FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 8 OF 8
FIA ERC JUNIOR UNDER 27/FIA ERC JUNIOR UNDER 28 ROUND 6 OF 6
TWO DRIVERS, ONE CHAMPION: KAJETANOWICZ AND MAGALHÃES FACE-OFF FOR ERC TITLE GLORY IN LATVIA
The race to win the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship will go down to the wire in Latvia next week (6-8 October) when Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Bruno Magalhães face-off for title glory on Rally Liepāja.
Magalhães, in a SEAJETS-backed ŠKODA, must cancel out a 24-point deficit to Kajetanowicz and hope his Polish rival falters in the Baltics to become Portugal's first ERC champion. But if LOTOS Rally Team-run Kajetanowicz can maintain status quo, then he will claim an historic third consecutive European crown.
After seven all-action events on gravel and asphalt from the Azores in Europe’s outermost reaches to Cyprus in the continent’s south-east corner, ERC season 64 reaches its climax on the high-speed loose-surface stages in Latvia's Kurzeme region close to the Baltic coast, where several highlights await and a number of other title scraps – and big prizes – must be settled.
They include the epic four-way battle for the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship and the 100,000 euros career progression prize handed to the winner for an ERC Junior U28 campaign in 2018 when they will step up to an R5 car. There’s also the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams – streamlined for 2017 to increase competition – to be decided with three entrants locked in combat for first position.
*Five FIA titles are up for grabs on the 2017 season closer with the championship back on gravel after three events on sealed surfaces.
*Latvia will host the ERC for the fifth time in 2017 a handful of weeks after it staged another major FIA competition – the World Rallycross Championship – for the second year running.
*Home hero Reinis Nitišs, currently P14 in the World RX standings, took part in the event in Riga and makes his second ERC start on Rally Liepāja for what will be his third ever rally.
*Highly-rated Kalle Rovanperä has chosen the ERC finale for his international debut. The 16-year-old Finn, who turns 17 on Sunday (1 October) is one of 32 drivers competing with ERC priority status in Latvia.
*Top Latvian driver Ralfs Sirmacis, last year’s Rally Liepāja winner, is back to chase more ERC success after being sidelined for much of the season by a lack of finance.
*Super-spectacular Alexey Lukyanuk is set to wow fans with his flat-out driving style that has earned him the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy on seven previous occasions.
*Red Bull athlete Tamara Molinaro will complete a 'rally of honour' as ERC Ladies' Trophy title winner.
*Liepāja’s spectacular Great Amber concert hall will host end-of-season awards ceremony.
*While Kajetan Kajetanowicz – who lost victory on the last in Italy by 0.3s – and Bruno Magalhães will do battle for the overall ERC crown, Alexey Lukyanuk can finish third providing he scores 12 points or more.
*Zelindo Melegari and Tibor Érdi Jr are four points apart in the ERC2 title fight. With no scores to drop, it’s a case of best man wins in the production category.
*Five drivers can win ERC3 with defending champion Chris Ingram leading the march, albeit a solitary point ahead of Filip Mareš.
*Ingram is one of four drivers embroiled in an epic battle to win the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship and the 100,000 euros career progression prize handed to the winner (please refer to separate press release coming soon for more information). He’s two points behind Mareš with Hyundai Motorsport’s new world championship recruit Jari Huttunen and Aleks Zawada firmly in contention.
*Spanish Peugeot Rally Academy pair Pepe López and José Suárez will battle Nikolay Gryazin for the runner-up spot in ERC Junior U28.
*Three entrants will dice for the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams with Castrol Ford Team Turkey tinkering with its line-up in a concerted bid to land the top prize. Murat Bostanci will bring his expertise from ERC1 to ERC3 with Ümi̇tcan Özdemi̇r returning to the line-up that also includes Buǧra Banaz. ACCR Czech Team and Opel Rallye Junior Team can also win.
THE ERC TITLE CONTENDERS
The battle for the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship is between Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Bruno Magalhães. This is what they’ve had to say and some key facts ahead of the season-closing Rally Liepāja.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz: “The gap is big but Bruno and Hugo [Magalhães] are not so far behind and we have to keep a good speed, pedal to the metal and we will see. I hope we can be first after this season but it’s a long way to go. We saw on the last round in Italy that victory can be decided by the blink of an eye and the tiny margins prove the competitiveness and closeness of the ERC. The whole LOTOS Rally Team works with great passion and this gives me plenty of strength.”
