29 January 2015: Newsletter #05/15

Kajetanowicz heads strong ERC Rally Liepāja entry

An on-form Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5) heads a strong entry for next week’s Rally Liepāja (6-8 February), as the early leader of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship aims for victory on round two of the series – and the ERC Ice Master title.

Fifty-one drivers from 20 different countries will head to the ice and snow covered roads of Latvia, each prepared for a wintry battle over the 12 stages totalling 205.68 kilometres. There will be strong competition for overall ERC, ERC2 and ERC3 honours while the event marks the opening round of the second ERC Junior season with 16 young stars entered including Latvian R2 champion Ralfs Sirmacis. A copy of the entry list is available by clicking here. A full event preview will be available at Fiaerc.com from 30 January.

Zawada gets Opel support for ERC Junior return

Aleks Zawada will return to the FIA ERC Junior Championship in 2015, driving an Opel Motorsport- supported Adam R2 in the hotly contested category. The talented 22-year old Polish driver was a double podium finisher in ERC Junior last year at the wheel of a Peugeot 208 R2. Co-driven by Cathy Derousseaux, Zawada will now return to challenge for the Junior title in a MSZ Racing Opel, which has support from Media Service Zawada Publishing and Abaprim.

“I am extremely happy; this is a great chance and another progressive step in my career,” said Zawada. “Last season we finished fifth in the JERC, with two podiums – Cathy and I learnt a great deal – and we both know what we need to do in order to win. That is our goal for this season, there will be no ground given to our competitors.”

ERC registrations exceed the half-century

More than registrations have been received for the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship and that number is set to rise based on the current level of interest from drivers and teams. There are several benefits to registering such as receiving priority status, being eligible for the round-by- round prize fund, having access to the ERC Village in service parks and an attractive media package. Visit Fiaerc.com for more details.

Talented drivers from 21 different countries are on the growing list, with Poland leading the way with 10 entries – followed by six from the Czech Republic and five from Hungary. In addition, cars from nine different manufacturers (Citroën, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Opel, Peugeot, Renault, ŠKODA and Subaru) can be found on the list of registrations.

“We are delighted that the new-look ERC is proving to be so popular with drivers throughout Europe,” said Jean-Baptiste Ley, ERC Co-ordinator. “We have already started to focus on supporting the registered drivers with better promotion, including giving them ERC priority with access to the Qualifying stage before the event, more room in the service parks and dedicated media coverage on-line, on social media and in ERC TV programmes broadcast on Eurosport. The TV programmes themselves have increased in 2015, with the addition of a 13-minute preview.

“The creation of a 200,000 euros prize money fund for the registered privateer drivers will help them in the building of their ERC season. The start of the 2015 ERC season is already a big success, thanks to the quantity and quality of the drivers coming from all over Europe who trust in ERC. ERC Junior is also very strong. For its second year, we have 17 participants with a lot of drivers returning from 2014. It will be a big battle all during the season. Together, we are determined to make 2015 a truly wonderful year in the history of the ERC – and we are well on course to achieve that.”

Plangi makes it 10 in ERC2

Estonian driver Siim Plangi has entered the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X – making it 10 registered drivers in ERC2.

Despite only being 22-years old, next week’s Rally Liepāja will be Plangi’s 98th rally start! He’ll be co-driven by fellow countryman Marek Sarapuu.

“For Rally Liepāja, the first hope is to finish,” said Plangi. “The last two years I’ve taken part have been good speed wise, but this year I definitely want to see the podium on the end of day two. Also last year I showed very good pace with a Group N car and this year I wish to improve on that speed. As the rally is long, both of these goals are very challenging, especially if I wish to challenge some of the ERC drivers. The preparations for the rally has been done, with a victory in Estonian and Latvian combined championship winter event – Rally Sarma, so I’m in a good shape to show considerable pace in Liepāja.” The full list of ERC drivers can be found here.

Big ERC adventure ahead for de Mevius

Guillaume de Mevius can’t wait to start his first FIA ERC Junior Championship event, as the 20- year old son of rally legend Grégoire begins his first international programme next week on Rally Liepāja. Co-driven by fellow Belgian Geoffrey Brion, de Mevius will drive a Santéloc Junior Team- run 208 R2.

“For me, this year in ERC Juniors is a very big opportunity to see at which level I am at on a big event like Rally Liepāja and also to compared my skills with the other drivers,” said de Mevius. “I don’t have clear objectives for this event. I really don’t know if I will be competitive compared to the others, but I will do my best to do it. The most important thing for me is to learn on a big event like this. I have never driven on snow before and only one time on dirt, so I don’t know what to expect – but I can’t wait to be there!”

Rallycross star ready for ERC debut

Latvian rallycross sensation Reinis Nitišs will make his rally debut in Liepāja, driving a Ford Fiesta R2 prepared by Latvian team Sports Racing Technologies. The 19-year old from Jēkabpils finished third in the Supercar category of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, driving a powerful Ford Fiesta ST. His coach and co-driver will be Latvian rally champion Māris Neikšāns.

“Rally has a lot of unpredictable situations and the road surface can change at any second – this will help to develop my driving skills, as I have to adjust to the varying conditions momentarily,” said Nitišs. “My goal is to drive all the special stages, in order to fully use the opportunity to learn and improve. In this rally, I will not be fighting for the win, instead being in a fight with myself, as there will definitely be situations that I will not have experienced before as a pilot.”

TopGear Latvia to include ERC Rally Liepāja

Fans attending round two of the FIA European Rally Championship can find out all they need to know about Rally Liepāja in the latest issue of TopGear Latvija magazine – which includes a mega spectator guide to the snow spectacular. Published in both Latvian and English languages, the supplement includes maps of all the stages, descriptions of the spectator points with GPS co- ordinates and actual pace notes descriptions, a feature on top local team Sports Racing Technologies – and loads more!

Q&A: Diogo Gago

Diogo Gago is the first Portuguese driver to contest the FIA ERC Junior Championship. We caught up with the 23-year old Peugeot Rally Academy 208 R2 pilot as he prepares for Rally Liepāja.

How do you think you’ll get on in 2015?

“It will be a difficult year for us, with several new rallies to run, but we are working really hard to prepare the whole season. We are in a great team, Santéloc, which has a lot of experience with the Peugeot 208 R2 and also a good knowledge on the rallies.

What is your main priority in 2015?

“To be the first Portuguese driver in the ERC Junior Championship is an honour and I’m 100 per cent focused on bringing the Portuguese flag to the top in all the rallies – even if we have a strong list of competitors, most of them with lots of experience on ice and snow; something that we don’t get in our warm Portugal!”

Snow is an unfamiliar surface for you, so how do you think you’ll get on in Rally Liepāja?

“First we need to check what our pace is like compared to the other 16 ERC Junior contenders. But we’ll fight with all our weapons to reach a top 10 finishing position at the end of the rally in the junior category.”

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