Wed 04 Oct 2023

ERC stars Hungary to avoid being winless in 2023

Some of Europe’s best rally drivers will head into the final round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship in Hungary this week (6- 8 October) determined to avoid being winless at the end of the season.

Mads Østberg, who heads the Rally Hungary entry, former ERC champion Efrén Llarena, Czech talents Erik Cais and Filip Mareš, multiple Polish title winner Miko Marczyk and leading local star Miklós Csomós are among the drivers who have yet to register a victory in 2023.


As a former winner of the challenging Tarmac event, Citroën-powered Norwegian star Østberg is determined to complete his ERC campaign on top.


“We want to win the rally again and that’s our target,” said the 35-year-old. “We feel quite comfortable on this rally which means we can drive with low shoulders and try to enjoy ourselves. That will be the key point. We are also still fighting for [a top-three finish in] the championship so we need to keep an eye on that, it’s important to us.


“Rally Hungary is challenging but it’s a race I’ve done a few times now, so I know it quite well and some of the stages are the same as previous years. That’s our advantage but the competition [from the ERC drivers] will be strong, as always, and we always know the local drivers have good experience and good speed so I expect a big fight with everyone.”

Michelin-equipped Yoann Bonato and Mārtiṇš Sesks, who uses MRF Tyres, have, however, won in the ERC in 2023 with Bonato boosted by the fact he has previous Rally Hungary experience to call upon. Other expected frontrunners include Mathieu Franceschi from France and Ireland’s Josh McErlean, who made his ERC debut on Rally Hungary in 2020.


Several Hungarian drivers will be in the limelight this weekend. Ferenz Vincze starts the event on the back of clinching his second national title. Frigyes Turán won the inaugural Rally Hungary in 2019. Pirelli-supported Miklós Csomós bagged his breakthrough ERC podium on August’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin. András Hadik is a three-time national champion, while Martin László, a season-long ERC contender, won Rally Nova Gorica, a FIA European Rally Trophy event, as part of his Rally Hungary preparations. Meanwhile, Norbert Michelisz, Hungary’s most successful racing driver and the winner of the FIA World Touring Car Cup in 2019, makes his rallying debut on Rally Hungary.


The Hankook-equipped FIA Junior ERC Championship is set for a thrilling Rally Hungary decider with three young stars vying for the coveted title – and the FIA Junior WRC Championship prize drive in 2024 that goes with it. Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver Norbert Maior heads the standings by four points ahead of Roberto Daprà, who also relies on Peugeot power, and 12 ahead of Ola Nore before dropped scores are factored in. Nore missed the previous round due to funding issues and switches to an Opel Corsa Rally4 for his return


Best known as a rallycross venue, the Rabócsiring circuit south of Nyíregyháza hosts the opening stage from 18h00 local time on Friday with a 2.4-kilometre layout forming the first timed test. Fans are expected to visit in their thousands but the rally’s early October date will make for slightly lighter skies than in the past as the ERC stars go head to head on a mixed-surface course.


Back on the ERC schedule after one season away, the fourth edition of Rally Hungary features 12 stages over a competitive distance of 180.26 kilometres. The event is based in the city of Nyíregyháza in Hungary’s north-eastern Zemplén region and presents a tricky test for the competitors with narrow bumpy forest roads and fast, wide sections all part of the challenge. While rain – and the resulting mud – was particularly troublesome when the first Rally Hungary took place in November 2019, the earlier date this year and the forecast of warm and dry weather should ease the demands on the drivers and teams, particularly in the case of tyre compound selection and management.

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