9 April 2015: Newsletter #15/15

High ERC praise for Circuit of Ireland stages

FIA European Rally Championship drivers had nothing but praise for the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally special stages, with descriptions ranging from ‘jaw-dropping’ to ‘some of the best Tarmac stages in the world’. The famous Hamilton’s Folly stage (SS2/5) came out as the best of the best with both the locals and first time visitors to Ireland, like Polish Tarmac expert Kajetan Kajetanowicz.

“It was a really hard rally with very demanding stages,” said Kajetanowicz, who finished a very close second in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. “The second stage for sure was best Tarmac stage in my life with many jumps, bumpy and slippery in some parts with many surprises. I am really happy and I want to come back here.”

Bergkvist extends ERC Junior lead with 100% winning record

Emil Bergkvist has extended his lead in the FIA European Junior Rally Championship, after winning both the opening rounds of the series in style.

The 20-year old Swede led home an ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team 1-2 on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally, with German team-mate Marijan Griebel finishing second in an identical Adam R2.

Chris Ingram was the first Peugeot 208 R2 driver home in third; the result moving the Englishman up to second in ERC Juniors, 42 points behind Bergkvist. Steve Røkland is third in the points table, despite crashing out of the Circuit of Ireland one kilometre from the end of the final stage. A record 19 ERC Junior drivers started the Irish round.

“It was a really close fight during all the rally,” said Bergkvist. “We did a really good recce because this was not so easy rally for us first time here. I really like it but it was a really hard win for us. It feels great to have the second win and I hope we can continue like this.”

Full ERC results can be found at: fiaerc.com.

Hollywood superstar shows his ERC skill in Ireland

Hollywood superstar Idris Elba achieved all he set out to do on his FIA European Rally Championship debut, by finishing the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally and providing great content for the Discovery TV programme he was making!

Co-driven by Michael Orr, Elba completed all the stages on his itinerary to reach the finish ramp at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. His Ford Fiesta R1 was slightly less pristine at the end than it had been at the start, however, as it showed signs of various visits to the hedgerows.

To even reach the finish of such a challenging event was a remarkable achievement, and fans will have the Idris Elba: No Limits series to look forward to when it’s aired in the UK on Discovery Chanel in the summer.

Hollie presents Armstrong with the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy

There was added delight to the presentation of the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy at the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland, when Hollie McRae announced Jon Armstrong as the winner.

Hollie had come over to Ireland to watch her grandfather Jimmy contest the event, and joined ERC Sporting Manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas on stage to present the prestigious award, which is of course named after her father.

Armstrong was a worthy recipient, having led the ERC Junior category by 33.4 seconds after day one in his Peugeot 208 R2. Unfortunately the Northern Irish driver had missed the tyre marking control as he left that morning’s first service, and the mistake resulted in a five minute penalty, which was added to his stage times at the end of the day. He elected not to start day two, but his stunning performance had done enough to impress the judging panel.

“The Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy is a very special award to me, because Colin was a great idol of mine,” said Armstrong. “All I remember growing up was Colin McRae and thinking he was the best driver in the world and wanting to be like him. To receive this award is very very special to me and I’m very grateful to get it.”

ERC privateers in the Euro zone in Ireland

Seven drivers shared the Eurosport Events’ 20,000 Euro privateer prize fund at the finish of the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally.

The cheques, presented by ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley after a hard-fought round three of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, were given to:

First position: Kajetan Kajetanowicz (€7000) Second position: Alexey Lukyanuk (€5000) Third position: Jaromír Tarabus (€3000) Fourth position: Raul Jeets (€2000)

Fifth position: Martin McCormack (€1000) Sixth position: Krisztián Hideg (€1000) Seventh position: Joseph McGonigie (€1000)

Gravel cost Barrable shot at maiden ERC victory

With just three stages to go, Robert Barrable was leading the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally by 1.1 seconds in his hired Ford Fiesta R5 – before disaster struck on SS16.

The Dublin privateer was embroiled in a close battle for FIA European Rally Championship victory with Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 driver Craig Breen. The lead swapped four times in five stages, and Barrable held the advantage before skidding off the road and getting stuck.

“We just got caught out on a patch of gravel, coming into a left hand corner,” said Barrable. “Braking and changing down two gears was perfect, but then the rear wheels locked up on the gravel and we went off the road slightly. As soon as I tried reverse, I knew we were stuck and it was game over. Disappointed would be a bit of an understatement.

“Despite our lack of seat time before the event, which I feel contributed to our retirement, we were pleased to be leading the Circuit of Ireland. It was great to be battling with a works driver like Craig for the win. It was an incredible event this year – very well run and the stages were brilliant.”

Q&A with Craig Breen

Craig Breen achieved a childhood ambition by winning the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally. In doing so, the Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 driver has taken the lead in the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship. What better time to ask the 25-year old Irishman three questions?

Two ERC rally wins in a row but winning your home event must be pretty special, right?

“I’d actually forgotten about Latvia. I’ve been concentrating on this event for 25 years since I was born and more closely for the last couple of weeks. I wanted to win this so badly, I can’t express in words how much I wanted to win it. Now to the come to the end to get the trophy and see all the names that went before me it just beggars belief in my eyes. Perhaps to some other people it’s just another rally but for me it just means so, so much.”

It’s another win but it was far from straightforward. Can you explain what was wrong with your car and what about that spin on the penultimate stage?
“We had a small niggly problem with the turbo which pretty much scuppered us in qualifying on Thursday and all of Friday. It was only at midday service on day two that we actually rectified the problem. To be honest with you they rectified the problem because they changed just about everything they could do. And finally after a process of elimination they fixed it for the last three stages. So we started our push and then on the second to last stage in Banbridge, just after the start, there was a fast left hand corner at a crossroads and a compression. On the first time we went through we filled the road and went away but on the second time we were a little too fast and spun and was very lucky not to do any damage to the radiator. Then on the last stage we had an overshoot about five or six kilometres into the stage. I stalled the car twice trying to get it restarted. Scott [Martin] in fairness said ‘don’t stop believing now’ and I’ll never forget that. Then it was a bit of a push from then on in.”

And aside from those technical problems, you faced a real threat from Robert Barrable. How tough was the fight before he crashed?
“Don’t get me wrong it was great. It was quite fast. Yesterday when we had the problems we took a lot of risks to keep in front. The problem wasn’t a big one but we had to overdrive in some places and had to push on quite hard. He took some time out of us but the pace was really high and I have to say Robert drove really, really well considering he hasn’t been driving for the last couple of months.”

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​