The shakedown on Wednesday afternoon marks the official start of the newest rally on the world championship calendar. Before the actual competition gets underway, the teams and cockpit occupants had one last chance to put the cars through their paces on around 3.4 km of track near Tittling, in Lower Bavaria. During the preceding days, drivers and co-drivers had been able to examine all the stages during the recce, while the organisational team had put the route together, ensuring that everything is ready to go. On Thursday, President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel will be in front of the presidential palace in Prague to send the 68 teams on their way to compete over a total of 1,650 km, 312.8 km of which will feature a race to record the fastest time over the four days. There is a chance that fans will be able to acclaim a new world champion at the prize ceremony in Passau on Sunday afternoon. The battle for the title between Toyota drivers Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) and Elfyn Evans (GBR) may well be decided along the route through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Thierry Neuville (BEL, Hyundai) and Ott Tänak (EST, Ford) are the two remaining candidates fighting it out for third place. The advance sale period has now closed, but tickets are still available on-site for individual stages. If you want to stay up-to-date with the latest events, you can find current news, reactions, results and background information here on the official homepage.
“We are delighted that it will finally get going,” says rally director Andreas Dinzinger ahead of the start of the rally spectacular. “The Central European Rally sees us making a bit of motor racing history, as this will be the first-ever race in the WRC, the top level of rally sport, to take place in three countries and it has been organised by a correspondingly international team. We are proud of that. However, from now on our focus is on providing that cross-border rally festival for teams and fans and we are hoping for a fantastic debut with plenty of sporting interest.”
Teams looking forward to world championship debut
There is plenty of positive tension among the teams as they approach the penultimate world championship race. “I am sure it will be a thrilling rally,” says Elfyn Evans (Toyota), currently second in the standings. Although the tracks feature paved surfaces, he may well be playing with fire when chasing the leading driver, his team-mate Kalle Rovanperä. “The rally itself is a completely new event for us and that means a lot of preparatory work. The recce showed that it will probably be pretty slippery. There doesn’t seem to be too much grip. The weather is looking changeable too.” This makes the best possible preparation all the more important for him and all the teams, culminating in today’s shakedown. “The first shakedown run was quite good,” says Evans. “We made a few more minor mistakes that cost us a few tenths of a second. Apart from that, the car went really well.”
Once the rally starts on Thursday, there will be two ultra-compact special stages before the teams return to the service park in Passau, which will be the base for the next daily stages. Friday features stages in the Czech Republic, while German and Austrian stages will take turns on Saturday and Sunday. Spectators wishing to watch the action live will find signposts to the parking zones in the areas around the stages, with each stage sporting its own colour scheme. The organisers have provided plenty of useful information about the region, which you can find on the homepage: www.centraleuropeanrally.eu. The accompanying programme for the event will only be published in digital form, providing overview maps and detailed diagrams, as does the homepage. The “TW Sportsoft” mobile app is also a versatile resource, allowing you to access the most important information offline.
Focus on sustainability, rewards for carpooling
The decision not to print maps or an accompanying programme is part of the sustainability efforts that are a key objective for the organisers. This aim is shared with participants in Rallye1 cars with hybrid drive systems, as well as those competing in the ADAC Opel Electric Rally Cup, which you will also be able to see at selected stages. Another key component is the appeal for all visitors to carpool, thereby reducing the C02 footprint of the Central European Rally (for more information, see https://www.centraleuropeanrally.eu/ride-sharing). There is an incentive on offer: each vehicle that arrives at the spectator car parking areas with at least four people on board will receive prize draw entries corresponding to the number of people in the car. The winners will be drawn on each day of the rally at 18:00, and will be rewarded with prizes such as valuable travel vouchers or merchandising packages.