all missed the podium after several race incidents. It was notable, however, that Isachsen qualified second fastest overall – just 0.05 seconds from the lead qualifier. “I’m happy with fourth,” he said, “but we know we could have finished better. The Subaru was really, really good.” The next-to-last race of the season in Washington State was spectacular. After grabbing the lead early in the first race, Isachsen never looked back, maintaining a decisive lead and giving both the team and him their first overall win. “It’s really important for the team,” he said, “for all the Subaru guys and especially also for me. I’ve fought such a long time here.” As Subaru Rally Team USA closed the 2014 GRC season in Las Vegas last November, Lasek took 3rd overall and Isachsen came from the back of the 10-car grid to finish 5th. “Subaru is now always fighting at the top, and we are always improving,” he said. “It’s been a very good season.” 2015: Expect the Unexpected This year, the Red Bull Global Rallycross series features 12 races, beginning May 31. The series is broadcasted by the NBC family of networks, and full coverage will be available on the Subaru Motorsports app. While the unexpected is always the norm in GRC, SRT USA, with seasoned drivers and quicker cars, is in prime position to take on all competitors.