Nyíregyháza Hungary for ERC action as new event joins 2019 European rally calendar*
Hungary will return to the FIA European Rally Championship for the first time since 2003 with a new Tarmac event in the city of Nyíregyháza included on the provisional calendar for 2019.
Featuring eight events – four on asphalt and four on gravel – the planned list of dates for next season was approved by the FIA Rally Commission in Geneva on 7 November. The calendar will now be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for final approval when it sits in St Petersburg on 5 December.
New asphalt rally for ERC season showdown
Rally Hungary is an exciting addition to the ERC schedule for 2019. The all-asphalt event will enjoy support from the Hungarian government and local authorities. It’s based in the city of Nyíregyháza in northeast Hungary, approximately two hours 30 minutes by car from the capital Budapest.
While the event is brand new for 2018 – hosting the closing round of the Hungarian championship this weekend (9-11 November) as the Nyíregyháza Rally – its origins date back to the late 1980s when the city was a regular host of national-level events.
“Eurosport Events, the ERC promoter, is really pleased and very excited to include Rally Hungary on the provisional calendar for 2019 for what we hope will be the start of a long-term partnership,” said Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator. “It’s the culmination of several months of discussion and we’ve already been impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the organising team. We also welcome the support of the Hungarian government and local authorities, including the Mayor of Nyíregyháza.”
Several Hungarian drivers contest the European Rally Championship each season with Tibor Érdi Jr winning the ERC2 title for a second year running in 2018, subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA. Dávid Botka was a stage winner in the Azores and Cyprus this year, while Norbert Herczig stepped up to the ERC in 2018 as a four-time national champion and was twice on the podium for the MOL Racing Team. Kristóf Klausz has been a regular in ERC Junior since the championship’s inception in 2014.
Dr Tünde Szabó, the Hungarian State Secretary for Sport, said: “It is a huge step and also a great success that Rally Hungary has been included in the draft FIA ERC calendar. In previous decades Nyíregyháza proved to be an excellent host of many of the most significant events in national motorsport. By gaining the right to host the ERC we can join in with international motorsport and get Nyíregyháza on the European map. Hosting the ERC fits perfectly with our sport politics goal, presenting the country and our cities by gaining the right to organise more prestigious sport events.”
Dr Ferenc Kovács, Mayor of Nyíregyháza, said: “It is a huge honour for Nyíregyháza to host such a high prestige event and the expectations are very high. We think in the long term the rally will be a significant event from a touristic point of view as well. Certainly, we are ready to make further steps and organise a European championship race. Nyíregyháza has already been buzzing with the arrival of the rally, people have been looking for where to watch the city stage. And I believe that this is only the first step and there could be a new motorsport arena in our city in the future.”
Gyárfás Oláh, President of the Association of the Hungarian Motorsport, said: “The announcement is a huge milestone for Hungarian motorsport and especially for rally. Hungary can get on the international rally map again. The ERC returns to us and there will be a Rally Hungary on the calendar. Our drivers have already proved that they belong to the European elite and now it is our turn, as the professional background of the sport, to live up to the trust. The Nyíregyháza Rally hosts the announcement and this city will host the ERC race, too. I hope that we can celebrate the announcement with an excellent race. Thank you for the support of the Hungarian Government and the state guarantee, the promoter’s faith and the trust of Eurosport, furthermore thanks for everybody’s help without whom it could not happen.”
Tamás Őry, event organiser, said: “When we decided to apply for hosting a European championship race, we could choose to organise a normal national race with 150 kilometres, since that could be enough for the FIA delegate to see that we were capable to organise a safe and great race. But we decided to organise a race on European rally standards. More than 600 people will work on the race at the weekend, we have the relationships with 52 municipalities. We will close a four-kilometre section in the city centre of Nyíregyháza and a further 113 kilometres in Zemplén.
“Since for us the competitors are the most important, we tried to set out stages of high quality. These stages were last used in the 1980s, so practically nobody remembers them. There will be a 26-kilometre stage that is very unusual in the Hungarian series but a requirement of an international race so we tried to follow this trend. We have set out spectator points, where we would like to provide our spectators with information and infrastructure.
“We are aiming long term to involve new rally fans outside the thousands of fanatics who follow races, or to bring back the old fans to the stages. We have made some steps to make the rally more easy to follow by setting up a huge screen at Kossuth Square in Nyíregyháza where the superspecial can be watched and the stage in Mád on Saturday also can be seen live by the spectators. We are extremely happy to be the part of the draft calendar of the ERC and we will do our best to meet the high expectations and organise a very good race at the weekend.”
Some of the features of this year’s event include a 69-car entry, 17 stages over a competitive distance of 223.10 kilometres, a city-based superspecial, a 25.15-kilometre stage and live streaming of selected runs.
Liepāja, Poland and Cyprus events in schedule switch
In other changes to the ERC calendar for 2019, Rally Liepāja in Latvia and Rally Poland will take place earlier than scheduled in recent years. Host of the season showdown in 2017 and 2018, Rally Liepāja moves forward to late May, while Poland’s counter occupies a late June date after running on the penultimate weekend of September in 2018, when it celebrated its 75th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Cyprus Rally moves from June to September.
Popular island rallies offer early challenge
The Azores Airlines Rallye, located on the mid-Atlantic island of São Miguel – part of the Portuguese archipelago – and Rally Islas Canarias on Gran Canaria provide the early test for ERC crews, who will benefit from travel support for both events.
Mid-season asphalt adventures in store
The 2019 ERC calendar includes two mid-season rallies on asphalt: Rally di Roma Capitale and Barum Czech Rally Zlín, which takes place two weeks earlier than usual.
Even split of surfaces to help young talents learn in ERC Junior
Young talents competing in the ERC Junior championships will get to build their experience on asphalt and gravel with three sealed-surface and three loose-surface events appearing on the roster for 2019.
FIA European Rally Championship 2019 provisional calendar*
Round 1: Azores Airlines Rallye, 21-23 March** (ERC Junior), gravel
Round 2: Rally Islas Canarias, 2-4 May (ERC Junior), asphalt
Round 3: Rally Liepāja (Latvia), 24-26 May (ERC Junior), gravel
Round 4: Rally Poland, 28-30 June (ERC Junior), gravel
Round 5: Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy), 19-21 July (ERC Junior), asphalt
Round 6: Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 16-18 August (ERC Junior), asphalt
Round 7: Cyprus Rally, 27-29 September, gravel
Round 8: Rally Hungary (Hungary), 1-3 November, asphalt***
*Subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council approval
**Subject to signing of event promoter agreement
***Subject to FIA observation
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “We are very pleased to present the provisional 2019 FIA European Rally Championship calendar, which remains subject to FIA World Motor Sport Council approval. Once again we have responded to competitor requests to limit the schedule to eight events spread across the year and on an even split of asphalt and gravel.
“In Rally Hungary we welcome a new and exciting event to the schedule, while we are also very pleased to renew our long-term partnerships with the Azores Airlines Rallye, Rally Islas Canarias, Rally Liepāja, Rally Poland, Rally di Roma Capitale, Barum Czech Rally Zlín and the Cyprus Rally.
“Although the Acropolis Rally will take a break from the ERC calendar in 2019, we are already in discussions about a return in 2020. It’s a high-quality, legendary event, very well run and Eurosport Events and the OMAE have always enjoyed a strong working relationship that we want to preserve. The door is always open to the Acropolis Rally.”
Photo: FTF Pictures/Tamás Farkas