Bruno Magalhães: “This season is very different for me. I am sure Kajto did not expect to fight with me this year because we are a very small team and in the last years I didn’t make so many rallies. I was only meant to do one rally at the start of the year and what is happening to me and my team is amazing. We are going to try to make the next step. Our chances are not so big but if I go to Latvia just to congratulate the champion then of course I am happy. If I win I am much happier for sure.”
Jarek Baran (POL)
Hugo Magalhães (PRT)
Ford Fiesta R5
ŠKODA Fabia R5
LOTOS Rally Team
Points (with dropped scores)
1 win, 3 podiums
ERC record in 2017
1 win, 3 podiums
27 (restarted following accident)
Azores Airlines Rallye
Rally Islas Canarias
SEAJETS Acropolis Rally
14 (restarted following accident)
Rally Rzeszow Rally
Barum Czech Rally Zlín
Rally di Roma Capitale
2016: 4; 2015: DNF (lost wheel); 2014: 4
Rally Liepāja record
No previous starts
*First held in 2013 when it ran up Latvia’s Baltic coast from Liepāja to Ventspils, Rally Liepāja was to open the 2016 ERC schedule in February. However, higher-than-normal temperatures damaged stage surfaces, prompting concerns over safety and the state of the public roads. It was rescheduled to autumn and the new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel stages free of snow and ice.
*To increase the challenge for 2017, organisers have added six new stages to the route, which retains the city stage through the streets of Liepāja on the schedule.
From World RX (back) to the ERC for Nitišs: FIA World Rallycross Championship star Reinis Nitišs will transfer his considerable talents to the ERC in his native Latvia. Nitišs, currently P14 in the World RX standings, made his rallying debut on Rally Liepāja in 2015 and returns for what will be his third ever rally. But while the 21-year-old relied on Ford Fiesta R2 power for his stage rallying debut two years ago, this time he’ll be armed with a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX run by Neiksans Rally Sport.
Habaj hoping: Lukasz Habaj will be hoping to make the headlines for the right reasons when he returns to Rally Liepāja. After a dramatic two-wheel moment earned him the ERC’s nomination for the FIA’s Action of the Year video award in 2016, the former Polish champion will be looking to build on his recent strong run of results in the ERC instead.
Home ERC Junior U27 recruit: ERC Junior Experience pupil Mārtiņš Sesks, 18, makes his ERC Junior U27 comeback on his home event having finished fourth in class on his debut last season.
Forsström returns: After making two ERC Junior appearances in 2016 – in Estonia and Latvia – Finn Alex Forsström returns to the category in a TGS Worldwide Opel ADAM R2.
Poloński tries gravel for size: Having made three ERC3 appearances on asphalt this season, Polish driver Dariusz Poloński switches to gravel. Russian class rival Artur Muradian returns to ERC action in a similar Peugeot 208 R2, albeit run by Latvian team Neiksans Rally Sport.
Vorobjovs eyes ERC2 revenge: Jānis Vorobjovs will hope for revenge after engine failure ruled out a second ERC2 win on his home ERC round in 2016. He’ll go up against class regulars Tibor Érdi Jr, Zelindo Melegari and Sergey Remennik. World RX star Reinis Nitišs will also be eligible for ERC2 points.
Catie keeps busy: Although she’s completed her ERC Junior U27 campaign for 2017, former ERC Ladies’ Trophy winner Catie Munnings will be in Latvia for the latest ERC Junior Experience training session.
Mareš has Czech mates: ERC Junior Under 27 title contender Filip Mareš will be backed up by fellow Czechs Dominik Brož and Karel Kupec. While Mareš is short on gravel experience, Botka-Tlusťák Racing’s Kupec spent 15 years in autocross before switching to rallying.
Hungarian on a high: Kristóf Klausz will start Rally Liepāja on a high following his strong run to fifth in class on Rally di Roma Capitale recently.
