15 January 2015: Newsletter #03/15

Opel, Peugeot backing for ERC Junior stars

Car makes Opel and Peugeot will be represented in this year’s FIA ERC Junior Championship following confirmation of three notable entries.

The ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team will enter Sweden’s Emil Bergkvist and Germany’s Marijan Griebel in the flagship young driver category, while Gino Bux will compete under the Peugeot Belgium Luxembourg banner after the importer confirmed that it would be continuing its support of the rising Belgian star.

Bergkvist, Bux and Griebel are among 11 confirmed entrants for the second ERC Junior season, which carries a prize drive in an R5 car on the ERC season finale as its prize. More drivers are due to sign up before Rally Liepāja, which hosts the opening round in Latvia from 6-8 February.

ERC registrations rocket!

The registration system introduced for the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship continues to surpass expectations with 38 crews now officially entered.

Currently the headlining ERC class has 12 entries, ERC2 has five registrations and ERC3 has attracted 21 runners. A full list of registrations received so far can be found by clicking here.

By registering, drivers can be considered for the round-by-round prize fund and benefit from a number of promotional opportunities. Although all drivers are eligible for overall ERC points, only drivers registered for ERC2 and ERC3 can score points in those categories.

Big break for ERC stars Abbring and Marshall

Kevin Abbring’s stunning performances in last season’s FIA European Rally Championship have been more than rewarded – he’s signed to drive for Hyundai’s factory WRC team.

Abbring, who is partnered by navigator Seb Marshall, joins the squad as its official test driver. While his main focus will be helping to develop Hyundai’s New Generation i20 WRC, the Dutchman will also contest selected world championship events for the Germany-based team.

Hyundai Motorsport head Michel Nandan said: “We are pleased to include Kevin in our driver line- up for 2015. He is an extremely talented young driver and definitely one to watch for the future. We followed his progress in ERC closely. His contribution to the development of our New Generation i20 WRC will be valuable. It’s great to have him as part of our driver roster.”

Although Abbring never managed an outright victory in last year’s ERC due to considerable bad luck, he scored 21 stage bests, two podiums and also earned the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy in Açores and Ypres. Having led four rallies outright, he was named Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy Driver of the Year at the end-of-season awards ceremony in Corsica.

With Abbring stepping up to the world championship in 2015, promising French star Charles Martin will follow in his wheel tracks by joining the Peugeot Rally Academy for an ERC campaign as the Peugeot 208 Rally Cup champion, a title Abbring won in 2013.

New ERC teaser video now online

Eurosport Events has produced an online teaser video to fire interest in the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship. The short production features action footage from all 10 rounds of the ERC and was made to whet the appetite of fans, media, drivers and teams. Click here to view the video.

ERC Rally Liepāja: the excitement grows

The excitement ahead of Rally Liepāja, round two of the FIA European Rally Championship, continues to grow with organisers announcing the first batch of entries for the ice and snow spectacular in Latvia.

To date, 21 entries have been announced with title contenders Craig Breen (Peugeot Rally Academy) and Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team) among those set to take part on the winter event from 6-8 February.

Entries close on 22 January. Visit Lvrally.com for more information.

In the capital the ERC Circuit of Ireland trusts

Capital city Belfast will continue to host Northern Ireland’s round of the FIA European Rally Championship, the legendary Circuit of Ireland Rally.

Once again the event will begin with a ceremonial start in the grounds of Belfast City Hall on Thursday 2 April, with the rally headquarters and permanent service park housed in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. The finish will also take place in the Titanic Quarter on Saturday 4 April.

It’s anticipated that the event will generate more than £1.5 million for the local economy, a prospect that has cheered Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Nichola Mallon.

“I am delighted that the Circuit of Ireland Rally has once again chosen Belfast for its ceremonial start and finish,” she said. “Following on from the success of last year’s rally, I have no doubt that this year’s event will be bigger and better.”

The Circuit of Ireland uses spectacular asphalt stages in the counties of Antrim and Down. It will count for ERC, ERC2, ERC3, ERC Junior Championship, ERC Ladies’ Trophy and ERC Asphalt Master points.

Q&A: Stéphane Lefebvre

The rising French star, 22, stepped up to the FIA European Rally Championship’s big league on the season-opener in Austria as part of his prize for winning the ERC Junior title in 2014. Although a mechanical failure forced his exit he still impressed, while building his experience for the future. This year he will chase the WRC2 title and contest selected WRC rounds for Citroën in a World Rally Car in addition to his ERC programme.

How was your experience with the Citroën DS3 R5 on snow?

“I learned a lot from this experience on the snow with the DS3 R5, it was very rewarding. Opening the road in those difficult conditions was good training for Rallye Monte-Carlo. I don’t have much experience with four-wheel drive and even less on snow, so the Jännerrallye was essential for us. It was important to cover as many kilometres as possible with the DS3 R5 for the future.”

So it will help you for Rallye-Monte Carlo, your first world championship event of the season?

“Obviously it helped me to prepare for Rallye Monte-Carlo. We have learned to drive with very little grip and the different conditions on this rally – snow, ice, dark – all of which we are likely to meet in Monte Carlo. Moreover, throughout the rally we have fine-tuned the settings of the car, and now we are able to take the start in Monte Carlo in the best conditions.”

We should see you back in the ERC in Ypres and Estonia. What are your aims for those events?

“Regarding our participation in Ypres, this is a rally near to my home, and I particularly like it as it’s a fast event with slippery roads. The aim will be to fight among the front-runners and reconnect with asphalt. For Rally Estonia, I don’t know if we will participate yet. If this is the case it will be good preparation for Rally Finland.”

Media accreditation open for ERC Rally Liepāja

Media planning to attend Rally Liepāja not in possession of an ERC Permanent Press Credential must apply by following this link: http://2015.lvrally.com/eng/media/accreditation. ERC Permanent Press Credential holders planning to attend the event must confirm their attendance by emailing media.fiaerc.com. All television/radio enquiries must be addressed to Antonios Argyropoulos by emailing fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com.

Press enquiries: Paul Evans, media.fiaerc.com, +44 7710 743167 Television: Antonios Argyropoulos, fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com Drivers and teams: Jean-Baptiste Ley, jbley@eurosport.com​