28 May 2015: Newsletter #22/15

Big ERC entry for SATA Rallye Açores golden celebrations

The FIA European Rally Championship is set for a big celebration next week (4-6 June) when SATA Rallye Açores takes place for the 50th time. Forty-nine crews will be in action and a massive 50,000 Euro privateer prize fund on offer on round four of the 2015 ERC season. There will be a total of 18 R5 and Super 2000 cars battling it out for overall victory and ERC Gravel Master points, while another strong 14 car ERC Junior field will be in action.

Several of Portugal’s top drivers – including double event winner Bruno Magalhães (Peugeot 208 T16) and seven-time Azores champion Ricardo Moura (Ford Fiesta R5) – will take on a number of ERC regulars, including series leader Craig Breen (Peugeot 208 T16), Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5), Robert Consani (Citroën DS3 R5), Charles Martin and Jonathan Hirschi (both 208 T16s). Czech trio Antonín Tlusťák, Tomáš Kurka and Jaroslav Orsák (all ŠKODA Fabia S2000s) will also be in action, as will and Irish brothers Josh and Sam Moffett (Fiesta RRCs) – in what promises to be a fantastic fight for the honour of winning the 50th edition of the famous island event. Unfortunately, Pedro Meireles is a non-starter due to damage sustained to his ŠKODA Fabia R5 in a testing accident.

Ponta Delgada City Show stage kicks off SATA Rallye Açores in style

The opening stage of this year’s SATA Rallye Açores takes place next Thursday (4 June), but rally fans and tourists on the mid-Atlantic island of São Miguel will be in for a treat the night before, as the ever-popular City Show stage takes place along the promenade of Ponta Delgada. Run for fun and showmanship, the ERC stars need little encouragement to put on a special spectacle for the thousands of fans who are expected to line the route. The free to view action takes place between 19h15-20h30 on Wednesday 3 June.

ERC continues to grow, as registrations nudge towards 90

Prior to the start of SATA Rallye Açores, round four of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, the series has received a staggering 86 registrations. There are now a total of 31 registered for ERC1 in R5 or S2000 cars, 14 for ERC2 (NR4 production) and 40 in ERC3 (R1, R2 and R3). The latest registrations have been received from Portuguese drivers João Barros (Fiesta R5), Joaquim Alves (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) and Wilson Aguiar (Peugeot 208)

The number of ERC Junior drivers (registered within ERC3) has now increased to 24, thanks to the arrival of Amaury Molle. The 20-year old Fiesta R2 driver from Charleroi will make his ERC debut on his home round of the series, the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally (25-27 June).

Benefits for ERC registered crews include eligibility to prize money, priority seeding, entry into the Qualifying Stage, priority status in the service area and global television coverage.

Brand new ERC Fiesta R5 for Kajetanowicz

Kajetan Kajetanowicz will drive a brand new LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 on the SATA Rallye Açores (4-6 June).

‘Katjo’ is just three points behind Craig Breen (Peugeot 208 T16) entering round four of the FIA European Rally Championship, after scoring victory on the season-opening Jännerrallye and netting a second place finish on the Circuit of Ireland Rally. He will be a force to be reckoned with in the Azores as well, having recorded three fastest stage times amongst the seven top three times he set last year.

Ricardo Moura has been tipped to drive the ex-Kajetanowicz Fiesta on SATA Rallye Açores.

ERC2 leader Štajf makes gravel rally debut

SATA Rallye Açores (4-6 June) will be Vojtěch Štajf’s 173rd rally of his career – and his first ever gravel rally! The FIA European Rally Championship ERC2 leader hadn’t originally planned to contest the event, but has decided to take his old Subaru Duck Czech National Team Impreza WRX STI to the Azores in an attempt to defend his lead.

Štajf will drive his old Subaru in the Azores, after he lent his new-for-2015 Impreza to a friend to do the Czech championship Rallye Šumava. Unfortunately, the car was destroyed, after it rolled three times at 140kph.

