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European Rally Championship
Updated: 15 min ago

Lukyanuk storms ahead in ERC Azores as rivals falter

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 15:11

Alexey Lukyanuk has strengthened his grip on first place at Azores Airlines Rallye, taking advantage of a puncture for chief rival Ricardo Moura and FIA European Rally Championship Junior U28 contender Martin Koči dropping back.

Russian Performance Motorsport’s lead driver Lukyanuk won two stages during Friday’s morning loop, even gaining 10 seconds over the chasing pack in the famous Sete Cidades ‘volcano’ stage, despite colliding with a bank in difficult conditions.

"In the fog, it was tricky. I touched the walls twice. We could have damaged some of the geometry or something in the suspension. It wasn't a big hit, but still unpleasant,” explained Lukyanuk.

Moura was engaged in a close battle for first until the Feteiras Meo test, picking up a puncture and losing over 13 seconds to Lukyanuk. However, a strong run through the loop-ending Sete Cidades test ensured Moura would hold a 20 second advantage in second place.

Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Chris Ingram stormed to first in ERC Junior U28 and third place overall, rising from sixth place with a string of impressive stage times in his four-wheel-drive debut. This relegated previous ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči to fourth overall by a mere 0.1 seconds, with Bruno Magalhães lying in wait 1.7 seconds behind Ingram in fifth.

Bernardo Sousa was demoted to seventh by the charging ERC Junior U28 pair of Ingram and Fredrik Åhlin, the latter moving to sixth, while good stage times by Luis Rego and José Pedro Fontes in Sete Cidades moved both into eighth and tenth respectively. Rhys Yates dropped to ninth after a spin in the same stage.

Behind Yates, Frank Tore Larsen fell back to fourth in ERC Under 28, with Marijan Griebel completing the top five in class.

Hubert Ptaszek did not start today’s stages, after a mix-up at Thursday evening’s service meant he and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak failed to check-in at a time control, leading to their exclusion.

Sergei Remennik’s comfortable lead evaporated by the end of Friday’s second test, a front right puncture allowing chief rival Zelindo Melegari to close in and reduce the gap to a mere 3.9 seconds.

Menderes Okur is engaged in a close battle for third with Juan Carlos Alonso, who had led ERC2 until a fuel pump failure in Friday’s final stage. A mere 0.4 seconds separated the pair after SS5. Luis Pimentel continues to hold fifth.

Mārtiņš Sesks has raced away at the head of ERC Under 27, going over a minute quicker than nearest rival Efrén Llarena in the loop-ending Sete Cidades test to establish a 1m13.3s lead.

Sesks’ ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team team-mate Tom Kristensson suffered a dramatic end to his rally, winning stage four whilst rolling over crossing the finish line. Damage sustained to his Opel Adam R2 was significant enough to force his immediate retirement.

Friday’s second test, Feteiras Meo, was a difficult stage for the ERC3 and ERC Under 27 competitors, with punctures for Dominik Brož and Gil Antunes. Catie Munnings also ripped the front bumper from her Sainteloc Junior Team PEUGEOT 208 R2, but with minimal time loss.

Moura sustains puncture in second Friday ERC stage

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 13:49

An exciting Azores Airlines Rallye lead battle has taken a sudden twist in the FIA European Rally Championship’s second Friday morning stage, after a puncture for second placed Ricardo Moura.

Nine-time Azorean champion Moura was locked in an intense battle for first place with rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk and ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči, but a puncture picked up midway through Feteiras Meo’s morning pass has set him back over 13 seconds.

“I didn’t feel anything special. We did half the stage with the puncture at the front,” explained Moura at stage end.

“We were going to make a super time here. We were pushing like hell. With the puncture, it’s a lot of time [we’ve lost].”

Despite his puncture, Moura still went 0.9 seconds quicker through the 7.46 kilometre rest than nearest rival Koči, so continues to hold second place heading into the morning loop’s final stage, Sete Cidades.

Neubauer withdraws from ERC Azores with major car damage

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 12:25

Hermann Neubauer’s return to the FIA European Rally Championship has ended in disappointment, being forced to retire from the Azores Airlines Rallye after a heavy accident in yesterday’s Vila Franca / São Brás stage.

