Wed 26 Jul 2023

Event preview: Rome is where the hope is for Crugnola in ERC

Andrea Crugnola will be hoping it’s a case of fifth time lucky on his home round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship, this week’s Rally di Roma Capitale (28 - 30 July).

The 34-year-old double Italian champion has tried but failed to win the all-asphalt event at his previous four attempts, although he’s twice finished on the podium and set 27 fastest stage times to underline his threat.

Having won the opening four rounds of this season’s Italian championship, Crugnola will launch his victory charge from Rome’s Colosseum on Friday evening on a confidence high, but also in no doubt of the strong opposition he’ll face aboard his Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2.

“If I have any chance for the win, I need to push more than 100 per cent to compete against the fast drivers from the ERC,” said Crugnola. “It won’t be easy to decide which tactic I have to use because I must also think about the Italian championship. I need to find the right balance to push and try to control the situation with the title and the points I need.

“Every year is a pleasure to fight against the ERC drivers because, especially this year, the level is really crazy-high, so it’s always a challenge. I need to focus on my championship but if I would be in the fight to win the race it will be very difficult to decide what to do.

“I’ve always been very close to win in Rome but for some reason I have never been able to. My aim is to finish at least top two of the Italian championship drivers and if I want to finish in the top two for sure I have to push because all the other guys are very fast.”

Those “very fast” drivers chasing both Italian championship and ERC points include double European champion and two-time Roma winner Giandomenico Basso, plus Damiano De Tommaso, who scored a breakthrough victory in Rome last season.

Of the ERC frontrunners chasing success this weekend, Hayden Paddon heads the provisional standings in his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2 and can count on the expertise of leading Italian squad BRC Racing Team. He’s 34 points ahead of Mārtiṇš Sesks (Team MRF Tyres Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) with Mathieu Franceschi also well placed. The Michelin-supported driver is stepping to Škoda’s latest-generation Fabia for the first time in Rome and brings big potential to the glory chase.

Yoann Bonato, Simone Campedelli, defending ERC champion Efrén Llarena, Andrea Mabellini, Filip Mareš, Simone Tempestini, Simon Wagner and returning two-time ERC tile winner Alexey Lukyanuk will also be among the drivers capable of delivering strong performances.

All roads lead to and from Rome

Following Free Practice, the Qualifying Stage and Shakedown in Fumone close to the event hub in Fiuggi during Friday morning, the focus of round six of the ERC season and the second asphalt event on the calendar will be firmly on Rome in the afternoon. The Eternal City hosts the opening ceremony and first special stage with the Colosseum providing a stunning backdrop. There’s also a spectacular parade through the capital’s streets prior to the competitive action getting under way with crews setting off in 15-car convoys from the Bocca della Verità and passing by several famous sites.

The rally resumes on Saturday morning with two full days of action within the province of Frosinone southeast of the capital.

Saturday’s competitive route of 102.68 kilometres features three repeated stages and begins with the Guarcino - Altipiani di Arcianazzo stage at 10:03 local time. It’s followed by the first of two runs through the 32.30km Rocca di Cave-Subiaco test. With ambient temperatures expected to exceed 30 degrees centigrade, Rocca di Cave-Subiaco is not only the rally’s longest stage, it’s also expected to be the most physically demanding.

Sunday’s itinerary covers 85.52 timed kilometres split between three repeated stages. While the 6.96km Alatri run is all-new for 2023, Santopadre is the day’s longest at 29.08km. The 6.72km Fiuggi test opens the action at 08:05 before it’s run for a second time as the points-paying Power Stage from 17:05.

Armstrong set for a high-speed lap of honour

Rally di Roma Capitale will serve as a high-speed lap of honour for Jon Armstrong, who starts the event out of reach in the FIA ERC3 Championship standings aboard his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3. Italian legend Paolo Andreucci will aim to prevent the Northern Irishman from claiming a fifth win of the season in his MRF-equipped Renault Clio Rally3.

Young stars on parade in Junior ERC

The seventh Rally di Roma Capitale to count for the ERC is also round four of the Hankook-supported FIA Junior ERC Championship and the first of three events on Tarmac.

Hopes will be high for local drivers Roberto Daprà and Mattia Zanin, who are supported by the ACI Team Italia driver development programme, while Norbert Maior will be going for a fourth consecutive podium as he aims to catch current leader Ola Nore. Max McRae switches from Opel to Peugeot power, while Mark Škulj makes his Junior ERC debut in Rome.

The Junior ERC drivers are also eligible for FIA ERC4 points, as are category regulars Norman Kreuter and Bendegúz Hangodi. Wheelchair user Ciprian Lucu makes his ERC debut in a Renault Clio Rally5 fitted with special hand controls.

Latvia
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Italy
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Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM