Team MRF Tyres is preparing for the European Rally Championship (ERC) opener this week; the first time the Indian tyre company is competing in a full season of European rallying.
Irish star, Craig Breen will team up with Paul Nagle in the Team MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5, competing in each of the six rounds of the 2020 ERC season. Breen is no stranger to top level rallying in Europe, having achieved podiums in the World Rally Championship and having five wins in the ERC
The Team MRF Tyres design is a clear sign of progression into Europe for the team but is recognisable to past success for the team. The solid geometric shapes meld with the curves of the Hyundai i20 R5.
Meanwhile, the Finnish duo of Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen will drive the Team MRF Tyres Skoda Fabia R5 evo2 in the ERC1 category taking a partial 2020 campaign. It provides Team MRF Tyres, with a mixture of experience and youth. Lindholm is no stranger to R5 machinery. He currently leads the Finnish Championship after taking two wins and a podium so far this year.
The opening round of the 2020 ERC is the Rally di Roma Capitale and it represents the next step in MRF Tyres development.
After years of success in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship that included nine titles, the move to the ERC represents a new challenge for MRF Tyres.
The team has been hard at work developing tyres to compete across tarmac, gravel and snow representing the various conditions that can be found in European rallying.
The 2020 ERC season will get underway with the Rally di Roma Capitale. The service park is Fiuggi, south of Rome, for a 200km blast across 15 tarmac stages. This will be the first time MRF Tyres has competed on tarmac at the highest level of European rallying.
Team MRF Tyres crews will move to Rally Liepāja on the coast of Latvia for the second round. Ten gravel stages will greet the crews for 180km of rally action.
The third round is the Azores Rallye on the Portuguese island of São Miguel in the Atlantic Ocean.
Round four takes the crews to another island rally, this time the rough gravel roads in Cyrus. MRF Tyres competed in this rally in 2019, achieving a podium with Mikko Hirvonen as the team prepared for 2020.
The final two rounds of the Championship are scheduled to take place in November. Rally Hungary will take place on the first weekend before the Spanish Rally Islas Canarias will decide the Champion in late November.
Overall, the season sees three gravel rallies and three tarmac rallies and will present a challenge for Team MRF Tyres in the ultra-competitive championship.
The opening round will be a challenge with 87 crews signed up to rally in Rome.
Craig Breen (Driver, Team MRF Tyres, Hyundai i20 R5)
“I am excited to get behind the wheel of the Team MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5. I think we can agree that it is a great looking car! We started testing at the end of last year. This year, except for the lockdown, we had been testing quite extensively. We have done one rally in Finland for the Finnish championship and we got on the podium there.
For sure, there are some exciting plans, a lot of work and a lot of testing. We hope to make the tyre better and better and prove the talent behind Team MRF Tyres and this challenge.”
“It’s great to be back behind the wheel after a five-month break. It’s interesting to start the summer season from tarmac rally but then again, this year has been quite extraordinary so far. I have had a chance to drive with the MRF tyre once before. It felt good considering it is on the beginning of its development.
Hyundai’s Craig Breen is driving as the tyre manufacturers’ driver in the same rallies. It’s great that a really good professional driver drives the same tyre so I can compare my speed to him. I am looking forward to getting in the car on the Italian stages.”
Mr. Arun Mammen (MRF Tyres Vice-Chairman & Managing Director)
“We are happy to see MRF Tyres progress to compete at the highest level of rallying in Europe with the European Rally Championship. We know that the road ahead is filled with challenges which we shall strive to overcome, but this is a start for us in this competitive arena. We at MRF Tyres along with our partners in this journey are committed to the development of our product and learning about our competition.
After our success at the APRC level with our nine titles, it is natural for MRF Tyres to aim higher with the European Rally Championship. These are the next steps for us as India’s motorsport pioneers. I wish the team the best of luck for the 2020 season.”
The 2020 ERC calendar is as follows:
Round 1: Rally di Roma Capitale (asphalt), 24-26 July
Round 2: Rally Liepāja (gravel), 14-16 August
Round 3: Azores Rallye (gravel), 14-17 September
Round 4: Cyprus Rally (gravel), 16-18 October
Round 5: Rally Hungary (asphalt), 6-8 November
Round 6: Rally Islas Canarias (asphalt), 26-28 November