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European Rally Championship
Updated: 14 min 27 sec ago

ERC five questions to: Albert von Thurn und Taxis

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 12:00

Ex-GT racer Albert von Thurn und Taxis is about to embark on his second season in the FIA European Rally Championship. This is what the BRR team’s new recruit has had to say ahead of the Azores Airlines Rallye.

Your second season in the ERC, what’s your goal for the year ahead?
“Our main goal is to make little steps at a time so I’m not looking at a massive improvement, I’m hoping for a decent improvement and reduce the time gap to the frontrunners a little bit. Because we are not testing much, the rallies are the major training ground. But we can build on our knowledge from last year and the stages and hopefully improve our times a little bit and move further forward in the rankings.”

The rallies are almost the same, the car is the same but it’s a different team. What difference will that make?
“I know Raimund [Baumschlager] already for quite a while. When the opportunity arose it was difficult to leave Wevers because I really like them very much and I really enjoyed working with them. Raimund and his team bring a lot of experience to the game and I can profit from it, especially because they have done a lot of testing with the car and few people know the ŠKODA Fabia R5 as well as BRR does. It will allow me a little bit to focus less on making the car drivable for me and outsource the set-up questions in a greater way and focus more on the rally itself. That will be very helpful to me.”

Rally Liepāja, the final round of the 2017 ERC season, was a long time ago so how have you kept match fit?
“That’s kind of the big question. We did a small test in Germany on gravel just to get a bit of feel for the car again but it wasn’t a lot of kilometres. It was more to shake off the dust before getting back into the car. You are stationary for a good part of the year, five months now nearly, and so of course I’m dying to get back behind the wheel but it might take a couple of kilometres to get back properly.”

What about the Azores? How good is this rally?
“I can’t wait to be honest. It was such a shock in terms of what the reality the rally required from the point of view of the extreme nature of the stages, the beauty, the weather, the rain, the fog. It was so overwhelming. I’m hoping with that experience we will be a bit less overwhelmed by the conditions and circumstances and be able to concentrate on the driving and working with the new car and really getting down to business.”

In Norbert Herczig and Fabian Kreim you’ve got two fellow BRR-run drivers to share information with. How will that help you?
“Fabian is an extremely talented young driver and intuitive and Norbert is a very experienced driver and it’s going to be another great benefit to be able to take advantage of their known-how to an extent and I very much look forward to be able to exchange like that.”

Castro back in ERC with Hyundai and new co-driver

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 09:00

Manuel Castro, the driver who gave Hyundai’s i20 R5 its FIA European Rally Championship debut in the Azores last season, is returning to the event this week armed with the same car but a new co-driver.

With Luís Costa unavailable, Mário Castro will take over co-driving duties as Manuel Castro aims to hit back from a frustrating start to his season.

“For professional reasons, Luís cannot be present in this event,” Manuel Castro explained. “Faced with this situation, Mário made himself available. I would therefore like to thank him for his availability. It is a privilege to be able to count on him, and we will try to capitalise on his vast experience in order to achieve a good result.”

Castro is targeting a second consecutive top-15 finish on the Azores Airlines Rallye – which counts for ERC, Portuguese and Azorean championship points – after placing P14 last season.

"The first event of the Portuguese championship in Fafe did not go as we wished, but we are going to the Azores to get a good result,” Castro said. “It is a long rally, which brings us good memories. It’s an amazing event, in my opinion, the most beautiful rally of the world.”

Loubet ready for ERC start after strong test

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 06:00

Pierre-Louis Loubet “feels ready” for his FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship debut after driving BRC Racing Team’s Hyundai i20 R5 for the first time during Azores Airlines Rallye testing yesterday (Monday).

Loubet, son of 1989 European champion Yves, has switched to the Korean machine from the Ford Fiesta R5 he campaigned last season.

“For sure we learn a lot first time with the car,” said Loubet. “We change a lot of things to adapt to my driving. I hope to feel ready from the first stage of the rally to be able to fight for the first position.”

Of his aim for the weekend, the Team OSCARO driver said: “We want to finish on minimum the podium in ERC Junior U28 and if it’s possible to be on the podium overall that’s our objective.”

Photo: Chris Rawes/RawCast Media

Nobre returns to rallying in ERC after winning his biggest match

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 18:00

Paulo Nobre will return to international rallying after a five-year gap when he embarks on a full-season campaign in the FIA European Rally Championship.

