Filip Mareš underlined his huge potential on his first of two prize drives from FIA European Rally Championship promoter Eurosport Events for winning the ERC1 Junior title earlier this season*.
Driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo for Kresta Racing, the ACCR Czech Rally Team driver was in third place on the Tarmac-based Rally Hungary last weekend when a puncture dropped him to fourth in the overall classification at the end of the opening leg, albeit 6.8s behind eventual winner Frigyes Turán.
Although his efforts to make up lost ground on the deciding day of the event were thwarted by powersteering failure, the 28-year-old nevertheless made a strong impression with a succession of top-five stage times alongside co-driver Jan Hloušek.
“It was bad luck for us to retire because I hoped it would be a good second day and another experience in wet conditions, but that’s rally,” said Mareš, who competes with the support of the Czech ASN, the Autoclub of the Czech Republic. “Shortly before the first stage of day two we lost the powersteering completely so it would have been very difficult to go through the whole loop. Together with the team we decided to retire, mainly because of safety reasons as there were some doubts about the real cause of the problem.”
Mareš was third starting Saturday’s closing test when he was delayed by a deflated tyre, which dropped him 6.8s off the final podium place overnight.
“We did a puncture maybe five or four kilometres before the end of the last stage of the day,” Mareš explained at the completion of Saturday’s first leg. “We had something a little bit broken in the steering but the first day was quite a good day for us, very tricky, something new for us because it was my first experience on this kind of [muddy] surface. But what is optimistic from my point of view is we are on the same pace as the local drivers although for sure Chris [Ingram] and Lucas [Alexey Lukyanuk] were flying at the front of the field so there is still a lot of work for us to do. But we completed the first day in touch of a podium position and Chris was not so far ahead of us.”
Mareš will take up the second of his two ERC1 Junior prize drives on the opening round of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship, the Azores Rallye, which takes place on the Portuguese island of São Miguel from 26-28 March. By contesting this all-gravel event, Mareš will be able to grow his experience of driving on loose surfaces. And following the Azores Rallye, it is hoped that Mareš will be able to put together a full programme to mount an overall ERC title campaign in 2020.
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA