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, and Instagram @zawadarally.

Mārtiņš Sesks has regained first place in the FIA European Rally Championship’s Under 27 category on Azores Airlines Rallye, following adjustments to stage times awarded in SS8 and SS9 related to incidents causing delays for multiple drivers.

Tamara Molinaro continues to head the ERC Ladies’ Trophy category on the Azores Airlines Rallye, while Emma Falcón retired with back pain before midday service.

Sergei Remennik has resumed his lead of Azores Airlines Rallye’s FIA European Rally Championship ERC2 category, following an unfortunate retirement for nearest challenger Zelindo Melegari with clutch failure.

Diogo Gago took on the might of ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s pair of FIA ERC Junior Under 27 factory drivers on the Azores Airlines Rallye’s Friday stages and succeeded aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2, moving from third to first over the course of a dramatic multi-way battle.

Chris Ingram and Martin Koči traded places throughout Friday’s Azores Airlines Rallye stages in a tight battle for FIA ERC Junior Under 28 victory.

The Azores Airlines Rallye once again showed why it is such a formidable opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, but as others hit trouble, Russian Performance Motorsport’s Alexey Lukyanuk held steady out front.