FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND 5 OF 8
FIA ERC JUNIOR UNDER U27/ERC JUNIOR UNDER U28 ROUND 3 OF 6
THREE POINTS IN IT AS ERC JUNIOR UNDER 28 TITLE BATTLE INTENSIFIES
Just three points separate Marijan Griebel and Pepe López as the inaugural FIA ERC Under 28 Championship for young hopefuls in R5 cars reaches the halfway point on Rally Rzeszow next week (3-5 August). The category provides the final step from national to world championship level with a prize drive in a World Rally Car on offer to the champion. After two events, Germany’s Griebel and Spaniard López have a victory apiece. But with both drivers new to the demanding asphalt stages in southeast Poland, a wide-open contest is in store, with rivals including French Tarmac champion Sylvain Michel, leading Irish contender Josh Moffett and Polish hopeful Tomasz Kasperczyk adding to an intense competition.
Chris Ingram heads the ERC Junior Under 27 division, which caters for rising stars in Pirelli-equipped R2 cars, after back-to-back wins in his pursuit of the 100,000-euro career progression fund awarded to the eventual winner. Top Pole Aleks Zawada and Ingram’s factory Opel team-mate Jari Huttunen are among his rivals as the class entry increases to a season-high 13 on Rally Rzeszow.
In the battle for overall FIA European Rally Championship ERC 1 honours, Bruno Magalhães tops the table ahead of Polish hero and double ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz. However, both will be braced for the return of Alexey Lukyanuk, who is back after recovering from serious injuries sustained in a testing crash in May, which occurred just days after he dominated the ERC-counting Rally Islas Canarias. Bryan Bouffier is another leading contender for victory. The Frenchman is a three-time Polish champion and four-time winner of of Rally Rzeszow, which marks world championship frontrunner Mads Østberg’s ERC return. Zelindo Melegari and Buǧra Banaz lead ERC2 and ERC3 respectively, while Castrol Ford Team Turkey is on top in the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams.
Rally Rzeszow, which covers 214.63 competitive kilometres over 11 stages, is making its second ERC appearance having joined the roster for the first time in 2016. The event uses narrow, winding sealed-surface roads in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in southeast Poland with steep climbs and tricky descents commonplace. Rzeszów hosts the service park, event headquarters and exciting street stage.
*A record 23 top-of-the-range R5 cars are registered for the international section of Rally Rzeszow, 11 more than in 2016 when the event formed part of the ERC schedule for the first time.
*In total 45 drivers will chase ERC points on Rally Rzeszow with 96 drivers taking part across the three counting championships, an increase of 11 cars from 2016.
*The ERC Junior Under 27 and Under 28 championships resume on Rally Rzeszow. The event is unchartered territory for most of the emerging talents and plenty of exciting battles are expected.
*World championship event winner Mads Østberg returns to the ERC and will be one of the contenders for the outright victory.
*Luca Rossetti, winner of the coveted FIA European title on three occasions, is back in the ERC driving a Toyota Motorsport GmbH-run GT86 CS-R3.
*Alexey Lukyanuk has battled back to fitness from multiple injuries sustained in a testing crash in Russia in May and will return to ERC action almost one month ahead of schedule as he attempts to get his championship challenge back on track after missing the last two events.
*Counting for ERC1, ERC2, ERC3, ERC Junior Under 28, ERC Junior Under 27 and ERC Ladies’ Trophy points, Rally Rzeszow number 26 is also a scoring round of the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams, which has been streamlined for this season with one title only up for grabs to increase competition.
*Bruno Magalhães heads ERC1 after four events, 14 points in front of Kajetan Kajetanowicz who is bidding to become the first driver to win the coveted FIA European title three years in succession.
*Zelindo Melegari made the most of Tibor Érdi Jr’s absence from the Cyprus Rally to take the ERC2 lead. Sergey Remennik languishes in fifth place after non-scoring in Greece and Cyprus but the Russian will be a big threat despite his limited Tarmac experience.
*Buǧra Banaz climbed to the top of the ERC3 standings in Cyprus and helped Castrol Ford Team Turkey extend its advantage in the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams in the process. Banaz will be hoping to capitalise on the experience he gained from competing on Rally Rzeszow last season.
*Emma Falcón, Tamara Molinaro and Catie Munnings renew their rivalry for the ERC Ladies’ Trophy having filled the class podium when they last met on Rally Islas Canarias.