1: Liepāja, the City of Winds, was awarded the title European City of Sport in 2016 with European-level championships and tournaments for basketball, football, hockey, tennis, windsurfing and, of course, rallying, taking place in the city.
2: Indeed, Liepāja’s rallying heritage dates back to 1965 – when Latvia was still under Soviet rule – with the motorsports club at the city’s milk factory organising events under the guidance of Uldis Sesks, now Chairman of Liepāja City Council and father of ERC Junior Under 27 aspirant Mārtiņš Sesks.
3: Central to Liepāja’s sporting prowess is the Liepāja Olympic Centre, a state-of-the-art multifunctional building, which houses Rally HQ for the week of the event.
4: Motorised competition of a different kind will be coming to Liepāja from 6-8 October when the Festival of speed Kurzeme (the region in which Liepāja is located) takes place complete and includes the final event of the Latvian Powerboats Championship.
5: Sklandrausis is a popular dish in Kurzeme. It’s a mashed carrot-potato tart made from rye flour.
EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local and subject to change)
Starts: 20h30, Friday 6 October, Jūras iela 16, Liepāja
Finishes: 16h10, Sunday 8 October, Pulvera iela, Liepāja
Headquarters: Liepāja Olympic Centre, Brīvības iela 39, Liepāja
Service park: Pulvera iela, Liepāja (approximately 6.0 kilometres from event HQ
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): Four (2013-2016)
Stage distance: 204.22 (97.05kms leg one, 107.17kms leg two)
Liaison: 496.08 kilometres
Total: 723.15 kilometres
Surface: Mainly gravel (Liepāja City Stage all-asphalt)
Itinerary: Click here for more informaiton. Entry list available soon.
MEDIA INFORMATION (all timings local and subject to change)
Media Accreditation Centre/Media Centre location: Liepāja Olympic Centre, Brīvības iela 39, Liepāja
Opening times: 09h00-22h00, Thursday 5 October; 09h00-22h00, Friday 6 October; 08h00-22h00, Saturday 7 October; 07h00-22h00, Sunday 8 October
Television coverage: Daily highlights, rally review and ERC All Access magazine show on Eurosport and Eurosport Player, plus additional coverage on other national and international networks, including TV6 in Latvia, Fox Sports Asia, Garage TV (Spain), OSN (Middle East and North Africa region), NEO Sports (India and neighbouring countries) and Velocity (North America)
ERC Radio: Live throughout the event at FIAERC.com or through the ERC app
Results, standings, live timing and text commentary: Available here.
Rights-free images: Register by clicking here.
ERC press officer: Richard Rodgers, firstname.lastname@example.org, +447503871575
Event press officer: Jānis Unbedahts, email@example.com, +37126557801
MEDIA EVENTS (all timings local and subject to change)
FRIDAY 6 OCTOBER
Free Practice (priority drivers): 13h00, Dunalk Parish, Liepāja region (3.02kms)
Qualifying Stage (priority drivers): 15h30, Dunalk Parish (3.02 kms)
Shakedown (for non-priority drivers): 17h00-18h00, Dunalk Parish, (3.02kms)
Start order selection, FIA Action for Road Safety photograph, Pre-event press conference: From 18h45, Jūras iela 16, Liepāja (next to Great Amber concert hall)
Ceremonial start: 20h30, Jūras iela 16, Liepāja (next to Great Amber concert hall)
SUNDAY 8 OCTOBER
Finish podium: From 16h10, Pulvera iela, Liepāja
Post-rally press conference: 18h00, Media Centre, Brīvības iela 39, Liepāja
2016: Ralfs Sirmacis/Arturs Šimins (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2015: Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16)
2014: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)
2013: Jari Ketomaa/Kaj Lindström (Ford Fiesta RRC) Rally ran for the first time
KEY ERC STATISTICS
ERC rally wins in 2017: Bouffier 2; Al-Attiyah, Kajetanowicz, Kopecký, Lukyanuk and Magalhães 1
ERC stage wins in 2017: Lukyanuk 23; Kajetanowicz 20; Kopecký 11; Al-Attiyah and Bouffier 9; Gryazin 6; Magalhães 4; Suárez 2; Griebel, Kresta, Moura, Østberg and Polykarpou 1
ERC CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS