Thu 28 Mar 2024

One-woman-show Oprea on landing her big ERC chance

Cristiana Oprea has explained how years of hard work have helped to secure her biggest FIA European Rally Championship campaign to date in 2024.

The Romanian driver hopes to contest up to six rounds of the all-action series in an ERC4-specification Opel Corsa Rally4 – starting with next month’s season-opening V-Híd Rally Hungary – after several long-standing supporters stepped in to assist.   

Alexia Parteni (pictured below left with Oprea), who at just 19 is rated as a highly promising co-driver, will continue to navigate Oprea with the duo emerging as a recognisable and successful pairing in the sport.  

Oprea said: “It’s taken me a few years to be able to build my career up to this point. Even though inside the rally car we're an all-female crew, business-wise I’m still a one-woman show, finding sponsors and also working on smaller projects, either social media campaigns or giving corporate speeches to be able to fund my career.  

“I enjoy it even though it definitely takes its toll on the resources I can spend on training and preparing for rallies. But I feel I have much more patience, resilience and ambition to give to this sport so I can achieve all of my goals.”

Of her goals behind the wheel, Oprea said: “My goal is to do my first full ERC season, but realistically, right now, I only have the budget to do four to six events. I aim for Tarmac events because this is where I have the most experience after competing the last couple of seasons in the ADAC Opel Electric Rally Cup Powered by GSE.  

“At this point I am just looking to be present at the start of each rally, build the experience and enjoy what I’ve achieved so far. I am confident my pace will improve if I have the chance to be constant, but it’s actually a bigger challenge than it might seem, financially.”

Oprea made her ERC debut on Rally di Roma Capitale in 2019 and was in action again on Barum Czech Rally Zlín and RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada in 2022, albeit as a non-registered competitor. However, as a priority driver on Barum Czech Rally Zlín last season she scored championship points in her category, a feat she also achieved on her first ERC appearance to underline her potential. Oprea also took a top 10 RC4 class finish on the FIA World Rally Championship-counting Croatia Rally in 2022.  

“The ERC has an incredible community of athletes, teams and fans, and also offers proper media support, so I feel there’s no better place to be once I decided to step up from national level,” she said. “The competition is high and this means I have the chance to learn more during rally weekends.”  

“I am so excited to get back on gravel in Hungary, I have no idea how it will be, since my last proper gravel season was in 2018 with a Dacia Sandero,” Oprea continued. “But I’ve been training on the simulator a lot. In any case, this experience will help me get more confidence and a better understanding of the Rally4 car.

“Also, competing on Rally Islas Canarias was on my bucket list for a few years now, so I can’t wait to discover everything the event and the island have to offer.  

“But starting the championship with the very first event, Rally Hungary, it’s just a dream come true. I never imagined I would do this one day. Apart from my own performance goals – getting better with each rally – my mission is to show girls this is an achievable goal and I look forward to continue advocating for a better representation of women in motorsport. We need to see it to be it, so giving up is not an option, even when things seem impossible. I might as well start with my own example behind the wheel.”

Oprea added: “The ERC for me is only possible with the support of UniCredit Leasing and Vitesco Technologies, my two main sponsors who believed in me ever since I decided to compete in FIA rally championships, with partners Vitamin Aqua and IAMSport alongside them. Also a big thank you to Waldherr Motor-Sport, my team from Austria whose professionalism and belief in me play a key role in my plans for 2024.  

“A big shoutout to all motorsport fans around the world who cheer for us, at events or on online on my instagram @crissoprea, their support really motivates me to keep pushing and makes me understand why our presence in ERC is so valuable.”  

V-Híd Rally Hungary, based in the city of Veszprém, south of the capital Budapest, opens the 2024 ERC season from 12 - 14 April.

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