FIA European Rally Championship: The Story So Far


We may have missed the opening five rallies of the FIA European Rally Championship here at The Checkered Flag but from the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium, which is this weekend, we will be bringing you extensive coverage of everything the ERC has to offer.

Before we look ahead to the Geko Ypres Rally we will take a look back over the story so far this year, starting with the season opener in Austria.

Kubica takes one-off win (Photo credit: FIA ERC)
Kubica takes one-off win (Photo credit: FIA ERC)

Internationale Jannerrallye, Oberosterreich – Austria
03-05 January 2014

The opening round of the 2014 European Rally Championship saw former Formula One driver and current World Rally Championship driver Robert Kubica snatch an incredible win from the clutches of Czech champion Vaclav Pech on the final stage.

Kubica, who was making his debut with M-Sport, had suffered minor problems throughout the weekend. An overheating problem with his brakes followed by a 10-second jump-start penaltyhad severely hampered the Pole’s chances. It seemed as though Kubica’s bid to win the ERC opener was all but over.

However, after chipping away at Pech’s lead, Kubica was able to get the gap going into the final stage down to just 11.8s.

At the final stage Kubica opted for two studded and two winter tyres, while Pech ran slicks. This allowed Kubica to go half a minute quicker to seal victory by 19.9s.

Raimund Baumschlager rounded off the podium in his BRR Skoda, over a minute down on Pech.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford 2h26m42.4s
2. Vaclav Pech Invelt Mini +19.9s
3. Raimund Baumschlager BRR Skoda +1m38.9s
4. Beppo Harrach DiTech Mitsubishi +3m00.3s
5. Jaromir Tarabus Czech Skoda +3m39.6s
6. Andreas Aigner Stohl Peugeot +4m33.4s
7. Vasily Gryazin SRT Ford +6m27.4s
8. Roman Odlozilik TRT Ford +7m16.3s
9. Robert Consani Delta Peugeot +9m22.2s
10. Hannes Neubauer Stohl Subaru +11m39.6s

Lappi takes first victory of the season (Photo credit: FIA ERC)
Lappi takes first victory of the season (Photo credit: FIA ERC)

Rally Liepaja – Latvia
31 January – 02 February 2014

Esapekka Lappi, Skoda’s rising Finnish star, took his first victory of the 2014 season with an inspired drive to beat his rival Vasily Gryazin in Latvia.

Gryazin had took a surprise early lead before Lappi overhauled the 20-year-old Russian on Saturday. Gryazin however, reclaimed the lead first thing on Sunday morning.

This obviously didn’t sit well with Lappi, who went on to obliterate his rivals over the rest of the morning stages.

Gryazin lost any chance of challenging for the lead on the final stages when his SRT Ford Fiesta got stuck in fourth gear on the penultimate stage. A swift gearbox change at service before the last stage helped the Russian make it to the end.

Lappi went on to complete the Rally in 2h13m11.5s to win the event by 34.7s.

He couldn’t however win the ERC’s first Ice Masters title. The title was supposed to be decided over three rallies but ended up being decided over two, due to the Sibiu Rally’s postponement.

Due to bonus points for individual stage results, as well as finishing positions, Robert Kubica was crowned champion thanks to his one-off victory in Austria.

Irishman Craig Breen came home a distant third, over a minute behind Gryazin in his Sainteloc Peugeot 207.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda 2h13m11.5s
2. Vasily Gryazin SRT Ford +34.7s
3. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot +1m36.8s
4. Kajetan Kajetanowicz M-Sport Poland Ford +2m35.5s
5. Sepp Wiegand Skoda +3m16.1s
6. Janis Vorobjovs Mitsubishi +5m42.6s*
7. Vitaliy Pushkar Boar Mitsubishi +6m50.8s*
8. Stanislav Travnikov Prospeed Mitsubishi +7m15.9s*
9. Martynas Samuitis Wellman Mitsubishi +7m23.2s*
10. Jan Cerny Czech Peugeot +8m37.2s**

* Production class
** Junior class

Breen stormed to first win in ERC (Photo credit: FIA ERC)
Breen stormed to first win in ERC (Photo credit: FIA ERC)

Acropolis Rally – Greece
28-30 March 2014

Craig Breen took his maiden ERC win in his new Peugeot 208 T16 on its debut at the Acropolis Rally in Greece.

This win was Breen’s highest-level win of his career, after WRC Academy and WRC 2 titles.

Peugeot’s latest car led the entire event – Breen’s team-mate Kevin Abbring had been leading until a water leak halted his progress.

