Here are the main talking points ahead of round three of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Fafe Montelongo.
Familiar feeling: After studying the route and watching onboard camera footage online, European championship pacesetter and former champion Alexey Lukyanuk has likened the Rally Fafe Montelongo stages to the roads found on Rally Islas Canarias, an event the Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5 driver has won two times.
‘Home’ hopes: The Rally Islas Canarias likeness will cheer Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena, the ERC3 Junior champion from 2018. Llarena, who like Lukyanuk drives a Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 R5, is familiar with the Fafe region after testing a Peugeot 208 Rally4 for his Sports&You team there last December.
Arise Ares: Multiple Spanish champion Iván Ares will join Llarena in flying the Spanish flag on Rally Fafe Montelongo. Fellow Hyundai i20 R5 drivers Surhayen Pernia and Francisco López are also crossing the border for their first taste of ERC action this season.
Still a teen: ERC1 Junior leader and Monster Energy-backed Oliver Solberg turned 19 earlier this week. He will be aiming to make it three consecutive podiums in the ERC on Rally Fafe Montelongo, which he’ll contest in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 run by his family team.
World star: Craig Breen, a five-time ERC event winner, continues his European campaign in his Team MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5 following his standout second place on the world championship-counting Rally Estonia at the start of September, when the Irishman stepped up to a factory Hyundai World Rally Car.
Champion in waiting: Emil Lindholm, who partners Breen at Team MRF Tyres, starts this weekend chasing the Finnish championship title on the Pohjanmaa SM-Ralli. His famous father Sebastian Lindholm is a six-time national title winner.
Form man: Grégoire Munster, son of four-time ERC event winner Bernard Munster, heads to Rally Fafe Montelongo a winner after the Hyundai Junior Driver took victory on the gravel-based Rallye Castine – Terre d’Occitanie in France recently.
Family tradition: Like Munster, Guillaume de Mevius will be able to call on some fatherly advice for his first ERC appearance in five years. His father, Grégoire, won four ERC rallies in the past.
Level playing field: Miko Marczyk, ORLEN Team’s Polish champion, is excited by the prospect of competing on an event that is also new to his ERC1 Junior rivals as he embarks on his first season in the championship. Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Callum Devine will battle Marczyk in ERC1 Junior. Devine has a replacement Hyundai at his disposal, while James Fulton takes over co-driving duties from Brian Hoy, who is unavailable for work reasons.
New recruit: With Dominik Dinkel’s regular co-driver Ursula Mayrhofer also unavailable due to work commitments, the German ERC1 Junior driver has recruited Michael Wenzel to co-drive his Brose Motorsport Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
MOL’s man is back: After skipping Rally Liepāja, four-time Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig returns to pilot his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Germany’s Marijan Griebel and Albert von Thurn und Taxis are also back on ERC duty in Portugal, when they will chase European championship points.
Mission experience: ERC3 Junior graduate and former downhill mountain bike racer Erik Cais will continue to build his experience behind the wheel of his Yacco ACCR Team-run Ford Fiesta R5 MkII.
Austrian expects: Ex-circuit racer Niki Mayr-Melnhof will aim to benefit from competing on asphalt, the surface on which he has the most experience.
Wait is over: Aloísio Monteiro, the top Portuguese seed, makes his first start in this year’s ERC.
Alpine attack: ERC2 leader Zelindo Melegari is preparing to bring the iconic Abarth brand back to the ERC, with Rally Fafe Montelongo marking the A110 RGT’s international debut.
Abarth aces: Italians Andrea Mabellini and Roberto Gobbin are gearing up to chase Abarth Rally Cup honours and their share of the attractive prize fund.
Érdi Jr eyes a double: Tibor Érdi Jr heads to Rally Fafe Montelongo on the back of winning ERC2 on Rally Liepāja as he bids to win a third ERC2 title in his family-run Mitsubishi Lancer, the car of choice for Dmitry Feofanov. The Latvia-domiciled driver is second in the ERC2 points after two rounds.
Torn de force: With two wins from two starts, Ken Torn is the driver to beat in ERC3/ERC3 Junior at the wheel of his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4.
Cuesta’s car swap: Spanish ERC3 Junior prospect Sergio Cuesta switches from Peugeot to Ford power.
Preparing to roar: Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas, GC Motorsport-run Sergio Fuentes and Portugal’s ERC3 Junior contender Pedro Almeida are all competing in Peugeot’s 208 Rally4, while it’s the previous-generation model for ERC3 Junior podium finisher Amaury Molle and multiple ERC Ladies’ champion Ekaterina Stratieva. Briton Nabila Tejpar also relies on Peugeot power but isn’t registered for ERC points.
Mario man: Portugal’s Mario Castro completes the impressive list of ERC registered drivers in his Fiesta.
Bonato bonanza: While double French Tarmac champion Yoann Bonato won’t be a contender for ERC points, he’ll be one to watch in his Citroën C3 R5.