(18.04.2023) FIA European Rally Championship, the oldest rally series in the world, is undergoing a renaissance. There was an impressive number of fantastic drivers on the entry list of the 2023 season opener held in March in Portugal. Many of these great competitors are expected to compete in ORLEN 79th Rally Poland too. Moreover, there are famous rallying names among them, like Max McRae, who is about to begin his ERC campaign with Polish ERC counter.

As many as 84 crews, including 44 in Rally2/R5 cars, entered 36th Rally Serras de Fafe (10-12 March) – opening round of 2023 ERC season. The names on the list were nothing short of impressive too. Spanish duo Efren Llarena and Sara Fernandez was top seeded crew. Reigning European champions made their maiden outing in newest Skoda Motorsport machinery – the Fabia RS Rally2.

Next on the list were WRC event winners – Hayden Paddon (co-driver: John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Rally2) and Mads Ostberg (co-driver: Patrik Barth, Citroen C3 Rally2). Paddon has two podium finishes under his belt in WRC Rally Poland. New Zealander was second in 2017 and third a year earlier. FIA ERC title is the goal of 35-year-old New Zealander, so we can expect him to compete in ORLEN 79th Rally Poland.

Mads Ostberg also announced a full ERC campaign, including Polish ERC counter. The driver backed by MRF Tyres brand uses a Citroen C3 Rally2 prepared by Tagai Racing Technology. Tom Kristensson and Andreas Johansson is another crew which chose Hungarian team and Citroen C3 Rally2 to tackle FIA ERC rounds. However, 2022 Rally Poland runners-up did not confirm their outing in Poland yet.

Another fast driver expected to compete on Masurian gravel stages is reigning Finnish champion Mikko Heikkilä. 31-year-old Heikkilä, co-driven by his compatriot Vaaleri Samu, made an impressive, yet disappointing start to his 2023 ERC campaign. He was leading 36th Rally Serras de Fafe overall standings to the penultimate stage. A puncture on final test of the event saw Finns drop to 8th overall.

Another Swede (besides Kristensson) who is about to compete in ORLEN 79th Rally Poland is Pontus Tidemand (co-driver: Julia Thulin, Ford Fiesta Rally2). 32-year old Tidemand, who has Junior ERC (2013), APRC (2015) and WRC2 (2017) titles under his belt, is another driver backed by MRF brand. Another driver who wears MRF colours is Martins Sesks (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2). Estonian, together with his co-driver Renars Francis, plans to do all rounds of 2023 FIA ERC season.

French gravel champion Mathieu Franceschi (co-driver: Jules Escartefigue, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) will make his very first Rally Poland outing behind the wheel of Rally2 car. Frenchman have already competed in Masuria Lake District. Back in 2021 he finished Rally Poland 2nd in RC4 category.

Meanwhile Filip Mares will try to use his experience gained during his three previous outings in Polish ERC round. 31-year-old Czech scored his best result in Poland in 2019 season, when he finished 17,7 seconds adrift of podium. This year Mares will use Skoda Fabia Rally2, with Radovan Bucha taking the co-driver’s duties.

ORLEN 79th Rally Poland will be the season-opener for a young driver with very famous name – Max McRae. The grandson of Jimmy McRae, son of Alister and famous Colin’s nephew have chosen to drive Opel Corsa Rally4 and to fight in ERC Junior series.

ORLEN 79th Rally Poland entry list will be revealed on 11th of May.