World Rally Championship drivers Craig Breen, Andreas Mikkelsen and Nikolay Gryazin will all start the opening round of the European Rally Championship in Poland.
The Azores Rally was meant to kickstart the 2021 ERC season, but its postponement delayed the start of the season to next week and Rally Poland on June 18-20.
Reigning champion Alexey Lukyanuk heads the 102-strong entry in his Citroën C3 Rally2 – which includes 46 Rally2 cars – ahead of Estonian driver Roland Poom and Toksport Škoda’s Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen made his rallying comeback in the ERC last year and won Rally Hungary, and will compete in Poland – a rally he won in 2016 when it was part of the WRC – one week before heading to Kenya for the Safari Rally.
He will be joined by team-mate Emilio Fernández, while Breen will once again pilot a Hyundai i20 R5 for the MRF team. While last year he was joined by Emil Lindholm, in 2021 Italian Simone Campedelli is the team’s other entrant in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Gryazin – who won Rally Poland in 2018 – has been seeded ninth in his VW, behind the two Rally Team Spain cars of Efrén Llarena and Nil Solans; Llarena switching from a Citroën to a Škoda this year.
Hyundai Motorsport junior driver Grégoire Munster – who finished third overall in last year’s ERC – will start his first rally of 2021 while former ERC podium finisher Callum Devine will make his championship debut in a Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Other leading contenders are likely to include Fabian Kreim, Yoann Bonato, Umberto Scandola and WRC2 driver Georg Linnamäe.
The Ford Fiesta Rally3 will make its ERC debut too in the hands of reigning ERC3 Junior Champion Ken Torn and Junior WRC pilot Jon Armstrong.
In total, 72 crews have registered for the ERC on the opening round, something series co-ordinator Jean-Baptiste Ley believes shows the championship’s “accessibility and appeal.”
“It’s clear the level of interest in the ERC is truly phenomenal,” he said, “and it’s a fantastic way to help the organizers of Rally Poland celebrate the event’s 100th anniversary. While the entry list is big in terms of numbers, it’s also massive in terms of quality and variety.
Rally Poland comprises 14 stages and offers just under 126 miles of competitive mileage.