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Mon 08 Apr 2024

Event preview: Big changes, big competition and big anticipation in store as ERC 2024 kicks off

It’s all about new in the FIA European Rally Championship this season with new events, new drivers, new teams, new cars and new rules. And it all starts this week when the city of Veszprém hosts V-Híd Rally Hungary from 12 - 14 April.

Now all-gravel having used asphalt stages in the past, V-Híd Rally Hungary forms round one of the eight-event ERC season, which also visits to Spain (Gran Canaria), Sweden, Estonia, Italy and Czech Republic, plus new events in United Kingdom (Wales) and Poland.  


As well as counting for overall ERC points, V-Híd Rally Hungary is part of the FIA ERC3, FIA ERC4, FIA Junior ERC and the new-for-2024 Fiesta Rally3 Trophy schedules.   


To underline the ever-increasing popularity of the ERC, the established feeder series to the FIA World Rally Championship, 52 crews from 24 countries have registered including 28 in headlining Rally2 machinery, plus 17 in the Junior ERC Championship.

The ERC’s four tyre partners, Hankook, Michelin, MRF and Pirelli will contest the inaugural FIA European Rally Championship for Tyre Suppliers.  


Eight manufacturers of FIA rally category cars, Citroën, Hyundai, M-Sport-Ford, Opel, Peugeot, Škoda, Toyota and Volkswagen are represented.   


ERC’s big three return
The ERC’s top three from 2023, Hayden Paddon, Mārtiņš Sesks and Mads Østberg, are all back to chase more European championship success.   


Defending champion Paddon, who is embarking on his 19th season with co-driver John Kennard, has re-signed for the Pirelli-equipped BRC Racing Team to drive a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.  


The New Zealander said: “John and I will have targets painted on our backs with other competitors striving to beat us. We expect a tougher fight this year, but John and I will look to lift our performances on some of the events we will now have experience of – it will be an exciting year.”

While Latvian Sesks (pictured above) continues his partnership with MRF Tyres, he switches from the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 he used to claim two wins in 2023 to an all-new Toyota GR Yaris Rally2.  


“There will be a learning curve as the team familiarises itself with the new car, and we anticipate additional challenges, such as increased Tarmac stages throughout the season,” Sesks said. “Nevertheless, we are committed to thorough preparation and hard work to ensure a strong season, continually learning and evolving along the way.”  


Norwegian Østberg’s TRT Racing Team will fit Michelin tyres to his Citroën C3 Rally2. After winning the Rally Hungary season closer in 2023, the one-time WRC event winner hopes to carry that momentum forward into 2024.  


“I loved the ERC last year, it’s a great championship but the level of competition is very strong,” Østberg said. “It’s not only two or three drivers fighting for the win but it can be up to 10 drivers fighting for the win so it’s an amazing championship with very nice TV coverage. I’m really happy to take part again.”

But it’s not just Paddon, Sesks and Østberg in the chase for ERC success. Jon Armstrong, Hungarian hero Miklós ‘Mixi’ Csomós, Mathieu Franceschi, Mikko Heikkilä, Efrén Llarena, Andrea Mabellini, Miko Marczyk, Filip Mareš (below), Simone Temestini and Simon Wagner are among the others drivers that are expected to run at the front on V-Híd Rally Hungary.

All-new Rally Hungary in store
According to Kornél Őry, the chairman of the event organising committee, V-Híd Rally Hungary’s stages will “make for very exciting competition”. He said: “Our new location is just north of Lake Balaton in the city of Veszprém with special stages all around, mostly in military areas. We will have tough gravel roads but at least three different types of gravel and that will make for a very exciting competition and a very good test for the tyre manufacturers.   


“The military areas we will use are in open fields and this will give us the opportunity to prepare big spectator zones. Some stages will be in forests with more narrow roads so a very different feeling. Certainly, we believe it will be a big challenge for the drivers and people will really like the city of Veszprém.”

Supporting categories to provide plenty of excitement 
The ERC3, ERC4 and Junior ERC categories will provide plenty of action and excitement in 2024. Previews for all three, plus the new Fiesta Rally3 Trophy and updates on the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams and the new FIA European Rally Championship for Tyre Suppliers will be published at FIAERC.com during this week.  


How to watch?
Fans across the globe can experience the excitement and drama of the ERC with every stage of every rally broadcast Rally.tv platform. In addition, the ERC is broadcast in a number of countries around the world and fans are advised to check local listings for details.   


V-Híd Rally Hungary 2024: the key numbers
Stages: 13
Competitive distance: 192.43 kilometres 
Total distance: 794.74 kilometres