Robert Kubica’s engineer Kevin Struyf says crashing is the only way for the ex-Formula One star to learn his trade in the FIA European Rally Championship.
The Polish hero inflicted substantial damage to his Citroën DS3 RRC when he rolled on SATA Rallye Açores last Friday – less than a month after a crash put him out of Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés. Having led the event until he got caught up in heavy fog, Kubica eventually finished a creditable sixth overall.
“We are not disappointed because when the driver arrives in a rally it’s quite normal to make a mistake,” said Struyf. “It’s impossible to arrive in rally and to make a very good pace without making a mistake. Robert had a very impressive pace. He made seven fastest times and was leading the rally. That is the most important thing to keep in mind. He has to work a little bit to be more constant but it’s all part of the learning.”
From P2 to Mk2 for Breen
Craig Breen will step back in time in his native Ireland this week. The FIA European Rally Championship title contender, runner-up on the last three rounds, is switching from his regular Peugeot 207 Super 2000 to a Ford Escort Mk2, which first became a force in the late 1970s.
Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle are tackling the International Rally of the Lakes from 3-5 May and the Donegal International Rally from 21-23 June with support from businessman James Coleman, who owns the rear-wheel-drive car.
“I’m so delighted this opportunity has come up,” said Breen. “This is a huge year for me competing in the FIA ERC as a Peugeot Rally Academy driver. But as a consequence I had not scheduled a home event for 2013. Now with this two-rally deal from James, it gives Paul and me the ideal chance to compete in two of the most famous Irish Tarmac events at the wheel of James’ Mk2.”
Coleman added: “Not having Craig compete on home turf throughout 2013 would have been a shame. We are thrilled to have him in our car for the two events. Craig is something special both as a driver and a person and we are proud to be involved with him.”
Açores organisers praised as bad weather strikes
Former event-winning co-driver Paul Nagle has led the tributes to the SATA Rallye Açores organising team after the event almost ran in its entirety despite tough weather conditions blighting the three days of competition.
Heavy rain left roads badly damaged and required the intervention of the local government to mobilise almost 200 personnel to work non-stop on Friday night to repair the damage.
“There was a lot of frustration but great credit needs to be given to the organisers,” said Nagle. “They worked night and day and all hours to keep things going. There’s one thing you can’t control and that’s the weather. They did a fantastic job at the end of the day.”
François Ribeiro, Motorsport Development Director of Eurosport Events, the ERC promoter, said: “We have seen already how amazing the support is from the government in Açores. They have made possible the live television coverage, helped to ensure that everybody got here following the airline strikes and they have done this extra work. We really must take our hats off to them.”
Satisfied Tlusťàk proves versatility in the ERC
Antonín Tlusťàk proved his versatility with his second FIA European Rally Championship top 10 of 2013 for the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team.
Driving a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, the former ERC event winner finished 10th overall on the all-asphalt Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés last month before coming home in eighth place on the loose-surface SATA Rallye Açores, his first start on wet gravel.
“We are satisfied with our result on SATA Rallye Açores,” said Tlusťàk, whose co-driver Lukáš Vyoral had never competed on gravel before. “We were there for first time and it was very, very difficult to write good pacenotes, especially because of the weather conditions. But we didn’t make any big mistakes and drove consistently throughout the rally. It was a nice fight with Janós Puskádi and I am happy. Now we will work on rebuilding the car into a Tarmac version for Tour de Corse.”
Twelve rounds only for ERC in 2013
As a reminder the FIA European Rally Championship will total 12 rounds in 2013 following confirmation that the San Marino Rally will not form part of this year’s calendar.
Scheduled to run as round seven from 11-13 July, the event’s inclusion on the ERC roster had always been subject to the signing of an agreement between the rally organisers and the ERC promoter Eurosport Events. Unfortunately this proved not to be possible due to financial reasons.
With no replacement rally planned, drivers will now count their best four scores from the first six rounds and their best four results from the last six rallies.
The revised ERC calendar for 2013 is as follows:
01 :International Jännerrallye (Austria) / Asphalt/snow / 3-5 January
02: Rally Liepāja-Ventspils (Latvia) / Gravel/snow / 1-3 February
03: Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés (Spain) /Asphalt / 21-23 March
04: SATA Rallye Açores (Portugal) / Gravel / 25-27 April
05: Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse (France) / Asphalt / 16-18 May
06: GEKO Ypres Rally (Belgium) / Asphalt / 27-29 June
07: Sibiu Rally (Romania) / Gravel / 25-27 July
08: Barum Czech Rally Zlín / Asphalt 30 August-1 September
09: Lotos 70th Rally Poland / Gravel / 13-15 September
10: Croatia Rally / Asphalt / 26-28 September
11: Rallye Sanremo (Italy) / Asphalt / 10-12 October
12: Rallye International du Valais (Switzerland) / Asphalt / 7-9 November
Why the partnership is strong at Eurosol Honda Civic Type R
Drivers and co-drivers need to form strong partnerships in order to achieve success in the FIA European Rally Championship. When it comes to Zoltán Bessenyey and Yulianna Nyirfas, the partnership doesn’t get much stronger.
The Eurosol Honda Civic Type R duo, who currently head the ERC 2WD Championship for drivers and co-drivers respectively, are also partners having met two years ago. However, their relationship is secondary every time they tackle a stage.
“From the moment we’re standing at the starting line of a special stage, we’re not considering ourselves as a couple, but as driver and co-driver and we’re concentrating ourselves on our job,” said Nyirfas. “Of course, I know Zoltán well, and that’s an advantage when something isn’t going right, if someone makes a mistake for example. As co-driver I reckon myself as a mother that takes care of her little boy: encouraging him with small talk or suggesting something he likes to eat. From the moment the rally has finished though, everything is a lot more relaxed. That’s when all the stress disappears.”
In the spotlight: Ekaterina Stratieva
The top-scoring female in last year’s FIA European Rally Championship, Stratieva began her bid for FIA ERC Ladies’ Trophy glory with victory on Rally Islas Canarias last month. With regular co-driver Carmen Poenaru unavailable, Stratieva linked up with the Italian navigator Veronica Boni, which necessitated a change to common-language English pacenotes. They were heading for more success in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy on SATA Rallye Açores only to crash into retirement in the closing stages. Away from rallying, Stratieva is a graduate in art and design in her native Bulgaria.