2014 FIA European Rally Championship, round 10 of 11 Rallye International du Valais, 23-25 October 2014
Four top driving talents will showcase the Serious Competition Ahead in the FIA European Rally Championship when Rallye International du Valais hosts the thrilling race to clinch the coveted ERC title from 23-25 October.Based in the canton of Valais in southwest Switzerland close to Lake Geneva, the 55th running of the asphalt event takes on added significance with star performers Esapekka Lappi, Sepp Wiegand, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Craig Breen all in contention for the prestigious ERC prize.Maintaining its status as the most important event in Swiss motorsport, the rally features 19 mainly asphalt stages over a competitive distance of 260.20 kilometres on mountain roads. The opening leg starts in Sion on Thursday 23 October and ventures into Upper Valais for the first time and a new stage through the German-speaking towns of Varen, Inden and Leukerbad. Friday’s route includes two visits to the Caserne military barracks stage in Sion before the event relocates to Martigny for day three when the monster 32.13-kilometre Les Cols test will be one of the highlights.As well as counting for overall ERC points, the event is a round of the ERC Production Car Cup, ERC 2WD Championship, the new-for-2014 ERC Junior Championship and the Swiss Rally Championship. While Sébastien Carron has secured the national title, all other categories are up for grabs. The event also represents another opportunity for drivers to score ERC Asphalt Master points, a new initiative from ERC promoter Eurosport Events to recognise surface specialists in the European championship.ERC Juniors aiming to shineWith ERC Junior Championship leader Stéphane Lefebvre not including the trip to Switzerland as one of his scoring rounds, fellow Peugeot 208 R2 drivers Andrea Crugnola and Chris Ingram will be looking to make up lost ground in the title chase. Aleks Zawada, Alex Parpottas, Fabio Andolfi and Florin Tincescu also have the talent to impress in their Michelin-shod R2 machines.Local heroes to challenge ERC Production Car Cup regularsSeveral leading Swiss drivers will chase ERC Production Car Cup honours including Florian Gonon, Urs Hunziker and Reudi Schmidlin. They will be going up against title chasers Vitaliy Pushkar and Martin Hudec, who are separated by 13 points heading to Switzerland. Other likely frontrunners include top Hungarian Andràs Hadik and three-time British champion and James Bond movie stunt driver Mark Higgins, who is making his second ERC start in a JRM Subaru.Former Valais winners in actionLast year’s first-place finisher Esapekka Lappi won’t be the only former Rallye du Valais winner in action. Olivier Burri has triumphed on the event on eight occasions and Laurent Reuche is a double winner. Burri will be making his first competitive start in a Ford Fiesta R5, while Reuche joins Burri’s son Michaël in giving the Renault Clio R3T its ERC debut. While he’s never won in Valais before, Nicolas Althaus is no stranger to the podium and switches to a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 for this season having driven a Peugeot 207 S2000 in the past.
Czech quintet ready for Swiss ERC adventure…Five drivers from Czech Republic – Martin Hudec, Tomáš Kurka, Jaroslav Orsák, Jaromír Tarabus and Antonín Tlusťák – will be in action on Rallye International du Valais. While Orsák and Tlusťák can count on recent experience of competing in Switzerland (Tlusťák was the top ERC scorer in 2011), the event will be unchartered territory for their fellow countrymen.…as Hungarian trio aim for ERC successA trio of Hungarian drivers will be competing on Rallye International du Valais. Eurosol Racing Honda Civic driver Zoltán Bessenyey will be out to score as many points as possible in his bid to claim two ERC 2WD Championship crowns in succession. Teenager Kristòf Klausz continues to build on his limited experience, while veteran Lászlo Vizin is making his second Valais start and his fourth ERC appearance of 2014.Four up for ERC Asphalt Master awardFour drivers are in the mix to become the inaugural ERC Asphalt Master. Esapekka Lappi leads with 238 points followed by Kevin Abbring (195), Craig Breen (134) and Sepp Wiegand (124). Points are awarded to the fastest five drivers on each stage on a basis of 10-6-4-2-1.Portuguese pair a class actTwo Portuguese ERC regulars will be competing on Rallye International du Valais: multiple national champion Bruno Magalhães, who drives a pacesetting Peugeot 208T16, and ERC 2WD runner and road safety campaigner Renato Pita, who is armed with a Peugeot 208 R2.Consani to carry message of support to Jules BianchiRobert Consani, who will be making his 10th consecutive ERC start in Switzerland, will carry a message of support to his injured compatriot, the Formula One driver Jules Bianchi. Consani is tackling the event in a Delta Rally Peugeot 207 S2000.Les Cols test holds no fear for FilipThe 32.13-kilometre Les Cols test might be the longest in the ERC this season but that won’t bother fitness fanatic and top Romanian driver Alex Filip, who cycled 290 kilometres in one day from his home in Bucharest to an event in Sibiu recently. He will use a Renault Clio R3 in Valais.FOUR TO THE FORE IN ERCFour drivers will battle for the ERC title in Switzerland. This is what they have had to say ahead of the penultimate round of the season.FIVE FACTS*The Valais canton doesn’t just contain 11 of the best special stages in Europe, it’s also home to 40 luge tracks as it’s one of Switzerland’s leading winter sports regions.*Rallye International du Valais’ history dates back to 1960 and the running of the Rallye du Vin, which was organised to allow competitors to discover the region and its wines.*While Rallye du Valais is designated an asphalt event, there are small gravel sections on legs two (0.28 kilometres) and three (29.90 kilometres).*Martigny is not only the joint host town of Rallye International du Valais, it’s also home to the Saint Bernard dog museum where the region’s favourite four-legged friend is celebrated.