Local hero Marczyk faces ERC's giants to defend ORLEN Rally Poland crown.
It’s foot to the floor time in the FIA European Rally Championship this week (19 - 21 May) with Poland’s high-speed gravel stages providing the latest challenge for the ERC stars and their cars.
And with the ERC turning 70 this season it’s only fitting that the second oldest rally in the world is part of the 2023 schedule, kicking off a three-event run of flat-out gravel events.
Based in the Masurian lake district town of Mikołajki, a three-hour drive north of the capital Warsaw, ORLEN 79th Rally Poland has attracted a packed entry – including 58 ERC-registered crews – with a 16-stage, 182.06-kilometre route in store.
After claiming a highly emotional and popular home win in 2022, 27-year-old Miko Marczyk is firmly in contention for a repeat victory in his Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
“Last year the level of competition was high but now the level will go up because the big boys from the WRC, like Mads Østberg and Hayden Paddon, will be on the stages,” he said. “This is very important for me to compare myself with top drivers of the world on our stages, which are mainly a lot of fourth and fifth gear, a lot of straights and very fast corners. But even if we are slower than them we can develop and improve a lot with this comparison.”
Rally Poland also forms the opening round of the Hankook-equipped FIA Junior ERC Championship, which is giving 16 young talents the opportunity to build their experience for future career progression in Rally4 and Rally5 cars.
Step into the unknown for Europe’s top talents
The 79th running of Rally Poland will be a step into the unknown with the new Barczewo and Biskupiec stages located west of Mikołajki forming part of the Sunday route and coming complete with a “good, hard gravel surface” according to the event organisers.
At 18.58 kilometres, Świętajno, which is run twice on Saturday, is the rally’s longest while tweaked versions of Markowskie and Wieliczki are included on the itinerary, which also features the purpose-buillt Mikołajki Arena super special stage when drivers battle in pairs.
Quality and quantity: strong ERC entry is Poland bound
Fifty-eight crews will be in contention for FIA European Rally Championship points with the total 62-car main entry including 31 Rally2 cars, 16 Junior ERC drivers and the international-level debut of the all-new Renault Clio Rally3, which will go up against the Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo from M-Sport Poland.
Other entry highlights include ERC points leader Pirelli-equipped BRC Racing Team Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon, who scored two podiums during Poland’s tenure as a round of the FIA World Rally Championship and has flown from his native New Zealand, where he was a winner on a national championship event last weeknd. Defending ERC title winner Efrén Llarena drives for Team MRF Tyres, while Tom Kristensson is the reigning Polish champion.