The Spaniard needs just 13 points to secure the European title in the penultimate round.
Just 13 points stand between Efrén Llarena and his FIA European Rally Championship dreams at this week’s (26-28 August) Barum Czech Rally Zlín.
Llarena and co-driver Sara Fernández are 58 points clear of Romanian rival Simone Tempestini. A top-seven result would see the Spanish pair crowned champions with one round to go in their debut season with team MRF Tires.
Tempestini and co-driver Sergiu Itu are in the lap of the gods. They must focus on finishing the order as much as possible while praying for Llarena to have a bad result.
If luck swings in Tempestini’s favour, Spain’s finals in October will decide the title. Both teams will compete in Škoda Fabia Rally2 cars.
The rally takes place 300 km south of the Czech capital Prague and offers a challenge like no other due to its bumpy and sometimes broken asphalt surface. To add to the spectacle, several stages offer fast-paced rides through forests and occasional rain showers are always a possibility.
With goals clear, Llarena feels calm about his championship hopes. While Fernández clinched the co-drivers’ title last year, he had to settle for second place behind Andreas Mikkelsen in the drivers’ championship.
“Our goal is definitely to try to win the championship this weekend,” admitted Llarena. “But I don’t feel any pressure at all.
“In our own minds, we would like to fight for them [rally] Podium but we will just focus on doing our own rally and we will see what happens,” he added.
Javier Pardo, Simone Campedelli and Norbert Herczig join Llarena in identical MRF-tyred Škodas, with Pardo and Campedelli still fighting for a top-three championship result.
A fan favourite, the Barum Czech Rally Zlín has also attracted an outstanding start with 114 cars including a number of local stars. Jan Kopecký is a nine-time winner of the event and also uses a Fabia, while Erik Cais drives a Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Cais still has work to do in Zlín: he was leading until the very last stage in 2021, but crashed out of the race in the final kilometers, handing the win to Kopecký. Fabia man Filip Mareš will be another rider aiming for home win after winning a number of stages at the previous race in Italy.
Other big names include Ken Torn in a Fiesta, and Alberto Battistolli and Simon Wagner in two Fabias. Tom Kristensson, who has already claimed an ERC podium this season, returns with a Hyundai i20 R5 prepared by local team Kowax 2B Rally.
The rally begins on Friday evening with an inner-city Super Special Stage that is driven after dark. The total route consists of 13 stages with a total length of 202.57 km.