ERC event preview: Rally di Roma Capitale
The FIA European Rally Championship is heading to unchartered territory next week (14-17 September) when Rally di Roma Capitale hosts the all-action series for the first time. And with two rounds remaining, the battle for ERC title glory is finely poised ahead of this exciting event, which features stages in and to the east of the Italian city and is new for almost every ERC crew.
After Marijan Griebel sensationally secured the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship crown – and the accompanying World Rally Car prize drive – in Czech Republic last month, the focus switches to the battle for the coveted overall honours, plus the chase for the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 title and the 100,000 euros career progression fund on offer to the champion.
“It’s all still to play for, the championship is completely open and everybody is starting this rally on the same page because none of the ERC drivers have seen the stages before,” said Aleks Zawada, who tops the ERC Junior U27 standings by three points. “It’s a positive thing that nobody has an advantage.”
Run for the first time in 2013 under the guidance of ERC regular Max Rendina, the fifth edition of Rally di Roma Capitale gets underway with Free Practice from 13h30 on Thursday 14 September followed by the Qualifying Stage three hours later. The following day, Friday 15 September, the event switches from Fiuggi – where the permanent service park is located – to the centre of Rome for a driving tour of the capital and then a superspecial stage next to the Palazzio della Civiltà del Lavoro in the Eur area from 18h30, which comprises three laps of a 600-metre course.
Saturday’s itinerary features five stages with a further six following on Sunday including two runs of the 32.70-kilometre Cave-Rocca S.Stefano test, the second longest in this season’s ERC. The stages use a combination of narrow and fast sections, wide and narrow passes with plenty of hairpins, climbs and descents thrown in for good measure. And by running through numerous towns and villages in 36 municipalities, huge numbers of spectators are set to follow the action, which gets daily highlights on Eurosport. Competitors from the Campinato Italiano Rally (CIR) will follow the same route but compete under a separate classification.
*Cars will take part in the Tour di Roma in groups of 10 under police escort from 16h45 on Friday 15 September. From the Ceremonial Start location in Bocca della Verità, the tour will pass several famous landmarks including the Colosseum, Palazzo Venezia, Altare della Patria and Campidoglio and many more. The tour ends at the pre-start area for SS1.
*Forty crews have entered the ERC section of Rally di Roma Capitale with 35 enjoying priority status.
*The hugely competitive nature of this season’s ERC is demonstrated by the fact there have been six winners from six rallies, meaning there will be a wide-open battle for glory in Italy, where the ERC returns following a three-year absence.
*Although the event begins in the centre of Rome, the finish takes place in Lido di Ostia, southwest of the capital on the banks of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
*As well as counting for ERC1, ERC2, ERC3, ERC Junior Under 28, ERC Junior Under 27 and ERC Ladies’ Trophy points, Rally di Roma Capitale is 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. Castrol Ford Team Turkey heads the Opel Rallye Junior Team after six events.
*Double ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who has never competed in Italy before, starts Rally di Roma Capitale leading Bruno Magalhães by 23 points. But with a maximum of 39 on offer in Rome, third-placed Alexey Lukyanuk can also close up, while Bryan Bouffier can move into the top three if they perform.
*However, if the LOTOS Rally Team-run Kajetanowicz maintains his advantage until the end of the season, then he’ll become the first driver in ERC history to win the title three years in succession.
*Tibor Érdi Jr has it all to do in ERC2 if he’s to prevent home hero Zelindo Melegari from edging further ahead in the championship chase. Sergey Remennik can’t win the title but has pace and potential.
*With Buǧra Banaz not including Rally di Roma Capitale on his 2017 schedule, the Turk looks set to relinquish his advantage in ERC3.
*While Marijan Griebel cannot be caught in ERC Junior Under 28, a host of drivers can still win ERC Junior Under 27 for drivers in R2 cars on Pirelli tyres. After four events, Aleks Zawada heads Chris Ingram by three points with Filip Mareš and Jari Huttunen close behind.
*It’s also closely-matched in the ERC Junior U28 runner-up spot battle with Jan Černý, Nikolay Gryazin, Sylvain Michel and Peugeot Rally Academy pair Pepe López and José Suárez all vying for points in Rome.
*Italian Tamara Molinaro remains on course to win the ERC Ladies’ Trophy despite losing out on victory to Emma Falcón in Czech Republic when her Red Bull-backed Opel ADAM developed a powersteering glitch.
*Rally di Roma Capitale features 12 all-asphalt stages over a competitive distance of 198.88 kilometres. Leg one covers 94.52 kilometres of timed running with leg two run over 106.16 kilometres.
*While the ACI Roma Arena superspecial, which will be run in reverse order, is a mere 1.80 kilometres in length, at 32.70 kilometres, Cave-Rocca S.Stefano is the rally’s longest stage.
Brothers in arms: French rallying brothers Robert and Stéphane Consani are Rome bound. While older brother Robert, a seasoned ERC campaigner in the past, is rallying for the first time in 2017, Stéphane has notched up three wins and two podiums in the French second tier this season.
