Wed 13 Dec 2023

ERC Expert View with Peter Mackay

It’s stage-end reporter Peter Mackay’s turn in the ERC Expert View spotlight today with the superb-talking Scot reflecting on the key talking points from the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship and what the 2024 season might bring.

Driver of the year: Hayden Paddon
Throughout his stellar career, Hayden Paddon has chased specific goals with laser guided focus. Becoming the first non-European to win the European Rally Championship was 2023’s target for the amiable Kiwi. Paddon faced exhausting journeys to seven ERC rallies in 2023. An enormous feat, but a task that the Hyundai man took on without complaint. However, travel wasn’t Paddon’s greatest obstacle. Rallies like Canarias, Roma and Barum were new to the former WRC star. Furthermore, each ERC rally boasted local stars with intricate knowledge of the stages and a thirst to defeat international competition. Nevertheless, Paddon resisted the temptation to chase these local heroes and scored valuable podiums throughout the season. This maturity and discipline yielded a thoroughly deserved European Rally Championship crown.

Disappointment of the year: Miklós ‘Mixi’ Csomós at Rally Hungary Mixi’s raw speed and infectious enthusiasm won the hearts of ERC fans. However, a terrifying crash at Rally Islas Canarias threatened to halt the 30-year-old’s meteoric rise to the top. Both Mixi and co driver Attila Nagy thankfully walked away from this high-speed accident. Their Škoda Fabia, however, was destroyed. Without funds to repair the stricken car, prospects looked bleak. Thanks to his generous fans, Mixi returned at Rally di Roma Capitale. A superb second place behind local master Jan Kopecký at Barum Czech Rally Zlín repaid the hundreds of supporters who brought the rapid Hungarian back into the ERC fold.  With local knowledge and strong Tarmac speed, Mixi’s chances for the season ending Rally Hungary looked strong. Having led the rally throughout, a dream ERC win beckoned with three stages to go. A spin and a puncture threatened to snatch victory on stage 10, but similar misfortune for the chasing Mads Østberg presented a lifeline. Sadly, on the penultimate stage, the dream spiralled into a nightmare. A mistake on a fast left hander sent Csomós’s Škoda tumbling into the woods and out of Rally Hungary. A bitter disappointment for Mixi and his many supporters at home and abroad.

Moment of the year: Norbert and Francesca Maior become Junior ERC champions
Stage-end interviews yield a plethora of emotions. On a bright autumn day in Hungary, unbridled joy radiated from a brother and sister who had booked their ticket to the WRC big time. After a tense battle with Roberto Daprà, Norbert and Francesca Maior (below) emerged as Junior ERC champions by a mere 7.1 seconds. On arrival at the stop line, the new champions were greeted by rapturous celebrations from friends and family. As the door opened, a tsunami of champagne soaked the crew and TV crew alike! The elation, relief, and realisation of their achievement beamed from both driver and co-driver. These raw emotions are what makes rallying special. It’s a privilege to capture these moments on Rally.TV.   

Unsung hero: Seb Marshall
Delivering a successful on-site TV production is a complex task. Covering a rally spanning hundreds of kilometres in remote and unfamiliar locations requires meticulous planning and operational mastery. To deliver ERC’s coverage on Rally.TV, an 80-strong crew is required for cameras, sound, graphics, wiring, production and much more. Communication with Rally HQ is also vital to ensure that the Rally.TV production is abreast of the latest information including delays, problems for crews and running orders. For the last two seasons, Rally.TV’s coverage on ERC events has been expertly co-ordinated by location manager Seb Marshall. Seb’s ability to plan movements of the entire crew, react to changes under pressure and communicate with Rally HQ is remarkable. Working to a strict timeline and adapting to changing conditions are key credentials for a world class co-driver like Seb. Thankfully for us all on the Rally.TV team, they are quite handy in live TV production as well!

Biggest surprise in 2023: Mārtiṇš Sesks’ Poland victory 
Mārtiṇš Sesks (below) impressed in 2022 with a clean sweep of stage wins and a dominant victory at Rally Liepāja. However, some service park cynics undermined this success due to Sesks’ intricate knowledge of the roads and surfaces around his home town. Sesks silenced these critics this year at Rally Poland with a stellar win against stiff competition. While many of his rivals struggled in the deep ruts of the Mikołajki stages, Sesks powered to six stage wins and victory by 39 seconds over Hayden Paddon. His Polish triumph proved key to the Latvian’s ascent to second in the championship by season’s end.   

Who to watch in 2024: Junior ERC Championship
Junior ERC enjoyed fantastic growth in 2023. Drivers from all over Europe and further afield fought hard over a six-round championship. With three rounds apiece on gravel and Tarmac, each of the championship frontrunners brought their own specialty based on their respective upbringings. The swooping gravel roads of Poland and Sweden suited Norwegian Ola Nore perfectly. Liepāja’s loose gravel provided some familiarity to Scot Max McRae. Roberto Daprà revelled on Roma’s twisty Tarmac. Eventually, Norbert Maior’s consistency on all surfaces made the Romanian a worthy champion and deserving of a ticket to the Junior WRC in 2024. An even greater cast of hungry young stars will arrive in 2024 to chase Junior ERC glory. With a Junior WRC berth in 2025 on offer, expect the competition to be fierce and highly entertaining.

Wild 2024 prediction: Osian Pryce to win Rali Ceredigion
Fans of the European Rally Championship may recall Osian Pryce’s challenging ERC outings in Poland and Latvia. For a multitude of reasons, the reigning British champion was not quite able to show his ability on two tough gravel events. However, a return to familiar roads and his beloved Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 brought Pryce’s mojo back in style with a flawless win at Rali Ceredigion, a round of the British championship and FIA European Rally Trophy in 2023. The local hero’s prowess over the Welsh lanes has yielded two wins from three starts in the Aberystwyth-based event. With Rali Ceredigion making its debut in the ERC in 2024, Pryce has a golden opportunity to win at the international level.

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