*As well as counting for ERC points, Rally Rzeszow is a Polish and Central European Zone qualifier.
*Organisers of the all-asphalt contest haven’t rested on their laurels following the event’s ERC debut in 2016 with several stages revamped or new for this season.
*Friday’s route features five stages over 100.83 kilometres and concludes with a spectacular superspecial in host city Rzeszów. Six stages totalling 113.80 kilometres provide the challenge on day two.
*At 24.56 kilometres, Pstrągowa, which is run twice on day one, is the rally’s longest stage. SSS Rzeszów is 4.05 kilometres by comparison.
*Rzeszów University of Technology hosts the permanent service park. The Millenium Hall shopping complex is the venue for the ceremonial start and finish and road position selection ceremony.
*While Rally Rzeszow is very much chartered territory for Bryan Bouffier, Grzegorz Grzyb and Kajetan Kajetanowicz, of the other top-10 seeds all seven have never competed on the event previously.
*Bryan Bouffier, whose CV includes three Polish titles and four Rzeszow victories, is one of several championship-winning drivers in action. Others include double European champion and home hero Kajetan Kajetanowicz, triple ERC title winner Luca Rossetti, Mads Østberg, a two-time Norwegian champion and world championship event winner, three-time Portuguese champion Bruno Magalhães, French Tarmac champion Sylvain Michel, double Turkish champion and 2015 FIA European Rally Trophy winner Murat Bostanci, plus Łukasz Habaj and Grzegorz Grzyb, the winners of the Polish championship in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
*Former ERC2 champion Dávid Botka switches to a ŠKODA Fabia R5 having started the season in a Citroën DS3 R5.
*Marijan Griebel makes his Rally Rzeszow debut boosted by his victory on Rallye Lëtzebuerg in Luxembourg, where he headed Pepe López in an ERC Junior Under 28 one-two.
*The ERC Junior U27 ranks, which have risen to 13 cars for Rally Rzeszow, include newcomers Radomír Kupec and Simon Wagner, plus Kristóf Klausz, who makes his first start of the season.
*Jari Huttunen and Tamara Molinaro prepared for Rally Rzeszow with an outing on the recent Austrian championship Rallye Weiz, with Huttunen winning his class in seventh overall.
*ERC Junior U28 contender Nikolay Gryazin was also competing in Austria – on the back of an outing on a French Tarmac event – but crashed out of second place on stage two.
*Jan Černý has also been keeping busy rallying in his native Czech Republic, with third place on Rally Bohemia the highlight for the ACCR Czech Team driver.
*Meanwhile, Peugeot Rally Academy member José Antonio Suárez took a Spanish gravel championship win during the break between Rally Islas Canarias and Rally Rzeszow.
*Albert von Thurn und Taxis continues his ERC initiation in Poland. The German is an ex-GT racer and scored a career high fourth in Cyprus.
*Ex-Polish champion Łukasz Habaj is armed with a replacement Ford Fiesta R5 for Rally Rzeszow after a frustrating start to his ERC campaign. A retirement in the Azores due to a mechanical failure was followed by a non-start on Rally Islas Canarias after a crash in Free Practice.
*Polish brothers Jarek and Marcin Szeja make their ERC debuts in Rally Rzeszow. Hailing from double ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s hometown of Ustron, the Szejas will use the same Orsák Rally Sport Ford Fiesta R5 they campaign in the Czech championship.
*Subaru Poland Rally Team drivers Miko Marczyk and Marcin Słobodzian will battle for ERC2 points on Rally Rzeszow. And the squad has form in ERC2 with Wojciech Chuchała winning the class title for the organisation last season.
*Dariusz Polónski makes his second ERC3 start after scoring points on his Rally Islas Canarias debut.
*Luca Bottarelli is the first of three young Italian drivers to build their experience of international competition in the ERC as part of his national federation’s ACI Team Italia training initiative. He will pilot a Toyota GT86 CS-R3 run by Motorsport Italia, the outfit behind Max Rendina’s ERC1 entry.
1: With four wins to his name, Bryan Bouffier is Rally Rzeszow’s most successful driver. Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who had two previous victories to his name, claimed his third Rally Rzeszow triumph when the event achieved ERC status for 2016.
2: Kajetanowicz and fellow Polish Ford Fiesta R5 driver Jarek Szeja both hail from Ustron in the far south of the country, while Szeja’s co-driving brother Marcin lives in the same apartment block as Kajetanowicz.
