Formula One race winner Robert Kubica says he’s been able to take plenty of positives away from his first three appearances in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship.
Kubica has led all three ERC rounds that he’s contested so far and has set a total of 16 fastest stage times in the process.
“I’ve been pleased with my pace, I’ve won stages and I’ve been able to fight at the top on all three rallies I have done,” said Kubica, who retired from last week’s Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse following fuel pump failure. “To come to these events for the first time and drive at the same pace as the championship contenders gives me a positive to take away from this.”
Kubica’s next scheduled ERC appearance is on his home event, Lotos 70th Rally Poland, from 13-15 September. However, he remains open to contesting additional rounds in the Citroën DS3 RRC he shares with co-driver and fellow pole Maciej Baran.
Miss France and Henri Leconte in ERC visit
Two high-profile celebrities visited round five of the FIA European Rally Championship in Corsica last weekend.
French tennis legend Henri Leconte and the current Miss France, Marine Lorphelin, followed the opening day of the event by visiting stages and getting a run through a test in a Peugeot 208 GTI course car. The car company was one of the event’s major partners.
Leconte is a big fan of motorsport and works for Eurosport as a tennis presenter, while Lorphelin, is currently studying medicine and wants to specialise as a pediatrician.
ERC events have a habit of attracting glamorous guests: on the Ypres Rally in 2010 Miss Belgium, Cilou Annys, accompanied Thierry Neuville for a run in the pre-event shakedown.
This year’s Tour de Corse proved to be an epic with eventual winner Bryan Bouffier one of four drivers to lead the legendary rally. Other leaders included Formula One race winner Robert Kubica and current ERC pacesetter Jan Kopecký. Four stages of the event were shown live on Eurosport and France 3 Corsica.
Meeke relishes Corsica ERC zero car run
While French star Bryan Bouffier was doing the winning on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse last week, Kris Meeke had the honour of leading the pack throughout the two-day event, round five of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Meeke, a successful international rally driver, was responsible for driving the course-opening zero car, a Peugeot 208 R2, alongside fellow Northern Irishman Chris Patterson.
Afterwards, Meeke said: “Even driving the zero car, the Tour de Corse is a magical event and I had tremendous fun on the stages in the Peugeot 208 R2. We used the rally to try some new parts and we didn’t have a single problem, so that was a highly satisfying result.”
Meeke again underlined his desire to compete for real on an ERC round in the near future.
Le Mans racer Sarrazin shines on rallying return in ERC
Stéphane Sarrazin, a podium finisher in the Le Mans 24 Hours, made his return to rallying on last week’s Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse and marked his outing by finishing third overall on the FIA European Rally Championship round.
The French hero accepted a late invitation to drive a MINI John Cooper Works on the island contest and completed the podium following a close battle with Craig Breen, which raged until the final stage of the event live on Eurosport and France 3 Corsica.
“I was very happy to have the drive on this event given the quality of the field,” said Sarrazin. “Finishing on the podium was a very big ask because of the strength of the drivers here but I did a good rally with no mistakes and was able to be at the finish.”
The ERC movers and shakers
Despite his three-event winning run coming to an end, Jan Kopecký left Corsica with his margin at the top of the FIA European Rally Championship points’ table widened by 10 points.
The ŠKODA Motorsport ace started the island classic 27 points ahead of Craig Breen but now holds a 37-point advantage after he bettered Breen by two places. And there were plenty of other movers and shakers in the ERC standings following Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse.
Peugeot driver Bryan Bouffier’s first ERC win of 2013 elevates him into third place in the overall classification with Stéphane Sarrazin moving into the top 10 after he completed the podium.
By claiming his second category win in as many starts, Andreas Aigner (pictured) takes over from Jaroslav Orsák is the new leader of the ERC Production Car Cup while Marco Tempestini climbs into fourth position in class. Subaru ace Aigner’s advantage over Mitsubishi-driving Orsák is 11 points.
Kornél Lukács shoots up to second place in the ERC 2WD Championship with his maiden win: the Hungarian is now 20 points behind countryman Zoltán Bessenyey (Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R), who wasn’t competing in Corsica but will return for round six in Ypres next month.
In the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams, GPD Mit Metal Racing Team’s total stands at 136, while Napoca Rally Academy heads Team Renault Sport Technologies by 51 points in the ERC Production Car Cup for Teams.
In the spotlight: Lorenzo Bertelli
Lorenzo Bertelli, the son of famed fashion designer Miuccia Prada, is a relative novice when it comes to driving rally cars having started out in 2010. The Italian has spent much of his career in Group N machinery but is now trying out Regional Rally Car technology for size with last week’s Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse marking only his second start in his M-Sport-prepared Fiesta and his first event on Tarmac alongside new co-driver Mitia Dotta, who partnered Giandomenico Basso to the ERC crown in 2006 and 2009. Bertelli, who carries the number 37 on his rally cars for luck, was in the top 10 in Corsica when his car briefly caught fire after he slid off the road on stage five and the hot exhaust ignited shrubbery beneath the car. He restarted on Saturday with the aim of building his experience of the FIA European Rally Championship round.