Corsica braced for ERC title showdown

Corsica braced for ERC title showdownFrom ERC Media [ 31/10/2014 ].
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Following 10 rounds, 162 special stages, a whole heap of action and plenty of serious competition, the thrilling race for the FIA European Rally Championship concludes on the Mediterranean island of Corsica next week. Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse, which starts in Porto-Vecchio on 6 November and finishes in Ajaccio on 8 November, is running for a 57th time in 2014 and remains one of the most legendary and demanding rallies on the international calendar.

Known as the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’ due to the frequency of twists and turns over spectacular mountain passes, this year’s event will decide the outcome of the overall ERC title, the ERC Production Car Cup, the ERC 2WD Championship and the new-for-2014 ERC Junior Championship. The ERC Asphalt Master for surface specialists is also up for grabs in Corsica.

The 2014 ERC season-closer marks a step back in time with Friday’s route using stages not run for 30 years, while the November date recreates the spirit of the event’s past when the rally traditionally took place towards the end of the year. Following Free Practice, the Qualifying Stage and shakedown on Thursday, 11 stages are scheduled over a distance of 251.56 kilometres.

Tour de France memories for Corsica ERC counter

Having selected Ajaccio, Bastia, Calvi and Corte as the rally’s central hub in recent years, Porto-Vecchio has been chosen as the new starting point for 2014. The tourist town, Corsica’s third largest and the starting point for the island’s opening leg of the Tour de France cycle race in 2013, will host the ceremonial start from 20:00hrs on Thursday 6 November, two service halts on Friday 7 November, while the Qualifying Stage will take place between Ceccia and Pasciallelo a few kilometres south of the Porto-Vecchio. By using Porto-Vecchio, organisers are able to include classic stages around Sartène and the Forêt d’Ospédale (Palavèse-L’Ospédale, Sorbollano-Pont D’Accoravo, Sartène-Orone), which have been absent from the Tour de Corse for several years.

Destination Ajaccio via Propriano

Following the completion of leg one’s six stages, crews will head to Ajaccio for an overnight halt via a regroup in Propriano. Saturday’s final leg consists of five stages – a single run through Acqua Doria-Col de Bellevalle plus two visits to Bastelica-Tavera and Sarrola-Plage du Liamone. The finish in Ajaccio is scheduled to begin at 17:32hrs local time on 8 November.

Star-studded entry for Corsica ERC finale

Stars from stage and track will be in action on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse, which boasts an entry of more than 50 cars. Among those taking part are ŠKODA’s ERC title chasers Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand, Peugeot duo Kevin Abbring and Craig Breen, last year’s Corsica winner Bryan Bouffier, ERC regulars Robert Consani, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Bruno Magalhães, Jaromír Tarabus and Antonín Tlusťák, Swiss star Jonathan Hirschi, plus Le Mans 24 Hours racers Romain Dumas and Stéphane Sarrazin with Dumas giving the RGT Porsche 997 its ERC debut.

ERC titles to go down to the wire in Corsica

While Esapekka Lappi needs five points to become European champion for the first time and Zoltán Bessenyey holds a comfortable advantage in ERC 2WD, Martin Hudec remains in touching distance of Vitaliy Pushkar in the ERC Production Car Cup. Elsewhere, Andrea Crugnola is a mere nine points behind Stéphane Lefebvre in ERC Junior, while the ERC Asphalt Master award will be decided on the Mediterranean island.

Lappi on Wiegand, Wiegand on Lappi

The battle for the ERC title will come down to a two-horse race between ŠKODA team-mates Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand. And this is what they have had to say about each other ahead of Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse. Lappi on Wiegand: “He's quite smart driver, I have to say. He’s using his head during the rallies and finishing the rallies. He’s maybe not the fastest guy, but he’s taking the points.” Wiegand on Lappi: “As Esapekka comes from Finland, he’s extremely fast. With all those fast roads and jumps in Finland, he is used to drive fast. He drives a bit longer than me, he has a bit more experience. He does a bit more testing and drives more. I think he’s very motivated, he always aims for the best and he is very focused. I believe he has a good package.”

Six of the best for ERC Junior

Six ERC Junior drivers will be in action in Corsica. Although the focus will be on title contenders Stéphane Lefebvre and Andrea Crugnola’s race for the prize drive in an R5 car on selected rounds of next year’s ERC, Fabio Andolfi, Gino Bux, Florin Tincescu and Aleks Zawada will all be looking to end their respective seasons on a high. Although he’s out of contention for the title, Zawada can still finish runner-up in the final standings.

Local aces out in force on ERC finale

Corsican youngster Jean-Mathieu Leandri will step up to a Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time having started 2014 competing in ERC Junior. Frenchman Laurent Reuche will make his second ERC start in as many weeks armed with Renault’s Clio R3T following a debut ERC 2WD win in Switzerland, while Eric Camilli will be one to watch in a Peugeot 207 S2000.

Subaru chance for Cronin

Keith Cronin will make his return to international competition following a year away in JRM’s Subaru WRX STI. The Irishman, a three-time British champion, will face opposition from ERC Production Car Cup title rivals Vitaliy Pushkar and Martin Hudec and rapid Hungarian Tibor Erdi.

FIVE FACTS
*After finishing third in Corsica last season, ex-grand prix racer Stéphane Sarrazin is back on the event in a Ford Fiesta RRC. For the record his only Formula One start came in Brazil back in 1999
*Jean-Pierre Nicolas, the ERC Sporting Manager and 1973 Tour de Corse winner, is celebrating 50 years since his debut on the event armed with a shared Renault Dauphine
*Subject to ratification, ŠKODA is assured a third ERC drivers’ title with Esapekka Lappi and Sepp Wiegand hoping to follow in the footsteps of Juho Hänninen (champion in 2012) and last year’s winner Jan Kopecký
*Corsica is big on mountains with 20 summits more than 2000 metres high. Monte Cinto is the highest at 2706 metres
*Wild boar and cheeses made from goat or sheep milk are popular among Corsicans, while Cap Corse is a favourite aperitif

EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local)
Starts: 20:00hrs, Thursday 6 November, City Hall, Porto-Vecchio
Finishes: 17:32hrs, Saturday 8 November, Place du Diamant, Ajaccio
Service parks: Port, Porto-Vecchio and Port de Commerce, Ajaccio
ERC appearances (since the restructuring in 2004): One (2013)
Stages: 11
Stage distance: 251.56 kilometres (135.40 kilometres leg one, 116.16 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 505.50 kilometres
Total: 757.06 kilometres
Surface: Asphalt

Television coverage: Daily highlights will be broadcast on Eurosport

ERC Rally Radio: Live throughout the event on this web site

Results, standings and text commentary: on this web siteFiaerc.com

Championship standings (unofficial): http://irc.rallye-info.com/points.asp?sid=11