ERC event preview: Rally Hungary

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ERC event preview: Rally Hungary

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What became one of the most challenging rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship when it joined the ERC schedule for the first time last season is back to test crews and thrill fans.

ESSENTIALS
What: 2020 FIA European Rally Championship round 4 of 6*
When: November 6-8, 2020
Where: Nyíregyháza, Hungary
Stages: 16
Distance: 191.06 kilometres
Surface: Tarmac
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): 1 (2019)
*Also counting for: FIA ERC2, FIA ERC3, FIA ERC1 Junior, FIA ERC3 Junior, FIA European Rally Championship for Teams, Abarth Rally Cup

Recent winners:
2019: Frigyes Turán/László Bagaméri (Škoda Fabia R5)
2018: András Hadik/Attila Deák (Ford Fiesta R5)*
*Event ran as the Nyíregyháza Rally

OVERVIEW
What became one of the most challenging rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship when it joined the ERC schedule for the first time last season is back to test crews and thrill fans.

Rally Hungary, round four of the all-action 2020 ERC from November 6-8, will be open to spectators on certain sections of the route, providing they follow strict social distancing and hygiene rules. However, access to the service park will be restricted to teams, drivers and suppliers in accordance with the strict protocol mandated by the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body.

With visits to some locations allowed, fans will get to watch some of Europe’s best rally drivers in action on tough and demanding sealed-surface stages north-west of host city Nyíregyháza in close proximity to Hungary’s border with Slovakia.

More than 30 top-of-the-range Rally2 cars appear on the entry list, which includes 44 drivers eligible for ERC points. As well as the outright victory chase, there will be top honours awarded in ERC2, ERC3, ERC1 Junior, ERC3 Junior and the Abarth Rally Cup.

In addition to top international names such as Yoann Bonato, Craig Breen, Nikolay Gryazin, Alexey Lukyanuk and Andreas Mikkelsen, a host of rapid Hungarian drivers will be in action. They include four-time national champion Norbert Herczig, a double ERC podium finisher for MOL Racing Team, twice ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr and Ferenc Vincze Jr, who is one point ahead of Ádám Velenczei in his bid to defend the Hungarian title he won for the first time last season.

The popularity of ERC2 is underlined by a seven-strong entry, which is headed by joint title leaders Érdi Jr and Zelindo Melegari. Meanwhile, a season-high four Abarth Rally Cup drivers, such as Andrea Mabellini and Martin Rada, will also chase ERC2 points.

With Rally Hungary part of the ERC1 Junior and ERC3 Junior schedules for the first time, several young drivers aiming to prove their talent will assemble in Nyíregyháza. Oliver Solberg, Grégoire Munster and Emil Lindholm from ERC1 Junior and ERC3 Junior drivers Ken Torn, Pep Bassas and Amaury Molle are just some of the rising stars in action in the Pirelli-supported class.

Rally Hungary is made up of 16 stages over a competitive distance of 191.06 kilometres. Because of the requirement for ERC events to be run within a four-day period under new rules for 2020, event organisers have not been able to schedule a free practice, qualifying or shakedown due to the limited time available. Therefore, the Friday evening run through the Rabócsiring rallycross track, venue of the 2.4-kilometre SS1, will mark the first opportunity for drivers unable to test in the build-up to the event to drive in anger.

TOKSPORT READY TO THRIVE AGAIN IN ERC WITH NEW CLIO RALLY5
Leading FIA European Rally Championship entrant Toksport WRT is back in the ERC – with a difference. After guiding Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock to outright ERC title success in 2019, the Germany-based team has focused on its world championship aspirations since the summer, and with much success. But as part of its long-standing commitment to young drivers, it has recruited rising talents Ola Jr Nore and Rachele Somaschini to drive Renault’s all-new Clio RSR Rally5 on the remaining three rounds of the ERC, starting from Rally Hungary. CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE.

TOPP-CARS RECRUITS MIKKELSEN FOR ERC ACTION IN HUNGARY
Topp-Cars Rally Team will enter three crews – including multiple event and title-winning pair Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene – on its home round of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Hungary. Mikkelsen, who contested selected ERC events prior to his graduation to the world stage, will drive a Pirelli-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. Ádám Velenczei, a rising star of Hungarian rallying, is also entered in a Topp-Cars-run Fabia Rally2 Evo, while Csaba Viszló will complete the Topp-Cars line-up in a Peugeot 208 R2 and chase ERC3 points. CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE.

MUREȘAN THE MAN WITH AN ERC ABARTH PLAN
Mihnea Mureșan will experience international competition FIA European Rally Championship-style for the first time when he contests Rally Hungary. The Autoflux-supported Romanian, 26, is highly rated in his homeland after capturing a succession of titles in two-wheel-drive machinery. For the Nyíregyháza event, Mureșan will try a Bernini Rally-run Abarth 124 rally for size as he takes part in the one-make category, which uses Pirelli tyres as standard.  His compatriot, Alina Bianca Pop, will co-drive having partnered Andrea Nucita to an Abarth Rally Cup double in last year’s ERC. CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE.

WAGNER HUNGARY TO PROVE TALENT IN ERC
Simon Wagner has secured the chance to prove his talent in the FIA European Rally Championship’s top tier when he contests Rally Hungary in a Rally2-specifiation Škoda Fabia. The 27-year-old Austrian, who claimed an ERC1 Junior podium on last season’s Barum Czech Rally Zlín in a strong sixth overall, is entered in a Fabia Rally2 Evo run by the Hungarian Eurosol team. Gerald Winter, his compatriot, will co-drive. CLICK FOR PRESS RELEASE.

FAST FEMALE VOGEL BACK TO WHERE IT BEGAN IN ERC
Hungarian female driver Adrienn Vogel has got a new car for Rally Hungary, the event that marked her FIA European Rally Championship debut last season. Vogel took part on the inaugural Rally Hungary in 2019 and will be in action on the Nyíregyháza event once again along with co-driver Ivett Notheisz. This time, however, Vogel is eligible for ERC3 points and will look to build on her impressive appearance on Rally di Roma Capitale in the summer, when she finished fifth out of 19 starters in her Roger Racing Team Ford Fiesta. CLICK FOR FULL STORY.

P1 RACING FUELS PODIUM CHALLENGE AWARDS ERC DRIVERS
The P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge, run for the first time during the 2019 ERC season finale in Hungary, continues on the Nyíregyháza-based event, round four of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship. It rewards the top three finishes in ERC1 and ERC2 on each round with fuel vouchers that can be exchanged for P1 XR5 race fuel at subsequent events, helping competitors to further reduce the cost of competing. Across both categories, the winning drivers receive 150 litres of fuel, while the second and third placed drivers receive 100L and 50L respectively. Click HERE for more information.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST TIME? RALLY FAFE MONTELONGO RETROSPECTIVE
Russian rain-masters Alexey Lukyank and Dmitry Eremeev scored a thrilling Rally Fafe Montelongo victory as Portugal’s FIA European Rally Championship reached a dramatic conclusion with 4.7s covering the top three starting the final stage (October 4).

Lukyanuk, in a Pirelli-equipped Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5, had been heading to a relatively comfortable victory in changeable weather conditions only to spin on the penultimate stage and hand the chasing Yoann Bonato and Iván Ares the chance to close up.

But the 2018 ERC champion held his nerve through the rain-hit closing run to win for the second time in this year’s European championship and extend his title advantage in the process.

“It was an odd thing from me, it was my mistake, I made a spin,” Lukyanuk said. “I initiated the turn with the handbrake and initially it was not locking so I pulled it a bit more and it suddenly snapped off. It’s never happened to me before and it was not a nice moment to happen but, okay, it kept us motivated and focused and this result is amazing actually.”

Bonato, who was 4.6s behind Lukyanuk, beat Ares to second place in the absolute classification by 0.1s with Ares second of the ERC contenders. Grégoire Munster triumphed in ERC1 Junior for the first time in a fine third place with Tibor Érdi Jr taking the ERC2 laurels for the second event running. Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas claimed his maiden victory in Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior, beating points leader Ken Torn in a final-stage decider. Andrea Mabellini scored a second Abarth Rally Cup victory of 2020 in his Pirelli-equipped Abarth 124 rally.

HOW THEY STAND (PROVISIONAL POINTS AFTER ROUND 3/6)
ERC1 (Drivers): 1 Lukyanuk 108; 2 Solberg 66; 3 Munster 56; 4 Breen 43; 5 Marczyk 34; etc.

ERC1 (Co-drivers): 1 Eremeev 108; 2 Johnston 66; 3 Louka 56; 4 Nagle 43; Gospodarczyk 34; etc.

ERC2 (Drivers): 1 Érdi Jr 80; 2 Melegari 80; 3 Feofanov 75; 4 Mabellini 64; 5 Gobbin 45; etc.

ERC2 (Co-drivers): 1 Bonato 80; 2 Kokins 75; 3 Arena 64; 4 Cervi 45; 5 Kovács and Csökö 40; etc.

