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ERC Newsletter #01/14
Posted by: newsla on Jan 02, 2014 - 04:34 PM
WRC Rally News 2010
ERC Newsletter #01/14

New rallies, new categories and new awards are in store in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2014, which begins with the 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich from 3-5 January.


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The Acropolis Rally, the Circuit of Ireland Rally, auto24 Rally Estonia and the Cyprus Rally are all new for the upcoming season, while Sibiu Rally Romania becomes a winter event having taken place in the heat of the Transylvania summer in recent years.

The exciting FIA ERC Junior Championship will get underway on Rally Liepāja in late January, while the ERC Manufacturers’ Cup is also new. It will replace the European Rally Championship for Teams and will be run on all 12 rounds with the two highest-placed cars from each make according to the final official classification scoring points towards an overall classification. There will also be separate Manufacturers’ Cups for ERC Production Car and ERC 2WD competitors.

Surface specialists will be recognised through three new accolades created by ERC promoter Eurosport Events. The ERC Asphalt, Gravel and Ice Masters will be handed out in honour of the drivers who perform best on those surfaces during the 2014 campaign.

Following the ERC’s successful efforts to reduce costs by limiting the amount of tyres that can be used on each event to 20 (plus four for Free Practice and Qualifying Stage), the ERC’s proposals to restrict tyre use by competitors in two-wheel-drive machinery were accepted by the FIA Rally Commission. From the start of the 2014 season, ERC 2WD Championship competitors will be able to use a maximum of 16 tyres plus four for shakedown. Furthermore, organisers of SATA Rallye Açores and the Cyprus Rally will provide significant travel subsidies to ERC competitors contesting those events.

On all rounds in 2014, FIA and ERC priority drivers will complete two runs of Free Practice before tackling a Qualifying Stage. The results of the Qualifying Stage will be used to determine the starting order for leg one with the driver setting the fastest time in Qualifying choosing their starting position first at a public-focused Start Selection Ceremony followed by the second fastest driver and so on until all FIA and ERC priority drivers have made their selection. Following the Qualifying Stage, all other competitors will undertake a period of shakedown.

Rallying legend Marcus Grönholm will attend the opening round of the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship as an expert consultant for ERC promoter Eurosport Events.

The 45-year-old, world rally champion in 2000 and 2002, will be on duty during the upcoming 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich from 3-5 January.

Eurosport will utilise his considerable expertise in its coverage of the winter showcase with Grönholm providing commentary and analysis. He will also appear on ERC Rally Radio during the two days of competition, be available for media interviews and offer his observations on the ERC.

“We are delighted that Marcus, a true ambassador of the sport, will be joining us at the Jännerrallye and we look forward to tapping into his considerable knowledge and expertise,” said ERC General Co-ordinator Jean-Pierre Nicolas, who was the boss of Peugeot Sport when Grönholm (pictured left with Nicolas in 2005) drove for the French manufacturer during a six-year stint. They have enjoyed a close relationship ever since.

Since retiring from full-time driving at the end of 2007, Grönholm has taken part on selected events, tested several rally cars and even worked as a driver coach. And the Finn is no stranger to the ERC having taken three wins from 11 starts during his early career with first-place finishes on the Arctic Lapland Rally in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Crews planning to contest the exciting new-for-2014 FIA ERC Junior Championship can now apply to take part ahead of the inaugural season getting underway next month.

The application form for the seven-round championship is available to download from the FIA website by following this link or from the official ERC website by clicking here.

First up for the ERC Junior competitors is Rally Liepāja in Latvia from 31 January-2 February. A stunning prize of selected rallies in an R5-specificaiton car is up for grabs for the winner.

The FIA European Rally Championship’s official radio service, ERC Rally Radio, will be broadcasting live from 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich this weekend.

With Julian Porter and Chris Rawes reporting live from the stage ends, Greg Strange presenting and Mark Jones producing, ERC Rally Radio will be live on air on both days of the ERC opener and will be available via the ERC website and app.

Saturday’s coverage will begin at 08:00hrs local time with Sunday’s coverage starting at 07:30hrs.

Ekaterina Stratieva will get a new co-driver when she returns to the FIA European Rally Championship in Austria later this week.

Stratieva, who placed second in last year’s ERC Ladies’ Trophy standings, will be a Jännerrallye newcomer when the event gets underway with the first of 18 stages on Saturday morning.

But as well as experiencing the demanding stages around the event base in Freistadt for the first time, the Bulgarian ace will be giving her younger compatriot Angel Bashkehayov a breakthrough opportunity in the ERC after signing him as her co-driver for the Austrian rally. He replaces Carmen Poenaru (pictured right with Stratieva on Rallye International du Valais last November).

“He is a student at a sporting academy in Sofia,” Stratieva explained. “He has been learning and working with the team of multiple Bulgarian champion Dimitar Iliev but now this will be his first big event and his first outside of the country.”

Rising German star Raffael Sulzinger will be able to count on plenty of support when he begins his pursuit of FIA European Rally Championship glory in Austria this week.

The Bavaria resident will receive technical support from M-Sport and the backing of his mentor Walter Röhrl, the former European and world rally champion, when he contests the 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich from 3-5 January.

He will pilot a Ford Fiesta R2 on the asphalt event, one of several ERC rounds he hopes to contest in 2014 alongside Austrian co-driver Jürgen Heigl, who won the FIA ERC Production Car Cup for Co-drivers title in 2013.

“The target is to set more 2WD best stage times and stay without punctures – we had three in 2013 so were not able to fight for the podium,” said Sulzinger. “The weather conditions are very important for us, because if it’s completely dry it would be really difficult with our R2 against the S1600 and R3 cars.”

FIA ERC Production Car Cup champion Andreas Aigner will step up to the European Rally Championship’s big league on his home event, the 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich from 3-5 January. The Stohl Racing ace spoke to www.fiaerc.com.

How did you become a rally driver?
“I saw an advert from Red Bull in a newspaper in 2004 looking for young German-speaking people wanting to become a rally driver. They took two people out of 500 and one of them was me, which was a big surprise because I had nothing to do with motorsport before, expect from being a mechanic with an interest in cars.”

What’s it like to be co-driven by your girlfriend, Barbara Watzl?
“It’s not that special like it seems from the outside. Barbara is quite professional from her job before so it’s not a big problem from me to make some strong words when it’s necessary. For sure it’s nice to make some things together, like our victories in the ERC.”

Can you cook and what’s your signature dish?
“I can cook and I really like to cook when I have some time, when I am relaxed. My best dish is peppersteak.”

What three items do you always carry with you?
“My Samsung mobile phone, my computer and my sports shoes.”

Apart from rallying, what other sports are you interested in?
“Living in Austria you have to follow skiing. I also like riding trial bikes. It’s good for fitness and concentration.”

The asphalt showcase first ran in 1969 and attracted 100,000 spectators when it hosted the 2013 ERC season-opener. Based in Freistadt, 40 kilometres north of Linz in Upper Austria, the stages in the spectacular Mühlviertel region use fast, undulating country roads, with ice and snow increasing the challenge. As well as counting as the first event of the 12-round ERC schedule and the first opportunity for drivers to chase ERC Ice Master points, the rally opens the Austrian and Czech national championship seasons. Free Practice and a Qualifying Stage will help to determine the starting order among the priority drivers.

Starts/finishes: Friday 3 January/Sunday 5 January, Messehalle, Freistadt
Stages: 18
Stage distance: 245.60 kilometres (138.40 kilometres leg one, 107.20 kilometres leg two)
Surface: Snow and ice-coated asphalt

PaddockTalk Perspective

Also in WRC Rally News 2010:

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