“I only have driven one time on gravel tyres on Rallye Waldviertel in Austria in 2005, back then it was one day gravel and second day Tarmac. So as a gravel rookie, I want to take it easy on Azores,” said Štajf. “Jan Kopecký told me it’s the most wonderful island that he has seen. So I am anxious to experience it and drive the famous Sete Cidades and other stages. I would like to thank also to the organisers which are very communicative and helpful, as a newcomer the logistics planning was a bit tough for our small team.”

Happy ERC Azores memories from Kankkunen

Many famous rally drivers have won Rallye Açores, including Yves Loubet (1992), Bruno Thiry (1997), Gregoire de Mevius (1999), Markko Martin (2000), Kris Meeke (2009) and Andreas Mikkelsen (2012). But the most famous of all is four-time world rally champion Juha Kankkunen – co-driven by Juha Repo in a Subaru Impreza WRC.

“I remember it very well,” said Kankkunen. “It was in 2001 and we didn’t do so many rallies that year because I had stopped with Subaru on the world championship and it was before I started with Hyundai. We had the chance to come to the Azores and I was very happy for that. I remember some beautiful stages and a fantastic rally. In fact, after the rally I stayed for a bit and went round the island by bike for a little holiday. It’s not often I do that after a rally: normally I am in a hurry to get home. But this time I decided to stay.

“It was very tricky and technical. I remember the stages being very narrow: you had to be so neat and precise, also with the pace notes. We had a good battle with Thomas Rådström that was very close but then on the final day he had a problem with I think his alternator so he had to stop. In any case we led from the start so I was very happy to win and we did a good rally. But it was nice that we had to fight hard for the win.”

Abbring returns to the ERC in Ypres…

Kevin Abbring will return to the FIA European Rally Championship next month, when he contests the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally (25-27 June).

The talented young Dutchman, who led four ERC events and scored two ERC podium finishes in Azores and Corsica last year with the Peugeot Rally Academy, before moving to the FIA World Rally Championship this year with Hyundai Motorsport, will drive a privately-entered Citroën DS3 R5 in Belgium. The outing has been made possible thanks to an invitation from an eight-time Belgian champion and former Ypres Rally winner, Pieter Tsjoen.

“I am happy to announce that I will be competing in Ypres in a couple of weeks,” said Abbring. “I’ve got the green light from Hyundai Motorsport to drive on invitation from Pieter Tsjoen in a DS3 R5 as a private entrant. It’s a great opportunity to get back some rhythm, it’s been a while since my last event and any competitive kilometre will help in order to be as competitive and ready as possible for our next outing in WRC.”

…as does Delecour in a Porsche 911

Rally legend François Delecour will return to the FIA European Rally Championship when he drives a Porsche 911 on the Kenotek by CID LINES Ypres Rally next month.

The event, which runs from 25-27 June, is the second round of the FIA R-GT Cup, an exciting new FIA sanctioned competition for drivers and co-drivers using an R-GT car with a valid FIA passport.

“It is fantastic to be driving in R-GT Cup, it’s a fantastic opportunity,” said Delecour. “There are some really nice rallies. It is fantastic to be driving the Tuthill Porsche 911 again.”

It should be an incredible sight, as the Frenchman takes on the likes of Belgium rally heroes Patrick Snijers and Marc Duez, who also both appear in Porsches.

Q&A: Diogo Gago

SATA Rallye Açores will not only be Diogo Gago’s home round of the ERC Junior championship, but the first round of the series he’s done before. FIAERC.com caught up with the hard-charging Portuguese Peugeot Rally Academy 208 R2 driver, to get his thoughts ahead of the big event.

Can you score your first ERC Junior win in Azores?

“Açores will be the next step forward in my FIA European Rally Championship campaign. This is the only rally that I’ve already done, so I know what to expect about the kind of stages. However, the competitiveness is really high so I expect a really hard challenge.”

What do you hope to achieve from this year’s Rallye Açores?

“This rally will be quite demanding for the drivers and machines, so it will be a quite a challenge to everyone. I want to capitalise on my experience from last year and I hope to fight from the start for a place in the podium.”

What are your aims for the event?

“I feel really motivated to be competing in my home country and in front of my home fans. So, as always, I will to do my best to take the maximum points I can for the championship.”