Thursday’s tricky 17 kilometre stage caught out several drivers, with Neubauer the first thanks to his position as third in the road order. He crashed within 500 metres of the finish line, and while both he and co-driver Bernhard Ettel were uninjured, his Ford Fiesta R5 sustained significant enough body damage for stewards to exclude them from restarting in leg two.

Neubauer explained that he had been driving conservatively throughout the stage, and incorrect pace-notes were to blame for the incident.

“It was not a driving mistake, we were really smooth and easy on the road, far away from the absolute limit,” said Neubauer.

“But then there came this slight crest and I noticed immediately [making the corner] wouldn’t work. Usually you would write there 'brake' or 'brake early', but we did not have that in writing.

“I remember the place exactly [from the recce]. A farmer came to meet us on the tractor, then we were in traffic; with those distractions you can make a tiny mistake in the notes which has big consequences.

“That was unfortunately the case. The ERC is a different level. However, that does not remove my own responsibility [for what happened].”

Despite the early exit and damage incurred to his Fiesta R5, Neubauer was already focused on his return to ERC action.

“I’m sorry for the team, who worked so hard. We’ll look forward and fix it for next time at Rally Islas Canarias.”

Habaj first to start in second day of ERC Azores

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 06:00

Łukasz Habaj will embark on Azores Airlines Rallye’s Friday stages first on the road, resuming from P10 in the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round of 2018.

Today’s first 10 runners are set by a reversed classification from Thursday’s overall top 10, leaving Habaj to tackle 76.56 kilometres of dusty gravel roads as road sweeper, thanks in part to engine issues that affected his car during the opening loop.

Starting immediately behind Habaj are Frank Tore Larsen and last year’s ERC Junior U28 champion Marijan Griebel, followed by ERC debutant Fredrik Åhlin and last year’s championship runner-up Bruno Magalhães.

Rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk resumes his challenge from P10 in the running order, two minutes after his nearest competitor, nine-time Azorean rally champion Ricardo Moura, enters today’s stages.

ERC Junior U27 holds potential for an exciting quick-fire battle, as first and second placed Mārtiņš Sesks and Efrén Llarena line-up two minutes apart, P2 and P1 in their class’ running order respectively.

Juan Carlos Alonso, who lost a well-earned ERC2 lead following a fuel pump failure on Thursday, kicks off his category’s battle almost a quarter of an hour before Sergei Remennik begins defending his 32 second lead over Zelindo Melegari.

Notably absent from the starting order are Pierre-Louis Loubet and Laurent Pellier, both of whom retired from technical issues on Thursday. As today’s stages are a continuation of leg one from Thursday, both must wait until Saturday’s second leg to restart.

This morning’s first stage, Pico da Pedra Golfe, is scheduled to begin at 10:28am local time with Habaj’s start-line departure.

Lukyanuk edges Moura for ERC Azores lead despite off

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 20:20

Alexey Lukyanuk has taken a narrow lead in FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round, edging out Qualifying Stage winner Ricardo Moura despite running wide into a field during a chaotic second stage.

Vila Franca / São Brás caught out a swathe of drivers including Lukyanuk, yet incredibly Russian Performance Motorsport’s lead driver also went fastest through the 17 kilometre test, even after an overshoot into a field caused by taking too much speed over a jump.

They were joined in the lead battle by ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči. Taking a cautious approach in the opening Lagoa Stage to save tyres, Koči charged through the tricky Vila Franca / São Brás test third quickest, joining Lukyanuk and Moura in taking advantage of his road position for a cleaner stage surface.

Three-time Azores Airlines Rallye winner Bruno Magalhães heads a close battle over fourth place, having lost over ten seconds during the Vila Franca / São Brás test to fall away from the leaders.

His compatriot Bernardo Sousa finished Thursday’s trio of stages 1.4 seconds behind Magalhães, holding an extremely thin 0.4 second advantage over second placed ERC Junior U28 competitor Chris Ingram.

Ingram suffered a hairy moment in the second stage, losing the rear bumper of his Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5 after clipping a tree, but was still fourth quickest through Vila Franca / São Brás regardless.

Frederik Åhlin finished the opening trio of stages 0.3 seconds behind Ingram to hold third place in ERC Junior U28 and seventh overall, but suffered a worrying end to his day with an oil pressure warning light flashing on his ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel, Frank Tore Larsen and ŠKODA Auto Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim completed the top 10 overall, the latter pair also completing the ERC Under 28 top five.

