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Mon 06 Mar 2023

Araújo hoping to gain in the rain when new ERC season begins

Portuguese champion Armindo Araújo starts his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship in Fafe this week hoping that the forecasted rain materialises.

While some drivers prefer to compete in the dry, Araújo relishes the kind of wet and muddy conditions that prevailed during last season’s ERC opener in northern Portugal.

Rain is again forecast around the route of Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto from today (Monday) until at least Saturday, which will make for a challenging – and action-packed – start to the 2023 ERC season.

But Araújo can’t wait and believes the tougher the conditions, the better his chances of success as he aims to win his national championship for an eighth time.

“I have a lot of experience, racing in rallies for 23 years and also in off-road motorbikes [before then],” the 45-year-old explained. “I like a lot the difficult conditions and I did fantastic races in difficult conditions in the past so it’s what I prefer. My company is based 20 kilometres from Fafe and we are expecting rain during all the week and slippery conditions and fog for the event. I will be prepared for this and try to do a good result.”

Co-driven by Luís Ramalho, Araújo, a double Production Car world champion, finished second to Nil Solans and Marc Martí in Fafe last season. And while a top European championship result would appeal, scoring as many points as possible for his Portuguese championship bid remains his priority.

“I am saying the same like before, I am doing the national championship and that is the priority for me,” said Araújo, who will compete in a Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. “We have a fantastic entry list with a lot of drives from ERC and WRC so it will be a big, big fight for the top level of the podium. I am very motivated.”

Araújo continued: “I know very well the stages and I like very much this rally so I will try to put my real speed on the stages and let’s see what’s happening in the end. If it’s possible to do an extra push [to win the rally] I will do that of course. But only in the last day can we understand our position and our speed compared with the other drivers.”

With wet and muddy stages expected, Araújo admits a rapid time on Friday afternoon’s Qualifying Stage could be vital in his efforts to achieve a strong result come Sunday afternoon.

“One of the secrets of this event is to try to start in front of the other drivers,” he said. “If it’s raining or bad weather it’s much better to start in front so we need to make an extra boost for the qualifications to win the pole position [and start at the head of the field on leg one].”