2 April 2015: Newsletter #14/15

Huge crowds cheer ERC crews off Belfast start ramp

Despite the rain, huge crowds enjoyed a carnival atmosphere outside Belfast City Hall tonight, at the ceremonial start to the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally.

FIA European Rally Championship front-runner Craig Breen’s Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 was the first car over the start ramp, much to the delight of the many rally fans that came to watch the spectacular ceremony.

In addition to the cars and drivers, the crowd was entertained by Britain’s Got Talent stars, the Innova Irish Dance Company, and live music from the Ulster Scots Juvenile Pipe Band and the Friendship Brass Band.

Brave Barrable to start ‘home’ ERC round first on the road

Irish hero Robert Barrable says he will demonstrate his bravery by starting round three of the FIA European Rally Championship first on the road.

Barrable was fastest on the Whinney Hill Qualifying Stage this afternoon to earn the right to choose his road position for Friday’s opening leg first. At the start selection ceremony in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland this evening, Barrable elected to run at the front of the field in his Ford Fiesta R5.

“It looks like it’s going to be wet tomorrow so a lot of loose gravel and muck will be dragged out onto the road by the cars running at the front,” said Barrable. “I’d rather be brave and start at the front so I’ll be taking it from there.”

After Barrable, who finished third on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally last season, had selected his starting position, the next 14 fastest drivers on the Qualifying Stage made their choices and the event turned into a follow-the-leader exercise.

Pole Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who was second fastest in qualifying, picked second followed by third- fastest driver Craig Breen who chose to start third. Czech driver Antonín Tlusák was the last of the ERC priority drivers to make his selection and will start leg one in 15th.

Friday’s leg of the headlining International Rally begins with the 14.54-kilometre Bucks Head stage from 10h48.

ERC Juniors support FIA Action for Road Safety in Belfast

The 19 FIA ERC Junior Championship drivers and co-drivers contesting the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally showed their support of the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign by taking part in a photoshoot.

They gathered at the Ulster Folk Museum, a short distance from the event base in Belfast, to help promote the FIA’s global campaign, which focuses the federation’s resources on helping its member organisations around the globe to educate and advocate for safer roads, vehicles and behaviours.

It aims to lower the alarming figures associated with global road accidents and to spread the safer motoring message. Central to the campaign are the 10 Golden Rules for Safer Motoring. A set of simple tips intended to help motorists improve their driving behaviour. These rules hope to assist motorists in reaching a golden standard of motoring and to remind them of their responsibilities to themselves, their passengers and all other road users.

Get in touch with ERC Radio

ERC Radio wants to hear from you during the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally, so if you have rally news, a question or a music request, please get in touch via Radio@FIAERC.com.

Available free on fiaerc.com and via the ERC app., ERC Radio reporters Julian Porter and Chris Rawes will be broadcasting from every stage stop line and service halt – with Mark Jones producing the show from the ERC Radio studio.

The live FIA European Rally Championship radio service has been listened to in 63 countries so far this year, and its international audience is growing.

“Our most popular country for loyal listeners of ERC Radio is Poland,” says Chris. “We also have a huge following in the UK, Latvia, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Austria, France, Estonia and Belgium. Other countries who also have an interest in the ERC, and who regularly tune into ERC Radio, include the United States, Australia, Japan, Russia, Argentina and South Africa.”

Special Irish helmet design for ERC leader

What has a Polish Eagle, an Irish Leprechaun and the leader of the FIA European Rally Championship’s sister got in common?

Well, they all appear on a special crash helmet livery, which Kajetan Kajetanowicz has created for this week’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally.

The LOTOS Rally Team driver wanted to feature Polish and Irish national colours on his helmet and has combined symbols of these two nations in an eagle and a leprechaun. And as Kajetanowicz’s sister lives in Ireland, she has been added too!

Three Peugeot Rally Academy ERC amigos gather in Ireland

For the first time in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship, all three Peugeot Rally Academy drivers will be in action. Pre-event ‘local’ favourite Craig Breen and Frenchman Charles Martin will both drive 208 T16s, while Portugal’s ERC Junior Diogo Gago will pilot a 208 R2 on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally.

Breen and Martin set the third fifth best time on today’s Qualifying Stage, while Gago was a strong seventh in ERC Juniors.

“The Circuit of Ireland is the best rally in the world to my mind,” said Breen. “Even so, it won’t be easy because the likes of Kajetanowicz and Lukyanuk are very fast. I’ve got a significant amount of experience in the 208 T16 now, though, and my intention is to win this weekend and also go on to win the championship.”

ERC Junior leader predicts difficult Circuit of Ireland

Emil Bergkvist, the leader of the ERC Junior category, predicts the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally will be a difficult one.

The 20-year-old ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team driver, from Torsåker in Sweden, did the Opel Adam Cup in Germany last year. But the bumpy asphalt roads of Northern Ireland are completely different to the smooth Tarmac he has experienced before, and hence feels there will be much to learn over the next two days of competition.

“The Irish roads are something really new for me,” said Bergkvist. “I like the stages. They are really quite demanding. It will not be an easy rally and it will be important to do a good rally with no mistakes and make it to the finish. But for sure, it will be difficult.”

Q&A with Charles Martin

Charles Martin will blast off into new territory tomorrow, as the 208 Rally Cup champion makes his Irish rally debut on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally. We caught up with the 25- year old Paris-based Peugeot Rally Academy driver, as he prepares for only his second rally in the 208 T16.

What are your first impressions of the Circuit of Ireland stages?

“The stages are very very crazy! They have a lot of jumps, and that’s not the kind of road I am used to, but we have done a good test and the test road was much more bumpy than the rally roads, so I think we have done a good test. I hope I will be fast, but for sure I have so much to learn. I won’t push too hard. I want to finish the rally and do the maximum number of kilometres. I will try to do my best.”

What is your strategy for the event?

“I want to try and find the good balance between pushing and taking not so much risks. I don’t have a big strategy, I just want to try and do what I know what to do and we will see after the first two or three stages.”

Has your team-mate Craig Breen given you any advice?

“For sure, it’s nice to be with Craig in the same team. He knows the rally, he knows the car, and he helps me a lot. I ask him a few things and for sure it’s good advice.”

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