With the penultimate round of the FIA European Rally Championship taking place in Switzerland it’s no surprise that 51 crews are home grown talents. Here are 10 to watch on Rallye International du Valais.
Car #11: Sébastien Carron
After clinching this year’s Swiss title with one round to spare, Carron will be hoping to underline his hugely successful season with a fourth win of 2014 on Rallye International du Valais, which would also go a long way to make up for the crash that forced his retirement from the event in 2013.
Car #12: Nicolas Althaus
A Rallye International du Valais regular for more than a decade and a Swiss championship frontrunner, Althaus finished sixth overall in Martigny last season having come home third in 2012. He’s back in a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 for the first since June 2013.
Car #14: Olivier Burri
He’s won Rallye International du Valais a record eight times and he’s back for more having finished second during his 50th birthday tour of rallies in 2013. Burri, who scored his maiden Valais win in 1993 and is better known for his exploits in production-based Mitsubishi Lancers and Subaru Imprezas, will be competing in a Ford Fiesta R5 having used the Regional Rally Car equivalent last season.
Car #17: Florian Gonon
Having achieved considerable success in showroom-specification machinery – he was IRC Production Cup runner-up in 2011 – former Swiss champion Gonon switched to a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 in 2012 but with mixed results. He spent much of last season campaigning Ford Escort Mk1 in the Swiss Historic Rally Championship but was back in a Subaru Impreza for Rallye International du Valais and promptly won the ERC Production Car Cup section.
Car #18: Pascal Perroud
Perroud’s third full season in Super 2000 machinery began with a brace of Swiss championship third-place finishes and he occupies ninth in the national drivers’ standings with one round remaining. He was eighth on Rallye du Valais last year in a Peugeot 207 S2000 but is armed with a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 this time around.
Car #19: Urs Hunziker
Hunziker, a former Swiss Group N champion, is all but assured the runner-up spot in the Swiss standings even though three rivals can deny him on Rallye International du Valais.
Car #20: Reudi Schmidlin
Experienced and loyal in equal measure, Schmidlin’s exploits in Mitsubishis date back to 1986 with he drove a Starion Turbo. He’s currently fifth in the Swiss standings.
Car #38: Michäel Burri
Following a season of Junior WRC competition in 2013, Olivier Burri’s son is competing closer to home this season. Valais marks his second start in Renault’s all-new R3T.
Car #39: Laurent Reuche
A double Valais winner in the past, Reuche hasn’t competed since he took part on his home round of the ERC last November. He’s back in a Renault Clio, albeit a turbocharged version, for his competition return.
Car #44: Mike Coppens
Currently fourth in the Swiss standings, Coppens will be at the wheel of a Citroën DS3 R3T and will be a contender for ERC 2WD Championship honours.
Cédric Althaus: This will be the fifth Rallye International du Valais for Citroën DS3 R3T-mounted Althaus who can still snatch second spot in the final Swiss championship classification.
Yves Blanc: The Citroën DS3 R3T driver holds third in the Swiss Rally Cup starting Rallye International du Valais.
Bastien Lugon: Second in the Swiss Rally Cup and the Swiss Junior Championship, Lugon will be armed with Renault Twingo R1 for his second Rallye International du Valais.
Jonathan Rerat: Heads the Swiss Rally Cup table starting Rallye International du Valais in his Renault Clio.
Simon Rossel: The Swiss Junior Championship leader will be aiming to put on a show when the ERC regulars head to his homeland.
Antonín Tlusťák will return to a happy hunting ground when he tackles the penultimate round of the FIA European Rally Championship in Switzerland this week (23-25 October).
Tlusťák, from Czech Republic, scored top ERC points on Rallye International du Valais in 2011 and will be back in action on the Swiss event for a fifth time.
"I like Rallye du Valais very much, I was able to make good times and results in the past,” said the ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 privateer. “Last year we were not lucky, we had problems with the car which resulted in retirement during the first leg. This year I am returning there and I hope for a good result, despite the fact I was not driving on Tarmac with Tarmac suspension since Barum Czech Rally Zlín.”
With Jan Škaloud unavailable to co-drive Tlusťák this week, Ladislav Kučera will once again take on navigating duties. They competed together in Switzerland last season and have contested several ERC rounds alongside one another in 2014. Škaloud is due to return on the ERC season-closing Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse next month.
Tlusťák has made seven appearances in this year’s ERC and has scored points on three occasions.
Four drivers will face-off for the FIA European Rally Championship title when the series heads to Switzerland next week for Rallye International du Valais. This is what Craig Breen, currently fourth in the standings, has had to say.
What does it mean to you to be one of four drivers in ERC title contention with two rounds left?
“Of course it was the plan at the start of the season to try and win the title. Although things haven’t exactly gone to plan during the year we’re still happy to be in the fight.”
How important would winning the ERC title be to you and your career going forward?
“It would be hugely important for me as I am uncertain of my future after this season. When you are not finishing events, your name can very quickly disappear from everybody’s minds, regardless of what the stage times say, so to win this title would be just what I need. And more than anything it’s a dream of mine, nobody from Ireland has ever won a major international rally title like that so it would mean the world to me.”
What's your strategy going to be on Rallye International du Valais?
“Valais can be a tricky one so for sure nothing silly. The character of the stages changes a lot, so people can be stronger on some stages than others, so we’ll have to find a strong pace and see where that puts us. Everybody is going to be pushing to win, so we will have to be doing the same. I really want this!”
How will you prepare for the rally?
“We will have a test on Sunday, albeit in France, but hopefully the conditions will be similar. My engineer and me have been looking over data from this season and from the event last year with the 207 S2000, so hopefully we can find a good set-up that will give me the confidence to push.”
If you don’t win the ERC title, who will and why?
“I don’t want to think about anybody else winning it because it makes my stomach turn! But probably Esapekka, purely because he is in the best position at the moment. But like I said, I can’t think like that. All I can do now is concentrate on my own driving in the final events, and hope we can do enough to win. It won’t be for the want of trying.”
Team: Peugeot Rally Academy
Car: Peugeot 208T16
Co-driver: Scott Martin (Great Britain)