Vila Franca / São Brás claimed many victims, through a mixture of accidents and mechanical failures. Hermann Neubauer crashed out towards the end of the test in the slippery conditions, while Pierre-Louis Loubet retired his OSCARO-backed car with a technical problem midway through the stage. Laurent Pellier reached the end of the same stage, but then retired in the following road section with an electrical problem.

Sergei Remennik inherited a 32.1 second lead in ERC2 after dominant leader Juan Carlos Alonso suffered a fuel pump failure in the final 3.95 kilometre Grupo Marques superspecial.

Alonso turned in a superb performance through the tricky Vila Franca / São Brás stage to put almost 20 seconds between himself and Remennik, only to stall at the Group Marques startline and drop almost four minutes trying to restart his Mistubishi Lancer Evo X.

Regular ERC2 frontrunner Tibor Érdi Jr. retired after the first stage with broken front right suspension, despite Érdi suggesting he had not made contact with anything mid-stage.

Menderes Okur and Luís Pimentel run third and fourth, the latter suffering a broken turbo. Alonso completes the top five after his fuel pump issues.

Mārtiņš Sesks made an ideal start to his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team debut, moving into first place in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3 during Thursday’s final stage.

Efrén Llarena initially led the ERC Junior U27s, aided by a class stage win in the longest 17 kilometre Vila Franca / São Brás test, but dropped several seconds in the day’s final superspecial and dropped to second place. Diogo Gago, Tom Kristensson and Simon Wagner completed the top five in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3.

Several drivers were caught out by the tricky second stage. Pedro Antunes had been running second in ERC Junior U27 but was forced to stop mid-stage, as was Miika Hokkanen with an engine failure. Dominik Brož suffered a puncture after hitting a stone, dropping to sixth in ERC Junior U27 and ninth in ERC3.

Three ERC drivers retire during opening pair of Azores stages

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 18:35

A trio of drivers have retired from Azores Airlines Rallye after less than 20 kilometres of the FIA European Rally Championship's opening round.

Tibor Érdi Jr. made it no further than Lagoa Stage’s opening 2.14 kilometres, shearing the front right wheel from his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. A bemused Érdi could not explain what had happened, commenting that he “hadn’t touched anything” during the short superspecial.

Most of Thursday’s mileage comes from the first pass of Vila Franca / São Brás, its 17.08 kilometres proving treacherous for many competitors.

Herman Neubauer was first to be caught out by tricky conditions, as light rain began to fall. Running third on the road, he crashed late in the stage, but thankfully he and co-driver Bernhard Ettel were reported as OK following the incident.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was scheduled to be next car through after Neubauer, but he too failed to reach the finish line, his OSCARO-backed BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 R5 suffering a technical issue midway through the test.

Other big names came close to being caught out by the challenging second stage. Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Chris Ingram nearly sent his Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5 into a tree, while Alexey Lukyanuk lost time from going off into a field.

They said what? ERC drivers look ahead to Azores Airlines Rallye

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 15:00

Marijan Griebel, Chris Ingram, Fabian Kreim, Tom Kristensson, Bruno Magalhães, Catie Munnings, Laurent Pellier attended the pre-event conference for the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Azores Airlines Rallye. This is what they had to say.

Q:
Let’s begin with the 2017 Azores winner and last season’s vice champion Bruno Magalhaes from Portugal. Bruno, welcome and great to have you back. Fully recovered after your crash in Latvia and ready to go?

BM:
I am fine now. I broke two vertebrae when I crashed in Latvia but everything is okay and I am happy what I have done this morning because the time was good and it’s good to get again the best confidence behind the wheel so I think I did a good job.

Q:
You’re a three-time winner here. What do you need to do to thrive and survive?

BM:
This rally is very specific as you know. It’s very narrow, slippery in some parts so normally you fight second by second and you don’t have big gaps in the stages. But it’s very easy to puncture here because the road is very narrow and it’s very easy to make a mistake, especially the downhill parts. So you need to be very consistent and fast of course.

Q:
Let’s turn next the double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel from Germany. Having achieved so much success, how much pressure are you under and what do you have to prove?

MG:
To be honest I don’t feel too much pressure this year because the last two years were really good with back-to-back titles in ERC Junior. I think I’ve proved to everybody I can drive really fast and achieve good results. This year is a new experience with the PEUGEOT 208 T16 but I am really looking forward to this race and the races to come.

