The 2018 FIA European Rally Championship returns this weekend with round five of the championship, Rally di Roma Capitale.
Making its sixth appearance on the ERC calendar in 2018, this year’s event sees 15 stages and over 205km of stage miles on the schedule as the second half of the season gets underway.
In ERC1, championship leader Bruno Magalhães will be hoping to extend his championship lead over Alexey Lukyanuk after the Portuguese driver went in front in the title race after Lukyanuk’s retirement last time out in Cyprus.
Behind the leading duo are several drivers who have already proven they are capable of running at the front of the class; Simos Galatariotis is the perfect example of this having won on his home event last time out back in June. Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb, former GT driver Albert von Thurn und Taxis, Turkish driver Orhan Avcioǧlu and Finn Juuso Nordgren all also compete this weekend along with several Italian drivers appearing on their home event including Paolo Andreucci, Simone Campedelli and Umberto Scandola.
The ERC Junior Under 28 class, open to drivers under the age of 28 and driving R5-spec machinery returns this weekend for round three of six in 2018. Championship leader Fabian Kreim will be hoping to build on his two strong finishes so far and take the class win in Italy to extend his lead.
However, drivers such as the retuning Chris Ingram, winner of the Azores Airline Rallye back in March and Russian Nikolay Gryazin will be hoping to stop the German driver from extending his advantage at the top of the standings.
Ingram returns to ERC action after retiring midway through the Rally Islas Canarias due to a server illness that has forced him to only be able to return to the seat of his Skoda Fabia R5 in the last few weeks. The British driver took part in the Rally Internazionale del Casentino recently as a warmup to this event where ERC rival Gryazin took second.
ERC Junior U28 is rounded out by CA1-Sport duo Fredrik Åhlin and British Rally frontrunner Rhys Yates who continues his part-time ERC campaign in 2018. Frenchman Laurent Pellier, who competed in ERC3 last time out in Peugeot 208 R2, returns to his regular T16 208 R5 this weekend, while Czech driver Jan Černý, winner of this class on this event 12 months ago, makes his first ERC appearance of 2018 in a Ford Fiesta R5.
ERC Junior Under 27 also makes a return this weekend with Diogo Gago leading the class ahead of Mārtiņš Sesks and Simon Wagner. 12 drivers are entered for the tarmac event, with Gago having won the previous two events in 2018.
Two new drives enter the class for the Italian event, with Norwiegan Sindre Furuseth and Swedish driver Sebastian Johansson both making their debuts. Effren Llarena proved on the opening round that he is capable of a strong finish in the class and will be hoping to make amends for retiring last time out.
ERC Junior U27 is rounded out by British driver Catie Munnings, Czech driver Dominik Brož and Italian Mattia Vita. Miika Hokkanen enters with a new co-driver this weekend, while Roland Stengg and defending ADAC Opel Rallye Cup champion Tom Kristensson will be hoping for strong results this weekend.
ERC2 continues in Italy with Sergei Remennik leading the class from defending champion Tibor Érdi Jr and Juan Carlos Alonso. The trio are joined by Csaba Juhász on the entry list this weekend with the Hungarian making his debut in the class. Regular ERC2 driver Zelindo Melegari has withdrawn his regular entry this weekend so that his driver in his Movisport team, Giandomenico Basso, is able to compete in ERC1 with a Skoda Fabia R5.
The final class competing this weekend is ERC3 where Florian Bernardi will be aiming for another victory after taking the win in Gran Canaria on his debut in the class. Emma Falcón is also on the entry list along with Taiwan driver Dai Wei Yein. The trio are joined by the 12 ERC Junior U27 drivers on the entry list for ERC3 this weekend.
Round five of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship takes place this weekend between July 20-22.