Jul 19

FIA ERC Sibiu Rally event preview

2013 FIA European Rally Championship, round seven of 12

European Rally Championship logoThere’s no time to rest in the all-action FIA European Rally Championship. Less than a month after Belgium’s Geko Ypres Rally brought the curtain down on the first half of the season, the chase for on-stage success resumes with the Sibiu Rally in Romania from 25-27 July.

  • Sibiu Rally (Romania), 25-27 July


A new addition to the ERC for 2013, the Sibiu Rally is a truly spectacular affair with a mixture of gravel and asphalt stages, including some run at night. And to underline the popularity of the Transylvania event and the ERC, organisers were one entry short of reaching full capacity.

A host city full of history

Sibiu, located in the centre of Romania, oozes history and culture. Records of its existence date back to 1191, while it was designated European Capital of Culture in 2007. It makes for one of the most scenic service parks in international rallying with quaint historic buildings lining the Piața Mare, a large square in Sibiu where it’s located.

Champions and former winners abound

The near-capacity Sibiu Rally entry is awash with national champions and former event winners. Jan Kopecký, the European championship leader and current Czech title-holder, heads the list of registrations in a factory ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. He will face opposition from former French and multiple Polish champion Bryan Bouffier and current Romanian champion François Delecour. Like Bouffier, Delecour will line up in a Peugeot 207 S2000. Jean-Michel Raoux, the IRC 2WD champion of 2011, will also rely on Peugeot power, while Yuan-Hu Lin holds the Taiwan rally crown and will compete in a Romanian-built Dacia Logan.

Of the former event winners in action, Marco Tempestini steps up from his regular Subaru Impreza to a Fabia for his home round of the ERC. Gergo Szabo and Bogdan Marisca, who have also triumphed in Sibiu in the past, will be among the contenders for ERC Production Car Cup glory where their rivals will include double Production Car world champion Toshi Arai, who will jet in from Japan to drive an Impreza R4 STI for the occasion, and Vitaliy Pushkar, the production class winner in Sibiu last season in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Early battle for supremacy

The competition starts in earnest with the Qualifying Stage from 10:00hrs local time on Thursday 25 July. Following two runs of Free Practice at Sibiu’s rallycross circuit from 08:00hrs, priority drivers get one run over the 3.42-kilometre course to set their best time. The fastest driver will then get to choose their starting position for leg one first with the second fastest driver next to make their selection and so on until all priority drivers have made their choice. Road position can be pivotal to the outcome of dry gravel rallies as drivers will be eager to run further down the order to benefit from a ‘clean’ and stable stage surface that’s been ‘swept’ clear of loose gravel.

Night fever in Romania

There will be night fever in Romania with two tests – Paltiniş and Şanta – run under the cover of darkness on Friday’s leg (26 July), which features seven stages over a competitive distance of 101.80 kilometres. To increase the challenge facing drivers and the spectacle for the fans, the 10 kilometres of Paltiniş is on asphalt, which drivers will tackle with gravel tyres and settings. Saturday’s route includes two more Tarmac stages, plus the monster Gâtu Berbecului, which at 30 kilometres is the longest of the 14-stage event and is run twice.

Top ERC Ladies’ Trophy contenders in action

Ekaterina Stratieva and Molly Taylor, currently first and second in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy standings, will be competing in Sibiu – and for the first time. Stratieva heads the scores by four points from Taylor but admits her lack of gravel experience could be a hindrance.

It’s a team game in the ERC

Three outfits will be chasing points for the respective ERC Teams’ championships. The GPD Mit Metal Racing Team is in contention for overall honours with Czech drivers Antonín Tlusťák and Jaroslav Orsák both aiming to strike big in Romania. The Napoca Rally Academy has five drivers targeting points in the ERC Production Car Cup for Teams with its best two finishers eligible for points. Meanwhile, Zoltán Bessenyey, the current ERC 2WD Championship leader for Honda, will be hoping to add to Eurosol Racing Team Hungary’s tally in the two-wheel-drive division.

Local heroes out to shine

As well as counting as round seven of the 12-event ERC season, the Sibiu Rally is a round of the Romanian championship. That means a number of local heroes will be aiming to make an impact, while securing valuable domestic points. They include Edwin Keleti, Valentin Porcisteanu, Dan Girtofan and Alex Filip, who will bid for ERC 2WD success in a Renault Clio R3. Several Hungarian drivers will also be competing. They include Kornél Lukács, Janós Puskádi and Gergo Szabo. Meanwhile, former rallycross star Łukasz Kabaciński is travelling from Poland to take part.


Napoca Rally Academy star on stepping up and competing at home in the ERC

How have you prepared for the Sibiu Rally?

“We took part on the San Marino Rally last weekend, which has some stages very similar to Sibiu and also some sections on Tarmac so it was a good test. Unfortunately my JM Engineering ŠKODA that I normally use in the Romanian championship was not available so I ran with a Fiesta S2000, quite a different car but still a Super 2000 so I hope it will be useful for Sibiu. Also, we are pushing with our physical preparation because the rally is not only hard for the cars but also the crews. The last thing we will also be doing is praying for luck against the punctures and mechanical failures that this rally is famous for.”

