The ERC’s Tarmac tests
The FIA European Rally Championship is set to feature four asphalt events on its exciting roster. Here’s a reminder.
Rally di Roma Capitale, Italy: July 23-25
The progression of this asphalt event from Max Rendina’s Motorsport Italia organisation is impressive. Having first run in 2013, Rally di Roma Capitale made its ERC debut in 2017 as Italy returned to the European championship for the first time in four years when Rallye Sanremo was on the calendar. It proved a big hit and continues to flourish. While COVID-19 restrictions meant no visit to Ostia for the seaside superspecial in 2020, the popular stages around Pico to the far southeast of event hub Fiuggi remained. By also counting as an Italian championship round, local participation is often strong.
Barum Czech Rally Zlín: August 27-29
Part of the ERC schedule since the championship’s streamlining in 2004, Barum Czech Rally Zlín is based in the South Moravian university city, 300 kilometres south of the Czech capital Prague. It is a Tarmac test like no other due to the bumpy and sometimes broken nature of the road surface. To add to the challenge, several stages feature high-speed blasts through forests and intermittent showers are always possible. While the weather might be hard to predict, huge numbers of fans follow the action, especially on the opening night-time Zlín superspecial stage. The long-term ERC rally turns 50 in 2021.
Rally Hungary: October 22-24
Hungary returned to the ERC for the first time since 2003 with a new sealed-surface event in Nyíregyháza delivering an action-packed 2019 European championship decider, which was settled on the very last stage in Chris Ingram’s favour. While the event in the northeast of the country was effectively brand new for 2018, when it ran as the Nyíregyháza Rally and formed a pilot event for future ERC inclusion, the city and surrounding region were regulars on the national scene in previous years. The stages feature fast and narrow sections, while heavy rain and mud provided an additional challenge in 2019.
Rally Islas Canarias: November 18-20
With the stages climbing and descending at a frequent rate, drivers pay close attention to corner speed and lines to ensure optimal momentum is maintained, while precise car set-up and pacenote accuracy are vital. One of the notable features of the sealed stages is the abrasive surface, constructed partly from volcanic lava. It means grip levels are high and remain constant if it rains, although tyre wear can increase. However, with the opportunity to take ‘cuts’ through corners limited, the roads remain relatively debris-free. Returning to the ERC schedule in 2016, it’s a rally big on challenge and spectator numbers.