From downhill to up and up, Czech promise Cais is ERC3 Junior-bound
Erik Cais spent 2018 adapting to four wheels from two. Now he’s gunning for FIA European Rally Championship glory in only his second season in the sport.
The 19-year-old, who enjoyed a standout career in downhill mountain bike racing, switched to rallying in 2018 after injury forced him to call time on a discipline he’d excelled at from the age of seven.
Despite his lack of experience, Cais produced a number of impressive performances, including on his home ERC counter, Barum Czech Rally Zlín, where he was leading the RC4 category until a puncture on the penultimate stage dropped him back to fifth in class. He also scored a class victory on the Lausitz Rallye, his first event on gravel, last November.
Competing under his national federation’s ACCR Czech Team banner, Cais will contest the Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior category in 2019.
“The ERC is a big challenge for me and one of my big dreams comes true,” said Cais, whose father Miroslav was a frontrunner in the Czech championship. “I always wanted to compete internationally and get great results, I hope I will achieve them in the ERC.”
Cais will link up with new co-driver Jindřiška Žáková in his newly-acquired Ford Fiesta R2T, which will be prepared by leading entrant Orsák Rally Sport, former European championship regular Jaroslav Orsák’s self-run team. “It is completely different car from my previous PEUGEOT and it will not be easy to get used to this car, but I will do my best,” said Cais, who will chase ERC Nations’ Cup points for the ACCR Czech Team in addition to ERC3 and ERC3 Junior points.
In good company with Vouilloz
Erik Cais is not the only downhill mountain bike racer to compete in the FIA European Rally Championship. Nicolas Vouilloz, a 10-time world champion, won twice in five ERC starts and claimed the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in 2008, a category devised by Eurosport Events, promoter of the ERC since 2013.
Cais was seven when he started racing mountain bikes downhill but, by 2015, was competing in the IXS European Downhill Cup. He began his World Cup career the following season but a crash during a training run in 2017 left him with a badly broken collarbone. But following lengthy recovery, he elected to take up his second love, rallying, and hasn’t looked back since.