Wednesday | 18 Jan 2023

Cais among ERC stars lining up for Monte magic

Erik Cais is among a long list of drivers with recent FIA European Rally Championship experience lining up for glory on this week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, round one of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship.

Cais is embarking on a dual ERC/WRC2 title campaign in 2023 in an all-new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 with the WRC opener marking a return to a happy hunting ground for the Czech ace.

The 23-year-old finished second in WRC2 and placed a heroic ninth overall on Rallye Monte-Carlo last January. He also bagged WRC2 Junior class honours on what was his debut on the Tarmac classic.

Fast forward 12 months and Cais, who continues to be run by Orsák Rally Sport despite switching from Ford to Škoda power, is eyeing more success on the challenging mountain stages above the principality. That includes securing a strong result in the new WRC2 Challenger category.

“Monte is something incredible, especially when you know what competitors will be there,” said Cais. “The fights will be really tough and the rally will be very difficult and more like a legendary Monte-Carlo with more snow than last year.”

Having excelled as a downhill mountain bike rider before injury prompted a switch to rallying, Cais has made excelling in low-grip conditions an artform.

“That’s true, absolutely, but it will be a lot about getting experience of how the conditions are changing, not just for me but for my dad [Miroslav], who will be part of my ice crew,” Cais said. “It will be interesting because you don’t get these conditions in other races.”

With 2023 representing something of a career reset for Cais after time was called on his 2022 WRC2 bid following Rally Italia Sardegna last June, Cais admits there is some pressure on his shoulders.

“For sure there is pressure, but I have a clear mind,” he said. “I am just looking forward to driving this great car on such a unique rally and to try to get the best confidence in the car. With confidence can come a good result and this is the main point for the first kilometres, to get self-confidence and don’t put pressure in my mind, enjoy the rally and be calm.”

The 91st Rallye Monte-Carlo is made up of 18 stages over a competitive distance of 325.02 timed kilometres. It runs from tomorrow (Thursday) until Sunday. Click HERE for the live stream schedule.

ERC graduates: five to watch on Rallye Monte-Carlo
Nine P1 drivers and 20 P2 drivers entered for this year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo have ERC experience. Here are five standout graduates.

Nikolay Gryazin: 2018 Junior ERC champion in Rally2, 2023 WRC2 contender
Chris Ingram: 2019 ERC champion, 2023 WRC2 contender
Esapekka Lappi: 2014 ERC champion, 2023 factory Hyundai Rally1 driver
Stéphane Lefebvre: 2014 Junior ERC champion in Rally4, 2023 WRC2 contender
Oliver Solberg: 2020 Junior ERC champion in Rally2, 2023 WRC contender

Photos: Martin Husár