There's plenty to talk about ahead of ORLEN 77th Rally Poland opening the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship next week. Here's a summary.
*Alexey Lukyanukwas the winner when the ERC last visited Poland in 2019. He launches his title defence in a Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2 co-driven byAlexey Arnautov, who is set for a full programme in 2021 after he took a mini sabbatical last term.

*Lukyanuk will be a guiding light for emerging Estonian talentRoland Poom, who makes his debut in the European championship’s top class in a second Saintéloc Citroën.

*After guidingChris IngramandRoss Whittockto ERC title glory in 2019, Toksport WRT returns to frontline ERC action with Škoda Fabias forAndreas MikkelsenandEmilio Fernández. Mikkelsen won on his ERC return in Hungary last season, while Fernández, from Chile, scored on his ERC debut in 2019.

*With strong displays on world and Italian championship appearances for Hyundai this season,Craig Breenis switching his focus to the ERC and his role as part of MRF Tyres’ development programme. The five-time ERC winner’s last Rally Poland appearance was at world level in 2017.

*Simone Campedelli(pictured) partners Breen in the Team MRF Tyres attack, but with Volkswagen rather than Hyundai power like his stablemate. The Italian is an ace on gravel but a Rally Poland rookie.

*Although he remains a key part of the Rallye Team Spain structure,Efrén Llarenaenters his fourth ERC season and his third Rally Poland with a new team (RaceSeven), new car (Škoda Fabia) and new tyre partner (Michelin).Sara Fernándezcontinues to co-drive, however.

*With world championship event-winning co-driverMarc Martíby his side,Nil Solanspartners Llarena as Rallye Team Spain begins the defence of the FIA entrants’ crown. Solans was rapid on his ERC debut last November and has previous Rally Poland experience to call on.

*While the world series isNikolay Gryazin’s focus nowadays after he stepped up as the ERC1 Junior champion for the 2019 season, the Russian who competes with a Latvian licence has nevertheless found time to include a programme of ERC events on his schedule, including Rally Poland, which he won in 2018 after a close battle withJari Huttunen.

*After coming close to beating Oliver Solberg to the ERC1 Junior crown in 2020,Grégoire Munsterwill continue to demonstrate his considerable potential in the European championship. As well as being a contender for outright honours, the Luxembourg-born driver will battle Llarena,Erik CaisandMiko Marczykfor the incentives offered by the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory.

*Like ACCR Yacco Team ace Cais, ORLEN Team driver Marczyk, the 2019 Polish champion, prepared for Rally Poland by contesting the national championship-opening Rally Žemaitija in Lithuania at the start of June. For good measure, Marczyk topped the Polish championship classification.

*Simone Tempestiniis another highly-rated ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory member and is set to start Rally Poland on the back of contesting the Romanian championship-counting, all-asphalt Catena Raliul Argeșului, which uses sections of the famous Transfagarasan Highway.

*Four-time Hungarian championNorbert Herczigis reunited with Škoda power and joins the ToppCars team for 2021 when more strong results are expected.

*Although he’s rallied little since capturing his third German crown in 2019, Pole Promotion’sFabian Kreimhas Rally Poland pedigree after he finished fourth on the event in 2018.

*Tiger Energy Drink Rally Team talentTomasz Kasperczykis well known in ERC circles but has his eyes fixed on Polish championship prizes. For compatriotGrzegorz Grzyb, the event marks a welcome return to ERC action for another popular and capable driver.

*French flyerYoann Bonatois planning to plant a tree for every stage win he records in 2021 at the wheel of his MICHELIN-equipped Citroën, a fantastic gesture by he and co-driverBenjamin Boulloud.

*Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’sCallum Devinemounts his second ERC bid, but this time in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 supported by M-Sport. Company bossMalcolm Wilsonhas promised to follow the Irish youngster’s progress closely in 2021.

