*Five different winners from five spectacular events as four WRC stars play their part
*Average of 22 R5 cars on each ERC event, as many as 31 in Northern Ireland
*At least 22 foreign crews start each rally, from the 123 drivers registered to ERC representing 26 different nationalities and including 19 ERC Juniors
The 2016 FIA European Rally Championship season has reached the halfway point after a thrilling start to the year over five closely-fought events.
A unique and demanding challenge was posed by each of the five rallies – all classic European events – and five different winners prevailed. The battles for victory were all close, going down to a dramatic final-day showdown every single time. Wins have been claimed with three of the four models of car currently homologated to compete in the top R5 category.
And it’s all to play for in the title fight, with the defending champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz holding just a 15-point advantage over his rival Alexey Lukyanuk at the halfway stage. The pair have demonstrated their abilities against tough opposition, including four current World Rally Championship stars: Mads Østberg, Craig Breen, Stéphane Lefebvre and Elfyn Evans.
Also part of the serious competition have been young stars such as Ralfs Sirmacis – who won the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally aged just 21 and driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for the first time after stepping up from the ERC Junior Championship – and local heroes, with Ricardo Moura claiming a historic first win on the Azores Airlines Rallye and Freddy Loix recording his 11th Kenotek Ypres Rally victory.
The popularity of the ERC has been clear to see in 2016. More than120 competitors have now registered for the ERC season, 73 of these in the top ERC1 category. A number of events have featuredhuge numbers of R5 cars, with 31 in action on the Circuit of Ireland, 25 in the Azores and 27 in Ypres. The importance of the ERC to the burgeoning R5 category was underlined when Ypres was chosen for the public debut for the new Hyundai i20 R5 as a course car, with another WRC driver, Kevin Abbring, behind the wheel.
The ERC brings a significant international flavour to each rally, with at least 22 foreign crews present on each round so far this season. The registrations for the 2016 ERC represent 26 different nationalities, including Argentina and Paraguay.
ERC SEASON SO FAR IN NUMBERS
5: The number of different winners from as many events
3: R5 cars to have won a rally so far, from a possible four
22.2: The average number of R5 cars competing on the first five rounds
123: Registrations for the ERC season as of 4 July
21: The age in years of Ralfs Sirmacis when he won the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally, and also the number of days between then and his 22nd birthday
16: The number of different stage winners
6: The number of lead changes on the Azores Airlines Rallye
10.6: In seconds, the closest Kajetan Kajetanowicz has come to winning a rally since becoming 2015 champion, on the Circuit of Ireland
7: The number of different stage winners across three ERC Junior events
100,000: The amount of euros handed out in prize money so far this season, to the top seven eligible finishers on each event
THE REMAINING ROUNDS
auto24 Rally Estonia (Estonia), 15-17 July
Runs on the smooth gravel roads of southern Estonia where big jumps form part of the exciting high-speed challenge. Media contact: Margus Kiiver, firstname.lastname@example.org, +372 56 641 068
Rally Rzeszów (Poland), 4-6 August
New to ERC, taking place on narrow, winding asphalt roads in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Media contact: Piotr Kłeczek, email@example.com, +48 502 751 440
Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech Republic), 26-28 August
Tarmac test featuring bumpy roads, high-speed blasts through forests and lots of enthusiastic fans. Media contact: Roman Ordelt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +420 722 623848
Rally Liepāja (Latvia), 16-19 September
Rescheduling from February due to high temperatures means a switch from snow and ice to pure gravel. Media contact: Jānis Unbedahts, email@example.com, +371 26557801
CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally, 7-9 October
With mixed-surface stages and high ambient temperatures, the Nicosia-based rally is a tough test for car and crew. Media contact: Petros Soutzis, firstname.lastname@example.org, +357 99643743
THE ERC IS PROMOTED BY EUROSPORT EVENTS LTD, DISCOVERY HOUSE, 566 CHISWICK HIGH ROAD, LONDON W4 5YB, UK. TEL: +44 2036813000, F +44 2036813250. REGISTERED IN ENGLAND & WALES UNDER NO. 4361881 VAT NO. GB 792 1320 40