3: ERC Junior Under 28 contender Tomasz Kaspercyk’s spectacular Rally Islas Canarias crash attracted 1,476,041 views on the championship’s official YouTube channel. The dramatic footage can be found here.
4: Aleks Zawada took on the combined role of team manager and ERC Radio reporter when the ERC visited his native Poland last season. But he’s swapped those duties for his MSZ Racing-run Opel ADAM R2 as he continues his quest for ERC Junior Under 27 success.
5: Apart from the ERC counter, motorsport fans living in Rzeszów have their own speedway team to support. Stal Rzeszów is also the name of the city’s football club, which currently play in Poland’s third tier.
DRIVER Q&A: KAJETAN KAJETANOWICZ
LOTOS Rally Team’s double European champion and last year’s Rally Rzeszow winner on competing at home, keeping busy and being successful on his country’s round of the ERC.
Q: What does it mean to you to compete in front of your home fans?
A: “It is a huge event for me because I don’t get a chance to compete in front of our home fans very often. Basically it happens twice, sometimes three times a year. This is why I am even more happy that the FIA European Rally Championship comes to Poland again. I had a pleasure to win Rally Poland when it was an ERC round and last year we worked very hard to earn our victory in Rzeszów. Of course it is a bit stressful, as I want to do my best in front of my home fans, but at the same time they motivate and support us very much, for instance with smiles and high-fives. It makes my heart beat even faster during this event.”
Q: How much pressure do you feel as the driver everyone in Poland wants and expects to win?
A: “I try to approach every rally in the same way but a home event is exceptional and equally difficult. Somewhere at the back of my mind I feel some pressure to win at home. Even more so because we have a lot of very fast drivers over here and top drivers from all over the world are going to compete there as well. All these things make me very happy and I know that I can deal with such situations. I will do my best not to disappoint my fans.”
Q: How busy are you before, during and after the rally?
A: “I have my own team, LOTOS Rally Team, and I am the boss so it means that we have a lot of things to do before and after the rally. Every member of the team has a clear part to play and fulfils his duties in a perfect way but I have to get involved in coordination of everything. On top of that there are media meetings, sponsor events, training sessions. Basically I don’t have any free time during the year but when you do what you love even difficult things can make you happy.”
Q: What are the challenges of Rally Rzeszow?
A: “This season is just fantastic. A member of our team has recently counted that almost 50 drivers in R5 cars competed in the first part of the championship. It shows that the level of competition is very high. It will be no different during Rally Rzeszow, which is notorious for exceptional and tricky technical stages, with lots of crests and narrow sections. It is a bit like a more twisty Ypres Rally in hilly countryside.”
Q: As a former winner of the event, what does it take to be successful there?
A: “If you want to be fast in Poland, you need an excellent car, like my Ford Fiesta, and even better team, like my LOTOS Rally Team. But seriously, the roads have different grip levels and characteristics. Some parts are fast and then there are very narrow and twisty sections. You have to be flexible, to adapt yourself. The margin for error is really small. This rally is for those who are not afraid of challenges.”
THE RALLY IN 100 WORDS
Rally Rzeszow’s history might date back to 1970 but its 25th edition in 2016 was perhaps its most significant moment yet when the asphalt event made its first ERC appearance. A regular on the Polish and Slovakian national championship calendars, Rally Rzeszow takes place on narrow, winding sealed-surface roads in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in southeast Poland, with steep climbs and tricky descents commonplace. One stage through the city of Rzeszów, which is close to the Ukranian and Slovakian borders, forms part of the itinerary, while reigning ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz was an event regular in the past.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?
