Here are just some of the talking points ahead of this week's Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras, round six of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship.
*With a 34-point advantage,Andreas Mikkelsennot only heads the provisional FIA European Rally Championship standings, he also fronts a top-level entry for the final gravel-based event of the ERC season. The Škoda-powered Toksport WRT ace – and recently recruited co-driver Elliott Edmondson – are among 35 crews chasing ERC points on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras.

*Following his last-gasp capture of third place on the 55th Azores Rallye,Efrén Llarena(Rallye Team Spain) is second in the standings and can count on previous Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras experience courtesy of a one-off start in 2018.

*Dani Sordo(pictured), who placed second in the Azores on his event debut and his first start for Team MRF Tyres, is a known quantity on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras having won the event outright in 2019 driving a Hyundai i20 R5.

*Bruno Magalhães, a three-time winner in Fafe, finished sixth to Sordo that year but went four better in 2020 when he took the runner-up spot behindArmindo Araújo, the six-time Portuguese champion. Since his last ERC appearance in 2006, Araújo claimed back-to-back Production Car world titles and currently heads his national championship standings after five rounds. Magalhães, meanwhile, will have the all-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 from Team Hyundai Portugal at his disposal.

*ORLEN Team’s former Polish championMiko Marczyk, was a strong fifth overall when the ERC visited Fafe for the asphalt-based Rally Fafe Montelongo in 2020. He returns eager to build on his strong start to the ERC season and cut his seven-point gap to Llarena.

*Larena is the leading ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory member after five rounds and will win the full tyre allocation for the season-closing ERC events in Hungary and Gran Canaria if he remains ahead of Marczyk in the standings after six rounds.

*Alexey Lukyanuk(Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2), last year’s Rally Fafe Montelongo winner, andNorbert Herczig(Škoda Rally Team Hungaria) both non-scored in the Azores after troubled events, whileYoann Bonatowas eliminated in a car-wrecking crash.

*Yacco ACCR Team’sErik Cais(Ford Fiesta Rallly2) and Rallye Team Spain’sNil Solans,the 2020 Spanish Gravel champion, also non-finished in the Azores where Mexico’sBenito Guerrawas scoring points on his ERC debut.

*Hyundai Rally Team Italia’sUmberto Scandolamakes his first Fafe start fresh from finishing a season-best sixth in the Azores. Scandola’s countrymanAlberto Battistolliand Italy-born RomanianSimone Tempestiniwill be among the points-scoring contenders in Fafe, as will Spain’sLuis Vilariño, 2020 Rally Fafe Montelongo podium finisherIván AresandSimone Campedelli, who switches from a Team MRF Tyres Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and has pedigree on gravel.

*The experiencedAlessandro Taddeipartners Scandola at Hyundai Rally Team Italia, whileAlexander Villanuevais one of 23 drivers competing in Rally2 machinery.

*As well as Araújo and Magalhães, the Portuguese championship contingent includesMiguel Correia, plus former national championsJosé Pedro FontesandRicardo Teodósio. Highly respected football coach and rallying fanAndré Villas-Boaswill also fly the Portuguese flag in a Team Hyundai Portugal-entered i20 R5 for his first appearance on an ERC event. Villas-Boas will be raising awareness of the Race for Good charity.

*Igor Widłakcontinues his ERC adventure in an M-Sport Poland-built Ford Fiesta Rally3, while ERC2 promises to be close fight for supremacy between new championship leaderJavier Pardo, plusVictor Cartier, in a self-built Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit,Dmitry FeofanovandJoan Vinyes, Pardo’s Suzuki Motor Ibérica team-mate.

*Jean-Baptiste Franceschi(Renault Clio Rally4) will bid to defend his ERC3 title advantage from Peugeot 208 Rally4-driving rivalPep Bassas, the erstwhile leader. They will face opposition from local driversPedro Almeida– who is co-driven by Fafe resident Hugo Magalhães – andErnesto Cunha.Łukasz Lewandowski(Opel Corsa Rally4) andOla Jr Norewill also chase ERC3 points, as will championship rookieÇelik Çağlayanin a Toksport Renault Clio Rally5.
ERC runner-up spot still in Llarena’s reach
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