ERC3 (Drivers): 1 Torn 111; 2 Bassas 84; 3 Molle 40; 4 Rådström 38; 5 Almeida 32; etc.

ERC3 (Co-drivers): 1 Pannas 111; 2 Coronado 84; 3 Barral 40; 4 Johansson 38; 5 Magalhães 32; etc.

ERC1 Junior: 1 Solberg 96; 2 Munster 89; 3 Marczyk 65; 4 Cais 55; 5 Dinkel 50; etc.

ERC3 Junior: 1 Torn 111; 2 Bassas 84; 3 Rådström 45; 4 Almeida 41; 5 Cuesta 32; etc.

ERC Teams: 1 Saintéloc Junior Team 159; 2 Rallye Team Spain 135; 3 Estonian Autosport Junior Team 112; 4 Team MRF Tyres 97; 5 DriftCompany Rally Team 64; etc.

Abarth Rally Cup: 1 Mabellini 60; 2 Gobbini 48; 3 Rada 30; etc.

Click HERE to view the full provisional standings after three rounds

RALLY HUNGARY IN 100 WORDS
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 title decider, which was settled on the very last stage in Chris Ingram’s favour. While the event in the north-east 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, although rain and mud provided an unwanted additional challenge in 2019.

ERC 2020: WHAT’S NEW?
Points-scoring system: The top 15 rather than the top 10 will score points as follows: 30-24-21-19-17-15-13-11-9-7-5-4-3-2-1. The leg bonus points allocation has also changed with the top five rather than the top seven scoring leg bonus points: 5-4-3-2-1.
Rally5 for ERC3 Junior: Rally5 cars will also be eligible for ERC3 Junior (it was Rally4 cars previously).
Category names: Rally2 replaces R5, Rally4 replaces R2, Rally5 replaces R1

RALLY HUNGARY TALKING POINTS
Bad to good: After losing out on the ERC title in a final-stage decider on Rally Hungary last season, Alexey Lukyanuk will be hoping to leave Nyíregyháza 12 months on with good memories, not bad.

Car switch for Solberg: Having contested the opening three rounds of the 2020 ERC in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, ERC1 Junior title contender Oliver Solberg switches to a Eurosol-run Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo for his Rally Hungary debut. Austrian prospect Simon Wagner will drive a second Fabia for the Hungarian team on his championship comeback.

Champion returns: Nikolay Gryazin, winner of the ERC1 Junior title in 2018, is back for his second ERC start of 2020 with the Russian lining up in a Hyundai i20 R5 run by the Belgian BMA squad of Bernard Munster, father of ERC1 Junior frontrunner Grégoire Munster. Both talents are Rally Hungary rookies.

World class: World Rally Championship event winner Andreas Mikkelsen is set for his first ERC start in eight years in a Topp-Cars Rally Team-run Fabia, the outfit behind Hungarian hope Ádám Velenczei, who is eligible for ERC1 Junior points and embroiled in the fight for the Hungarian title.

Hungary for success: Velenczei is one of a number of top Hungarian talents in action on the country’s ERC counter. MOL Racing Team’s four-time national champion and ERC podium finisher Norbert Herczig, 2019 title winner Ferenc Vincze and Andras Hadík, the 2018 national champion, are among a list of rapid local drivers that also includes Frigyes Turán, who famously won Rally Hungary in 2019. Herczig’s 17-year-old son, Patrik Herczig, will be competing on an ERC event for the first time.

Double chances: Team MRF Tyres will once again count on Craig Breen and Emil Lindholm for on-stage success. Meanwhile, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is expanding to a two-car line-up for Rally Hungary with Josh McErlean partnering team regular Callum Devine, who was a fine third overall in Hungary last season.

Braun remains: With German talent Marijan Griebel’s intended co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer unavailable, the double ERC Junior champion has recruited Tobias Braun for the second event running. Albert von Thurn und Taxis will also fly the German, while Austrian Niki Mayr-Melnhof followed his friend von Thurn und Taxis in switching from GT racing to rallying.

Youngsters aiming to shine: Erik Cais (Yacco ACCO Team), Efrén Llarena (Rallye Team Spain) and ORLEN Team’s Polish champion Miko Marczyk start Rally Hungary chasing their first ERC1 Junior wins, while Brose Motorsport’s Dominik Dinkel will also be a contender for top honours with Ursula Mayrhofer back on co-driving duties after missing Rally Fafe Montelongo. All four drivers showed strong form in Portugal, while Cais heads to Hungary – where he won ERC3 last season – on the back of wins on national-level events in Italy and Poland. Llarena has also competed since Portugal, coming home fourth on Rally Princesa de Asturias last month.

