Friday | 18 Nov 2022

2022 Season Review: ERC Open

The inaugural season of ERC Open boiled down to a two-way duel between Suzuki Motor Ibérica partners Joan Vinyes and Alberto Monarri. Here’s what happened...

Fafe: New co-driver, no worries
A last-minute co-driver swap failed to derail Joan Vinyes’ charge as the FIA European Rally Championship season got underway at Rally Serras de Fafe - Felgueiras - Cabreira e Boticas.

The Andorran driver’s regular partner, Jordi Mercader, became unwell in the run-up to the event - leaving Vinyes’ compatriot Claudi Ribeiro to be drafted in at the final hour. 

Luckily, their partnership blossomed, and the pair romped to victory at the opening round while team-mate Alberto Monarri settled for second after battling with technical troubles throughout the opening day. 

Azores: Super Sesks
The Azores Rallye welcomed a new name and a new car brand to the category as Latvia’s Mārtiņš Sesks fielded a Škoda Fabia Rally2-Kit from ProRacing Rally Team. In reality, Sesks had actually been present - and had set the pace - in Fafe but was not registered to score points at the time. 

Sesks managed to get his first ‘official’ score on the board with a dominant victory at the mid-Atlantic event, beating Vinyes - back with regular co-driver Mercader - by over five minutes. Monarri, who again encountered mechanical issues, ended third.

Canarias: The century
Rally Islas Canarias was a special event for Vinyes and Mercader as the duo celebrated their one-hundredth rally start in Suzuki machinery. 

The celebrations continued throughout the weekend when, with Sesks absent and Monarri thrown out of contention by power steering failure, Vinyes brought home victory number two of the season. 

 

Poland: Sesks does the double
Although Vinyes was now starting to run away with the championship, Sesks continued to impress despite only contesting selected rounds. 

In Poland, sporting a new MRF Tyres livery, he made it two wins from two starts. Again, the youngster triumphed in emphatic fashion to end more than five minutes clear of second-placed Vinyes. 

Monarri's torrid luck continued as he stopped on Friday evening's super special stage with a mystery engine fault. The Spaniard did, fortunately, rejoin on Saturday to complete the leaderboard. 

This would mark Sesks' final start in the category, and he stepped up to Team MRF Tyres' top-flight squad for the next round.

Rome: The tables turn
Having missed the fifth round, Rally di Roma Capitale marked the Suzuki team’s next stop on the calendar. 

After countless heartbreaks, it seemed Monarri’s mechanical woes had finally been put to bed and he was able to enjoy a clean drive over Italy’s technical asphalt stages. 

He traded times with colleague Vinyes throughout the two-day fixture but eventually wound up 20.6sec clear of the 53-year-old. 

Spain: No risks
Monarri and Vinyes opted not to contest Barum Czech Rally Zlín and instead waited for the season finale at RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada - the rally which would decide who clinched the title.

Twelve points separated the Swift R4LLY S pair before the event and Vinyes simply needed a finish to take the title. 

He drove cautiously as a result - allowing Monarri to pull away and secure the rally win. But, in the end, Vinyes' sensible approach paid off and he wrapped up the 2022 championship.