Three drivers, one massive opportunity. The overall European Rally Championship title may have already been wrapped up by Hayden Paddon, but there’s plenty still on the line at this weekend’s Rally Hungary.
Roberto Daprà, Norbert Maior and Ole Nore Jr all start the event with a chance of becoming Junior European Rally champion. And that’s big business, as the winner will receive a prize drive in next year’s Junior WRC.
Daprà trails fellow Peugeot pilot Maior by four points heading into Rally Hungary, but with their dropped scores factored in (the best five results from six will count), the Italian heads Maior – albeit by just two points.
But unlike his rivals, the 22-year-old hasn’t ever rallied in Hungary before. His form is at least strong, having won in Rome and finished third on Barum Rally Zlín.
Maior has been a model of consistency in 2023, scooping up podiums on four of the five events so far. The Romanian is yet to win a rally, but has been competitive across all surfaces.
Third in the standings, Nore could be considered the outside bet – which is hard to believe given how strongly he started the season. In both Poland and Latvia, the Norwegian was untouchable as he scored a maximum 60 points across the first two events in his Renault Clio Rally4.
A budget shortfall forced Nore out of Zlín, denying him the ability to drop any other scores. That means he is forced to carry his disappointing sixth from Royal Rally of Scandinavia towards his championship total.
However, with current dropped scores factored in, Nore effectively still leads the championship by five points. Assuming Nore finishes Rally Hungary, Daprà and Maior would each need to outscore him – by six and eight points respectively – to take the title.
Nore has to contend with learning a new car though, switching to an Opel Corsa Rally4, as well as competing on his weaker surface.
Tantalizingly, victory for any of the contenders would likely be enough for them to clinch the championship for themselves – the only exception being if Nore finished second to Maior, the Norwegian would take the crown.
Mads Østberg tops the entry list for overall honors, and still has a shot at securing second place in the championship.
His rivals for that position are Mārtiņš Sesks who scored two brilliant victories earlier in the season but has struggled for Tarmac form, and reigning champion Efrén Llarena who is tied on points with Østberg.
Yoann Bonato is another favorite for victory, making his fourth ERC start of the season.
Twelve stages and 112 miles will decide the contest.