Alexey Lukyanuk will secure the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship on Rally Poland this weekend after his title rival Bruno Magalhaes has been forced to retire from the rest of the season with budgetary issues.
The Russian leads the standings by 35 points going into the penultimate round this weekend and could only be caught by Magalhaes with Norbert Herczig 88 points behind in third, meaning Lukyanuk will win the championship regardless of the results this weekend.
The event sees 15 stages take place across three days of action beginning tonight with a Super Special stage before two more full days of action this weekend totalling over 200km of stage miles.
Behind champion elect Lukyaunk and Herczig, other entrants in the ERC class include Norbert Herczig who is set to make his final appearance of the season this weekend, Orhan Avcioglu who enters Rally Poland after choosing to skip his home Rally Turkey event as part of the WRC last weekend and Łukasz Habaj who continues his transition to a Skoda Fabia R5 following his switch from a Ford Fiesta earlier in the season.
ERC Junior Under 28 leader Fabian Kreim comes into round five of the class this weekend in a close battle with both British driver Chris Ingram and Nikolay Gryazin at the top of the standings. The trio are separated by just a total of 23 points with two rounds remaining.
In ERC U28, four of the six rounds are used as points scoring events, meaning Ingram in particular has a chance of improving his points tally after being forced to miss an event earlier in the season with illness, meaning a pair of strong results in the final two rounds could swing the championship back in his favour.
This weekend will see a returning face to the ERC paddock with 2017 Junior Under 27 runner up Jari Huttunen, Ingram’s teammate in the ADAC Opel Junior Rally Team last season, returning as part of Hyundai’s young driver programme in a i20 R5. The Finn will go up against several U27 graduates including Ingram, Łukasz Pieniążek and Filip Mareš.
The class of 2018 in ERC Junior U27 has Mārtiņš Sesks take a dominating 59 point lead going into round five in Poland with the Latvian planning to “be more calm” going into the remainder of the season.
Opel teammate Tom Kristensson is second in the standings and leads the chasing pack that also includes Efrén Llarena, Dominik Brož, who will be looking to make up for his retirement last time out, Mattia Vita who finished strongly in the Czech Republic and Miika Hokkanen. Catie Munnings is the sole entrant in the ERC Ladies trophy as rival Emma Falcon isn’t competing this weekend, while ERC2 sees Marcin Słobodzian the only name on the entry list in Poland.
Rally Poland begins tonight and continues until September 23.