Q:
And tell us a bit about your new car and your programme for 2018?

MG:
To be honest the preparation was not so much. We tested first on Monday in the the test and this was my first ever time on gravel in the car so today is the second one. But I am feeling quite happy with the car. the driving the placement of the car was everything quite satisfying for me and I am quite optimistic we can do a good performance this year on the Azores Airlines Rallye. For the rest of the season we will see. I have a really good programme with PEUGEOT Germany for the German championship so I can do a lot of rallies in this car, develop my own skills and my driving style. I am optimistic this season can also be quite good.

Q:
Turning next to Chris Ingram from Great Britain, the 2017 ERC Junior Under 27 champion, a massive opportunity for you?

CI:
It’s massive. I’ve been working towards getting in a top-spec car ever since I was in a pram. It’s just incredible to finally have the chance. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of money to find to do it but I have finally managed to take the step and it’s the perfect place to make my debut.

Q:
It’s a rally you know well but how hard is it?

CI:
Definitely one of the toughest but I’ve got a good record. I won the ERC Juniors twice and finished second twice. If I can translate that to a four-wheel-drive car it will go well but the difference is massive so I need to keep it on the road definitely.

Q:
Now from a driver who knows this rally to a driver that’s competing here for the first time, from Germany and representing ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland, it’s Fabian Kreim. Fabian, the German champion, tell us about your recent gravel experience?

FK:
I drove the APRC in 2016 and I got a lot of experience there and now it’s my first full season in the ERC so I will try to get more experience on gravel. For sure my favourite surface is Tarmac but now we are here we will try to stay on the road.

Q:
Now a German driver won the ERC Junior U28 title in 2017. What do you have to do to repeat that achievement?

FK:
I try it, for sure. My last rally on gravel was in December in 2016 in India so that was a long time ago.

Q:
Turning next to Laurent Pellier from France it’s a new car and a new rally for you, what’s your plan for this weekend and the season ahead?

LP:
All is new for us so we need to discover our car, the PEUGEOT 208 T16. We are already happy to be here but before QS we didn’t know our speed. Now we just want to go at the end of the rally and we will see.

Q:
Tell us about the PEUGEOT Rally Academy and the help they give you?

LP:
For sure we are in very good conditions and have the experience of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy behind us so all is good for us.

Q:
Coming to Tom Kristensson from Sweden of the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. You’ve spoken about your dreams coming true with this chance, just explain how important it is for you?

TK:
It’s actually really hard to explain. It’s like a dream come true and I’m really happy to do this season with this amazing team and this amazing car. There are still some small things to improve but it’s going very well and I’m really looking forward.

Q:
Your team is unbeaten in ERC Junior for the last three seasons - is that pressure or motivation?

TK:
No, it’s just to do the job. It’s as simple as that.

Q:
And finally, coming to Catie Munnings from Great Britain, chasing success in ERC Junior Under 27 and the ERC Ladies’ Trophy. A tough start here last year but what’s the objective and the plan?

CM:
Last year here I learned a lot of lessons about keeping a lid on it and staying quite calm on a rally. It’s deinifely to be at the finish because there were a lot of accidents last year in the ERC Junior Under 27 category. That’s definitely going to be the focus for me to get the car to the end because I really need to get the kilometres under my belt because I haven’t got a lot and I crashed quite early last year. It’s important for me to develop my speed gradually and get a good feeling with Anna in the car.

Q:
It’s been a while since we’ve seen you competing so what have you been up to?

CM:
I’ve been really busy, always trying to find the money to drive like most drivers. But I’ve also been working in Sweden for a couple of months at an ice driving school. That was something completely different but I think I’ve already started to notice the skills we’ve developed out there on car control because it really transfers to gravel so I’m really excited to have a play with that this weekend.

Kreim leads the running order at ERC Azores Airlines Rallye

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 14:43

Skoda Auto Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim will lead the field away for the first two days of the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round at Azores Airlines Rallye, picking first position on the road.

Local hero Ricardo Moura earned the right of first selection thanks to winning the earlier Qualifying Stage, and unsurprisingly chose to start in 15th place, aiming to take advantage of those ahead sweeping the gravel roads clean for him.

From there, the next 14 fastest drivers opted to start in reverse order, with second quickest Alexey Lukyanuk opting to start 14th aboard his Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, behind third quickest Fredrik Åhlin 13th on the road.

