Mon 10 Jun 2024

Event preview: Throne-chasing Heikkilä focused on first in ERC

Mikko Heikkilä starts this week’s BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia (June 13 - 15) aiming to right the wrongs of his V-Híd Rally Hungary exit and collect a big haul of FIA European Rally Championship points in Sweden.

The former Finnish champion was heading for victory on the Hungary season opener in April when a technical issue grounded his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. With the following Rally Islas Canarias not part of his 2024 schedule, Heikkilä heads to Karlstad minus championship points but highly capable of grabbing plenty.

“I’m not thinking about the championship because we got zero points from Hungary and didn’t go to Canarias,” the 32-year-old said. “So I will go rally to rally and get as much points as I can. Of course it was nice that we were fast in Hungary but this is really a different kind of rally, less rough and much faster so there is not so much to take from Hungary to Sweden. We’ve only had a couple of test days so we’ve not had chance to try anything with the car, but we will try to find something for Sweden and focus again.”  

Heikkilä is one of 23 drivers competing in a top-of-the-range Rally2 car on BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia. As he’s quick to acknowledge the competition will be intense. “As always in the ERC, the level is really high and there are also some other stars coming so it will be tough. We will push but so many drivers can win this rally.”

Defending ERC champion Hayden Paddon (above) tops the entry aboard his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2 followed by 2022 title winner Efrén Llarena, who pilots a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 for Team MRF Tyres. Oliver Solberg, last year’s winner, returns to defend his crown, while Michelin’s current championship leader, Mathieu Franceschi, Hungary winner Simone Tempestini, double Polish champion Miko Marczyk, Latvia’s Mārtiṇš Sesks (below) and Norwegians Eyvind Brynildsen, Frank Tore Larsen and Mads Østberg will also be among the contenders for victory. Johan Kristoffersson, a multiple World Rallycross title winner, and Norway’s 2003 world champion Petter Solberg will also be ones to watch.

Strong competition in support categories as Max McRae aims to fly high
In addition to the five drivers chasing success in FIA ERC3 and the ERC M-Sport Fiesta Rally3 Trophy, 14 young talents will go for gold in the Hankook-equipped FIA Junior ERC Championship. While Mille Johansson (Opel Corsa Rally4) starts his home round of the series on top of the provisional standings, Max McRae (Peugeot 208 Rally4, below), the nephew of the late Colin McRae, is just two points behind. He’s relishing the prospect of tackling the Colin’s Crest jump on the double-use Colins stage on Friday.   

“He absolutely sent it over this jump in the snow when the stage ran as part of the Swedish Rally,” the 19-year-old McRae said. “It’s mega to have something like that on the event and fairly emotional to be driving through that section – I’ll definitely be sending it there as well.”

Super special stage with a difference opens second Royal Rally
Before they tackle the high-speed gravel roads of Sweden’s Värmland region, the ERC stars and their cars will be put through their paces on a super special stage with a difference.   From 20:05 CET on Thursday, the BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia contenders will be in action on a 2.15-kilometre sealed-surface stage located in front of the Välsviken branch of the BAUHAUS home and garden improvement store chain a short distance from central Karlstad.  

Friday’s route consists of four repeated stages either side of service in Karlstad with the 6.43-kilometre Colins test – complete with the Colin’s Crest Arena – one of many highlights.   

Saturday’s route features a further two loops of four stages split by a service halt in Karlstad. The event concludes with the second of two passes through the new Mölnbacka Power Stage from 16:05. Details of ticket sales and the fan focused festival format are available here:

How to watch?
Fans across the globe can experience the excitement and drama of the ERC with every stage of every rally broadcast 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.   

BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia 2024: the key numbers 
Stages: 17
Competitive distance: 191.05 kilometres 
Total distance: 898.13 kilometres

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