*World championship star provides benchmark for ERC Junior talent
*Rally Rzeszow outing ideal preparation for upcoming Tarmac global rounds
*Østberg: “ERC a good platform to big-up young talent”
Emerging prospects from the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship will get the chance to prove their talent against a World Rally Championship event-winning driver when Mads Østberg contests Rally Rzeszow in Poland next month (3-5 August).
Østberg, a frontrunner in the WRC, has entered round five of the eight-event all-action European Rally Championship, which takes place entirely on Tarmac and will serve as ideal preparation for Østberg’s upcoming sealed-surface world rallies in Germany and Spain.
The Norwegian, 29, will drive a Ford Fiesta R5 for his own team, Adapta Motorsport, and is braced for “high-level” competition against several established stars, plus a number of bright hopes from ERC Junior 28 for drivers in R5 cars born on or after 1 January 1989.
“I’m a big fan of the ERC,” said Østberg. “You need a good platform to big-up talent and the ERC is good for this. The events are good lengths but not too long for the budgets. The TV and PR around the championship is also really good so it’s ideal for young talent. With fast and experienced drivers like Kajetan Kajetanowicz I’m not expecting it to be easy. And although I don’t know much about the drivers in ERC Junior Under 28, I know their level is very high. I’m going into their field but I will do that with respect. I’m prepared to fight.”
Østberg’s participation on Rally Rzeszow follows on from his stage-winning appearance on the ERC-counting Rally Islas Canarias in 2016. It will mark his first competitive outing with co-driver Patrik Barth, 25, from Sweden, who will also partner Østberg on the world championship ADAC Rallye Deutschland. “Coming directly from Rally Finland there will be no time to do a test,” Østberg explained. “It will be a new car, a new rally and a new co-driver but it’s good to try some different options heading into the part of the season where there is quite a bit on Tarmac.”
Rally Rzeszow takes place on narrow, winding asphalt roads in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in southeast Poland with steep climbs and tricky descents commonplace. A regular on the Polish and Slovakian national championship calendars, Rally Rzeszow joined the ERC roster in 2016. Eleven stages over 214.63 competitive kilometres, including a city-centre test in rally hub Rzeszów, provide the challenge for crews. Meanwhile, after two events Marijan Griebel (BRR ŠKODA Fabia) heads the ERC Junior U28 standings, three points ahead of Peugeot Rally Academy member and Carlos Sainz protégé Pepe López. The eventual champion gets to drive a World Rally Car on a European round of the world championship.