Road sweeping duties therefore befall José Pedro Fontes and Hermann Neubauer, who will follow Kreim in second and third starting positions.

Azores Airlines Rally’s mascot Percy got in on the action, attempting to steal the glory of first driver running on the road for himself. Noticing the full reverse order pattern, he broke onto the stage ahead of Łukasz Habaj, though unsurprisingly wasn’t allowed to keep the place Kreim would eventually take.

Qualifying Stage flash: Local legend Moura fastest in ERC

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 13:45

Ricardo Moura kicked off the Azores Airlines Rallye in style, going fastest during the FIA European Rally Championship’s first Qualifying Stage of the season.

Nine-time Azores rally champion Moura, who leads the Portuguese national championship, stamped his authority over the ERC field by setting a 1:52.808s time through the 3.12 kilometre Remédios qualifying stage, four tenths faster than ERC regular Alexey Lukyanuk.

Born in host city Ponta Delgada, his local knowledge of the Azores stages gives him a minor advantage over ERC’s championship contenders. Moura made clear his fastest time would be a sign of things to come for the rest of the rally.

“The important thing is I need to feel instinct with the car - not thinking all the time - and that will come with the rally. With that [feeling], we will be fastest all the way through. A big thanks to everyone that made this possible.”

Fredrik Åhlin made an impressive start to his switch from the British Rally Championship, setting the pace amongst the ERC Junior Under 28 entrants and going third quickest overall with a 1:53.819s qualifying stage time.

Fellow BRC graduate Rhys Yates was equally impressive with second quickest time in Junior U28, half a second behind Åhlin in only his second ERC rally, setting a 1:54.275.

Last year’s ERC championship runner-up Bruno Magalhães went fifth quickest overall, ahead of Frank Tore Larsen, last year’s ERC Junior Under 27 champion Chris Ingram, Ricardo Teodósio, and Peugeot Rally Academy driver Laurent Pellier, who is making his championship debut with the help of ERC’s Junior Experience programme.

Behind Åhlin, Yates, Larsen, Ingram and Pellier in Junior U28 was Pierre-Louis Loubet, who was still sixth quickest aboard his OSCARO-backed BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 R5, despite recovering from an engine problem which had affected his run through free practice.

Juan Carlos Alonso was quickest in a hotly-contested ERC2 battle with a time of 2:05.583, edging out Sergei Remennik’s Russian Performance Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X by 0.062 seconds. Tibor Érdi Jr. was third quickest, a mere 0.122 seconds off Alonso’s time.

Tom Kristensson made a positive start to his factory ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team debut in ERC, setting the quickest Qualifying Stage time in Junior Under 27 with a 2:02.502.

U27 drivers dominated the ERC3 category, as Diogo Gago, Team Rallye Spain’s Efrén Llarena, Kristensson’s Opel team-mate Mārtiņš Sesks and Sainteloc Junior Team driver Simon Wagner completed the top five in both categories.

Paulo Nobre was not classified but made a valiant effort to participate in the Qualifying Stage, after the Palmeirinha Rally driver crashed into a bank and damaged his Škoda Fabia R5 during practice. Starting the stage late meant his time did not count, but was elated to have simply fixed the car to compete in the road order-deciding stage.

Crews will now head for Portas do Mar on Ponta Delgada’s shorefront for ERC’s fifteen quickest drivers to choose their starting position for stages both today and tomorrow at 12:00 local time.

ERC Radio live and loud from the Azores

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 10:00

ERC Radio will be broadcasting live coverage from the Azores Airlines Rallye, the opening event of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship season.

Ace reporters Julian Porter and Chris Rawes will be bringing their co-comms expertise and unrivalled rallying knowledge to the airwaves from the stop line of the Qualifying Stage from 09h15 local time and from all 15 stages that make up the spectacular ERC season opener.

ERC Radio is available by clicking on the listen live link or via the ERC app.

Car switch for ERC event winner Moura

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 08:00

Local hero Ricardo Moura has made a late car switch for the Azores Airlines Rallye, his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship.

The São Miguel resident had been due to line up in a Ford Fiesta R5, but after winning the Portuguese championship opener, fellow driver Pedro Almeida offered to buy the car, which prompted Moura to go in search of a replacement, a ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Photo: Julian Porter/ERC Radio

ERC mascot Percy turns co-driver

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 06:00

Percy, the FIA European Rally Championship’s new mascot for 2018, got a high-speed ride through the streets of Ponta Delgada last night when he turned co-driver for the City Show.