Breen had to fight hard for his first win as Bryan Bouffier and Kajetan Kajetanowicz were constantly chasing the Irishman down.

Bouffier and Kajetanowicz had been running neck-and-neck for much of the rally, before Bouffier pulled out a gap of more than half a minute in a bid to catch Breen.

The Skoda of Easpekka Lappi couldn’t repeat his Latvia heroics in Greece. The Finn could only manage fourth, ahead of Bruno Magalhaes, who returned to top-flight rallying after a two-year absence.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot 2h21m20.2s
2. Bryan Bouffier PH Citroen +8.1s
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz M-Sport Poland Ford +42.1s
4. Esapekka Lappi Skoda +1m33.0s
5. Bruno Magalhaes Delta Peugeot +4m40.0s
6. Vasily Gryazin SRT Ford +6m11.8s
7. Jaroslav Orsak Orsak Skoda +7m51.2s
8. Jean-Michel Raoux Raoux Peugeot +9m08.6s
9. Jaromir Tarabus Czech Skoda +9m18.4s
10. Robert Consani Delta Peugeot +9m52.9s

Lapping it up: Lappi makes the most of Breen's misfortune in Ireland (Photo credit: FIA ERC)
Lapping it up: Lappi makes the most of Breen’s misfortune in Ireland (Photo credit: FIA ERC)

Circuit of Ireland Rally – United Kingdom
17-19 April 2014

Esapekka Lappi completed a dominant victory at the Circuit of Ireland to move to the top of the ERC standings.

Lappi led the event from start to finish. He had been closely followed by Craig Breen but pressure problems on Saturday forced him to drop out.

Breen was visibly to distraught that he had to retire at his home round.

“I lost all power, the car wouldn’t start. I really don’t know what it was.”

“C’est la vie; apparently. This is one of the lowest times of my life.”

Lappi’s comprehensive win of almost 2 minutes meant that he moved ahead of Breen in the ERC standings.

Sepp Wiegand came home second to ensure a Skoda one-two after Robert Barrable overshot a corner on the penultimate stage to gift second place to the German by only 7.5s.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda 2h06m15.5s
2. Sepp Wiegand Skoda +1m50.0s
3. Robert Barrable CA1 Ford +1m57.5s
4. Robert Consani Delta Peugeot +5m34.0s
5. Neil Simpson Simpsons Skoda +6m33.5s
6. Daniel McKenna Greer Citroen +10m46.5s
7. Josh Moffett Combilift Mitsubishi +11m00.6s
8. Jan Cerny Czech Peugeot +12m57.4s
9. Jonathan Greer Greer Citroen +13m50.1s
10. Alex Parpottas Ford +15m10.1s

Splash and grab: Sousa takes hard fought victory (Photo credit: FIA ERC)
Splash and grab: Sousa takes hard fought victory (Photo credit: FIA ERC)

SATA Rallye Azores – Portugal
15-17 May 2014

Bernardo Sousa claimed victory on home soil at Rally Azores after a captivating battle with Kevin Abbring went down to the final stage.

Abbring made a number of mistakes in what could have and should have been a victory for the Dutchman. On the first run through the Tronqueira stage Abbring went off twice, losing 20s to Sousa in the process.

Abbring also picked up 10s of road penalties on Friday for fixing his broken alternator and power steering belt. This ultimately cost him the rally win.

Much of this final day saw Abbring trying to claw back lost time to Sousa but the Portuguese driver won the final stage by 1.1s to take his winning margin to 6.2s.

The closest challenger to the top two was the Peugeot of Jean-Michel Raoux. He finished almost 8 minutes behind Abbring. Vasily Gryazin had been of course for a podium but crashed on the penultimate stage to finish 25 minutes off the pace.

Championship leader Esapekka Lappi and his Skoda squad skipped the event.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Bernardo Sousa AT Ford 2h43m56.7s
2. Kevin Abbring Sainteloc Peugeot +6.2s
3. Jean-Michel Raoux Munaretto Peugeot +7m51.9s
4. Robert Consani Delta Peugeot +9m18.8s
5. Luis Rego Mitsubishi +10m07.5s
6. Ricardo Teodosio Mitsubishi +10m11.2s
7. Ruben Rodrigues Mitsubishi +10m15.8s
8. Giacomo Costenaro Delta Peugeot +10m21.9s
9. Antonin Tlustak AT Skoda +11m15.5s
10. Pedro Vale Subaru +11m39.1s

Geko Ypres Rally will run between 19-21 June. Look out for our Rally preview and daily updates from Belgium.