Career lift-off time in Zlin for ERC Juniors Mares and Llarena
Filip Mareš and Efrén Llarena have given their hopes of further career progression a huge lift by capturing the FIA ERC1 Junior and FIA ERC3 Junior titles respectively on Barum Czech Rally Zlín*.
While Jan Kopecký and ŠKODA Motorsport co-driver Pavel Dreslercelebrated a fifth consecutive victory on this tremendously challenging sealed-surface event, Kopecký’s eighth in total, Mareš and Llarena can now look forward to two fantastic prize-drive opportunities.
Mareš, who competes for the Autoclub of Czech Republic-backed ACCR Czech Rally Team, will receive 100,000 euros from ERC promoter Eurosport Events to contest the season-closing events in Cyprus and Hungary alongside co-driver Jan Hloušek.
Real Federación Española de Automovilismo (RFEDA)-backedLlarena, meanwhile, gets two rounds of the 2020 FIA ERC1 Junior Championship in an R5 car run by Motorsport Italia as his prize.
Significantly, both ERC Junior champions received direct support from their respective ASNs as part of ongoing efforts by Eurosport Events to provide a stepping stone from national to international level.
“Now we are the champions in ERC1 Junior we will start on the next two rounds of the ERC, which is fantastic because my season would probably stop after this race,” said Mareš. “It was a really close battle between me and Chris, so for sure I am now really happy with this result. The Czech federation has supported me for many years and it’s thanks to this support that I am here. Thanks also to Kresta Racing for this amazing car.”
Ken Torn had initially celebrated ERC3 Junior title success only for class winner Jean-Baptiste Franceschi’s original notional time for stage 15 to be adjusted after a technical problem struck, dropping the Frenchman to fourth in class and promoting Llarena to first place. The one extra day point for Llarena means he takes the title by a single point ahead of Torn.
“We were always on the limit with some big moments like all the drivers,” said Llarena. “We knew we needed to win and we deserved it. We were working too hard for two years not to win and we thank the Spanish federation a lot for all the support. We were very fast on all the rallies and my team did a very good job. Me and Sara [Fernández, co-driver] worked a lot, not just with the pacenotes but on the car. We tried to be more professional and work as hard as possible. We improved a lot during the year.”
But while the ERC1 Junior and ERC3 Junior titles have been decided for 2019 subject to the confirmation of the results by the FIA, the battle for the overall crown still rages with two events remaining. Although Ingram suffered the huge disappointment of missing out on the ERC1 Junior crown to Mareš by 0.3s, the Toksport WRT driver has moved to the top of the overall FIA European Rally Championship standings. He’s one point ahead of reigning champion Alexey Lukyanuk, whose bid for maximum leg two bonus points following his Sunday restart were wrecked by a puncture on the final stage.
As well as his ERC1 Junior title success, Mareš celebrated his best ERC finish to date by following Kopecký home in second place with Ingram taking third ahead of Czech Tomáš Kostka, double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel from Germany and Austrian ERC1 Junior newcomer Simon Wagner, who secured third place in the category for young stars in R5 cars.
Sicilian Andrea Nucita grabbed an ERC2/Abarth Rally Cup double with Pole Dariusz Poloński restarting to finish second in the Abarth Rally Cup and third in ERC2 behind Argentine Juan Carlos Alonso.
Łukasz Habaj had been due to start first on the road on day two in P10 overall but he was prevented from doing so when it was discovered his Fabia R5’s roll cage had been damaged during an off on Saturday. As a result, the former title leader was a non-scorer in Czech Republic and slips to third in the overall standings, albeit 10 points behind new pacesetter Ingram.
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA