Team MRF Tyres’ Efren Llarena and co-driver Sara Fernandez sealed the 2022 European Rally Championship (ERC) with two rounds to spare, following Simone Tempestini’s late withdrawal from this weekend’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin. This makes MRF the first-ever Indian manufacturer to win a championship in top-level European rallying.
- Llarena wins drivers’ title with two rounds to spare
- Sara Fernandez secures back-to-back co-drivers’ championship titles
Consistency key to MRF’s title victory
Driving a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, Llarena and Fernandez have scored points in every single round of the ERC so far this year. It’s this consistency that has handed the duo an unassailable points lead, enough to clinch the title with two rounds still to go.
They got off to a difficult start after radiator damage meant they could only finish 12th in the season-opening Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras. But the next round, the Azores Rallye, saw them clinch MRF’s maiden ERC rally win. They followed that up with second place in Rally Islas Canarias and fourth place on high-speed gravel terrain in Poland.
MRF sealed a 1-2 finish in Tet Rally Liepaja, with Llarena finishing behind teammate Martins Sesks. A fourth place finish in the Rally di Roma Capitale and closest rival Tempestini pulling out of the Czech Republic round gave Llarena enough points to seal the title.
With this, Llarena becomes the first Spanish ERC champion since Antonio Zanini in 1980, while Fernandez secures back-to-back co-drivers’ championship titles. “This is a very important year for MRF. We tried our best and put all our effort into the tyre development, so I think we worked really hard in one direction,” Llarena said.
MRF’s European Rally Championship journey
After tasting success in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, MRF Tyres joined the ERC in 2020. With the ERC covering a variety of terrain, the company took on an aggressive programme to develop tyres that can be competitive on tarmac, gravel and snow. They ended up fourth in the teams’ standings in 2020 and fifth in 2021.
Commenting on the team’s 2022 ERC triumph, Arun Mammen, vice chairman and managing director of MRF Tyres, said, "It is a testament to the work put in by our entire team to come up with championship-winning tyres which have performed at the top level in European rallying, thereby showcasing our superior technical capabilities… It is indeed a very prestigious and proud moment for us to be crowned FIA European Rally Champions 2022."