After three years the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship returns to Poland this weekend for round seven of the series, Rally Rzeszow. The event, which is based in the southeast of the country in the town of Rzeszow, will see crews tackle the tarmac roads in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the series leader, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, will be hoping to extend his advantage at the top of the standings even further on his home rally.
Amazingly the Pole is yet to register an event win this season despite the fact he leads the championship by almost 40 points. Kajetanowicz, who will tackle the event in his Ford Fiesta R5, will take confidence from the fact that he won here in 2012 and 2013 when it was a round of the Polish Rally Championship but he will have his work cut out from tarmac expert Bryan Bouffier. The Frenchman won the 2wd category here in 2013 and will want to make up for his gearbox failure on the Ypres Rally earlier in the season.
Reigning Polish Rally Champion Łukasz Habaj will also be one to watch as he proved he had speed on his debut in the top flight of the ERC in Estonia where he finished sixth in his Ford Fiesta R5. The Pole also dominated the ERC 3 category on the Canary Islands earlier in the season. Jarosław Kołtun will be another local to watch in his Fiesta R5, the Pole has had an encouraging season so far with three top-six finishes and his best ERC result yet of fifth in Estonia. Kołtun will be determined to improve further on home soil.
In ERC2 Wojciech Chuchała returns to action on home ground having missed the last two rounds and is intent maintaining his healthy lead at the top of the table as he tackles the event in his Subaru Poland Rally Team Impreza WRX STI. Tibor Érdi Jr comes to Poland for the first time in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X but has shown good pace on tarmac in the past and will hope this will play to his advantage on Rally Rzeszow.
The ERC3 category will also see an abundance of competition heading into the Polish mountains, local driver Tomasz Gryc came third in class on Rally Islas Canarias in his Rallytechnology Peugeot 208 R2 and will be hoping for victory on home soil, the 208 driver finished fifth here two years ago. Double Turkish champion Murat Bostanci will aim to repeat his victory on the gravel stages of the Acropolis when he tackles the Polish event. ERC Junior driver Nikolay Gryazin will also tackle the rally in his 208 R2, Hungary’s László Német will be aiming to add to his two top five finishes in the ERC 3 this year while Romania’s Alex Filip will also be out to get a result also.
The event will be decided over 13 stages totaling 214.5 kilometres and it all kicks off with the 3.17-kilometre Qualifying Stage on Thursday 4 August. The rally will then officially start with a city stage in Rzeszow itself.