Hungary for ERC event preview: Title-deciding phase approaches

2021-10-19T14:26:35+02:00October 18th, 2021|2021, Rally Hungary|

The 2021 FIA European Rally Championship’s title-deciding phase begins on Rally Hungary this week with the first of two Tarmac events between now and Rally Islas Canarias in mid-November.

The 2021 FIA European Rally Championship’s title-deciding phase begins on Rally Hungary this week with the first of two Tarmac events between now and Rally Islas Canarias in mid-November.

After two spectacular gravel contests – the 55th Azores Rallye and ERC newcomer Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras – challenged drivers, teams and their cars, the season-closing asphalt rounds will be no less demanding or intense.

Based in the city of Nyíregyháza in north-east Hungary, the penultimate event of the 2021 ERC campaign has an entry featuring 56 registered crews and similarities with Barum Czech Rally Zlín with stages run on a mixture of asphalt, broken concrete and narrow passes in areas of spectacular countryside.

The event includes a popular superspecial at the Rabócsiring rallycross circuit south of Nyíregyháza, plus a special stage through the streets of the host city. The rally also gives the opportunity for competitors from the Hungarian national championship to showcase their talents at international level – and go up against several leading Hungarian drivers who compete regularly in the ERC, such as multiple ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr, ERC3 Junior contender Martin László, ERC3 points scorer Adrienn Vogel and three-time ERC podium finisher Norbert Herczig.

Andreas Mikkelsen is very much the man of the moment ahead of Rally Hungary, however. After he clinched the FIA World Rally Championship’s WRC2 category in Spain last weekend, the Norwegian can add a second major FIA title in the space of a week by becoming European champion. Having won on his Rally Hungary debut last year, Mikkelsen returns in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo with a 71-point advantage.

But while his choice of car will be familiar to Rally Hungary fans, pretty much everything else has changed since his event debut in 2020. Elliott Edmondson has replaced Ola Fløene in the co-driver’s seat after Jonas Andersson initially filled the role on Barum Czech Rally Zlín. Toksport WRT, which guided Chris Ingram to the ERC title on Rally Hungary in 2019, is now in charge of running Mikkelsen’s car, which uses MICHELIN tyres rather than Pirelli covers, taking over from the Topp-Cars Rally Team. And the imposing blue and red colour scheme from last year’s Rally Hungary has been replaced by the traditional Škoda Motorsport green and white for 2021.

“We had the perfect weekend [on the last round in Fafe] so it’s looking really, really good for the championship now,” said 32-year-old Mikkelsen. “If we can get a good result in Hungary hopefully everything will be good for us.”

Miko Marczyk heads Mikkelsen’s pursuers in the ERC title race on a high after he captured his second Polish title on Rally Košice in Slovakia last weekend. The ORLEN Team driver’s allocation of MICHELIN tyres for Rally Hungary are his reward for being the best-placed ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory contenders after six rounds. Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena, meanwhile, starts his second Rally Hungary third in the standings and determined to hit back from his crash on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras earlier this month.

As well as the overall title fight, the ERC2, ERC3 and ERC3 Junior championships remain wide open, as does the inaugural Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT. With double points on offer for what is the final round of the arrive-and-drive series for the Renault Clio Rally5 run on MICHELIN tyres, four drives, headed by leader Andrea Mabellini, are still in contention for the title and the prize drive in a Toksport WRT-run Clio Rally4 on three rounds of next season’s ERC.

Javier Pardo is the man to beat in ERC2 after the Suzuki Motor Ibérica driver scored his fourth win from four starts in northern Portugal earlier this month, while ERC3 is proving to be a thrilling battle between Pep Bassas (Rallye Team Spain) and Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (Toksport WRT). In ERC3 Junior, which resumes after a month off, Franceschi is a mere point ahead of recently-crowned Junior world champion Sami Pajari (Porvoon Autopalvelu). Ken Torn will be aiming to continue his dominance of the ERC Junior category in his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland, while Dariusz Poloński (Rallytechnology) can’t be caught in the Abarth Rally Cup.

With as many as six Renault Clio Rally5s in action, examples of Rally2, Rally3, Rally4 and Rally5 cars – plus Rally2 Kit machinery – appear on the packed entry list to further underline the important contribution the ERC makes in highlighting the FIA Rally Cars Pyramid and the path of progression it provides drivers aiming for the top of the sport having stepped up from national level. And while the ERC’s focus remains on providing a clear path of progression for drivers aiming for the top of the sport, it continues to be open to all-comers with a vast array of driver age and experience.

Administered by the FIA and promoted by Eurosport Events, the ERC is the established step-up series to the FIA World Rally Championship and is backed up by a global broadcast package, which includes extensive coverage on the various Eurosport platforms. Four stages on each round of the ERC are shown live on Facebook and YouTube, while ERC Radio is on-air from all events.