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Surviving the ERC’s off-season. By Aleks Zawada

Surviving the ERC’s off-season. By Aleks Zawada

07/01/2017 12:00

Welcome to the first in a new series of behind-the-scenes articles by FIA ERC Junior U27 Championship hopeful Aleks Zawada. First up his preparations for the year ahead.

“Rallying is, as we all know, a year-round sport – with some of the most exciting rallies taking place on snow and ice. However, in recent years we have moved away from this type of event in the ERC as the snow has been unreliable, making organising these rallies difficult. This is actually quite a relief for drivers like myself, as it gives us some time between seasons to prepare adequately. The question a lot of people might ask is what does it mean to prepare for the next season?

“This is quite a good question, as many people might not realise that this period is actually full of work, even though there are no rallies to compete in. In an ideal world, a driver would focus solely on preparing physically and mentally for his upcoming season. He (or she) would have their plan for the year complete and know exactly what their objectives are. They would know which series they will compete in, with which team and what car will hopefully take them to victory. This, unfortunately, is rarely the case.

“These are the questions that most drivers themselves are trying to answer during the off-season. Hopefully they will have prepared somewhat during the previous year, but this tends to be difficult while you are still actively competing. The crux of it all, as often tends to be the case, is money. Rallying is an extremely exciting, adrenalin-filled sport, which touches the souls of millions of people around the world – but it is also hugely expensive, and the limiting factor for most drivers is what support they can find.

“This is why my preparation for 2017 has looked less like a Rocky Balboa-style compilation of training in the gym, driving the rally car every day and setting my sights on the ERC crown, and more like the life of a salesman – I prepare presentations, phone marketing reps and attend meetings.

“A key part of the job is creating a package that interests potential partners or sponsors, as any money spent on sports marketing needs to be an investment for a company. Put simply, I need to help my partners generate profit. To do so means developing partnerships with every form of media, negotiating the attendance of trade fairs and events, and trying to instil the passion that I have for the sport into anyone and everyone I meet.

“So, when you next attend a rally or watch one on Eurosport, have a look at the companies that are advertising, and support your favourite drivers by doing so. I wish you all a very successful 2017 and, if you are anything like me, then you’ll be counting down the days to the Azores Airlines Rallye in March. See you there!”

Follow me on Facebook fb.com/alekszawadaofficial, and Instagram @zawadarally.

José Suárez completed his maiden season of FIA European Rally Championship action by finishing second among the ERC Junior U28 contingent on Rally Liepāja to secure third in the final class reckoning.

Krisóf Klausz’s strong end to the 2017 FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship continued when he finished sixth in class on Rally Liepāja.

Aleks Zawada says there were “a lot of positives” after his bid for the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship – and the 100,000 euros prize fund – ultimately ended in disappointment in Latvia earlier this month.

Kalle Rovanperä says Nikolay Gryazin is the ultimate rival after the talented young guns locked horns on the closing round of the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship recently.

Jari Huttunen has spoken of his disappointment after losing out on the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 title to Opel team-mate Chris Ingram in a final-round decider in Latvia earlier this month.

Łukasz Habaj wishes his first podium in the FIA European Rally Championship had come in happier circumstances.