Tue 07 Mar 2023

ERC title defences: success and failure through the years

With the FIA European Rally Championship the established steppingstone to the FIA World Rally Championship, several champions have used their success at ERC level as a springboard to step up to the sport’s top tier.

But as history shows, there are several drivers who, having claimed the prestigious European title once, made landing ERC glory for a second time in succession their goal, something Efrén Llarena* will begin the process of trying to do on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto later this week.

Here’s a reminder of some of the big names who went for back-to-back European titles and how they fared.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz (pictured above): Success
Having won his first ERC crown in 2015 seeking shelter from the rain that ultimately led to an early conclusion to the title-deciding Acropolis Rally that year, Kajetan Kajetanowicz went back for more in 2016 and promptly sealed the deal for a second time in a row, joining a rare group of drivers to achieve the feat.

Chris Ingram (below): Failure
After becoming the first Briton since Vic Elford in 1967 to claim ERC title gold in 2019, Chris Ingram was working hard on securing his budget for a title defence in 2020 when COVID-19 struck and the world went into lockdown. He did manage one appearance as champion after being called up by Toksport WRT to cover development kilometres in Renault’s Clio Rally5 on the season-closing Rally Islas Canarias.

Luca Rossetti (below): Success
ERC champion for the first time in 2010 courtesy of four Abarth Grande Punto-powered wins, Luca Rossetti’s five victories in 2011 proved to be the difference in his battle with Luca Betti for European rallying’s top prize.

Alexey Lukyanuk (below): Failure
Arguably one of the fastest drivers of a generation, Alexey Lukyanuk stole the ERC title show in 2018 following his heroic recovery from serious injuries sustained in a testing crash the previous year. He was a stage away from successfully defending his crown in 2019 only for a puncture on the final stage of Rally Hungary to rob him of the points he needed to become a back-to-back champion.

Sobiesław Zasada (below) and Bernard Darniche: Success
Prior to 1967 no driver had successfully defended the ERC crown. But that changed when Poland’s Sobiesław Zasada added the ERC Group 1 title to the ERC Group 2 title he’d won in 1966. However, it wasn’t until 1977 that the ERC could celebrate its first outright back-to-back champion when Frenchman Bernard Darniche rose to the occasion. And it wasn’t until 2011 that it happened again courtesy of Luca Rossetti.

*Llarena’s co-driver Sara Fernández made it back-to-back European titles in 2022 and will aim to emulate Jarek Baran by winning the FIA European Rally Championship for Co-drivers three seasons running in 2023.

Sobiesław Zasada photo: Zasada.pl

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