Some of Europe’s best rally drivers will head into the final round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship in Hungary this week (6- 8 October) determined to avoid being winless at the end of the season.
Mads Østberg, who heads the Rally Hungary entry, former ERC champion Efrén Llarena, Czech talents Erik Cais and Filip Mareš, multiple Polish title winner Miko Marczyk and leading local star Miklós Csomós are among the drivers who have yet to register a victory in 2023.
As a former winner of the challenging Tarmac event, Citroën-powered Norwegian star Østberg is determined to complete his ERC campaign on top.
“Rally Hungary is challenging but it’s a race I’ve done a few times now, so I know it quite well and some of the stages are the same as previous years,” said the 35-year-old. “That’s our advantage but the competition [from the ERC drivers] will be strong, as always, and we always know the local drivers have good experience and good speed so I expect a big fight with everyone. We want to win the rally again and that’s our target.”
Michelin-equipped Yoann Bonato and Marti?š Sesks, who uses MRF Tyres, have, however, won in the ERC in 2023 with Bonato boosted by the fact he has previous Rally Hungary experience to call upon.
Home heroes out in force
Several Hungarian drivers will be in the limelight this weekend. Ferenc Vincze starts the event on the back of clinching his second national title. Pirelli-supported Miklós Csomós bagged his breakthrough ERC podium on August’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin. András Hadik is a three-time national champion. Meanwhile, Norbert Michelisz, Hungary’s most successful racing driver and the winner of the FIA World Touring Car Cup in 2019, makes his rallying debut on Rally Hungary.
Three-way fight for Junior ERC glory
The Hankook-equipped FIA Junior ERC Championship is set for a thrilling Rally Hungary decider with three young stars vying for the coveted title – and the FIA Junior WRC Championship prize drive in 2024 that goes with it. Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver Norbert Maior heads the standings by four points ahead of Roberto Daprà, who also relies on Peugeot power, and 12 ahead of Ola Nore before dropped scores are factored in. Nore missed the previous round due to funding issues and switches to an Opel Corsa Rally4 for his return.
From rallycross to rallying
Best known as a rallycross venue, the Rabócsiring circuit south of Nyíregyháza hosts the opening stage from 18h00 local time on Friday with a 2.4-kilometre layout forming the first timed test. Fans are expected to visit in their thousands as the ERC stars go head to head on a mixed-surface course.
Still a big challenge after one year off
Back on the ERC schedule after one season away, the fourth edition of Rally Hungary features 12 stages over a competitive distance of 180.26 kilometres. The event is based in the city of Nyíregyháza in Hungary’s north-eastern Zemplén region and presents a tricky test for the competitors with narrow bumpy forest roads and fast, wide sections all part of the challenge.