Tempestini returns as a champion (again): Simone Tempestini returns to ERC1 Junior duty as a five-time Romanian champion. He’s also back in the Citroën C3 R5 he helped to develop in 2018 having rallied a Škoda Fabia more recently.

Bravo Bonato: Following his outright podium on Rally Fafe Montelongo, Yoann Bonato is gearing up for his second ERC start in a Michelin-equipped Citroën C3 R5. However, Mads Østberg will no longer take up his planned entry in a similar car run under the Citroën Rally Team Hungary banner, although former ERC3 regular Kornél Lukács will be in action for the squad under his pseudonym Csucsu.

Seven-up in ERC2: Seven drivers will go for gold in ERC2 with home hero Tibor Érdi Jr eyeing a trio of 2020 category wins. He’s tied on points with Zelindo Melegari, who’s back in a Subaru Impreza for his Rally Hungary debut. Dmitry Feofanov is only five points behind after three rounds. Andrea Mabellini heads the four-strong Abarth Rally Cup entry with also includes Roberto GobbinMartin Rada and newcomer Mihnea Mureșan from Romania.

Six appeal: Six drivers are entered in Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior. Estonian Autosport Junior Team’s Ken Torn tops the standings ahead of Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas. Belgian Amaury Molle and first-time entrant Norbert Maior from Romania, plus Ola Jr Nore and Rachele Somaschini, who will give the Toksport-run Renault Clio Rally5 its ERC debut, are also in contention for category honours.

Local contingent: Martin László landed an ERC3 podium on Rally di Roma Capitale in the summer, where Adrienn Vogel also impressed in fifth position. Vogel upgrades to a Ford Fiesta Rally4 for her second ERC start of 2020. Csaba Juhász was also in action in Rome, finishing seventh in class.

Badiu’s back: Romania’s Raul Badiu, who has shown strong form in the Junior World Rally Championship, makes his first ERC start since the Sibiu Rally in 2013 when the steering wheel of his Dacia Logan famously came off mid-stage. The bizarre moment was captured on Eurosport’s coverage of the event and can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/nA2wS4Ptzaw?t=510. Badiu will drive a Peugeot 208 R2 for the first time in Hungary.

ERC Q&A: NORBERT HERCZIG
MOL Racing Team’s four-time national champion looks ahead to his home round of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship.

Rally Hungary developed a reputation as being a tough event. What can we expect this year?
“Last year the rally was very, very difficult because of the weather. The rain was coming a lot and therefore we had very difficult conditions. I hope the weather will be much better this year so we can have more fun than last year.”

What’s new for this year’s rally?
“The stages will be quite the same. Some stages will be shorter and therefore some bad places are out of the itinerary and hopefully we won’t have punctures like last year. Last year I had four punctures, which was too much for one rally. It was difficult and it will still be a big challenge this year. The organiser has organised one city stage, which will be very interesting for the spectators and it will be a good rally I hope.”

In terms of a result what can you achieve?
“If I have a good start to the rally with no problems then I can enjoy the rally and hopefully get a good result as it’s my home  event in the ERC and last year’s rally was not good for me. We need the conditions to be a little bit more dry, every driver likes it like this.”

Your son Patrik, who is only 17, will also be taking part on the event. What will that be like for you?
“It will be a very difficult situation for me and a big challenge for my wife and my daughter also. I didn’t want him to start racing but three or four years ago he started driving rallycross and after three years he won the Super 1600 title and came to me and said, ‘father, I would like to start in the rally’. I didn’t want that he started this sport but I couldn’t say not and I let him do the rally. It will be a difficult situation for me but he’s more clever than I am although I will worry about him. I started this sport more than 20 years ago but went out of the road in many races and in three years I couldn’t finish maximum four or five rallies. He’s a talent but he just has to drive and get the experience.”

HEAD TO HEAD: PEP BASSAS V KEN TORN
Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas fought back into ERC3/ERC3 Junior title contention with a victory double on Rally Fafe Montelongo last month in his Pirelli-equipped Peugeot 208 Rally4. He arrives in Hungary following a strong showing on the Spanish championship-counting Rally Princesa de Asturias. Like Torn, Rally Hungary represents unchartered territory for Bassas. Torn, meanwhile, hasn’t competed since Portugal’s ERC counter last month in his Estonian Autosport Junior Team Ford Fiesta Rally4 and continues to be troubled by his lack of asphalt experience.

