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Fia WRC Autosport

Teams and tire manufacturers will strive for the team title in the ERC series

This year's European Rally Championship (ERC) season will start this Friday in Hungary. Hayden Paddon and John Kennard will start under the competitor number 1 as the reigning champions, who won the ERC title last year as the first non-Europeans. In the season consisting of eight rallies, last year's victories were divided among six competitors. Our southern neighbors Mārtiņš Sesks / Renārs Francis were the only ones who managed to win twice. In total of 49 pilots and 52 co-drivers earned absolute points in the ERC series last year, among them are two Estonians - Georg Linnamäe and Robert Virves. Although there is no record of manufacturer’s points in the ERC series, the most successful car manufacturer was Citroën with three wins and in total, five different car brands won in the ERC rallies. Team MRF Tires took the ERC title last year in the team category.

Qualification decides the starting order of the opening day

If in the WRC series, the opening day stages are started in the overall standings of the World Series, then in the ERC series the Rally2 competitors drive the test stage twice in the form of free practice, after which they get one chance in the qualification stage. While previously in the ERC series the winner of the qualification stage could choose their own starting position, then starting from the 2018 season, the rule applies that the TOP15 competitors start in the reversed order of the qualififation stage results in the gravel rallies and in the same order on asphalt rallies. The qualification stage is only driven by ERC class competitors, i.e. those who compete with Rally2 or R5 cars.

Who gets points and how?

If in the WRC series this year the points are distributed in the system of Saturday's TOP10, Sunday's TOP7 and finally the Power Stage TOP5, then in the ERC series the best 15 of each stage get points in the system, so that the winners are worth 30 points and those who finished in 15th place receive 1 point. In the Power Stage, points are distributed similarly to the WRC series, i.e. 5,4,3,2,1. In ERC, ERC3 (Rally3) and ERC4 (Rally4 and Rally5), seven out of the eight rallies of the season are taken into account and in Junior ERC the results of five out of six rallies are taken into account.
This year, a new system is used in the team competition. Last year the teams only got points if their car reached the TOP15, however this season in order to earn team points, the competitors must drive with cars belonging to the FIA rally pyramid and be registered under the corresponding team in classes ERC, ERC3 and ERC4. The team can still nominate three competition pairs for points, of whom the results of the best two will count. Seven of the eight rallies of the season are taken into consideration.

ERC title is now for tire manufacturers also

While Pirelli is the mandatory tire manufacturer in the WRC series, the ERC series has much more relaxed rules regarding tires and uses the products of as many as four different tire manufacturers - Hankook, Michelin, MRF and Pirelli, who all put out harder and softer gravel tires and dry and rainy weather tires on asphalt. The only class with a tire restriction is the Junior ERC, where only Hankook tires must be used. For the first time in the ERC series, the tire manufacturers' championship will also be awarded this year. A maximum of two competitors driving Rally2/R5 cars can score points at each rally.

Four favorites driving for the ERC title

Last season showed in the case of Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally2), that six ralliy wins is enough to secure the title if they compete well and stably. Latvian competitors Sesks / Francis (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) took part in all eight rounds of the season, but eventually lost the title by 29 points. The title went to the New Zealanders due to podium finishes in all six rallies, while the Latvians reached on the podium in only four rallies. The mentioned two competitors are certainly one the biggest favorites, but the aforementioned men must certainly take into account the always fast Norwegian duo Mads Østberg / Patrik Barth (Citroën C3 Rally2) and the 2022 ERC champions Efrén Llarena / Sara Fernández (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2). What makes it all exciting is the fact that they all drive with different car manufacturers and are already starting the season in the opening rally Hungary.
The ERC series has always been a good international platform for the local top drivers, who can test themselves against the best drivers of the ERC, whilst it is not rare that they win the competitions. This is what happened last season, where in Latvia the winner was the local star Martins Sesks, in Sweden the winner was Oliver Solberg, in Italy Andrea Crugnola and in Barum Chech rally the winner was Jan Kopecký. In other words, almost half of the rallies in the last ERC season were won by local competitors who only participated in their home rally.

Estonians in the ERC Junior class

Among the 57 competitors registered for the opening round of the season, there are also two Estonian crews. Karl-Markus Sei / Tanel Kasesalu (Peugeot 208 Rally4) and Jaspar Vaher / Sander Pruul (Ford Fiesta Rally4) will start the season in the ERC Junior class, that is meant for drivers up to 27 years of age. Competing in the ERC Junior class are two-wheel drive Rally4 and Rally5 cars. As mentioned above, Hankook is the mandatory tire manufacturer for the Juniors.
19-year-old Sei is starting outside the Baltics for the first time in his career, whilst his best ERC result so far comes from the 2022 Liepaja Rally, where he finished in 7th place in the ERC4 class. The place of the co-driver will be taken by the experienced Tanel Kasesalu in Hungary, with whom Sei previously competed in the 2021 season. The rally car of the estonians, Peugeot 208 Rally4 is prepared by ALM Motorsport led by Andrus Laur.
"I will try to complete the rally as quick and clean as possible. First of all, it is necessary to finish the rally, as I have never competed in Hungary before and the terrain is quite different compared to Estonia. But when I feel comfortable in the car, I also push myself to drive faster," Sei said in an interview with
"The organizer has posted a few videos, and sections of some of the stages can also be found on YouTube, but not on the full route. Hungary’s soil seems to be rather softer and slippery in the rain," Sei added.
Jaspar Vaher, the 17-year-old two-time winner of the Estonian Junior Challenge series, has similarly to Sei no previous rally experience outside the Baltics. Jaspar’s co-driver will be Sander Pruul, with whom they have previous experience from the 2022 Liepaja rally, where they won the LRC4 class in the Latvian championship. Vaher/Pruul Ford Fiesta Rally4 car is being prepared by the M-Sport Poland team on this occasion.
"The goal is to gain experience and learn as much as possible. The nature of the rally is difficult to say, as there is not much information about the stages. It's a gravel rally, but the roads and terrain are very different compared to Estonia," said Vaher in an interview with
"This time we are driving an M-Sport car, which means that everything is different and needs time to get used to. Before the rally, we can do a small test and we hope to get the settings right and the car ready to go," continued the Estonian.
Both Sei and Vaher are members of Team Estonia Autosport 2024. The overall winner of the season in the ERC Junior class will be awarded with a Ford Fiesta Rally3 car in the 2025 World Rally Championship in the Junior WRC class.

M-Sport Poland launches Fiesta Rally3 Trophy

At the opening rally of the ERC season in Hungary, M-Sport Poland will launch a new competition class called Fiesta Rally3 Trophy, where participants with the Ford Fiesta Rally3 car that entered the world's rally roads in 2021 are expected to participate. In addition, crews must use Pirelli tires and use Gulf Race fuel. Gulf also puts out a prize for the TOP3 of each rally – 300 liters of Gulf MSR EVO2 fuel for the winner, 150 liters for the second and 50 liters for the third place. The best will be determined in the sum of five ERC events and the winner will receive a trophy and in addition, the opportunity to participate in the WRC Central European Rally in the 2025 season.

The opening round of the ERC season 2024 will start at on Friday in Hungary, 19:05 Estonian time. In total 13 special stages and 192.42 kilometers await the competitors in three days of the rally.

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