Monday | 05 Dec 2022

Five drivers to watch out for in 2023

So - eight rounds confirmed for 2023. It’s going to be a cracker. One thing that’s not going to be confirmed for a while yet, understandably, is which drivers will be fighting for the ERC crown.

It will come as no surprise to hear that Team MRF Tyres will be back to defend its title with top driver Efrén Llarena. He’ll be joined, apparently, by an even bigger line-up of cars. But who else will be on the stages?

Championship registrations do not open until the new year, and we’ve not quite arrived at the stage where most drivers are ready to announce their plans. We will leave you with a few potentials though, even if they are ‘TBC’. 

Tom Kristensson
This has been a breakthrough year for the Swede. After experiencing mixed fortunes aboard an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 in 2021, he found happiness with the Kowax 2BRally squad and won the Polish national series with a Hyundai i20. 

Kristensson also made three ERC appearances, finishing on the podium in Poland while also posting top times in Latvia and the Czech Republic. He’s made it clear that, budget depending, he’d love a full crack at the title in 2023.

Filip Mareš
Mareš, like Kristensson, also came out to play on a handful of ERC rounds this season, starting with a long-awaited return to gravel in Poland followed by outings on his favoured asphalt surface at Rally di Roma Capitale and Barum Czech Rally Zlín. 

He won stages at the latter pair of events - proof that, should he commit to a full programme, the Škoda ace would certainly be right in the mix.

Mikko Heikkilä
Heikkilä made a one-off appearance at this year’s Tet Rally Liepāja where he finished third overall on what was only his second ERC rally. 

Earlier this year, media in Heikkilä’s native Finland suggested the 30-year-old was planning a full championship programme for 2023, although he was quick to dispel any rumours when quizzed by FIAERC.com - instead explaining that nothing is confirmed just yet. 

With high-speed gravel stages on offer in Poland, Latvia and Sweden next year, Heikkilä would definitely feel at home.

Hayden Paddon
Former Hyundai factory driver Paddon used this year’s Tet Rally Liepāja as a test run for WRC Rally Estonia, which formed part of the Kiwi’s three-round WRC2 programme with an i20 N Rally2. 

Paddon, who recently sealed the Asia Pacific Rally Championship title, is yet to reveal any future plans. Another WRC2 assault could be on the cards, but who knows - maybe he fancies another crack at the ERC?

Andrea Mabellini
The Italian youngster steered a Toksport-prepared Renault Clio Rally4 to third place in both ERC4 and Junior ERC this season. In 2023, he hopes to upgrade to a Rally2-specification Fabia with the German-based outfit. 

Toksport won this year’s WRC2 teams’ title and, with names like Emil Lindholm and Andreas Mikkelsen on its books, Mabellini should be in safe hands.