He spent is run waving to the thousands of fines who had lined the temporary course in Ponta Delgada, which was broadcast live on TV and streamed online.

Former Azores Airlines Rallye winner Craig Breen drove Percy through the City Show stage in a buggy.

ERC aces thrill City Show fans

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 23:59

Fans flocked to Ponta Delgada’s City Show in their thousands tonight as the FIA European Rally Championship took over the streets of São Miguel’s capital.

The non-competitive event showcases the Azores Airlines Rallye to residents ahead of the action proper getting underway on Thursday.

As well as attracting thousands of fans, the event was broadcast live on local and national television and streamed live online.

Tips from the top: ERC Juniors take part in Pirelli tyre training session

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 21:00

Drivers and co-drivers from the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship were given the opportunity to learn from the best earlier today when they took part in a Pirelli tyre training session ahead of the Azores Airlines Rallye.

Hosed by Pirelli engineer Marco Pastorino, the event gave information and useful advice to the ERC Junior U27 contingent, who use Pirelli tyres as standard. Topics covered included tyre usage, management and regulations.

Live TV coverage for ERC Azores Airlines Rallye

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 18:00

The battle for victory on the opening round of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship won’t just be fought out on São Miguel’s spectacular gravel stages but on live television as well.

Under an exciting agreement between the Azores Airlines Rallye organiser, Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) and ERC promoter Eurosport Events, seven stages will be broadcast live including both runs of the iconic Sete Cidades volcano stage, the fan-friendly Grupo Marques superspecial stage and the event-closing blast through the Tronqueira forest.

The action will be broadcast on RTP Açores, RTP 2 in Portugal, RTP Madeira and RTP Internacional and will feature footage captured by the Eurosport helicopter. Coverage will also be available on the Azores Airlines Rallye official YouTube channel and website.

Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “With a record-breaking entry including 35 R5 cars, the Azores Airlines Rallye was already a big success. But with confirmation of live television coverage, one of the best events of the season has just got better.”

Azores Airlines Rallye live broadcast schedule (all times local, CET -2):

Wednesday 21 March
20h20: City Show
Thursday 22 March
14h40: SS1 Lagoa Stage
15h25: SS2 Vila Franca São Brás
16h25: SS3 Grupo Marques 1
Friday 23 March
11h30: SS6 Sete Cidades 1
15h30: SS9 Sete Cidades 2
Saturday 24 March
11h50: SS12 Grupo Marques 2
16h15: Tronqueira 2
18h15: Podium

ERC five questions to: Marijan Griebel

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 12:00

Having won back-to-back ERC Junior titles, Marijan Griebel is going for overall FIA European Rally Championship honours in 2018. The PEUGEOT Deutschland-backed driver can’t wait to get started on the Azores Airlines Rallye.

What’s so good about the Azores Airlines Rallye?
“It’s a unique event. On the one hand, the island of São Miguel has breathtaking countryside and amazing vegetation. On the other hand, the special stages are really tricky, narrow and demanding. The weather can change all the time, it’s a mixture you can only have in this place.”

How hard is the event?
“I think this event is one of the hardest in the ERC calendar. Already last year we were more than 30 R5 cars, but the gaps in the final results were really big. This shows the difficulty of the rally.”

What do you need to do to be successful here?
“The key is finding a good mixture between driving without any mistakes and going as fast as possible. At first, you have to survive the narrow stages without punctures, technical problems and major issues. Then you should already be in a good position.”

As ERC Junior Under 28 champion do you feel any pressure, do you have anything to prove?
“To be honest, I don´t think so. I proved my talent already in 2016 with the ERC Junior title win in the Opel ADAM R2, where I was able to win events on both Tarmac and gravel. Last year was even better [winning ERC Junior Under 28], so everybody should know what I’m capable of. This year is another situation. I have switched to the ROMO team to drive a PEUGEOT. It’s not had the same success as the ŠKODA but we want to show its pace without any pressure.”

Co-drivers confirmed for Portuguese ERC Juniors

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 09:00

The two Portuguese drivers chasing FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship success on the Azores Airlines Rallye have confirmed their co-drivers for this week’s Azores Airlines Rallye.