Nobre, a regular in the world championship and cross-country events in the past, hasn’t competed at international level since 2012.

During that time, he’s been busy masterminding the revival of his beloved football team Palmeiras in his role as Club President following a period of decline.

With his job now complete, Nobre is returning to his “hobby” and will drive a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for Motorsport Italia on all eight rounds of the ERC starting with this week’s Azores Airlines Rallye with Gabriel Morales co-driving.

“Since 2013 I had the most difficult rally for my life, the biggest responsibility that God puts in my hands and that was to drive Palmeiras for four years,” Nobre explained. “With a group of fantastic people we changed the story of Palmeiras because they were in a very bad situation and we could put Palmeiras back in the place of being champion of Brazil.

“Rally is a hobby for me and I miss a lot because I like the feeling we had inside the car.

Last year I returned to make some rallies in Brazil and this year we are back [internationally] to have some fun.”

Photo: Chris Rawes/Rawcast Media

Fully-prepared Brož hopes for fresh start in ERC Junior

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 15:00

Dominik Brož hopes the technical problems that hampered his progress in 2017 will be a thing of the past when he bids for FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship success this season.

Backed by Autoklub of the Czech Republic through its ACCR Czech Team initiative, Brož is in buoyant mood ahead of this week’s Azores Airlines Rallye, despite a driveshaft issue in testing earlier today.

“We are very happy to be back in the ERC again in the Junior U27 class,” said Brož, whose PEUGEOT 208 R2 will be co-driven by fellow Czech Petr Těšínský. “In 2017 we suffered a lot of technical problems but I think we are now fully prepared with the car and look forward to the year ahead.

“It’s hard to say how we will do as there are a lot of new drivers coming into the championship, and we don’t know how competitive they are. The Opel ADAM drivers and Simon Wagner look to be favourites but we will see on the first few stages how we compare.”

Rookie Correia makes ERC3 debut in Azores

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 12:00

Miguel Correia will make his FIA European Rally Championship debut when he lines up on the Azores Airlines Rallye this week.

Driving an ARC Sport Renault Clio R3, the Braga-based rookie impressed with second place in RC3 and sixth in two-wheel drive on the Portuguese championship-opening Rally Serras de Fafe. Now he will step up to European competition by registering for the ERC3 category.

“This will be just the third rally of my life but it is undoubtedly a very special moment,” said Correia. “Firstly, the Azorean stages are known all over the world for their natural beauty and for their demanding profile. Then, because most of our sponsors have a strong presence in the islands of the Azores and Madeira, which gives us great responsibility but also a great determination.

“As always, we will go to the event with a single objective: to get to the finish line without problems, to accumulate the maximum knowledge of the car and the stages. It will not be easy because the rally is very long and this sport is full of pitfalls but our posture will always be the same. This is a year of learning at all levels and the Azores Rally will be no exception.

"I have to highlight the support from our sponsors, especially from Socicorreia, which we will try to represent in the best way possible, both inside and outside the stages.”

Pedro Alves will co-drive Correia on the Azores Airlines Rallye, which takes place from 22-24 March.

Photo: Zoom

Kreim begins ERC Junior U28 bid thinking of India

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 09:00

Fabian Kreim will look to his outing on the Asia-Pacific championship-counting Coffee Day India Rally in 2016 when he begins his FIA ERC Junior Under 28 bid on the Azores Airlines Rallye this week.

That’s because the Indian event marked the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland driver’s last competitive outing on gravel ahead of this week’s loose surface contest in the mid-Atlantic.

“My feeling ahead of the Azores Rallye is good, despite the fact I have not sat in the car for over a year on gravel,” said German Kreim. “My last gravel rally was in India in December 2016. I know that the Azores is one of the most difficult rallies in the world and our preparation so far has gone well. We had a good test in Germany two weeks ago which has helped me build up some confidence.”

The double German champion continued: “Our target for the first event of the season is definitely to make the finish on Saturday evening, and hopefully with a good result for the ERC Junior U28 championship! Big thanks to ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland for the trust and this possibility for me to get back in a rally car at a really high level.”

Back on track: Magalhães raring for ERC start after injury

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 06:00

A fully recovered Bruno Magalhães says there’s no reason why he can't begin his 2018 FIA European Rally Championship campaign by repeating the shock victory he scored on São Miguel 12 months ago.