FORM GUIDE: TIBOR ÉRDI JR
Hungarian double ERC2 champion returned to the category on Rally Liepāja in August and hasn’t stopped winning with class victories in Latvia and on Rally Fafe Montelongo in Portugal last month. Armed with knowledge of the Rally Hungary stages, expect another strong showing from the Mitsubishi Lancer driver.

HOW TO FOLLOW?
On TV and online: There will be live coverage on Facebook and YouTube of the pre-event press conference from 15h00 local time on Friday November 6. On Saturday November 7, SS5 will be live on Facebook and YouTube  from 12h02 followed by SS7 at 15h18. On Sunday November 8, SS10 (08h33) and SS16 (14h44) will also be shown as they happen on Facebook and YouTube. Coverage includes footage from the ERC’s camera in the sky and from the stage finish lines where reporters Julian Porter and Chris Rawes will get instant reaction from the leading drivers. Daily highlights will be shown on Eurosport and Eurosport Player at 23h00 CET on Saturday and Sunday, while a number of videos will be published on FIAERC.com and YouTube before, during and after the rally. The ERC All Access magazine show will be broadcast on Eurosport on November 10, while the extended Rally Reviewprogramme is distributed to global broadcasters.

Videos, news update and live timing: Available at FIAERC.com

ERC Radio: Live from the end of all stages and selected service park visits. Available at FIAERC.com or download the official ERC App.

Social media: Follow the ERC on FacebookInstagramTwitter.

FIVE FACTS:
1: Several Hungarian drivers contest the FIA European Rally Championship each season with Tibor Érdi Jr winning the ERC2 title for a second year running in 2018 and four-time national champion Norbert Herczig going on to established himself as a frontrunner. Dávid Botka has been a stage winner in the past, while Kristóf Klausz scored points in ERC3 Junior.

2: Best known as a rallycross venue, the Rabócsiring circuit south of Nyíregyháza hosts the opening stage of Rally Hungary with drivers going head-to-head on a 2.4-kilometre route.

3: As well as hosting a round of the FIA European Rally Championship, Nyíregyháza is famous for its zoo, which is home to 500 species and 5000 animals on a 30-hectare site.

4: ERC promoter Eurosport Events has a long association with Hungary through the FIA World Touring Car Championship and now the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup.

5: When Rally Hungary joined the European championship schedule for the first time in 2019 became the first sealed-surface event to host the ERC finale since Rallye International du Valais in 2015.

MEDIA INFORMATION, ACTIVITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES:
Media attending Rally Hungary should refer to the information contained in the COVID-19 section at https://rallyhungary.com/en/home. They are required to observe the COVID-19 test requirements specified in their accreditation documentation, wear face coverings, wash their hands regularly or use hand sanitiser, respect social distancing, act responsibly and follow any updates and other rules on-site to ensure the safe running of Rally Hungary. In light of the various measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a limited number of media events. What events do take place will be restricted in size and access.

MEDIA TIMETABLE (NOT FOR PUBLICATION)
Media Safety Briefing: Due to COVID-19 restrictions there will be no physical briefing organised. Instead photographers will be issued with a media safety document and a link to watch a safety video.
Pre-event virtual press conference: Media attendance is not permitted but the event will be streamed live from 15h00 on Friday November 6 via Facebook and YouTube. The following drivers will attend in two groups: Group 1:Craig Breen, Erik Cais, Callum Devine, Andreas Mikkelsen Group 2: Tibor Érdi Jr, Norbert Herczig, Frigyes Turán and Ferenc Vincze.
Post-event virtual press conference: Media attendance is not permitted. More details to follow
There will be no ceremonial start or podium finish due to COVID-19 restrictions

Media Centre/Media Accreditation Centre location:
Continental Aréna 4400 Nyíregyháza, Géza utca 8-16, Hungary
Media Centre/Media Accreditation Centre opening hours:
10h00-18h00, Thursday November 5
08h00-22h00, Friday November 6
08h00-22h00, Saturday November 7
07h00-until the last journalist leaves, Sunday November 8
More information/resources, including event itinerary, entry list and maps:
https://www.fiaerc.com/event/rally-hungary-2020/ or https://rallyhungary.com
Media site (including image gallery and data kit): https://www.fiaerc.com/media/home/
Championship standings: https://www.fiaerc.com/standings/
Daily news feed: Available on request by emailing paula_dequidt@discovery.com
National press officer: Anita Tóth, toth.anita75@gmail.com

All timings shown are local and remain subject to changeA strict COVID-19 protocol is in place and must be observed throughout the rally.

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