Diogo Gago, a former class winner on the event, will link up with the hugely experience Miguel Ramalho (pictured), while Pedro Antunes partners with Paulo Lopes for his second Azores start.

Both will drive PEUGEOT 208 R2s.

Heaven is 11 for ERC Junior champion Ingram

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 06:00

Chris Ingram has secured backing from 11 Degrees, a premium urban menswear company from the UK, for his step up to the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship in 2018.

Ingram, winner of the ERC Junior Under 27 title last season, will begin his challenge on this week’s Azores Airlines Rallye in a Toksport ŠKODA Fabia R5, which will carry striking black livery in deference to the Briton’s new sponsor.

“Two years ago I won ERC3, last year I won ERC Junior U27 and it’s just made me more and more hungry for more titles,” said Ingram, who will be co-driven by compatriot Ross Whittock. “And 11 Degrees is a really good fit for rallying and hopefully they’re going to push me the whole way.”

The all-gravel Azores Airlines Rallye, which starts in Ponta Delgada tomorrow (Thursday), will mark Ingram’s first event in a four-wheel-drive car, and follows two short tests in the UK and in the Azores on Monday.

“It’s going to be a fierce pace but even though I don’t know the car and have no experience of four-wheel drive compared to the other guys, I know a lot of the rallies and I’m really excited,” Ingram continued. “The first few kilometres in the R5 were just unbelievable but I quickly got into it and felt at one with the car after the test having achieved everything we wanted to. Toksport is very professional and it’s fantastic to be working with them.”

Turkey’s Orhan Avcioglu graduates to the ERC after winning the FIA Balkan Rally Trophy in 2017 and will partner Ingram in a second Toksport ŠKODA. ERC2 contender Tarik Manderes Okur, also from Turkey, completes the Toksport line-up in the Azores.

Photo: Chris Rawes/RawCast Media

MOL’s man ready for ERC chance

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 18:00

Norbert Herczig is ready to start his FIA European Rally Championship campaign even if he admits to lacking knowledge of technical gravel events.

The Hungarian champion, who will drive for the MOL Racing Team in this year’s ERC, has more experience of faster gravel rallies from his homeland.

Speaking during testing on Monday, Herczig said: “It’s a little bit difficult for us because we have to use the [rally] car [for the test] and we also have to feel the car and the surface. We have two gravel rallies a year in Hungary but they use faster stages, here it is more tricky. But the car is ready and we’re ready.”

Pellier “extremely motivated” ahead of ERC debut

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 15:00

Laurent Pellier will be “extremely motivated” when he makes his FIA European Rally Championship on this week’s Azores Airlines Rallye.

The Frenchman is stepping up to ERC Junior Under 28 as part of the famed PEUGEOT Rally Academy as his prize for winning the 208 Rally Cup in his native France.

And while the spectacular gravel event and PEUGEOT 208 T16 are all new for Pellier, the ERC Junior Experience graduate can’t wait to get started.

“The prize put up by PEUGEOT Sport means I have a factory programme with the PEUGEOT Rally Academy team in the PEUGEOT 208 T16 this year, and this has given me a sort of freedom,” said Pellier. “I have PEUGEOT Sport’s full backing, so that is extremely motivating, and I’ve been working on my fitness which has already produced some tangible results.

“I’ve had a chance to drive the car and I’ve been getting some coaching from ex-PEUGEOT Sport driver Enrique García Ojeda. I had never driven a four-wheel-drive car before so I have a great deal to take on board, to adapt. You need to put the reflexes you develop in a two-wheel drive car behind you and, in a way, it’s almost like learning to drive all over again. That said, I find driving a four-wheel-drive car is easier. By that, I mean you can be more competitive if you get the technique right.”

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ORLEN 74 Rally Poland / Rajd Polski

ORLEN 74 Rajd Polski

Kalendarz 2018

22-24 marca:

Azores Airlines Rallye (Portugalia)

03-05 maja:

Rally Islas Canarias (Hiszpania)

01-03 czerwca:

Acropolis Rally (Grecja)

15-17 czerwca:

Cyprus Rally (Cypr)

20-22 lipca:

Rally di Roma Capitale (Włochy)

24-26 sierpnia:

Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czechy)

21-23 września:

Rajd Polski

12-14 października:

Rally Liepaja (Łotwa)