Despite being a two-time winner of the Azores Airlines Rallye, Magalhães wasn’t expected to pose a significant threat last season having not competed on gravel for two years.

But he defied the odds to register an unlikely triumph that would ultimately lead to him challenging Kajetan Kajetanowicz for the title until his event-ending crash on Rally Liepāja left him with back injuries and forced him to settle for the runner-up spot in the standings.

“When I got back to Portugal I found I had two broken vertebrae so for three to four months I was very careful,” said the ARC Sport ŠKODA driver. “But I’m fully recovered now, returning to the gym.”

Of his prospects of a fourth Azores win, Magalhães said: “I have good memories from this rally, I did not expect to win last year but I can win again this year, why not?

“It’s a sprint rally with lots of short stages, very competitive and not always possible to recover lost time. Because the stages are very narrow it’s very easy to touch the side of the tyre and get a puncture so you need to avoid punctures. And then there is the weather. One part of the island it’s winter time and in another part it’s like a beach so you never know what to expect.”

Magalhães, who is co-driven by namesake Hugo Magalhães, is one of 35 drivers entered for the Azores Airlines Rallye in R5 machinery but his ERC programme beyond the island event is unconfirmed. “It’s step by step [like last year]. Again my target will be to do all the rallies but some sponsors who made a lot of effort last year have already told me it will not be possible [to support me] this year. But I will try.”

The Azores Airlines Rallye takes place from 22-24 March.

Wait for the best, says ERC Junior Wagner

Sun, 03/18/2018 - 18:00

Simon Wagner insists that whatever the outcome of the Azores Airlines Rallye this coming week, his best will come later in the season.

Wagner, who is being tipped as a winner of the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship title at his first year-long attempt, explained that his absence of knowledge of driving his PEUGEOT 208 R2 on gravel could hold him back initially before he gets into his stride later in the campaign.

“Azores could be a very difficult event for us as I haven’t driven that many gravel rallies in my career and it will be the first time with my PEUGEOT 208 R2 on gravel, my first time on gravel with Pirelli tyres and my first time with the Saintéloc Junior Team. I believe the team will help me a lot to make the best out of this rally and help me improve step by step. I am confident we can fight for the title.”

European championship focus: ERC2

Sun, 03/18/2018 - 12:00

Drivers in standard production cars are well catered for in the FIA European Rally Championship courtesy of the ERC2 division. Here’s what you need to know.

Most popular car
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Scoring rounds*:
Azores Airlines Rallye, 22-24 March
Rally Islas Canarias, 3-5 May
Acropolis Rally, 1-3 June
Cyprus Rally, 15-17 June
Rally di Roma Capitale, 20-22 July
Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 24-26 August
Rally Poland, 21-23 September
Rally Liepāja, 12-14 October
*New for 2018, drivers count their best four scores from a possible eight

Recent champions
2017: Tibor Érdi Jr (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X)
2016: Wojciech Chuchała (Subaru Impreza STi N15)
2015: Dávid Botka (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX)

Why watch?
ERC2 will be better than ever with new rules reducing the number of scoring rounds from six to four, which has resulted in double the number of all-season competitors signing up for what is expected to be a wide-open and highly anticipated title chase. Tibor Érdi Jr is back to defend his title, 2017 runner-up Zelindo Melegari is armed with a new Subaru Impreza, while Sergei Remennik continues in ERC2 following an impressive rookie season. Juan Carlos Alonso returns following a one-year absence, while Luis Pimentel is also returning after a back injury curtailed his 2017 endeavours. Newcomer Tarik Manderes Okur from Turkey completes the list.

Kasperczyk: ERC Azores Airlines Rallye needs respect

Sun, 03/18/2018 - 06:00

Tomasz Kasperczyk has vowed to show the Azores Airlines Rallye – venue of this season’s FIA European Rally Championship opener – the utmost respect in his efforts to hit back from this 2017 exit.

Kasperczyk was heading for a top 10 on the gravel spectacular almost 12 months ago, only to hit trouble and retire his Tiger Energy Drink Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

“You have to respect Azores and tackle the stages with great attention,” said the Pole, a contender for ERC Junior U28 honours. “With ever-changing grip, loose gravel with moist surface under it and many other surprises you need to be 110 per cent sure where you can push and where you can’t.

