Habaj strives for the ERC top five

Habaj strives for the ERC top five

14/03/2018 18:00

Łukasz Habaj plans to make the most of the experience he gained in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2017 when strives to finish in the top five in this season’s standings.

The former Polish champion is targeting a seven-event campaign starting from next week’s Azores Airlines Rallye (22-24 March).

“With so many drivers competing it’s really difficult to set an objective, especially as I haven’t raced most of them,” said Habaj. “For sure I want to be more competitive than last season. I have much more experience so it should help. If we finish the season in the top five I will be very happy.”

Habaj’s preparations for the new ERC schedule began back in January with the first of two appearances in the Finnish championship, which he hopes will put him in a good position for the season ahead.

“I have already implemented a different approach as we started off the season with two training rallies in Finland,” Habaj explained. “I have never started the season as early as January and I have also put much more attention to my physical preparations. In terms of the rallies itself I know all the rounds except Greece so I can say that I have never been so ready before. I am sure I improved my skills in Finland. Most of the skills you need to be fast on loose surfaces are common regardless if it is snow or wet gravel. Obviously Azores is a totally different rally but I guess you need similar skills.”

Habaj’s 2017 ERC campaign got off to a frustrating start with a retirement and non-start – following a shakedown crash – on the first two events. But the Rallytechnology-run Ford Fiesta R5 driver is determined to look forwards, not back.

“I just want to drive with good pace and see the finish line,” he said. “I don’t look at Azores and Canarias as unfinished business or anything like that. If I think about a good result at the end of the season, I know I have to improve my pace but get to the finish at the same time.”

Habaj will get the opportunity to compete on home soil when the gravel-based Rally Poland hosts the action from 21-23 September, after the event replaced the all-asphalt Rally Rzeszow on the ERC schedule. “Rally Poland is in general great but I feel more comfortable on Tarmac and definitely I know Rzeszow better. But I can’t complain, I am happy that we have an ERC round in Poland and will try to do my best.”

ERC Co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley said: “It’s great Łukasz is returning to the ERC for an increased programme of events. As a national champion, the ERC provides the perfect platform of progression and we are pleased Łukasz is able to continue his career at international level.”

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Tamara Molinaro continues to head the ERC Ladies’ Trophy category on the Azores Airlines Rallye, while Emma Falcón retired with back pain before midday service.

Sergei Remennik has resumed his lead of Azores Airlines Rallye’s FIA European Rally Championship ERC2 category, following an unfortunate retirement for nearest challenger Zelindo Melegari with clutch failure.

Diogo Gago took on the might of ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s pair of FIA ERC Junior Under 27 factory drivers on the Azores Airlines Rallye’s Friday stages and succeeded aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2, moving from third to first over the course of a dramatic multi-way battle.

Chris Ingram and Martin Koči traded places throughout Friday’s Azores Airlines Rallye stages in a tight battle for FIA ERC Junior Under 28 victory.

The Azores Airlines Rallye once again showed why it is such a formidable opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, but as others hit trouble, Russian Performance Motorsport’s Alexey Lukyanuk held steady out front.