Home is where the heart is: Zelindo Melegari, Tamara Molinaro, plus former Rally Roma di Capitale winner Tonino Di Cosimo are among the Italian drivers in action in the ERC section of the event.
Czech mates: The ACCR Czech Team will be out in force in Italy following its strong showing on home soil last month. Jan Černý will chase ERC Junior Under 28 honours with Dominik Brož and Filip Mareš vying for success in ERC Junior Under 27 and ERC3. Karel Kupec will also be flying the Czech flag in ERC Junior U27 but younger brother Radomír misses out due to an engine issue.
Hungarian hopefuls: Kristóf Klausz is due to be back on ERC Junior U27 duty following co-driver Botond Csányi’s return from injury. Fellow Hungarians Dávid Botka and Márk Mesterházi will compete together for the third time in their ŠKODA Fabia R5 under the Botka-Tlusťák Racing banner.
Big chance to shine: Italian youngster Gianandrea Pisani will follow compatriots Luca Bottarelli and Riccardo Canzian by contesting an ERC round in the ACI Team Italia-backed Toyota GT86 CS-R3.
Temp-ted by the ERC: Simone Tempestini has selected the ERC-counting Rally di Roma Capitale for event number 15 of the season.
Keeping busy: Nikolay Gryazin will prepare for his Rally di Roma Capitale debut by contesting this weekend’s Rally Nova Gorica, which starts 500 metres from the Italian border in Slovenia. Filip Mareš will also be in action on the 12-stage contest. Meanwhile, Bryan Bouffier will warm-up for Rome with an outing on the Polish championship Rajd Dolnośląski.
Pole position: Polish title winners past and present, Łukasz Habaj and Grzegorz Grzyb, will continue their expanded ERC campaigns in Rome.
Dumas doubles up: Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas is gearing up for his second consecutive FIA European Rally Championship start in his RGT-specification Porsche 997 GT3.
New recruit: Chris Ingram will link up with new co-driver Ross Whittock, who has replaced Elliott Edmondson at the Opel Rallye Junior Team.
When in Rome: Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who is in his first season of ERC competition, lives in Rome.
Experience counts: Sébastien Bedoret and Catie Munnings are among a number of drivers taking part in four days of ERC Junior Experience training before the rally begins. Belgian Bedoret is returning to ERC Junior U27 action after missing Barum Czech Rally Zlín while his Peugeot 208 R2 was repaired.
1: Rome’s famous Colosseum, which features on the Tour di Roma route, is the largest amphitheatre ever built. Construction began in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80.
2: Rome is one of two European capitals hosting ERC action this season with Nicosia the setting of two Cyprus Rally stages.
3: Italy has celebrated 23 European championship triumphs over the years. Giandomenico Basso and Luca Rossetti are both three-time winners.
4: The commune of event base Fiuggi was made famous by its natural spring water and the healing powers it possesses.
5: Co-driver Maurizio Barone is the only ERC regular with previous Rally di Roma Capitale experience. He partnered Antonio Rusce to seventh place in 2015.
THE RALLY IN 100 WORDS
The progression of this exciting asphalt event has been remarkable. Having only run for the first time in 2013, Rally di Roma Capitale will make its ERC debut in 2017 as Italy returns to the European championship for the first time since 2013 when Rallye Sanremo was part of the calendar. With stages running in and around the Italian capital and with the drive and expertise of Motorsport Italia very much behind the event, Rally di Roma Capitale is set to be a popular addition to the ERC calendar when it counts for European and Campionato Italiano Rally (CIR) points.
EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local and subject to change)
Starts: 16h45, Friday 15 September, Bocca della Verita’, Rome
Finishes: 17h00, Sunday 17 September, Pontile Principale, Lido di Ostia
Headquarters: Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte, Via dei Villini 7, 03014, Fiuggi
Service park: Terme di Fiuggi, Via Fonte Anticolana, 03014, Fiuggi
Stage distance: 198.88 kilometres (94.52kms leg one, 106.16kms leg two)
Liaison: 588.62 kilometres
Total: 787.50 kilometres
2016: Umberto Scandola/Guide D’Amore (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2015: Umberto Scandola/Guide D’Amore (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2014: Tonino Di Cosimo/Mario Papa (Ford Focus RS WRC 08)
2013: Alfredo De Dominicis/Matteo Chiarcossi Ford Focus RS WRC 08) (event ran for the first time)
KEY ERC STATISTICS
ERC rally wins in 2017: Al-Attiyah, Bouffier, Kajetanowicz, Kopecký, Lukyanuk and Magalhães 1
ERC stage wins in 2017: Lukyanuk 20; Kajetanowicz 17; Kopecký 11; Al-Attiyah 9; Bouffier 7; Gryazin 5; Magalhães 4; Griebel, Kresta, Moura, Østberg, Polykarpou and Suárez 1