Why have you switched from your usual Subaru Impreza to a Skoda Fabia for this event?

“Because Sibiu is not only an ERC event, it is also the most important round of the national championship, with double points available. This is not just important for me but for Napoca Rally Academy. We are fighting point to point with ESD (François Delecour’s team) and BCR (Valentin Porcisteanu and Edwin Keleti’s team) for the teams’ title. We were champions in 2011, vice champions in 2012 and we strongly want to come back on the first place in 2013. I normally race with the ŠKODA in the Romanian championship so we decide to do the same also for the Sibiu Rally because we can rely on Simone Tempestini and Bogdan Marisca’s performances in the ERC Production Car Cup for Teams. We also have other friends that will compete under the NRA colours in Sibiu, the fast Italian Andrea Smiderle and the reliable Romanians Adrian Dragan and Horatiu Savu.”

You’re a former winner in Sibiu. What’s the secret to success?

“Until last year it was a mixture of being lucky and having the capacity to manage your speed in the rough part of the rally – punctures were a real nightmare in Sibiu in the past. Two times I was very fast but retired leading or fighting for the lead. In 2011 I won because the problems of the others. But that was Sibiu and now I’m very curious to see the great work to rebuild the special stages that the organiser has done with the help of the local authorities. The stages are now very good and not hard for the cars like before so maybe we change our strategy and go flat out.”

What challenges do you face driving on asphalt with gravel tyres and settings?

“That is an interesting question. On the Tarmac with gravel tyres and settings you have to leave the car ‘floating’ to catch the highest speed possible and also the lines have to be different from the usual Tarmac lines. But the gravel tyres on Tarmac suffer a lot with high temperatures and high consumption. With the new rules limiting each car to 24 tyres and so much Tarmac and long stages, tyre choice will be another important question for the result.”

The Napoca Rally Academy has been very active in the ERC this year. How pleased are you with the team’s performances and what plans do you have for the rest of the season?

“I’m very pleased. Our target is to win the ERC Production Car Cup for Teams, the Romanian championship team title and the ERC Ladies’ Trophy with Ekaterina Stratieva and we are on schedule for all of them. We need the second part of the season to be as good as the first or, possibly, better to be sure to be able to achieve those targets. The Napoca Rally Academy is also coaching and teaching the young drivers and I’m really pleased about the growth of Simone Tempestini and Florin Tincescu, two very young drivers (19 and 20 years old) that we would like to see in the future in the top of the European rally world.”


* With stages on gravel and asphalt, the Sibiu Rally is the only true mixed-surface round of the 2013 ERC.

* Until 1941 the majority of Sibiu’s population was ethnic German. Although many returned to Germany from the 1950s onwards, about 2000 remain including Klaus Johannis, the city’s mayor.

* Tocaniță, a meat stew seasoned with onions, sarmale, picked cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice and spices, and mititei, small skinless grilled sausages, are among popular entrees served in Romania.

* Transylvania is Dracula country and author Bram Stoker’s fictional Count’s castle is located in Brasov, 143 kilometres from Sibiu.

* Another major local attraction is Transfăgărășan national road, 90 kilometres of dramatic twists and turns through the Southern Carpathians as featured on the BBC Top Gear television show.


  • Starts: 20:30hrs, Thursday 25 July, Piața Mică, Sibiu
  • Finishes: 19:00hrs, Saturday 27 July, Piața Mică, Sibiu
  • Headquarters: Piața Mică, 550178, Sibiu
  • Service park: Piața Mare, 550178, Sibiu
  • Facts and figures:
  • Entries received: 69
  • ERC appearances: None
  • Stages: 14
  • Stage distance: 216.34 kilometres (95.84 kilometres leg one, 120.50 kilometres leg two)
  • Liaison: 323.51 kilometres
  • Total: 539.85 kilometres
  • Surface: Gravel (approximately 80 per cent), asphalt (approximately 20 per cent)

Free practice: 08:00hrs-09:30hrs, Thursday 25 July, Sibiu Rallycross Circuit, 3.80 kilometres (for FIA/ERC priority drivers)

Qualifying stage: 10:00hrs-11:00hrs, Thursday 25 July, Sibiu Rallycross Circuit, 3.80 kilometres (for FIA/ERC priority drivers)

Shakedown: 11:00hrs-14:00hrs, Thursday 25 July, Gușterița and Daia (for all other drivers, note there are two separate locations)

Start order selection: 12:00hrs, Thursday 25 July, Sibiu City Hall, Piața Mare, Brukenthal Street 2, 550178, Sibiu

Drivers versus celebrities football match: 16:00hrs-17:00hrs, Thursday 25 July, Sala Transilvania

City Demo (parade through Sibiu streets by all competing cars): 20:00hrs, Thursday 25 July

Ceremonial start: 20:30hrs, Thursday 25 July, Piața Mică, Sibiu

Black tie charity gala dinner: 22:00hrs, Thursday 25 July, Hilton Hotel, Sibiu

Driver autograph session: 10:30hrs-11:00hrs, Friday 26 July, Piața Mare, Sibiu

Podium/prize-giving ceremony: 19:00hrs, Saturday 27 July, Piața Mică, Sibiu

source:  www.fiaerc.com , eurosport.com