ERC event preview: PZM 76th Rally Poland

The all-action FIA European Rally Championship heads to Poland next week (28-30 June) with one point separating title chasers Łukasz Habaj, the home hero, and ERC1 Junior pacesetter Chris Ingram.
And with PZM 76th Rally Poland edition number 50 to count for ERC points, it’s fitting that not only is the championship battle tightly poised, the event’s appeal has attracted 102 entrants, the highest number since 1975, with 24 top-of-the-range R5 cars registered for the international section alone.

ERC Junior has 21 rising stars bidding to build experience and establish reputations. A full ERC Junior preview will be issued on Monday 24 June. Meanwhile, Polish driver Dariusz Poloński will be a contender for victory in the new-for-2019 Abarth Rally Cup with competitors also eligible for ERC2 points.

Organisers have worked hard to deliver a compact route of just 659 kilometres by reducing the length of the liaison sections between stages. There are 15 stages in total beginning with the first of three runs of the purpose-built Mikołajki Arena stage, which drivers tackle in pairs, on Friday evening (28 June). Saturday’s itinerary features four stages run twice. On Sunday, there will be twin visits to three stages with the Mikołajki Max stage starting in the arena this year rather than finishing in it, as was the case in 2018. The event starts and finishes in Mikołajki’s Main Square.

Rally Poland in 100 words
One of the world’s oldest rallies returned to the ERC roster in 2018 after a five-year break as Rally Poland replaced Rally Rzeszow as the country’s round of the European championship for its 75th edition. First run in 1921, Rally Poland’s home since 2005 has been Mikołajki in the picturesque Masurian lake district, a three-hour drive north from the capital Warsaw, where high-speed all-gravel stages are commonplace. And it was in Mikołajki where Kajetan Kajetanowicz first emerged as a major force in the ERC, taking the event win in 2013 prior to beginning his record-breaking title treble sequence in 2015.

What’s new for 2019?
A reduction in the length of the liaison sections has meant for a compact route of 659 kilometres. The Mikołajki Max stage, used twice on leg two, starts in the arena this year rather than finishing in it, as was the case in 2018. Having run in early autumn last year, the event gets a fan-friendly summer date in 2019.

Changes to the ERC include the renaming of the ERC Junior categories: ERC Junior Under 28 becomes ERC1 Junior, ERC Junior U27 becomes ERC3 Junior with continued support from Pirelli. Meanwhile, R4-K and RGT cars are eligible for ERC2 points, the Abarth Rally Cup will be contested over six ERC rounds, while Rally Hungary joins the calendar for the first time as the deciding round in November.

Source: ERC