A long but very interesting conversation with Egidijus Tutinas about the start of two ProRacing Škoda Fabia R4(Rally2-kit) cars in the final rally of the European Rally Championship in the Canary Islands
Tell us about the weekend in the Canary Islands. How did the preparation go? How did you feel before the start?
Preparations for the Rally Islas Canarias itself took a very short time, as the decision to participate was made less than three weeks before the race. In the European Rally Championship and with two cars – this is an extremely short time. Logistics alone takes a week. It was indeed a special challenge for us. At least the cars were almost ready.
When we arrived in the Canary Islands, the cars needed setups for special stages of the Canary Islands, which have low average speeds but good quality and very twisted roads. Completely different from what we tested in Poland, so adapting the car to the Canary Islands was a bit of a challenge. We started the test sessions as early as the beginning of the week, on Tuesday, devoting an entire day during which many different variations of setups can be tested. The Škoda Fabia R4 is very similar to the R5 car with essentially identical suspension to the Citroen C3 R5. We have a lot of experience working with such cars, so we were able to hit the exact settings for a car. For the Serhii Potiiko, it was the first rally on the asphalt, plus so long, in the serpentines, so it was not easy for him. He completely trusted us and paid full attention to the driving and the pacenotes. Plus in this race there was a completely different mode, where everything is calculated minute by minute, you must fit into very narrow time limits, reece in serpentines with very strict speed control – in other words, very compressed and with no free time at all. So it was a huge challenge for the Serhii so he didn’t focus on setups.
And with Tibor Erdi Jun. was quite different and we were really worried. Will he like the car or not, will he like the car settings, etc. We had one extra day in reserve that we could spend on tests by joining another team, but it wasn’t needed. Tuesday’s tests were enough, with Hungarian passing about 70 kilometers of tests. We made a few small adjustments through them and everything went well. Tibor Erdi was even a light shock to get things done quickly. He has experience with a similar car, as he has been driving a Škoda Fabia R5 for one season, so he fully understands what this is all about. Clearly, after the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, he was driving this season, he had to get used to a completely different philosophy of the car, which in part may have led to a mistake in the first turn of the first special stage.
Because of the mistake that Tibor Erdi Jun he was very sad and worried. His whole family is “rally-minded” – both parents, wife, and child – all involved, traveling together and standing behind Tibor Erdi. Everyone was very anxious and acceptable, and Tibor was almost up to tears over his mistake. There were a few things there: the tires needed to be warmed up, plus it was too fast for that turn, but the key thing was the size of excitement and attention. He’s the leader in his class, plus he sat down in a new car that also got a lot of attention. Tibor mentioned that he has not received so many congratulations in his life, reports on social networks, and similar attention.
The story with the design is also worth mentioning. Negotiations on the car’s colors have been going on for a week since Tibor Erdi Jun. wanted to start with his design on the Škoda, and our conditions were that the car would have our own ProRacing Lithuanian design. Designer Šarūnas, who perfectly adjusted the logos of the Hungarian sponsors to our design, helped the situation very well. Although at first Tibor was not very happy to start not with his color car, but as soon as he published a message with our design was shocked – received twice as much positive feedback from the rally community as usual and all the dissatisfaction with the design disappeared.
That’s our weekend. I was completely calm about the team, the mechanics and engineers were ready for these things, they knew where to go. A little more cooperation is needed because the product is brand new, but basically, all is well. There was no stress either, we have had enough experience, and in the Canary Islands for the fourth time, we got local knowledge and it was easier. The only place where stress could have occurred is in the car’s settings. If you hit correctly- everything is fine, but if not – then you start to get nervous and the whole process becomes much more difficult. There were nuances with Tibor Erdi Jun. seating in a car because the Hungarian is quite large and tall. It is difficult for such people because the R5, for example, does not have the option to have larger seats or to adjust them comfortably enough for people of this size. Before we made the Škoda Fabia R4, we were aware of this problem and provided the opportunity to sit comfortably for larger crew members and homologated those solutions. Tibor Erdi Jun. was very pleased with that because the mood is quite different when sitting comfortably in the car and can fully concentrate on further aspects.
How did the car’s recovery go after the incident in the first stage?
We actually restored the car in 15 minutes. If we have the opportunity and the parts, we change the whole assembly. In this case, suspension arms, shock absorbers, and similar parts were damaged. If Tibor had come to the service, he would have left it with the repaired car. But since everything was broken there, plus the first turn of the first stage, the Hungarian stopped because it no longer made sense to continue driving. If it had been the last special stage before the service, maybe something could have been figured out.
What is the story with Tibor Erdi? Is he one of the potential buyers of the car?
Su Tibor Erdi Jun. we have been familiar since 2013. And in 2017, with ProRacing, he became the ERC2 class champion for the first time. The last event of the season took place in Liepaja and Tibor had to come to third place and finish the competition. And it was also a challenge because coming third in Liepaja is something to do because at that time Mitsubishi Lancer cars were on the wave. He trusted us and drove with our car and the whole team and we managed to do it – Tibor became the ERC2 champion. Since then, he has started several times with our team in the Baltics and in the European Rally Championship.
