The iconic Sete Cidades stage will once again be the focal point of the Azores Rallye, which opens the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship from 21-23 March.
Run twice on Friday 22 March, Sete Cidades features a spectacular section along the rim of a volcanic crater lake, which former Azores Rallye winner Craig Breen has described as one of the greatest spectacles in sport.
“There’s probably no other spectacle in sport like Sete Cidades,” said Breen, the Azores winner in 2015. “To drive a rally car along the ridge of a volcano is an incredible experience and then you have the stages on the final day, which are like being in a jungle. It’s a really nice rally embraced by all the local fans and the road mileage is short, which is good too. It’s definitely a challenge but it’s a good experience and it’s a nice rally to win because there are a lot of famous winners. I’d love to do it again.”
Based on the mid-Atlantic archipelago’s largest island of São Miguel, the Azores Rallye celebrated its half-century in 2015 and remains one of the most spectacular events on the international calendar. Stages criss-cross breath-taking scenery and lush countryside, and are characterised by their sandy surface and narrow and undulating nature.
Alexey Lukyanuk won the event in 2018 on route to claiming the ERC title. World Rally Championship stars past and present, such as Craig Breen, Kris Meeke, Andreas Mikkelsen, Juha Kankkunen, Markko Märtin and Bruno Thiry, are among a long list of former Azores Rallye winners.
Meanwhile, other changes for 2019 include an all-new 7.90-kilometre stage on leg one, while the fan-friendly City Show in Ponta Delgada follows a tweaked route.
Azores Rallye organisers are once again supporting crew participation with free return shipping of rally cars, service vehicles and spare parts from Portugal. Entry fees for ERC1 and ERC2 drivers are reduced by 50 and 60 per cent respectively compared to 2018, while competitors in two-wheel-drive machinery, which includes ERC3, get free entries.
Crews planning to contest the Azores Rallye should follow this link for more information on the ERC season opener:http://www.azoresrallye.com/documentation-for-competitors/.
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