*Umberto Scandolacrashed into a pond on his first ERC appearance outside his homeland on the Ypres Rally back in 2006. He’s written headlines for all the right reasons since with the 2013 Italian title a notable highlight. Rally Poland marks the start of a full-season ERC campaign with Hyundai Rally Team Italia.

*Alberto Battistolliis another Italian talent in a Rally2 car with a penchant for driving fast on gravel.

*Former ERC3 Junior prospectGregor Jeetsmakes his first ERC appearance in a Rally2 car, whileKacper Wróblewski, once a protégé of former ERC frontrunnerŁukasz Habaj, brings promise and backing from event sponsor ORLEN to the mix.

*Adrian Chwietczuk, co-driven by three-time ERC championJarek Baran, makes his ERC debut for Hołowczyz Racing, the team founded byKrzysztof Hołowczyc, the 1997 European champion.

*Rakan Al-RashedandAloísio Monteiroare welcome additions to the ERC entry, as isLuis Vilariño, whose last championship appearance was 20 years ago.

*Nabila Tejparhas previous Rally Poland knowledge and has recruited double British champion driverMatt Edwardsto co-drive her Proton Iriz R5, a car untried at ERC level.

*Wojciech Chuchałatook the ERC2 title in 2016, two years after winning the Polish title, while compatriotsŁukasz KotarbaandJarosław Szejaare co-driven by their brothers Tomasz and Marcin respectively.

*Like Lukyanuk,Tibor Érdi Jrstarts ORLEN 77th Rally Poland defending his European title, the ERC2 version specifically. The Hungarian faces opposition from six crews including Polish ERC2 newcomer,Michał Pryczek, whose Subaru Historic Rally Team-entered Impreza is co-driven by his father Jacek.

*Suzuki Motor Iberica is embarking on its first ERC2 campaign with two Rally2 Kit-specification Swift R4lly S forJavier Pardoand marque stalwartJoan Vinyes. Category regularDmitry Feofanovis swapping Mitsubishi for Suzuki machinery.Victor Cartierbegins his first ERC adventure in Poland in a self-built Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit. Top Polish driverDariusz Polońskiadds more variety with his Abarth 124 rally.

*ERC3/ERC3 Junior championKen Tornsteps up to four-wheel-drive performance in the all-new, Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland. ERC returneeJon Armstrongwill battle Torn for glory and the WRC3 Junior prize drive on offer to the eventual champion.

*Another four examples of the Krakow-built Fiesta Rally3 are entered with ORLEN 77th Rally Poland the car’s full international debut.

*Rallye Team Spain-backedPep Bassas,Fabian BernardiandMathieu Franceschiare ones to watch in ERC3, along withŁukasz Lewandowski, who brings the first Opel Corsa Rally4 to the ERC.

*Franceschi is the younger brother ofJean-Baptiste Franceschi, who joins Bernardi in giving Renault’s Clio Rally4 its ERC debut.

*Jean-Baptiste Franceschi is also eligible for ERC3 Junior points along with 11 rivals. They include his Toksport WRT team-mateOla Jr Noreand category podium finisherAmaury Molle.

*Double ERC3 championZoltán Bessenyey, who has been confined to a wheelchair since he was injured while co-driving during a test session in 2016, has turned team manager toMartin László, an ERC3 Junior newcomer for 2021.

*Nikolai LandaandNorbert Maiorboth made ERC3 Junior appearances last year and showed potential.

*Other ERC3 Junior newcomers include Rallye Team Spain scholarship winnerAlejandro Cachón, Junior world championship contenderSami Pajari,Giovanni Baruffa,Kaspar Kasari,Nick LoofandDaniel Polášek, an ex-champion finswimmer. An ERC Junior preview will be available from June 14.

*The Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT drivers areYigit Alparslan Timur(Turkey),Bastien Bergounhe(France),Andrea Mabellini(Italy),Ghjuvanni Rossi(France),Paulo Soria(Argentina).
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