On its mission to earn international accolades in rallying in Europe after dominating in Asia, MRF Tyres has had a very successful outing on its first-ever rally in Europe. MRF Tyres recently announced its supply to two cars competing in the 2020 European Rally Championship. Already, the venture has borne fruitful for the Indian tyre maker in its very first round at the Rally di Roma Capitale. MRF’s development tarmac tyres were deployed for the first time ever in competition and it was the first time Team MRF Tyres have competed at a high level of tarmac rallying. With two cars competing in the championship, one scheduled to compete for the whole season, on its first outing Team MRF Tyres finished in the Top-10 with both cars and missed out on the podium by a time margin.
Competing for the full season piloting a Hyundai i20 R5 on MRF Tyres, Craig Breen and Paul Nagle led the charge for the team. Breen/Nagle were fighting for the podium on the first day. On the second day of the rally, Breen/Nagle were battling with Simone Tempestini/Sergiu Itu for fourth as the pair switched between positions throughout the day.
Breen/Nagle were on the back foot as they entered the final stage of the rally from fifth but quickly moved up to fourth. The lead MRF duo managed the pace to finish fourth 1.3 seconds ahead of Tempestini, but only 53.8 seconds behind Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston who finished third.
Only a few positions down the order was the second Team MRF Tyres duo of Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen in the Skoda Fabia evo2 R5 also running on MRF tyres. Lindholm/Korhonen focused mainly on refining the set-up of the car throughout the rally and help in the improvement of the MRF tyres in its future development. In spite of which, Lindholm/Korhonen finished 10th overall and placed fifth in the ERC1 category for junior drivers marking a great start to the team’s campaign.
An astonishing fact during the rally took place in the final stage (SS10) where both Breen/Nagle and Lindholm/Korhonen posted an identical time of 5:12.2, just 7.5 seconds shy of the stage win.
Following the conclusion of the rally, Breen said; “We gave it pretty much everything we had. We made gradual improvements over the weekend to learn how to get the best out of the tyre. To finish fourth is great and an absolute credit to the team. To think that this tyre barely existed a few weeks ago and to come out and be so competitive is a credit to the team. We gained a lot of valuable data on this rally.”
Second driver Emil Lindholm commented on his 10th place result; “We were able to make improvements to the set up at each service point. It is a process of learning how to maximise the tyre and maximise my own performance. It has been over a year since I have done a tarmac rally, so I am pleased with my result. This rally was always about gaining more information on the tyre for its future development. We did this successfully for Team MRF Tyres. Undoubtedly, we will be much wiser next time out!”
The second round of the 2020 European Rally Championship will be the gravel heavy stages of the Rally Liepāja in Latvia which is scheduled to take place from August 14-18.