23/01/2022 Off By Andy C
Reigning WRC2 & ERC Champ Andreas Mikkelesen is unlikely to defent his FIA European Rally Championship title this year.
After his previous two victories at the Azores and Fafe rallies, heading into the penultimate round of the 2021 European Rally Championship at Rally Hungry, Andreas Mikkelsen had one hand on the 2021 ERC trophy already with his 71 point lead.
A fast mixed asphalt rally was the 7th round of the ERC and covered 182km over 14 stages which would allow the Norwegian Mikkelsen to be crowned his second international rally title in just a week.
The event got underway with a short 4.35km Shakedown qualifying test for which a returning Nikolay Gryazin topped the timings.
The FIA European Rally Championship remained in Portugal but moved to Fafe close to Porto on the mainland for Round 6 of the 2021 season. Whilst previously the Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras has run as an Asphalt event, this year for the first time in its history it moves onto the gravel.
After his win, last time out on the Azores Rally, Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen arrived in Fafe leading the Championships. With 16 Stages covering 197 km, some of which are used on the World Rally Championships, Mikkelsen and Spaniard Dani Sordo who returned for his second outing in the MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5 were to be the favourites.
The fifth round of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship arrived on the stunning beautiful Mid-Atlantic Ocean island of São Miguel for the rescheduled 55th running of the Azores Rallye. This gravel rally would cover some 201km across just 13 stages and would take in some breathtaking scenery, which once again included that iconic Volcanic stage Sete Cidadesand.
TOK Sports Andreas Mikkelsen arrived on the Island leading the Championships with his new Co-Driver Elliot Edmondson, having only competed recently together for the first time on the WRC Acropolis Rally Greece.
The FIA European Rally Championship headed to Zlín in the Czech Republic for Round 4 of the 2021 season. Having been a part of the ERC for no less than 16 years, this years edition of the Czech rally was the 50th and once again offered up a challenging test across 15 Asphalt stages which covered some 210km.
Before the rally had even begun there was early drama for defending ERC champion and title contender Alexey Lukyanuk. The Russian suffered a sizable crash during pre-event testing which rendered his Citroen C3 out of action. Unable to repair the damage or find a replacement car ahead of the rally, he was left with no option but to sit out the rally, a terrible blow to his title defence.
Having first hosted a round of the FIA European Rally Championship in 2017, Rally di Roma Capitale returned for its fifth edition and to host the third round of the 2021 ERC. 14 Asphalt stages covering 190km faced the crews, with last years winner and defending ERC champ Alexey Lukyanuk first on the road in his Citroen C3 Rally 2 car.
Nickolay Gryazin would lay down the fastest time in his VW Polo GTi R5 on the short 4km Shakedown test stage on the Friday morning. The crews then headed into the city centre of Rome for a blast around the historic streets that evening; of which the 2020 National champ and Hyundai Rally Team Italia driver Andrea Crugnola won.
The next stop on the FIA European Rally Championship calendar was Latvia for Rally Liepāja, Round 2 of the 2021 season. For an event that started out as a Winter rally back in 2013 but then made the switch to the autumn for a gravel rally in 2016; this year it received its largest entry to date, with some 89 crews entered.
12 stages were originally planned to cover 183km but this was reduced to just 10. Poland’s Mikołaj Marczyk set the benchmark time in his Skoda Fabia Rally 2 EVO on the short 4.6km Shakedown test on Friday evening ahead of the two times (2016 & 2017) Liepāja winner Nikolay Gryazin in his VW Polo GTi R5.
After a delayed start to its season, the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship finally got underway with the 77th Rally Poland. This rally last ran as part of the ERC in 2019, where Russian Alexey Lukyanuk won the event; this year the rally featured 202km over 14 stages of fast and flowing gravel tests.
Last years champion Alexey Lukyanuk returned to defend his title but would be up against some stiff competition on this opening round, with the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda Fabia – TOK Sport WRT), Craig Breen (Hyundai i20 R5 – Team MRF) and Nikolay Gryazin (VW Polo GTI R5) all taking part.
The opening round of the FIA European Rally Championships could be postponed or even cancelled.
The Portuguese Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras which is due to open up the 2021 ERC on 12th-14th March now looks to be of concern for ERC promoters Eurosport Events.