Sun 31 Dec 2023

ERC @ 70: Looking back on another memorable season

The FIA European Rally Championship’s 70th-anniversary season was a standout story of triumph and tribulation that captivated fans across the globe and gave a platform for world champions of the future to showcase their talent. Here’s a reminder of just some of the moments that mattered in 2023.

1 January: The ERC’s 70th-anniversary season begins with the prospect of an exciting eight-event schedule, plus big interest from drivers and teams.  


30 January: Mikko Heikkilä (below) reveals his ERC plans, the Finnish champion signing to drive for Portuguese outfit The Racing Factory.



21 February: Team MRF Tyres confirms Efrén Llarena (below) will attempt to defend the ERC title he won in 2022 alongside co-driver Sara Fernández.  


22 February: Mārtiṇš Sesks will get a full ERC season after Team MRF Tyres announces its support of the Latvian star.  


27 February: Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto organisers publish a 55-strong entry list for the ERC season opener. Of those 55, 42 are eligible for ERC points with 37 lining up in pacesetting Rally2 cars. They include Mads Østberg, who is revealed as an MRF Tyres Dealer Team driver earlier in the day.  


28 February: Hayden Paddon commits to a full ERC campaign in a Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2 run by leading Italian squad BRC Racing Team. He goes on to win the season opener in Fafe the following month after tyre damage delays Mikko Heikkilä on the deciding Power Stage.



10 March: Ricardo Teodósio becomes the first of 21 drivers to claim an ERC stage win in 2023 when he sets the pace on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto’s opening test held on the streets of the event’s host town.  


12 March: Craig Breen’s Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto’s Power Stage win is the Irishman’s 100th in the ERC. Sadly, it will also prove to be his last following his passing during a crash while testing for Croatia’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship a month later.



3 April: The ERC’s 70th-anniversary celebrations begin with the first of a series of features on FIAERC.com.   


19 April: Toyota Gazoo Racing confirms its three WRC Challenge Program drivers, Hikaru Kogure, Nao Otake and Yuki Yamamoto, will contest the ERC events in Poland and Latvia.  


26 April: Renault’s Clio Rally3 is confirmed for ERC action following its homologation by the FIA, motorsport’s word governing body (below).



4 May: The ERC goes indoors with part of the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Disa stage on Rally Islas Canarias featuring a section inside the Gran Canaria Arena basketball stadium (below). Hayden Paddon beats Andrea Nucita to the fastest time.  


6 May: Jon Armstrong gives M-Sport Poland’s Fiesta Rally3 Evo a debut victory in the ERC3 category on Rally Islas Canarias.  


8 May: Michelin’s success as the recipient of the first ERC Winning Tyre award – following Yoann Bonato’s Rally Islas Canarias victory – is highlighted on FIAERC.com.  


10 May: Kajetan Kajetanowicz, the only driver to win the ERC title three seasons running, is confirmed as the course-opening zero car driver on ORLEN 79th Rally Poland, a move that signals his return to the series.  


19 May: The Hankook-equipped Junior ERC era begins on ORLEN 79th Rally Poland with two teenage drivers – Mille Johansson and Max McRae – first and second on the opening stage.



4 June: Miki Biasion, the 1983 ERC champion and two-time world title winner, describes his time in the series as a “beautiful experience” and “very important” for his career in an article published at FIAERC.com.  


18 June: Ola Nore (below) makes it back-to-back Junior ERC wins with first place in class on Tet Rally Liepāja. Mārtiṇš Sesks also does the double by adding overall victory on his home event to his outright triumph in Poland the previous month.  


20 June: An official FIA European Rally Championship for Tyre Suppliers is confirmed for 2024 by a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Spain.



6 July: The ERC returns to Sweden for the first time since 2003 with the inaugural BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia.  


8 July: Mads Østberg leaps 47 metres over Colin’s Crest to break Eyvind Brynildsen’s 45-metre record. However, it’s home hero Oliver Solberg (below) who wins BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia as Jon Armstrong takes a break from dominating ERC3 to score points on his first ERC start in a Rally2 car.  


16 July: Two-time ERC champion Simon Jean-Joseph reveals he remains a fan of the ERC in an interview published at FIAERC.com. “The structure and the promotion of championship is really good,” he says. “There are some very, very good drivers doing the championship and I am happy to see that, it really is the step before the WRC.”  


28 July: With the ERC3 title out of the reach of his rivals, Jon Armstrong celebrates becoming the Rally3-based category champion prior to Rally di Roma Capitale getting under way. Later in the day, Rome’s Colosseum provides a stunning backdrop to the opening super special.  


30 July: Event winner Andrea Crugnola isn’t the only hero of Rally di Roma Capitale after Ciprian Lupu, who is tetraplegic and a wheelchair user, drives a Napoca Rally Academy Renault Clio Rally5 to 17th place in the ERC4 category and 10th among the RC5 class contenders alongside co-driver Andrei Pintilii.



7 August: Chris Ingram, ERC champion in 2019, announces his championship return on Barum Czech Rally Zlín.  


20 August: While Jan Kopecký (below) celebrates an 11th Barum Czech Rally Zlín victory, Hayden Paddon becomes the first non-European to win the ERC title alongside his co-driver and fellow New Zealander John Kennard.  


27 August: In an FIAERC.com interview to mark his ERC title triumph, Hayden Paddon says: “It’s the most enjoyable championship I’ve ever done. In terms of value for money, it’s probably the best championship in the world.”



21 September: FIA World Touring Car star Norbert Michelisz (below) is a surprise addition to the Rally Hungary entry.  


22 September: Barum Czech Rally Zlín will play a key role in the ongoing success of the ERC for at least the next two seasons following the signing of a contract extension.



8 October: Norbert Maior (below) beats Roberto Daprà and Ola Nore to the Junior ERC title following a three-way championship decider on Rally Hungary. Daprà doesn’t leave Hungary empty handed, however, after he secures the ERC4 title with co-driver Luca Guglielmetti. Mads Østberg wins the event outright.   


9 October: Some 90 guests attend the ERC Awards at Budapest’s spectacular Budavàri Palace. Rallytechnology receives the Mechanical Feat of the Year for changing Chris Ingram’s gearbox in 17 minutes on Barum Czech Rally Zlín. Simone Campedelli wins the Stage-end Quote of the Year. Andrea Mabellini is voted as the ERC’s Most Improved Driver. Jeanette Kvick is recognised for performing the Save of the Year when she rescues her pacenote book and timecard after Alfred Kramer’s Peugeot 208 Rally4 that she was co-driving ends up in water following a crash.



6 November: In an article published at FIAERC.com, three-time champion Luca Rossetti (below) remembers the ERC as being “really, really important to me, especially in 2008 when the challenge [to win the title] was really tough.”  


22 November: Following FIA World Motor Sport Council approval, WRC Promoter GmbH reveals an exciting and significantly revamped calendar for the 2024 season, with three events on gravel and five on asphalt spread geographically across the continent.



1 December: Fans vote Giandomenico Basso the ERC Greatest Driver of all time with the Italian edging out Kajetan Kajetanowicz in an online poll.  


9 December: Hayden Paddon and John Kennard are officially crowned ERC champions for 2023 after they receive their trophies at the FIA Rally & Circuit Prize Giving event in Baku, Azerbaijan (below). Team MRF Tyres is recognised for winning the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams.

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