Kajetan Kajetanowicz secured a spectacular first win of 2016 on home ground, effectively leading from start to finish in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. He was headed after being held up by a competitor who had spun ahead of him on Friday morning’s first stage. That time loss was later adjusted by officials, handing the lead back to Kajetanowicz, and he opened up an advantage of over 30 seconds on French asphalt ace Bryan Bouffier (a record four-time Rzeszow winner) going into the final day. In a stunning drive on Saturday’s first stage on damp roads, Kajetanowicz was 18s faster than his chief rival, and he finished the rally 46s clear. Bouffier, driving a Citroën DS3 R5, was a close rival to Kajetanowicz for much of Friday, but a spin during the afternoon cost him 20 seconds. After a subdued start to the final day, the three-time Polish champion won all three stages in the afternoon despite damaging his radiator in an impact on the first of those. He and co-driver Xavier Panseri used chewing gum as a temporary fix to get the car to the finish. Grzegorz Grzyb, a two-time Rzeszow winner who would go on to become Polish champion, quickly lost touch with the top two when he suffered a puncture on Friday’s second stage on his Fiesta R5, but he was able to hold third position until the end with a consistent performance. Jakub Brzeziński held fourth place from Friday’s second stage and was able to match the pace of Grzyb ahead of him, but would fall to fifth on the very last stage when he went off the road under pressure from a charging Łukasz Habaj, then the reigning Polish champion. He lost 2m40s when he slid into a ditch at the start of the rally’s first full stage (the cause of Kajetanowicz’s delay) but his stage times were never outside the top three thereafter. Tomasz Kasperczyk, Wojciech Chuchała (the ERC2 winner) and Jarosław Kołtun were covered by one tenth of a second on the final stage as they secured places six to eight respectively. Nikolay Gryazin won ERC3 ahead of László Német, who lost time to a puncture but claimed second ahead of Murat Bostanci.
EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local and subject to change)
Starts: 18h00, Thursday 3 August, Millenium Hall (Rzeszów)
Finishes: 17h30, Saturday 5 August, Market Square (Rzeszów)
Headquarters: Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Rzeszów, ul. Kopisto 1, Rzeszów
Service park: Rzeszów University of Technology Campus, ul. Akademicka, Rzeszów
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): 1 (2016)
Stage distance: 214.63 kilometres (100.83 kilometres leg one, 113.80 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 405.28 kilometres
Total: 619.91 kilometres
Entry list and itinerary
MEDIA INFORMATION (all timings local and subject to change)
Media Accreditation Office location: Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Rzeszów, ul. Kopisto 1, Rzeszów
Opening times: 10h00-18h00, Tuesday 1 August; 12h00-20h00, Wednesday 2 August; 08h00-20h00, Thursday 3 August
Media Centre location: Hotel Hilton Garden Inn Rzeszów, ul. Kopisto 1, Rzeszów
Opening times: 10h00-18h00, Tuesday 1 August; 12h00-20h00, Wednesday 2 August; 08h00-20h00, Thursday 3 August; 08h30-23h30, Friday 4 August; 07h00-21h30, Saturday 5 August
Television coverage: Daily highlights, rally review and Inside ERC magazine show on Eurosport and Eurosport Player, plus additional coverage on a number of other networks
ERC Radio: Live throughout the event at FIAERC.com or through the ERC app
Results, standings, live timing and text commentary here
Rights-free images: Register here
Event media contact: Piotr Kłeczek, firstname.lastname@example.org, +48 502751440
MEDIA EVENTS (all timings local and subject to change)
WEDNESDAY 2 AUGUST
Pre-event safety briefing (all photographers, TV crews must attend): 18h30, Media Centre, Rzeszów
THURSDAY 3 AUGUST
Free Practice (for priority drivers): 09h00-11h00, Niechobrz (3.37 kilometres)
Qualifying Stage (for priority drivers): 12h15, Niechobrz (3.37 kilometres)
Shakedown (for non-priority drivers): 13h00-15h00, Niechobrz (3.37 kilometres)
Pre-rally press conference: 16h30, Media Centre, Rzeszów
Start order selection: 17h00, Millenium Hall, Rzeszów
FIA Action for Road Safety photograph: 17h15, Millenium Hall, Rzeszów
Autograph session: 17h30, Millenium Hall, Rzeszów
Ceremonial start: From 18h00, Millenium Hall, Rzeszów
SATURDAY 5 AUGUST
Finish podium: 17h30, Market Square, Rzeszów
Post-rally press conference: 19h00, Media Centre, Rzeszów
2016: Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Jarek Baran (Ford Fiesta R5)
2015: Bryan Bouffier/Thibaut de la Haye (Ford Fiesta Proto)*
2014: Maciej Rzeźnik/Przemysław Mazur (Ford Fiesta R5)*
2013: Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Jarek Baran (Subaru Impreza STi R4)*
2012: Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Jarek Baran (Subaru Impreza STi R4)*
*Non-European championship event
KEY ERC STATISTICS
ERC rally wins in 2017: Al-Attiyah, Kajetanowicz, Lukyanuk and Magalhães 1
ERC stage wins in 2017: Kajetanowicz and Lukyanuk 16; Al-Attiyah 9; Gryazin 5; Magalhães 4; Griebel, Moura and Polykarpou 1