"Knowing this last year, I kept my cool in order to finish the event without any pointless risks, which almost paid off when we were heading for a top 10 result before we were stopped abruptly with a mechanical failure.

"This year my approach will be no different. I want to finish and get through each stage at a good pace.”

Sesks to overcome nerves in ERC Junior U27

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 18:00

Mārtiņš Sesks admits his lack of knowledge of his Opel ADAM R2 is making him a “little nervous” as he prepares for his Azores Airlines Rallye debut next week.

The Latvian, a product of the ERC Junior Experience training programme, has been handed a dream opportunity for his first full season of FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship action by signing for the triple title-winning ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team.

“I can’t wait to tackle these great roads but I have to admit I am a little nervous as I haven’t completed more than 100 kilometres in the new car so far,” said 18-year-old Sesks. “But I am confident I will adapt quite quickly.

“At the moment we are trying to prepare as thoroughly as we can, by analysing stages and receiving recce training. It will be a blast to really start working with the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. The most important thing will be to enjoy and finish rally and come home with some good points in the ERC Junior U27 championship.”

Renārs Francis will co-drive his fellow Latvian Sesks in ERC Junior Under 27 this season. The Azores Airlines Rallye takes place from 22-24 March.

European championship focus: ERC3

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 12:00

The FIA European Rally Championship’s category for two-wheel-drive titans is dominated by crews from ERC Junior Under 27 with 11 of the 15 runners on the Azores Airlines Rallye also eligible for the young driver training category. Here’s what you need to know.

Popular cars
Citroën DS3 R3T
Opel ADAM R2
PEUGEOT 208 R2
Renault Clio R3T

Scoring rounds*:
Azores Airlines Rallye, 22-24 March
Rally Islas Canarias, 3-5 May
Acropolis Rally, 1-3 June
Cyprus Rally, 15-17 June
Rally di Roma Capitale, 20-22 July
Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 24-26 August
Rally Poland, 21-23 September
Rally Liepāja, 12-14 October
*Drivers count their best six scores from a possible eight

Recent champions
2017: Chris Ingram (Opel ADAM R2)
2016: Chris Ingram (Opel ADAM R2)
2015: Emil Bergkvist (Opel ADAM R2)

Why watch?
ERC3 pitches a number of career-focused talents together for plenty of close competition. Dominik Brož is the top seed in his ACCR Czech Team PEUGEOT 208 R2, while Emma Falcón is one of the leading ERC3 drivers not contesting ERC Junior U27.

Rego chases funds for more ERC Junior runs

Sat, 03/17/2018 - 06:00

Luís Rego doesn’t want next week’s Azores Airlines Rallye to be his only appearance in this season’s FIA European Rally Championship.

The ERC Junior Under 28 contender and Azores resident currently doesn’t have the funding in place to compete away from home soil, making the upcoming European counter in São Miguel even more significant,

“Of course we want to do more so we will try to get a good result and find more sponsors to do more than one rally,” said Rego. “This year is our third in the Ford Fiesta R5 so I have more experience and more confidence with the car so we now have to focus on the rally and find a good set-up in the test.”

Monteiro reveals ERC colours, plots Azores finish

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 18:00

Aloísio Monteiro is targeting gaining experience over gaining silverware on next week’s FIA European Rally Championship opener. And this is the car in which he’ll being doing exactly that.

Monteiro, who will be co-driven on the Azores Airlines Rallye by fellow Portuguese André Couceiro, is graduating to a top-of-the-range ŠKODA Fabia R5 for what he hopes will be an expanded number of events in 2018.

"From the beginning of this project we have established that our goal is to accumulate kilometres and try to improve our performance at every moment, improving details that make us evolve,” said Monteiro. “We aren’t focused or concerned about the outcome, not least because the list of competitors is great and many of them are very competent and experienced pilots. We are ready and enthusiastic to start this challenge."

The Azores Airlines Rallye takes place from 22-24 March.

Event preview: ERC Juniors in the thick of the battle for Azores Airlines Rallye glory

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 12:00

ERC Juniors past and present will be in the thick of the battle for glory when the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship season begins on the Azores Airlines Rallye next week (22-24 March).

Marijan Griebel graduates to the championship’s top tier after winning the ERC Junior Under 28 title in 2017, while Chris Ingram steps up to ERC Junior U28 after claiming ERC Junior U27 success last season. Ingram will be one of 12 drivers contesting ERC Junior U28, the class for young stars in R5 cars, while ERC Junior U27 for R2 cars on Pirelli tyres has attracted 11 entrants for the Mid-Atlantic gravel showpiece, one of the most spectacular events on the international calendar.

ERC Junior U27 contenders include Dominik Brož, Tom Kristensson and Efrén Llarena, who are competing with the support of the Czech (ACCR), German (ADAC) and Spanish (RFEDA) motorsport federations/automobile associations. Points scored by the trio will count towards the ERC Nations’ Cup, a new initiative for 2018 that promotes participation in the European championship by these organisations and, in turn, provides an extra opportunity for rising talents to progress from national to international level.

Other changes for 2018 include reducing the number of scoring rounds in ERC2 from six to four – which has resulted in double the number of all-season campaigners – a requirement for drivers to be ERC registered in order to score overall points and a revamp to the ERC Ladies’ Trophy points system. Rather than recognise the achievements of women when competing against other women drivers, to promote gender equality, drivers will score points based on where they appear in the final two or four-wheel-drive order.

ERC Junior Under 28: R5 category on the rise*
The ERC Junior Under 28 category continues to go from strength to strength with a flurry of competitor interest for its second season. ŠKODA’s German and Slovak subsidiaries will be supporting Fabian Kreim and Martin Koči respectively in the category for young stars in R5 cars, while Laurent Pellier steps up from winning the 208 Rally Cup in France to lead PEUGEOT Rally Academy’s challenge. ERC Junior Under 27 champion Chris Ingram gets his first shot in R5 machinery with Toksport. Pierre-Louis Loubet, son of 1989 ERC champion Yves, brings Team OSCARO support to BRC Racing Team where he will pilot a Hyundai i20 R5. Fredrik Åhlin (Sweden) and Frank Tore Larsen (Norway) make up the Scandinavian contingent. Poles Tomasz Kasperczyk and Hubert Ptaszek, Briton Rhys Yates and Azorean Luis Rego will also be in action as will Italian Tamara Molinaro, who graduates from ERC Junior U27 to become the first women driver to mount a season-long ERC campaign in an R5 car. The champion will be offered a one-off prize drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the 2019 WRC season as their prize.

ERC Junior Under 27: Next generation aim for the top
Eleven drivers aiming for the top will be in the thick of the battle for Pirelli-equipped ERC Junior U27 success on the Azores Airlines Rallye. Tom Kristensson and Mārtiņš Sesks have been charged with chasing a fourth consecutive title for the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. Kristensson gets his chance after winning the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup in Germany last season, while Sesks is a graduate of the ERC Junior Experience training programme. Their rivals will include ACCR Czech Team’s Dominik Brož, Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena, Saintéloc Junior Team pair Catie Munnings and Simon Wagner, Finnish R2 champion Miika Hokkanen, Denmark’s ERC rookie Simon Vallentin and circuit racer turned rally driver Mattia Vita. Pedro Antunes and Diogo Gago will carry Portuguese hopes in their PEUGEOT 208 R2s. All ERC Junior Under 27 drivers will be enrolled onto the ERC Junior Experience training programme.

And in other news…
*Last year’s Azores winner and ERC runner-up Bruno Magalhães is embarking on what the Portuguese hopes will be a full-season campaign when his opposition will include the ever-spectacular Russian Alexey Lukyanuk and PEUGEOT Deutschland-supported Marijan Griebel. While Magalhães and Lukyanuk have gravel knowledge of their ŠKODA Fabia R5 and Ford Fiesta R5 respectively, Griebel’s first taste of driving his 208 T16 on loose surfaces will be during testing on Monday.

*Current and former national champions competing in the Azores include Łukasz Habaj (Poland), Norbert Herczig (Hungary), Ricardo Moura (Azores), Hermann Neubauer (Austria) and Bernardo Sousa and Carlos Vieira (both Portugal). Sousa, the Azores winner in 2014, has competed only sporadically in recent seasons and will take over the Play / Autoaçoreana Racing Citroën DS3 R5 vacated by brothers Ruben and Estevão Rodrigues for professional reasons.

*Orhan Avcioglu graduates to the ERC after winning the FIA Balkan Rally Trophy in 2017. He will form part Toksport’s three-car Azores entry.

*Brazil’s Paulo Nobre is returning to international competition after successfully masterminding the rise of Palmeiras in his role as club president. Nobre, a regular in the WRC and in cross-country rallying in the past, is returning to his old team Motorsport Italia.

*Albert von Thurn und Taxis will embark on his second ERC season after joining Raimund Baumschlager’s BRR operation, while Dávid Botka is a former ERC2 champion.

*Other drivers competing on the ERC season-opener include Giacomo Costenaro, Jarosław Koltun and Aloísio Monteiro, who has been receiving driving tips from Bruno Magalhães as he steps up to R5 level.

*Emma Falcón and Catie Munnings will battle Tamara Molinaro for ERC Ladies’ Trophy honours.

Showroom showdown: New rules result in expanded ERC2 interest
With the number of scoring rounds reduced from six to four in response to competitor feedback, the amount of drivers planning season-long campaigns in ERC2 – the category for standard production cars – has doubled. Tibor Érdi Jr is returning to defend his title with last year’s runner-up Zelindo Melegari and third-placed Sergei Remennik also in action. Argentine Juan Carlos Alonso returns following a one-year absence, while Luis Pimentel is also returning after a back injury curtailed his 2017 endeavours. Newcomer Tarik Manderes Okur from Turkey completes the list.

Watch and listen
Coverage of the the City Show demonstration stage on the streets of host city Ponta Delgada (Wednesday 21 March), the start selection ceremony, season launch, Grupo Marques superspecial and finish podium will be streamed live. ERC Radio will broadcast live from all stage finishes. Highlights from Thursday and Friday’s legs (March 22 and 23) will air on Eurosport 1 from 23h30 CET. Highlights from Saturday (March 24) will be shown at 22h30 CET.



ERC AZORES AIRLINES RALLYE IN NUMBERS:
60: Record-breaking entry of 60 cars
35: A total of 35 top-of-the-range R5 cars will be in action, including 12 in ERC Junior Under 28
55: Of the 60 entrants, 55 are registered for ERC points with 23 lining up in ERC Junior
15: This year’s event features 15 stages over a competitive distance of 207.30 kilometres
2: Number of visits to the iconic Sete Cidades stage. Click here to find out what’s in store

RFEDA makes Llarena’s ERC Junior dream come true

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 18:00

New ERC Junior Under 27 recruit Efrén Llarena has spoken about how the support of the Rally Team Spain initiative has enabled him to take the step up from national to international level for this season’s FIA European Rally Championship.

Llarena won Spain’s Beca Júnior R2 title in 2017, which carried a funded drive in ERC Junior U27 this season as its top prize through the support of the Real Federación Española de Automovilismo (RFEDA).

“It is an honour and a dream come true,” said the 22-year-old Llarena. “We knew that for us it was a very difficult challenge, but we have achieved it and we have to be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

“All Spanish drivers have to be grateful to the Royal Spanish Automobile Federation for having inaugurated Rally Team Spain, a very interesting project. Now young people who compete in rallies have a direction to go in. Without this initiative, I could not make the leap to the ERC.”

Llarena, whose Mavisa Sport-run PEUGEOT 208 R2 will be co-driven by compatriot Sara Fernández, continued: “We started with the aim of trying to win our category. We know it’s going to be difficult, but we have to be very intelligent, know where to run and when to be more cautious depending on the terrain. We’re going to have to fight a lot to get it, but at least we’re going to try. “

Speaking at Rally Team Spain’s recent launch, Manuel Aviñó, President of Real Federación Española de Automovilismo, said: “Rally Team Spain is already a reality. The dream is fulfilled of being able to send young Spanish talents to continue growing in a first-level contest like the ERC, with its great media coverage thanks to the support of Eurosport. We cannot have better partners for this challenge, not only for Efrén and Sara, but also for PEUGEOT and all the companies that collaborate in the project.”

Jorge Tomé, who heads PEUGEOT in Spain and Portugal, said: “At PEUGEOT we have always believed that the values of ambition, sportsmanship and fighting spirit that motorsport represent are an important part of our brand identity, which we make a reality in our life. For us it’s a privilege, at this historic moment with the victory of Carlos Sainz and PEUGEOT in the Dakar, betting on an excellent driver, like Efrén Llarena, and an excellent co-driver, like Sara Fernández. We wish them the best in this new project.”

Along with ACCR (Czech Republic) and ADAC (Germany), RFEDA will be in contention for the new-for-2018 ERC Nations’ Cup.

R5 chance for ERC Junior Experience graduates Bedoret, Mareš

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 06:00

Two graduates from the ERC Junior Experience training programme, Sébastien Bedoret and Filip Mareš, have both been handed huge opportunities for 2018.

Mareš will contest the Czech championship in a ŠKODA Fabia R5 backed by Autoklub of the Czech Republic, with Bedoret being handpicked by rallying royalty Freddy Loix to contest the Belgian championship with support from his country’s ŠKODA importer.

Regulars in FIA ERC Junior Under 27 last season, Bedoret and Filip Mareš enrolled in the ERC Junior Experience, which is designed to equip young drivers with the skills they need to progress.

Photo with thanks to: Autosport.cz

Habaj strives for the ERC top five

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 18:00

Łukasz Habaj plans to make the most of the experience he gained in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2017 when strives to finish in the top five in this season’s standings.

The former Polish champion is targeting a seven-event campaign starting from next week’s Azores Airlines Rallye (22-24 March).

“With so many drivers competing it’s really difficult to set an objective, especially as I haven’t raced most of them,” said Habaj. “For sure I want to be more competitive than last season. I have much more experience so it should help. If we finish the season in the top five I will be very happy.”

Habaj’s preparations for the new ERC schedule began back in January with the first of two appearances in the Finnish championship, which he hopes will put him in a good position for the season ahead.

“I have already implemented a different approach as we started off the season with two training rallies in Finland,” Habaj explained. “I have never started the season as early as January and I have also put much more attention to my physical preparations. In terms of the rallies itself I know all the rounds except Greece so I can say that I have never been so ready before. I am sure I improved my skills in Finland. Most of the skills you need to be fast on loose surfaces are common regardless if it is snow or wet gravel. Obviously Azores is a totally different rally but I guess you need similar skills.”

Habaj’s 2017 ERC campaign got off to a frustrating start with a retirement and non-start – following a shakedown crash – on the first two events. But the Rallytechnology-run Ford Fiesta R5 driver is determined to look forwards, not back.

“I just want to drive with good pace and see the finish line,” he said. “I don’t look at Azores and Canarias as unfinished business or anything like that. If I think about a good result at the end of the season, I know I have to improve my pace but get to the finish at the same time.”

Habaj will get the opportunity to compete on home soil when the gravel-based Rally Poland hosts the action from 21-23 September, after the event replaced the all-asphalt Rally Rzeszow on the ERC schedule. “Rally Poland is in general great but I feel more comfortable on Tarmac and definitely I know Rzeszow better. But I can’t complain, I am happy that we have an ERC round in Poland and will try to do my best.”

ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley said: “It’s great Łukasz is returning to the ERC for an increased programme of events. As a national champion, the ERC provides the perfect platform of progression and we are pleased Łukasz is able to continue his career at international level.”

Botka goes fourth in the ERC

Wed, 03/14/2018 - 06:00

Leading Hungarian driver Dávid Botka is preparing to embark on his fourth season in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2018.

And while he’s started the Azores Airlines Rallye on three occasions, next week’s island spectacular will be the first time he’s competed on gravel in his ŠKODA Fabia R5, which he acquired midway through last season.

“We try to prepare ourselves and also the car to the competition and I hope we can go fast,” said the 2015 ERC2 champion. “The Fabia was a really good choice and we have already won the Croatia Rally last year. We start to get to know it better and one or two times a week I go through videos of the stages.

“With the entry list we can see how powerful the ERC will be this year. It is sure that I want to do my best in this season and I will see if I can compete with the young beginners and also the older veterans or not. If not, we will go on an other way in the next year so this year will be really important in my career.”

Botka, who will be co-driven by compatriot Márk Mesterházi, finished fourth overall in the Azores in 2016 at the wheel of his old Citroën DS3 R5.

The Azores Airlines Rallye takes place from 22-24 March. Multiple Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig will also be in action in his MOL Racing Team ŠKODA while Tibor Érdi Jr, also from Hungary, is chasing ERC2 success in a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Photo: DuEn / www.duen.hu

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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)