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ERC Newsletter #04/14
Posted by: newsla on Jan 24, 2014 - 06:12 AM
WRC Rally News 2010
ERC Newsletter #04/14

FIA European Rally Championship title contender Craig Breen is predicting a thrilling battle for victory on next week’s Rally Liepāja, the second event of the 2014 season.


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Breen excelled when the winter rally joined the ERC roster for the first time last year and is one of the hot favourites to win this year’s running of the ice and snow spectacular, which features a 56-car entry and 12 stages over a competitive distance of 240.56 kilometres.

“It’s going to be a really good event,” said Irishman Breen. “There are Regional Rally Cars, R5 cars and Super 2000 cars and it’s going to be a really close battle between all of them. The cars all have their advantages and disadvantages so it’s going to be a really big fight.”

Breen, who will turn 24 on the final day of the event, will compete in a Peugeot Rally Academy 207 Super 2000. His rivals include Bryan Bouffier, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Esapekka Lappi, Sepp Wiegand and young Russian Vasily Gryazin, who flies the Latvian flag on his Ford Fiesta S2000.

Rally Liepāja takes place from 31 January-2 February.

The all-new FIA ERC Junior Championship is go in Latvia next week with 15 rising stars in action on Rally Liepāja from 31 January-2 February.

And Chris Ingram, a 19-year-old emerging talent from the United Kingdom, is one such driver hoping to make their mark on the championship for R2 cars.

“After competing on the ERC Ypres Rally last season I knew where I wanted to be in 2014,” said Ingram. “ERC Junior is the perfect championship for me to develop my speed and experience against such great opposition.”

Ingram, who has won several awards in the UK for his performances in rallying, will pilot a Renault Twingo R2 alongside co-driver Carl Williamson.

ERC Junior competitors count their best four scores from seven events. The winner will get to drive an R5 car on selected rounds of the ERC in 2015. Rivaling Ingram for ERC Junior glory will be: Fabrizio Andolfi (Italy), Jan Černý (Czech Republic), Andrea Crugnola (Italy), Marijan Griebel (Germany), Risto Immonen (Finland), Petter Kristiansen (Norway), Jean-Mathieu Leandri (France), Stéphane Lefebvre (France), Mattias Olsson (Sweden), Tomas Pospisilik (Czech Republic), Steve Røkland (Norway), Florin Tincescu (Romania), Kevin van Deijne (Netherlands) and Aleks Zawada (Poland).

Several star drivers from the FIA European Rally Championship excelled on the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo last week.

ERC event winners Bryan Bouffier (pictured) and Robert Kubica both won stages and took turns to lead the world championship season-opener, while Kris Meeke, who has extensive experience of ERC rallies, finished third overall behind Bouffier.

Sébastien Ogier claimed the victory, five years after he won the event when it counted as a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. ERC promoter Eurosport Events was responsible for promoting the IRC before taking over the reins of the ERC under a 10-year agreement with the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body. Bouffier, meanwhile, will contest round two of the ERC, Rally Liepāja, in Latvia next week.

Ekaterina Stratieva will step up in performance when she contests round two of the FIA European Rally Championship in Latvia.

The ERC Ladies’ Trophy contender will switch from her Napoca Rally Academy Citroën C2R2 Max to a Subaru Impreza, again run by the Romania-based operation, which will mark her first experience of four-wheel-drive competition.

“I have done 40 kilometres testing in Romania and the feeling is quite strange because it’s so new for me,” said the Bulgarian driver. “My first kilometres were in the dark in mud and foggy conditions. I then drive in rainy conditions and now I need to think about when to change gear, when to brake, when to stay on a higher gear, the differential, the anti-lag, everything like this. We are starting from zero but it’s very exciting for me because it’s a new page in my rally career.”

Stratieva, who will be reunited with co-driver Carmen Poenaru on Rally Liepāja, plans to make the most of Napoca Rally Academy leader Marco Tempestini’s extensive experience. “We must listen to him because he is very good with a lot of experience,” she said. “We can learn all the steps of how to drive this car.”

Ukrainian glamour model Inessa Tushkanova will compete against Stratieva for ERC Ladies’ Trophy honours in Latvia.

Vasily Gryazin will fly the Latvian flag on his Ford Fiesta S2000 on the country’s FIA European Rally Championship counter from 31 January-2 February even though he’s actually Russian.

The rising star and ERC regular was born in Russia and still lives there but learned to drive rally cars in Latvia and took part on his first competitive event in the Baltic state.

“Everyone asks me this question if I am Russian or Latvian,” said the 20-year-old Sports Racing Technologies-run driver. “I am Russian and I live in Russia, but I have a Latvian competition licence. That's why I have the Latvian flag on my car.”

Three of the seven drivers from Czech Republic contesting Rally Liepāja next week will be in action in Lithuania this weekend as part of their preparations for round two of the FIA European Rally Championship.

Martin Hudec, Jaroslav Orsák and Antonín Tlusťák will contest the Halls Winter Rally in Lithuania before they head to Latvia for the ERC counter from 31 January-2 February.

The event is considered an ideal test for Rally Liepāja because the ice and snow-layered roads are very similar to those found in Latvia, where Orsák (pictured) will be making his first appearance in this year’s ERC having skipped the season-opener in Austria. “We were starting in Lithuania for first time last year,” he said. “We were finding the correct set-up and how to drive the car. This year we are coming more experienced.”

Tlusťák, who like Orsák will compete in a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, said: “They have added night stages on Friday, which should help us as in Liepāja there will also be stages in the dark.”

Bryan Bouffier, last year’s FIA European Rally Championship runner-up and Rallye Monte-Carlo podium finisher, will be back on ERC duty in Latvia next week when he makes his competition debut in a Citroën DS3 RRC. The French ace talks about his hopes for success.

Welcome back to the ERC. Why choose Rally Liepāja for your first start of the season?
“Why not is the question? It would have been better to go on the first event in Austria as well but it hasn’t been possible. For me it’s a great challenge and one more time I will get the opportunity to drive a good car and the first time I drive a completely snow event with full studs so I am sure it will be good fun.”

Is this a one-off or will you do more rounds of the ERC like last year when you finished runner-up to Jan Kopecký?
“For the moment it’s just one shot but then we will see. Hopefully we can get a good result and will see if it can help me to do more events.”

You will start the event as one of the favourites to win. Do you agree?
“Hopefully yes, it will be nice. But it will be my first time on a pure winter rally in the forests so I don’t know what it will be like and if I will be quick or not. It’s one more challenge for me.”

Want to know what rally drivers do when they’re not in the thick of competition? Juho Hänninen, the winner of the FIA European Rally Championship in 2012, works as a forester in Finland.

“My family business is in forestry and now I am quite busy with this,” said the flying Finn, who will contest selected rounds of the World Rally Championship in 2014 with the factory Hyundai Motorsport team. “During Christmas time we were cutting the trees and now I am collecting those and taking them away from the forest. I am also cleaning up the forest before the timber harvesting machines arrive. It’s quite physical work so good for the training but now it’s minus 22, which is interesting because you should be very cold but you are actually sweating.”

PaddockTalk Perspective

Also in WRC Rally News 2010:

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