All aboard for Azores: ERC Q&A with Rui Moniz, Azores Rallye organiser
With the build-up to the 55th Azores Rallye from September 16-18 almost complete, Rui Moniz, Chairman of the Board of event organiser Grupo Desportivo Comercial, looks ahead to the ever-spectacular fifth round of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship.
The Azores Rallye is always one of the highlights of the ERC season but why?
“It’s the best event in the world, the most beautiful and one of the more difficult. The atmosphere is always fantastic and it’s an event that all drivers want to take part in at least once in their lifetime. It’s our 55th edition, we have all the correct COVID-19 measures in place and we have the green light from the health authorities. All the preparations are almost done and now we’re waiting on a fantastic entry list.”
As always the entry list of full of quality. What assistance was provided to the teams and drivers taking part?
“We charter a vessel to bring all the teams from the Portuguese mainland to São Miguel island in the Azores and back. We are also helping with air tickets from mainland Portugal to the Azores and back so it’s really no different to doing an event in continental Europe, even though you are going halfway across the Atlantic.”
While a friendly welcome is guaranteed what help and facilities are offered on arrival?
“We are eager to welcome everybody as we Azoreans always do. Everything is close by, the service park is at the port and is a very good facility. The hotels are a short walk away and no stage is too from service. There’s an official test the day before the recce. But we are always helpful and always welcoming.”
How is the entry shaping up in terms of the local drivers?
“Our top driver, Ricardo Moura, has been three times Portuguese champion and 10 times Azorean champion and has won the Azores Rallye once before. He’s one of the top contenders but we also have other very good drivers from the Azores who can keep up with the stars of the ERC. The rally doesn’t count for the Portuguese championship this season but we have Portuguese teams who want to fight for the top classification.”
Finally, this year’s event finishes with the iconic Sete Cidades volcano stage. How good will that be?
“It was already a spectacular stage but this year it will decide the winner and will be broadcast live. The forecasts are for warm and dry weather and this will result in fantastic footage.”