And for the purchase of the Škoda Fabia R4 itself – yes, he is one of the potential buyers who is thinking about this car. There is nothing to hide here. Its running costs are significantly cheaper than the R5 and even cheaper than the Mitsubishi Lancer in the N4 group. Only the initial contribution is higher, but the cost of consumables and racing kilometers is lower. According to his available budget, Tibor Erdi cannot afford an R5 because he wants to drive for the high places, and it takes a lot of resources to do that in the European Championships.
T.Erdi showed competitive times compared to the class rivals. Have times satisfied you?
The decision to go with Tibor Erdi to the last rally was made because he wanted to see where the car was with a certain leader in that class. We were able to drive with Martinš Sesks, but we were well aware that there would be good times because of the potential and capabilities of this car. We know its speed when it is driven by extremely high-caliber athletes. A great example is Teemu Asunmaa and the same Martinš Sesks who tested this car. So the decision for the Canaries was not to take such a fast-paced athlete in order to have more or less equal strength in the class. When Tibor Erdi drove with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, the fulcrum was the Suzuki Swift R4LLY S cars from the factory Suzuki Motorsport team. They have two Spanish drivers, one of a “gentleman” type and the other a professional young driver. Our analysis work was to look at the results of the car with T.Erdi. When T.Erdi was driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, the Spanish Suzuki’s were usually ahead of him in terms of stage times.
The times on the second day with the Škoda Fabia R4 really satisfied us. It was even the case that after the incident in the first special stage, T.Erdi was so sad that he did not even want to continue driving. After all, we managed to persuade him anyway. Hungarian waited until the last minute in the evening for the car to be repaired. We were in no hurry because we continued the race according to the Super Rally rule, calmly waited for the evening service, tidied up Serhii Potiiko car, and took care of T. Erdi Škoda. After seeing the successful process of car restoration, he calmed down and decided to continue the race.
The first special stages of the second day were taken more cautiously, because, after the failure of the first day, T. Erdi wanted to learn step by step and not press too much. Excitement and attention already brought the bad luck one time, so he didn’t want to make mistakes a second time. Although driving really safe, the Hungarian showed really good times and even won a few stages in the class. So we roughly know where we would be if we seated an extremely fast driver. We won’t hide, of course, the ultimate goal was to win the class, but it happened as it happened, not everything happens as you want. So the second day was so purely technical, to see and test where we are. During the race, we tried to change the car’s settings, which improved the car’s speed in the second half of the day. So everything went positively on the second day and it was a great day despite the Serhii crash in the last special stage. Nevertheless, I believe that Serhii has completed his task 100%. There were a lot of challenges for him this weekend. If you don’t warm up your tires in the Canary Islands before you start, you’ll have a very hard time. The hardest compound tires are used here, and you have to drive about 20 kilometers liaison to the start of the stage. The average speed is low, the road is full and it is virtually impossible for the tires to warm up. The FIA has now banned all tire heating elements and is severely penalized for doing so. In the past, you could maneuver your car abruptly in different directions, brake hard, and use similar techniques to warm up your tires before starting. It can no longer be done now – there are observers everywhere, GPS sensors are stacked, everywhere you are watched and you are fined thousands for every unauthorized maneuver. So if you can’t warm up your tires in any way, you can actually rule out the first two kilometers of the stage. Serhii got into this problem – he didn’t warm up the tires and got into trouble at the beginning of the special stage.
Are the Spanish Suzuki Swift R4ALLY S in the Canary Islands also made with an Oreca kit?
Yes, those Suzuki Swift are also made using the Oreca (Rally2) kit. They plan to produce three more cars next year and currently have four. They are also preparing to do the full European Rally Championship next season.
What lessons did you learn after this rally?
For me, every rally is a lesson. I outline all the work. I brought 80 abstracts from this rally. I’m a maximalist, so probably I never say that I fully learned something. I probably don’t know when I could rate myself with ten points 🙂 Every rally, even the smallest, is a lesson for me and every mistake is a lesson. Every reaction of the driver to certain moments is also a lesson to me and teaches me non-stop. Because having a good team, and being well-prepared can even help you deal with various mistakes. The team isn’t just the people who change parts, tidy up car and let you off to the start. The team is good and invites to do the result when they can help the driver with their advice, their wisdom, and practical things like fuel calculation or some technical nuances. From there, the overall result comes.
Where do you plan to start in the near future?
If successful – in Hungary this year on December 28-29. The biggest rally show in Hungary will take place there, with 70 kilometers of speed sections. All this will take place on the Hungaroring F-1 track.
And next year our season will start in Rovaniemi, Finland. Maybe later this year, maybe after new year’s eve. So far, it’s hard to say. We’ll see in terms of weather and other things. There, the winter season is unpredictable, so it’s very hard to predict anything ahead. We plan to spend all winter in Finland in tests and competitions to make the most of the snow. There is even a plan to drive to Karelia in Russia.
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Photos – Mfoto.es, CanariasRacing