Wed 16 Nov 2022

2022 Season Review: ERC3

Poland’s Igor Widlak stormed to glory in the ERC3 category for Rally3-specification cars. But how did the season unfold?

Fafe: King Kasari
Kaspar Kasari stepped up to a Ford Fiesta Rally3 having driven a Rally4-specification Fiesta at selected rounds in 2021.

The Estonian headed the one-make entry by a comfortable 31.5sec at close of play and, looking at the final standings, you’d be forgiven for thinking the season opener was a one-horse race - but that’s not how things played out. 

Leading the way for almost the entirety of the event was Latvian driver Dmitriy Feofanov who, heading into the Power Stage, carried a 5.8sec advantage. 

The finale - a 14.83km blast through Lameirinha, turned into a mud bath with torrential downpours resulting in grip levels akin to an ice rink. While Feofanov spun, Kasari excelled - stopping the clock 37.3sec quicker than his rival to turn the tables. 

Widlak netted a solid points haul by completing the podium, albeit a sizeable 2min 45sec back from the victor. 

Azores: Bags of drama
With points leader Kasari not entered and Feofanov also absent, the stage was set for a mid-Atlantic duel between Widlak and FIA Junior WRC frontrunner Jon Armstrong, who secured a one-off entry for the Azores Rally with a Fiesta prepared by M-Sport Poland.

Brake issues hampered Widlak early in the event and he decided to bring the car back to service, while Armstrong - who incredibly posted a top-10 overall time in the opener - also bowed out after drowning his car in a water splash. 

Both restarted on Sunday and Armstrong set about punching in some heroic stage times with his underpowered machine. He outpaced several Rally2 contenders in the process to take out victory despite his troubles, while Widlak seized the championship lead with second overall. 

Canarias: A lonely affair
Other commitments prevented several of the ERC3 contenders from contesting the championship’s third round - leaving Widlak with the burdensome task of safely negotiating the tricky asphalt tests of the Canary Islands to bag a maximum haul of points. 

Having been impressed by Armstrong’s pace at the previous event, Widlak called on his ex-rival prior to Rally Islas Canarias and spent a day getting some Tarmac tuition from him. 

The practice paid off as Widlak, along with co-driver Daniel Dymurski, enjoyed a drama-free run through all 13 stages, extending their buffer at the top of the standings with 30 in the bag. 

Poland: Virves unleashed
For ORLEN 78th Rally Poland, M-Sport Poland entered two more Junior WRC drivers: Robert Virves and Mcrae Kimathi. The pair used the high-speed gravel event as a shakedown for Virves’ home WRC Rally Estonia, which took place a couple of weeks later. 

From the outset, Virves proved exactly why he is now the 2022 FIA Junior WRC champion. Despite the Mikołajki event marking his debut with English pace notes, the 22-year-old won every single stage to win the category by more than five minutes as well as finishing a mighty 13th overall. A top-ten overall finish could well have been on the cards, but Virves opened the road on Sunday and had to deal with loose conditions as a result. 

Kasari returned for the first time since Fafe and reduced his deficit to Widlak, who finished fourth behind the also returning Feofanov. Kimathi, meanwhile, retired after going off the road.

Latvia: Kasari turns the screw
Widlak’s consistency was now starting to pay off as the series entered its second half and the 30-year-old topped the standings by 45 points over second-placed Kasari. 

But at Tet Rally Liepāja, Kasari was on a charge. He likened the fast gravel roads to those he’d learnt his craft on back home in Estonia and the youngster outpaced Widlak on all but one stage, ending the July event almost two minutes clear. 

In doing so, Kasari reduced Widlak’s championship lead to 39 points with three rallies still to run.

Rome: Virves does it again
Impressed by Virves’ Polish pace, M-Sport Poland gave the hotshot another run out in its car - this time at the all-asphalt Rally di Roma Capitale. 

It was a case of déjà vu as Virves dominated once more - going fastest on every stage to win by almost eight minutes from Widlak, who - with Kasari absent again - strengthened his title bid further. Lebanese driver Nassib Nassar made his debut in the category and enjoyed a clean run to third. 

Barum: Done and dusted
By this point, Kasari was the only man who could catch Widlak. When he failed to place an entry for the championship’s penultimate round at Barum Czech Rally Zlín, Widlak and Dymurski’s unwavering commitment was rewarded, and the duo were crowned 2022 FIA ERC3 champions. 

They made the most of their victory lap, adding a second triumph to their yearly tally on the stages around Zlín before ending their campaign a round early with the title already in the bag.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM