Delfi Rally Estonia
Fia WRC Autosport

Long season of the European Rally Championship starts this week in Hungary, two Estonian drivers also in the start.

The first round of the 2024 season of the European Rally Championship (ERC) will start already this coming Friday in Veszprém, located on the Séd River in Hungary. If the previous times the Hungarian rally, which has been part of the ERC calendar since 2019, has been run on asphalt, then this time the drivers will face gravel stages.57 competitors have registered for the opening rally of the season, including Estonians.
Among the 17 competitors registered in the ERC Junior class are also estonians Karl-Markus Sei / Tanel Kasesalu (Peugeot 208 Rally4), who will be driving together for the whole season this year, and the two-time winner of the Estonian Junior Challenge series Jaspar Vaher (Ford Fiesta Rally4), next to whom Sander Pruul will take the place for the second time.

Karl-Markus Sei: "The road conditions in Hungary are very rocky and you have to drive smart to keep your tires. Some of the stages are on a military area with very loose gravel. The main goal is to drive to the end of the rally, because we have no previous experience in this rally. If the feeling is strong, then we will try harder."

Jaspar Vaher: "Hungary is new for everyone, because the ERC rally has never been run on gravel there. As much as I have seen videos of the conditions, they seem quite different from what we have in Estonia. I think that I will get the right picture only after the recce and writing the pacenotes. Our goal is to learn and gain experience. We have not driven outside the Baltic countries, which means that everything is new and we are learning."

On Friday morning, the competitors in Rally2 cars will drive one qualifying stage, which will determine the starting order for the opening day of the rally. The qualifying stage determines the starting order of the first 15 Rally2 cars, with the fastest driver starting as the 15th car. A total of 13 special stages and 192.43 stage kilometers await the competitors in Hungary during the two competition days.

Rally Estonia is back among the eight ERC rallies this year!

After the Hungarian round, the season continues on May 2-4 in the Canary Islands, where the first of five asphalt rallies will be held. From June 13 to 16, the second gravel rally of the season awaits, which will be driven in Sweden on the roads of the former World Championship rally. The fourth stage of the season brings the competitors of the ERC series to Estonia after an eight-year break, where the Delfi Rally Estonia will be held as the last gravel rally of the season from July 5 to 7. It is already known that Hayden Paddon, who won the ERC championship last year as the first non-European and participated in Rally Estonia twice before, and Mads Østberg, the two-time winner of Rally Estonia, will start in Estonia.

Two-time Rally Estonia winner Mads Østberg: “I’m really exited to see Estonia on the ERC calendar this year. I have many good memories from the rally over many years. Also to have followed the development of the event over so many years and see where they are today is really impressive. I look forward to come back this year and try to secure my third victory of Rally Estonia.”

After two gravel rallies in Northern Europe, the season continues with four asphalt rallies, the first of which will be held on the 26th-28th of July in Italy. After Rome, the ERC round with the longest history of the season awaits, the Barum Rally, which will be driven on the legendary Czech roads from August 16th to 18th. While Rally Estonia is making a comeback to the ERC series, then there’s a newcomer into the season and from August 30 to September 1, the competition will be held in the United Kingdom. The JDS Machinery Rally Ceredigion is included in the ERC calendar for the first time ever. The season ends on the 11th-13thof October with Rajd Śląska - Rally Silesia 2024. If the Hungarian rally that starts the season was run on asphalt last year and this year on gravel, then the Polish rally is exactly the opposite – gravel has been replaced by hard soil for this year.

Photo:Andre Lavadinho / @World / Red Bull Content Pool