Tue 29 Aug 2023

No point sitting on the sofa for former ERC champion Llarena

Efrén Llarena said he gained more by completing a last-minute deal to drive an ageing Škoda Fabia on Barum Czech Rally Zlín than he would have done by staying at home.

Having slipped out of contention for winning the FIA European Rally Championship two years running, Llarena was set to skip the penultimate event of the season to begin the process of trying to secure the funding for a full ERC campaign in 2024.

But an offer from Czech team Brynda Racing to drive a 2016-specification Škoda Fabia R5 on the Tarmac event from 18 - 20 August was too good for the 28-year-old to turn down.

After finishing ninth alongside co-driver and fellow Spaniard Sara Fernández following a battling performance, Team MRF Tyres-entered Llarena said: “We knew before coming it would be an old car, 2016 I think, but it’s better to be here than at home.

“I drove one of these cars three years ago, for sure it’s a fantastic car but it’s not in the same evolution as the others. But it wasn’t planned to come here until we had a really good offer from a local team, so we decided to come to fight, to know the rally some more.”

He continued: “Honestly, I’m really happy with our performance. We were so close to the drivers in front, who were fighting to win the rally, on a lot of stages. Sure, we can see we need more torque because we lost a lot of time, but on the downhill [parts] we were in the same pace as the people in front. But it was this or be at home and I prefer this because to improve in the future we need more information [about each rally].”

Llarena’s ninth place in Czech Republic means he can still finish third in the final ERC standings, should he secure the funds necessary to contest Rally Hungary from 6 - 8 October and then overhaul Mads Østberg in the points race.

“If we go it’s not about being third in the championship, it’s just to collect information and get experience in the rally,” said Llarena, who finished third on his Rally Hungary debut in 2020 before placing fourth one year later. “If we go we need to go in the same way as [Zlín], in an old rally car due to budget. But this car was fantastic, the suspension and chassis are really good. If it had the engine from the [Škoda Fabia RS Rally2] it would be the perfect car.”

Even if a Rally Hungary outing proves impossible, Llarena is keen on more ERC action next season.

“I will try but let’s see what is possible,” Llarena said. “For sure our season was not good, I did mistakes, there were some mechanical problems, some bad luck, especially in qualifying on the gravel rallies I don’t know. But we always did our best.”

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