04 June 2015: Newsletter #23/15

Breen leads SATA Rallye Açores after opening day

Craig Breen leads SATA Rallye Açores tonight, the first gravel round of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, after the opening three stages on the mid-Atlantic island of São Miguel. Co-driven by Scott Martin, the Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 driver had trailed Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta R5) after two stages, but took the lead on the final stage of the day.

Kajto is second, just 1.4s behind Breen, while Ricardo Moura is third in his repaired Fiesta R5. Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta RRC) is an excellent fourth, despite having to overtake Charles Martin on SS3, who has been suffering technical problems in his 208 T16. Bruno Magalhães has struggled with a lack of power in his 208 T16, while Robert Consani has had a scary start to his first gravel rally in a Citroën DS3 R5, going off briefly at high speed.

Chris Ingram and Ralfs Sirmacis are tried for the ERC Junior lead, the British Peugeot UK and Latvian Sports Racing Technologies 208 R2 drivers both got ahead of Emil Bergkvist on the third stage, demoting the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Adam R2 to third. Three fastest stage times in three stages has given Dominykas Butvilas an 8.4s ERC2 lead in his Subaru Poland Rally Team WRX STI.

Huge turn out for Ponta Delgada City Show stage

Thousands of fans lined the promenade in Ponta Delgada last night, as the popular City Show stage took place. In a prelude to the start of the SATA Rallye Açores, the FIA European Rally Championship contenders put on a spectacular show for the fans, power-sliding their cars along the seafront. Air-horns, fireworks and loud cheers mixed with engine screams and tyre squeals, as the event’s 50th anniversary celebrations got off to an amazing start, under the Azores night sky.

Barbecue highlights friendly ERC spirit

This was the enchanted forest scene at the FIA European Rally Championship barbecue, in which drivers, co-drivers, teams, Eurosport Events, SATA Rallye Açores and journalists all came together to chat about motorsport over delicious local cuisine.

The friendly ERC community made the short journey to Pinhal da Paz, in the hills above Ponta Delgada, for the event – where they were treated to some amazing Azorean food and drink, local music, dancing and good rally banter. The Azores barbecue has become a much-loved social event, highlighting the friendly and welcoming spirit of the ERC.

From Eurosport commentator to ERC driver!

Having commentated for Eurosport on last year’s SATA Rallye Açores, Alex Filip will contest this year’s event in the driver’s seat, as he begins a new FIA European Rally Championship programme today. Co-driven by Bogdan Iancu, the double Romanian 2WD champion is driving a Colina Motorsport-run Renault Clio R3 Maxi on his first gravel rally in two years.

“The only experience I have of SATA Rallye Açores is when I commentated on it in a studio in Romania for Eurosport last year,” said Filip. “The images broadcast live made me want to line up at the start line, and here I am starting the European season in the Azores! Even if we have not competed for some time on gravel, I am sure we will not have any adjusting problems.”

No Jännerrallye in 2016

The Internationale Jännerrallye, which had been the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship in recent years, will not take place in 2016.

The announcement was made by the Board of the Rallye Club Mühlviertel following an Extraordinary General Meeting on June 2 in Freistadt.

The statement, in the form of a quote from the Chairman Ferdinand Staber, read: “The entire Board of Directors will put all their functions at the disposal of a newly-to- be-elected management body, provided that an election proposal, meeting the approval of the General Meeting, will be submitted by the date of the Regular General Meeting on September 18, 2015. If not, the current Board of Directors will be available to the Rallye Club Mühlviertel for one more year, but will not organize any motor sports events in the coming year and therefore also not the Internationale Jännerrallye. This approach is meant to assure the existence of the Rallye Club Mühlviertel.”

“It was a great pleasure to start the ERC season with the challenging Internationale Jännerrallye,” said ERC Co-ordinator, Jean-Baptiste Ley. “We acknowledge particular constraints over that very early event in the season, and respect the decision taken by the organising Rallye Club Mühlviertel. We are in constant discussions with event organisers, and our plans to bring the very best European rallies together in an exciting 2016 ERC calendar, with events on snow, asphalt and gravel, remain unchanged.”

Q&A: Ricardo Moura

Ricardo Moura is a seven-time Azores rally champion, but he has never won SATA Rallye Açores. He’s trying to change that this week, in his ex-Kajetanowicz Fiesta R5. fiaerc.com caught up with him on the island of São Miguel.

You arrived at the stop line of the Qualifying Stage backwards and with damage. What happened?

“We went a little bit wide on the last right hand corner after the flying finish, hit the rear of the car on a bank and spun, damaging the front of the car. It was a really narrow section of road, so it was easier to reserve, so I drove backwards to the stop line. The team has almost fixed the car.”

You are seven-time Azorean rally champion. What are your tactics to try and achieve what must be a real desire to add SATA Rallye Açores to your long list of rally wins?

“We have put a huge effort into getting to this rally, in a position to try and fight for a podium position. I have a profound knowledge of these stages, but we are up against very good drivers who can drive fast on any roads. If a driver comes here for a second or third time, they will be very difficult to beat. It will be important for us to find a good rhythm, and if we can do that early, then for sure we can score a good result.”

There is a great entry for this year’s SATA Rallye Açores. Who do you see as your biggest rivals for victory?

“Craig Breen, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Bruno Magalhães, the Portuguese championship drivers – there are quite a few drivers who can fight for a podium position. The stages are always changing, they are tricky and it is easy to make a mistake. We might have good weather this week, so it might not be as difficult as the event has been in some previous years, but it will still be very important to focus and not to make a mistake.”