ERC 2018: the season ahead
The 2018 FIA European Rally Championship is building up to an exciting climax with three all-action events in store: Barum Czech Rally Zlín, Rally Poland and Rally Liepāja.
Barum Czech Rally Zlín (24-26 August)
The rally in 100 words: Ever-present in the ERC since the championship’s streamlining in 2004, Barum Czech Rally Zlín is based in the South Moravian university city, 300 kilometres south of the Czech capital Prague. It is a Tarmac test like no other due to the bumpy and sometimes broken nature of the road surface. To add to the challenge, several stages feature high-speed blasts through forests and intermittent showers are always possible. While the weather might be hard to predict, huge numbers of fans follow the action, especially on the opening night-time Zlín superspecial stage. The rally has a long-term contract with the ERC.
What’s new for 2018? Some 40 per cent of the route is different compared to 2017 as the organisers of the 48th Barum Czech Rally Zlín usher in the changes, including the new event-closing Kašava stage, the longest of the rally at 24.88 kilometres. The event will welcome world championship star Dani Sordo for the first time when the Spaniard takes on the demanding Czech stages in a Hyundai i20 R5 for what will be his ERC debut.
Rally Poland (21-23 September)
The rally in 100 words: One of the world’s oldest rallies is back on the ERC calendar in 2018 after a four-year break as Rally Poland replaces Rally Rzeszow as the country’s round of the European championship for its 75th edition. First run in 1921, Rally Poland’s home since 2005 has been Mikołajki in the picturesque Mazurian lake district, a three-hour drive north from the capital Warsaw, where high-speed all-gravel stages are commonplace. And it was in Mikołajki where Kajetan Kajetanowicz first emerged as a major force in the ERC, taking the win in 2013 prior to beginning his record-breaking title treble sequence in 2015.
What’s new for 2018? The Mikołajki MAX test starts on gravel roads around the rally’s host town and finishes in the purpose-built Mikołajki Arena – located adjacent to the fully-paved service park – after 9.13 kilometres of action. There’s also a renewed focus on spectator safety, while the majority of the stages have been altered with Talty selected as the new venue for Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage.
Rally Liepāja (12-14 October)
The rally in 100 words: The brainchild of rally driver turned promoter Raimonds Strokšs and first run to great acclaim in 2013, Rally Liepāja was originally a winter event but switched to the autumn for 2016. The new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel stages free of snow and ice. Although the time of year had changed, the high-speed stages in western Latvia continued to thrill drivers and spectators alike. And with its new format now firmly established, this forward-thinking rally serves as a fitting season finale with Liepāja proving to be a popular destination for fans and competitors.
What’s new for 2018? Again forming part of the Festival of Speed Kurzeme, event organises are keeping details of the route under wraps for now but fans can already buy tickets at the discounted rate, which is valid until 8 October. More details are available here.