Ypres Rally set to provide a massive challenge for Pirelli's ERC Junior drivers
|ERC Junior drivers compete in R2 cars fitted with Pirelli tyres
Pirelli is throwing its weight behind the ERC Junior Championship this year – a series designed to promote the rally champions of tomorrow – which reaches its halfway point at the Ypres Rally in Belgium this weekend. The popular European Rally Championship event is well known for its strong entry list, including a number of local specialists. Among the challenges that drivers have to overcome are long straights, 90-degree corners, variable weather, and hazards such as ditches and telegraph poles that line the compact route. Because of the specialised nature of this all-asphalt rally, the regular European Rally Championship competitors often struggle against local expertise. But one man to accept the challenge is fearless Russian Alexey Lukyanuk, who will be relying on Pirelli’s latest P Zero RK tyres to try and reduce the 15-point gap that currently separates him from championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz. The Pole is not contesting the Ypres Rally this weekend, as he is preparing for his home round of the World Rally Championship next weekend. The route: the rally runs through the famous Flanders region, on the border with France. In total there are 17 asphalt special stages, ranging from 7.48 kilometres to 23.23 kilometres in length (Mesen and Hollebeke respectively). Driving characteristics: the roads tend to consist of fast straights, interspersed with right-angled corners, and featuring a large number of junctions. This calls for spot-on driving precision and accurate pace notes. With drivers frequently cutting corners, the roads get progressively dirtier with the passage of each car. A lot of the action also takes place at night. Weather: wet weather is a distinct possibility this weekend, which makes the roads extremely slippery, with minimal grip. Staying on the road is the biggest challenge. Leading Pirelli drivers in Ypres: In total there are over 100 starters in Ypres, including more than 35 in the top class. The leading Pirelli runner is Ford Fiesta R5 driver Alexey Lukyanuk on his Ypres Rally debut: the winner of the season-opening Canaries Rally, again on his event debut. Pirelli is exclusive supplier to the ERC Junior Championship, providing technical training as well as tyres to the young drivers. The competition in this category is finely balanced, with Opel Adam driver Lukasz Pieniazek having won the first round and Portugal’s Diogo Gago the second in a Peugeot 208 R2. Other championship challengers include Chris Ingram (Opel Adam) and his team mate Marijan Griebel, who knows this event extremely well. Nikolay Gryazin (Peugeot 208) and Julius Tannert (Opel Adam) will also be hoping for a strong Ypres Rally to put themselves back into the title fight. The tyres and the rules: In accordance with FIA regulations, the top teams have 18 of the 18-inch tyres at their disposal for the entire event, while the Juniors have 12 of the 16-inch tyres at their disposal. Pirelli is bringing the entire P Zero RK range to Ypres, with the medium compound RK7B as the base tyre for dry weather and the RKW7 for wet or damp conditions. The Juniors will use the RK5 for dry conditions and RKW7 in the wet.
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